Lewis Hyde’s book, A Primer for Forgetting (opens in a new link), provided insights about how memory differs for those with high degrees of confidence versus those who are less confident.
Low levels of confidence
The less confident among us remember their mistakes, their perceived failures. They rarely remember their successes, the things that go well. Indeed, they often feel that what has gone well is a fluke…pure luck. They don’t credit themselves with having performed well.
Unfortunately, the way their memory works further diminishes their confidence. It also sets their expectations for future outcomes. When faced with new challenges, they’re likely to expect an unfavorable outcome…which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their self-esteem and their confidence both take another hit as memory of another failure is created.
High levels of confidence
Highly-confident people make as many mistakes as less-confident people, yet their memories are very different. They don’t remember their mistakes, they remember what they learned from their mistakes. Highly-confident people realize that the nature of our humanity is imperfection…that mistakes are inevitable. Consequently, they don’t bemoan mistakes; they learn from them.
It’s the lessons they learn and the successes their new knowledge creates that they remember. As a result, their confidence grows consistently. When faced with new challenges, they expect things to work out well…which also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their self-esteem and confidence both grow as they add memories of each success.
What does this mean for you and your kids?
Using a trite question “Are you a glass-half-full or a glass-half-empty person?” The answer to this question will help you evaluate which memories you’re retaining.
If you’re a glass-half-full person, keep doing what you’re doing…keep forgetting your mistakes and remembering the lessons learned and the successes those lessons engender.
If you’re a glass-half-empty person, embark upon a daily exercise to retrain your memory. Each morning, shortly after rising, remind yourself of prior successes…things you’ve accomplished. Pay particular attention to how often you produced a favorable result even though you had no background or experience in that situation.
DO NOT diminish these successes through self-denigration. Instead, let these memories serve as reminders of your ability to recover from the inevitable mistakes that we all as human beings are destined to make.
Each evening, shortly before retiring, recall what you learned during the course of the day. Relish the fact that your new knowledge is going to aid you in overcoming future challenges.
As you retrain your memory, you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly confident…and in the process, feeling much better about yourself. You’ll also find that your expectations have changed. You now expect things to go well. You expect positive results while being fully aware that there will be bumps in the road along the way…
Life becomes richer and more joyous for having retrained your memory.
For our kids
If the kids in your life exhibit a glass-half-full mentality, congratulate them on their confidence…on their ability to remember lessons learned and for their use of what they learned to effectively deal with any challenge they face.
When kids display a glass-half-empty mindset, ask them “What did you learn? How will that help you in the future?” By asking these questions, you change the child’s perception of what happened and help them train their memories to forget their mistakes and remember valuable lessons their mistakes create.
Their retrained memory automatically alters their expectations as they face new challenges. They no longer expect to fail, they expect to succeed in dealing with any challenge they face. As a result, they experience the joys of confidence and heightened self esteem. A lifetime of confidence and joy are some of the greatest gifts we can give our kids.
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