We’re nearing the end of September, which has been a pretty busy month for me. I’ve started a master’s program at the university, joined a book club, had four guitar lessons and challenged myself almost every single day. I can honestly say that I am very proud of myself. By turning fears into challenges, I have realised that many things aren’t so scary after all: I’ve been to school, talked in groups, been to the first business meetings of my life, made a scary phone call, handled stress without freaking out, let go of my need for control, spent several nights alone, done spontaneous things and made four new friends. And that’s just some of the things. As a finale, I registered my own company tonight. Within a year, when my studies are finished, I will have to fend for myself. But I know I can do it. It may sound like a cliché, but I think I’m starting to find myself – for real. Since I got out of my teenage depression, I’ve kind of just adapted to the life of my boyfriend. I’ve had my own interests and my guitar and my school, sure, but I’ve relied too much on his choices, his happiness, his social life. Our friends have been his friends and our weekend plans have been his plans. I didn’t fully realise until I started this project that I spent all my time trying to please someone else instead of doing what I wanted. And actually that just resulted in my boyfriend feeling rather unpleased, since I forgot my own will, forgot to make my own plans and made him feel trapped in a silly attempt to be a perfect girlfriend. But it’s all changing now. I’m creating my own life, and I feel more independent than ever.
Category Archives: Confidence
Since the beginning of this month, I’ve kept a collection of notes on my iphone. Every time I come across a difficult situation, I turn it into an explicit challenge and write it down on a new note. Then I write down the result, and if I feel unhappy with it, I make a quick note on how I can act differently next time. But so far, I’ve only had to do that once. The last one and a half weeks I’ve been able to handle conflicts, jealousy and self doubt. I’ve found a new friend, survived two days of lectures at the university, played things on the guitar I wouldn’t have dreamt of being able to play a few weeks ago and made several spontaneous decisions. Suddenly I feel ready to tackle almost anything. I’m not afraid of difficult situations anymore because I can turn them into a game and get happier and more confident in the process.
Since I realised the value of spontaneity, I have almost felt a bit reluctant to continue setting goals for this project. I’ve asked myself whether goals might be a hindrance rather than a help. I don’t want to miss out on things because I’m too focused on keeping up with my habits, and I want to be able to say yes to unplanned things even if it means I won’t have time to do my nightly back exercises or meditate when I have planned to, and without feeling guilty about it. I do think goals are great to keep in mind to stay motivated, but they shouldn’t be of too great importance – you need to enjoy the process as well. I think it is much nicer to go for a run without thinking about how fast or how long I run, whether or not I ran last week, or if I will ever be able to run a marathon. Mindful running, with the simple goal of feeling better there and then, feels a thousand times better.
This mindset has influenced the goals of my Confidence month. If I can change my behaviour to feel better in the present, not to be a better person in the future, I think it will be easier for me to stay motivated and to let go of the pressure of doing everything right every time. Countless times I have given something up because of one failure. From now on, instead of focusing on whether or not I will reach the goal, I will focus on the making the best of every new situation there and then. That way I can regard the goal as a bonus rather than the only acceptable outcome of my work. One day, I might be ready for a marathon, but when or if that happens doesn’t matter now.
This month, my goals are more open than they were last month. Although there are concrete things that I want to work with, I have chosen goals that can be tackled in many ways and in many different situations, which will allow more room for spontaneity. These are my goals:
Focus on love
I chose to work with my confidence early, because it plays such a great part in all areas of life. It affects relationships with other people and the way you view and handle everything that happens, everything you do. In high school, when my confidence was at its lowest, I spent every evening filling diaries with pure self-loathing and hurting myself in an attempt to relieve the anxiety. Even if those diaries are thrown away, the words are still engraved into my mind. And even if I’ve stopped hurting myself, the scars still remind me of how I felt about myself. It has been difficult to detach myself from that self-image, but I’ve come a long way. This month I will launch a counteraction against what I did back then by filling a diary with self-love. No matter how difficult it may be, I will write down what is good about myself, and any nice things people say or do to me. I will document my progress and be positive and constructive, never hateful. Words are powerful, and while I can’t control my own mind or stop negative thoughts from popping up, I can choose what I write about myself, and make it easier to focus on the good things.
Play the guitar
One part of my life that gave me some confidence even during the dark high school years was my band. I used to play the electric guitar in a rock band, and in spite of my social anxiety I dared to play on stage in front of people I didn’t know. I even loved it. We split up one and a half years ago and since then I’ve almost stopped playing altogether. I haven’t had the motivation to practice much because I don’t feel that it’s leading anywhere, and I haven’t had the courage to start a new band because I don’t think I’m good enough. But it’s time to break the vicious circle. Last week I signed up for a course in advanced electric guitar, which, very appropriately, starts next week. Just to decide I was good enough for the advanced course required a great deal of confidence. Hopefully, when I start practicing again, I can build up the courage to start a new band, which, in turn, will continue to boost my confidence. Besides, being good at something isn’t that bad for the confidence either.
Act with confidence
This goal is kind of an experiment for me. I want to see if you can actually fake it till you make it. Researchers claim that the majority of human communication is non-verbal, and our body language is extremely important to how others perceive us. I have realised that in many of the situations in which I have felt shut out from a group of people, my insecurity might well have been what scared them off. Because while body language conveys a great deal, it can also easily lead to misunderstandings. When I picked an empty table in the corner of the classroom and didn’t look anyone in the eyes on the first day of high school my classmates probably didn’t dare to sit down next to me, but I was just shy. Anyway, my plan is to become more aware of my body language and to learn to consciously send out signals of confidence. Then perhaps it will be a little easier to actually feel confident, and other people may be less likely to shy away from me.
I will keep this goal, but instead of telling myself that I will have to do it once a day, I will do it when it feels right or when I feel that I need it. For me, meditation is a great way to handle anxiety, and when I feel bad about myself I think it can help me step out of the mess of negative thoughts, return to the present and deal with the situation in a constructive way.
Face your fears
By turning scary situations into challenges, I will face my fears instead of running away. I can’t promise myself to succeed every time, but I will make an honest effort to recognise when I’m about to back out of a difficult situation, turn it into a challenge, and just do it. As a part of this goal, and a step towards letting go of my need to control everything, I will also say yes more often, and allow things to just happen, even if I’m not prepared, and even if it feels scary as hell.