Chapter 7 of the One Life Manifesto: Confidence.
Let’s continue the conversation we had about fear as it ties into confidence. When you overcome fear, you become confident. That is the benefit. Confidence makes you a very powerful person. Confidence is a fantastic trait to be associated with. There is likely something you can think of right now that you are comfortable with. Your fearlessness with that item shows you are confident. That is attractive. Confidence is a very attractive state to be in. I know you cannot be confident in everything. But even if you are confident in one thing, people will take notice. They will realize that you are fearless in that one area. You become a specialist in that one area. Confidence is the result of you tackling your fear. It is the reward.
It’s just a great feeling because you are free from anxiety. You are free from negative emotions. You are aware of the activity and you can tackle it with the ease and effortlessness that others look at in awe. I have never really been one to show confidence. In my subject matter, I think I hesitate and I kind of wean on one side or the other. It’s only been until recently that I started creating content and really taking control of my voice, my views, and my thoughts. Confidence comes with maturity. Confidence comes with understanding who you are. Confidence comes with understanding your capabilities, your strengths, and your weaknesses.
If you spend more time on areas where you can be strong, you will be more confident. You will show the confidence desired. But if you spend your time on areas of known weakness, it may be futile. These weaknesses cannot take you to the level that your strengths can. They are just not your forte. They are not for you. They are not your nature. That is okay. Ignoring the weaknesses shows that you are not focused on what you are weak at. People will begin to notice your strengths more. The strengths will overshadow any weaknesses. You will be perceived positively despite your shortcomings.
Notice how you feel as you continue to work on the things that you are skilled at. Being self-aware of what you can control and what you can improve on is important. Not everyone is destined to be an astronaut. Not everyone is destined to be a musician or an actor. We spend our lives trying to be something that we are not. That makes it very difficult for us to be confident in our true identities.
We can try to be confident in something lacking confidence. Chances are if you are passionate about something and you are determined, you can be confident in that item. But if you waiver, if you are uncertain, you will never have the confidence needed. Find that passion, find that one thing you want to be good at and get confident in it. Break down fears. Master it.
With dating and relationships, your confidence in communication is important. Nowadays you can be confident via text. We have Snapchat, we have images, we have videos. You can exude confidence without words. Nonverbal communication can now be a confident trait in many of the younger generations. Eventually you will have to speak though. It will be important to speak well and carry yourself well. So, I do hope that you don’t let the social media bubble hide you from the importance of face-to-face communication and the ability to talk to people.
In order to be a confident man or woman you need to be confident with the opposite sex. I have talked about this before: it’s about exposing yourself to these fearful events to build up that needed confidence. In psychology, they call it exposure therapy. Where they will put you in a mechanism of continuously being shown something until you are very much comfortable. You become acclimatized to that event.
I recommend you go through your own self-exposure therapy to get confident in the things that matter. Psychologically, that is what is holding you back. The way that you overcome that fear and be confident is to expose yourself to the fear repeatedly, over and over again. Remember the idea of riding a bike, it was fearful. You exposed yourself day-after-day to the training wheels, to the point where you were comfortable with the handlebars. Then you became comfortable with two wheels. You were ready to take off a few wheels to the point where you could ride that two-wheeled bike confidently. It’s repeated exposure. Your parents put you through this at a young age and it’s torture. It’s absolute torture for many of you. For others, you naturally enjoy it. You jump on and say it is exciting.
Constant exposure of something that you don’t enjoy can be very painful. There is however a positive reward at the end of the tunnel. It may be worth it to push through and continue to expose yourself. That exposure therapy is at the heart of breaking your fears. And if you feel that it’s not easy to do alone, I find that the help of others can really accelerate your confidence. They will help you to the point where you will break fears down much quicker and become more confident. I’m lucky to have a family that I can work with daily on this.
Break your fear down into a process. Talk about a fear aloud and say: I am scared of this, I need some help. I need more support to become more confident. I am not sure I can do this alone. It does not hurt to have somebody help you overcome fears, whether it be a mentor or a peer at work. You can build your confidence up quicker when you have a partner. They will hold you accountable. They will ensure that you are on track. Your mentor, your peer, your friend, your family member. They will all keep you on your toes, as they should. It is important to have accountability.
You go through school and education for many years, well over a decade. Many years of continuous learning experiences to absorb knowledge. You can get comfortable with a particular topic as you get into a particular concentration or major. Schools start off exposing you to many different subjects so that you get a taste of what’s out there. Schools are designed to funnel you into a particular area that you excel at. By the time you are 18, 19, or 20, you can decide quite easily what you are good at. If I look at school in that sense, I say it’s great exposure to subjects that you may be interested in. I only wish it showed me more. It does not show you everything.
There are important life skills that you must learn along the way. You must put to practice the knowledge of school. The textbook alone does not build up your confidence. The subject matter and the real world are two very different things. That is why we still deal with tremendous fears when we graduate because we don’t know how to navigate the world. We are still uncertain about what will happen to us. I wish that a year would be mandatory away from school to expose us to the real world and really show what is out there. The trials and tribulations of starting a venture, the process of dealing with failure.
To become confident, you must experience failure. You need to be in love with failure. You need to enjoy the feeling of having failed at something. In school, we were taught that failure is bad. That failure should bring anxiety to you as you strive for excellence with exams and tests. You could be on probation (like I was) or you could be kicked out of school. That’s a negative circumstance. Why would anyone want to fail? Nobody would.
Problem is, you then graduate and failure in the real world trickles into your life. You have no way of knowing how to handle failure as you are still not conditioned. You are not taught to fail when you are young. You are taught to succeed and just be very confident in success, even if it is false. You receive 7th place, 8th place, and 9th place rewards for mediocrity. 7th place doesn’t get you a job. You are built up to be falsely confident in failed endeavours. It astounds me that children don’t understand failure. They are encouraged to brush it off and not learn from the mistakes. Not suffer. Not learn that failure is okay.
By Grade 4, you are given letter grades. If you have an F, you are not coached. You are left behind, you are forgotten. It doesn’t feel good, having failed. The people who have A’s, they will receive more attention. They should. They are confident in their subject matter. However, the people who have failed are likely in the wrong place. They may be confident elsewhere. It should be the teacher’s task to find out where F students can be confident. Promote those activities.
In schools, we are pigeon-holed to do specific classes. There is not much flexibility until university. Even then, the structure is similar to pre-secondary education. Exams take focus. We should have been exposed to exams at a young age – it wasn’t until high school that I took my first exam. We should make exams out to be fearless activities. But we are judged, we are criticized based on exam results.
Hence these enormous fears and anxieties around exams in university. People go into a depression and commit suicide because of the exams. As the date of the exam approaches, people get into a mess. They are in a complete disarray. It’s because they don’t like exams. It’s not something that they can be strong in. For me I had a difficulty in taking exams. I simply was not good at exams regardless of the subject matter. I excelled in project-based work with teams and collaborations. I enjoyed working my ass off to complete a project. That is what I excelled in.
To take a few weeks and study for a very specific type of exam was and is not for me. It may not be for you too. School is based on that. I find that in elementary school, we mostly work on projects. Prevalence of exams is much greater as you get older, even though it’s not necessarily for everyone. I believe it is okay if you work better in other ways.
In the real world it is unlikely you will ever take a single exam. Unless you continue to go to school. Then you will have many. But in the real world, your employer is not going to give you an exam. I suppose it’s a way of figuring out how you handle pressure. I don’t think it’s the way to test aptitude. You are not cognitively conditioned to handle exams. You are set up for failure. You are set to be miserable. Especially when you are waiting to do projects instead and you are craving fun projects. You are craving a specific type of work and your school is not providing that for you. Then how can you enjoy school? How can you be confident in your abilities in school?
As I talked about previously, spending time on your weaknesses may not necessarily be the way to go. Schools only show your weaknesses. It is demoralizing to be going to school when all you do is work on your least-favourite interests. You never get to work on your strengths. Then you are negatively exposing yourself to the wrong things. Positive reinforcement is essential and exposure to the activities that help you grow is imperative. That is what I encourage to build up your confidence.
As you get out of university, you are in control of your level of confidence. You can take on the world however you please. Nobody is there to hold your hand. Mentors are ever more important to keep you accountable. You won’t have any more teachers to babysit you once you finish university. Teachers are gone. So, who do you have to teach you? Who do you have to build your confidence?
It’s up to you to find those people. It’s up to you to find those circumstances where you can continue to break your fears. People who are headed into their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s have this fear. Fear of life. They never experienced what they could have. I look at them and I say to myself: that is an individual filled with regrets. Regret for not having done something sooner. They are living in the fear of the unknown.
I don’t want you to grow up and be one of those people. I want you to be confident and fearless. I want you to feel excited about some endeavour. Confident in your work. Passionate. Living a fearful life is no life to live. So, I hope that you break down barriers and get confident. Struggle through. The pain is worth it to receive that reward. Confidence to become that better person is important.