It is SO easy to be confident when you’re young and inexperienced.
You’ve got such great ideas about how life is supposed to work and how you’re going to accomplish all these things.
You’ve got all this energy, a body that can stay up half the night and bounce into work the next day, and very little baggage.
You don’t have kids. You don’t have a mortgage. You don’t have health issues.
Remember what that was like??
Travel Back in Time…
The only reason this is fresh in my mind is because I’ve set myself the task of reading through 25 years worth of diaries.
I’m making my way through my college years now, and I feel so tender towards that girl I was back then.
She was so hopeful. She had so many plans. She dreamed of love, adventure, and self-improvement. She wrote pages and pages on the person she wanted to be.
I envy her confidence.
She genuinely believed that she could make things happen.
Am I More Confident Now? Less? I’m Not Sure
These days, I know full well that I am not omnipotent. 😉
I’m just one woman living her life. My sphere of influence is quite small.
That naïve confidence I once had as a college student has been replaced by something else.
I’m not even sure how to describe it.
I’m tempted to call it maturity or wisdom, but neither of those words ring true.
It’s a different flavor of confidence, confidence that isn’t fed by ego but rather practical know-how.
I feel capable. Maybe that’s it.
Young confidence is fragile. It’s very easy to be confident when life hasn’t hurled boulders at you. But having a shred of confidence left over when the worst has happened to you? That’s resilience.
Resilience teaches us that our confidence will get knocked AND we will have to find a way to come back from it.
Resilience teaches us that being confident is less important than knowing how to restore confidence.
In this article, I want to share with you my own resilience strategies.
These are the strategies I use when my confidence has taken a beating and I need to get back on my feet again.
The first is…
1. A Plan to Deal with Shame
Everyone needs a plan to deal with shame.
When I was younger, I thought shame was an indictment of me. If someone was making me feel bad, they must know something about me I didn’t. They were right and I was wrong.
The only way I could relieve that shame was to do what other people wanted. I changed how I acted. I fit in. I made myself less of a target.
Today, I can see how shame crippled me. Shame made me hide. The only place I felt safe to be myself was where there was no one else around.
I’m too old to hide!
The shamers are still out there. They’ll always be out there, making nasty comments, talking about you to other people.
And that gut punch of shame never goes away.
When someone makes a cruel comment about you, or makes fun of you, or mentions what other people are saying about you, it takes the wind out of you. It’s sickening. It makes you want to stay home and never have any contact with anyone again.
These days, I have a strategy to deal with the shamers.
I play the Name the Shame Game.
I’ve written about this before. It’s got two steps:
- Notice when shaming behavior is occurring.
- Tell yourself, “Fascinating. I do believe some shaming is going on.”
I L-O-V-E this game.
I’m able to think to myself, “Oh, someone’s trying to shame me. I wonder why.”
Or, “Oh, I’m feeling shame. I wonder what triggered this.”
Naming the shame gives me perspective. This may not be about me at all.
It may be about other people. It may be about power, or control, or a disconnect between how others see me and how I see myself.
And that’s something I can explore and learn from.
Being able to spot shame is the first piece. The second piece is paying attention to the story you’re telling about yourself…
2. Reclaim your story
Shaming happens when someone claims the right to tell you who you are.
You know how gross it feels to find out that someone has been making up stories about you and spreading them to everyone?
That’s a HUGE shame trigger.
But few of us respond by thinking, “Oh, wow, that person made up a lie about me just so they’d have something to gossip about, that’s so unethical!”
Instead, we think, “What am I going to do?? Everyone believes this horrible thing about me!”
We go straight into shame.
When you’re in shame, it’s a great opportunity to reclaim YOUR right to tell the story of who you are.
You are the only one who gets to tell your story. You are the only one who gets to decide who you are.
To me, a better story—a truer story—is that you have just been treated badly by someone you thought you could trust. What they say about you says everything about them and nothing about you. (Use my trusty Mirror Technique.)
Allowing people to shame you and saying nothing about it doesn’t work. There needs to be consequences.
Ideally, you’ll talk to that person one-on-one, tell them what you’ve heard, and ask for an explanation.
That kind of direct, honest communication terrifies shamers.
If you tell someone who just shamed you, “That’s not kind, and it’s not true. Why did you say that?” you’ll see the shock in their face that you actually said something and called them out on it.
You never have to defend yourself. The person who needs to do the explaining is the shamer, not you. Shaming is always wrong.
When you reclaim your power to be the one-and-only author of the story of your life, it matters less what other people say about you.
You can call out misconceptions other people have about you. You can advocate for yourself. You can make appropriate changes that you feel are necessary.
But you don’t have to take on other people’s stories about you. You don’t have to feel that you are what they tell you you are.
3. Allow Life to Change You
Sometimes, the stories we tell about ourselves can get old and stagnant.
We decide who we are, and we stick to that identity even when it’s no longer serving us.
We decide we’re not the sort of person who likes this. We’re not the sort of person who does that. This is who we are. This is the hill we’ll die on.
But then life hits you a major blow.
You’ve always been a married woman, and your marriage has crumbled. You’ve always had this career, and you’ve been laid off and there are no more jobs available in your industry. You’ve always been healthy, and your doctor tells you you’ve got a chronic disease.
What do you do now?
You rebuild from scratch.
You reinvent yourself, because you have to. There’s no other choice.
Things that knock back your confidence often give you the opportunity to rebuild better than before. You lost everything, and you survived. The worst happened, and you kept going.
That puts you on the path to unshakable confidence…
The kind of confidence I think of as capable, because you know you’re capable of handling anything.
Not everyone can bounce back when life smashes them to the ground.
Any time you become rigid and fight to keep things the way they were, because you’re secretly afraid that you can’t adapt, or that the unknown will be worse than the status quo, you let your confidence dwindle to nothing.
Don’t do that.
Allow life to change you.
Trust that it’s changing you in ways that will make you stronger in the long run.
You don’t have to be the person you thought you wanted to be. You can be the person life changed you into.
When I think back on my college-age self, I wish I could have told her that.
She was so committed to living out her plans for her life. When life threw a curveball, she wasn’t prepared. It destroyed her confidence.
Then she rebuilt. Life destroyed her, and she rebuilt again.
Each time, a little more resilient than before.
Read more about confidence…
- 3 Ways to Know Your Worth
- Get Authentic Confidence
- Unleash Your Brilliance
- How to Stop Playing Small
- Take Charge of Your Life with Rachell Kitchen
- Stand Up for Yourself and Fight Back with Cindy Villanueva
- Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Cosette “Coco” Leary
- Cultivate Your Assertiveness with JoAnn Lauterbach
- How to Be a Confident Woman with Ivonne Monéton
- Sick of Pleasing Everyone Else? It’s Time to Rebel with Dr. Melissa Bird