I’m very self-conscious. Left unchecked, I think an unhealthy amount about what other people think of me and what my status is in the world. To combat these tendencies, I spend much of my energy strengthening my relationship with myself and attempting to live as unselfconsciously as I can. As Ray Bradbury said,
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
Suddenly, finally, I want nothing more than to have peace within myself. I have come to the obvious but difficult conclusion that only I have the power to decide who I am and how I will live my life. It is an awesome responsibility and I find myself humbled before it.
I start each day on a positive note (I usually meditate) and focus on positive goals for the day. After that, I try to keep it simple.
The way you carry yourself has a huge impact on how you feel. Push your shoulders back and hold your head high. Pushing back your shoulders opens up your chest cavity making it easier to breathe. Look at the tops of things for a while.
Making eye contact for an extended period of time is extremely uncomfortable for me and for many people. I have found that it gets easier with good posture though; your eyes just seem line up naturally.
It is okay to look look away every once in a while but I try not to look around me or at the floor, it makes me more nervous and it can seem rude. Maintained eye contact gets more comfortable over time and has become a sort of stabilizer for me; when I maintain eye contact I stay focused on the conversation which takes the focus off of any negative self-talk.
It can be easy to be critical of our own thoughts and opinions, especially when we are trying to better ourselves. It is important to voice your opinion, ask questions and enter into conversation with people. The act of speaking my mind and standing up for my beliefs has made me believe more strongly in everything that I believe in, including myself.
By challenging yourself to do things that are outside of your comfort zone, you will build confidence as you see what you are capable of. Setting attainable goals, like implementing a reasonable exercise routine, or writing for an hour every day builds you up with incremental bursts of confidence. Pushing yourself to do something that you are really afraid of, has a skyrocketing effect on your confidence that can last for a very long time.
Last summer, I did the Tarzan Swing at a zip-lining course in Costa Rica. I walked the green gangplank, out over a deep chasm in the rainforest. I looked down. And then I walked the green way back to solid ground. I paced the ground for forty five minutes. And then I walked the plank one last time. The last twenty feet I felt my way forward with my eyes closed. Every nerve in my body was on high alert, almost to the point of being painful. I felt the pull of the rope as the man clipped it to my chest. He pulled me forward and I felt the end of the road under the tips of my toes. My thighs pushed into the low metal gate that held me in place. He opened the gate. It was 200 feet and five minutes before the rope caught me.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt
And in the meantime, take small steps each day to mindfully cultivate confidence. Think about who you are and who you want to be. Come alive in every moment. “The world needs people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman)