Most of us look in yesterday’s mirror to determine who we are and whether or not we are “good enough.” We often determine our self-worth and abilities based on the labels others have assigned to us, our failures/successes, our physical appearance, as well as the media definition of ideals. We pick an icon and try to measure up. Enough! Identifying with these labels and beliefs about ourselves does just the opposite of boosting our confidence, so why do so many of us do it? It’s a habit. A habit that we can learn to kick to the curb and then replace with focusing on the best in us and what we’d love to realize in our lives.
When we think about all the labels we have accumulated over the years, either at the distinction of others or from our own determination, it’s no wonder the lens of self-awareness gets a bit blurry! Consider how we still think of those we knew in school. It’s like we’ve frozen their attributes in a time capsule. Maybe we saw them as foolish, stupid, lazy, boring, socially unskilled, etc. How unfair it would be to believe they are this same person. It’s the same for you and me. These classmates have certainly changed since then, as have we. Some have become strong leaders, some have emerged with an amazing talent which may have not been apparent then, or have involved themselves life-affirming causes. We are continuously redefining ourselves by what we undertake to learn, do and experience, who we associate with, the trips we take and so on. Let’s give ourselves full credit for this! We are never done with our “becoming.” I think that’s wonderful.
We are what we believe we are. Simple and true. We must let go of the especially condescending labels we’ve allowed to stick to us so that we can become our most authentic, powerful, beautiful self. Even if these designations may have held some element of truth in our past, there is an “up-until-now” moment, when we shed and shred that label and declare “that was yesterday, this is today, and I have the awareness and ability to express so much more.” This only can take place when we make the decision to release these old ways of seeing ourselves that will never serve us and begin to declare the truth of who we really are, even if the evidence has not yet appeared. We don’t wait until we lose the weight, make the speech, snag the promotion, or gain great wealth. It all begins with our decision to change our mindset. Some repetitive work is required here, but it’s worth it.
We can never outperform our self-esteem – that’s the bad news. The good news is that we can raise our self-esteem with awareness and practice. In the program I offer as a life coach, my clients and I cover a lot of ground identifying the level of self-esteem and self-confidence they currently experience, then we identify the thought patterns, self-talk and beliefs that are holding them back. We then work on writing the new operating system based on the question “What would I love?” If it’s in us to want something (once we allow those longings to come through), it’s in us to realize it.
But how likely are we to succeed if we’re carrying around yesterday’s negative news about ourselves? To coin a phrase on the bottom of every financial prospectus: “past results are not an indicator of future performance.” There is no need to drag around our failures, unless we use the failure as feedback rather than as defeat. We can glean the insights and lessons and come back stronger than ever. Many experts in the personal growth field highlight the importance of failing. They even recommend failing big and often – yikes! On the other hand, carrying our past successes with us can be a great way to boost confidence. We reflect on where we have succeeded in the past and can carry that feeling-tone into any new endeavor.
Another great tool my clients and I use is imagination or visualization. Using this gift given to all humans, with regular practice and full participation, we hold the image of who we wish to be or what we wish to accomplish, using as much detail as possible, and in time, we bring this vision into our field of reality. Great masters of all talents use this technique to succeed. Many well-known sports figures have credited visualization for their wins. The great golfer, Jack Nicholson, spoke of regularly visualizing his winning shot in reverse, returning to him from the destined hole in order to determine the perfect trajectory. He would study the course on foot and use this practice to win many a championship.
In addition, we must avoid the inclination to compare ourselves to others. We use this at times to make ourselves feel better, but it can backfire when we feel that the object of our comparison has it all over us. Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” My mentor, Mary Morrissey, puts it another way: “We compare our insides to everyone else’s outsides.” We lament our imperfections and believe the other person is all but flawless. How can that possibly be true? Each of us is faced with challenges, even if not apparent to others.
And finally, forgive yourself and all others you feel have hurt or betrayed you. Free yourself from the invisible chains of blame and resentment. We become lighter when we release ourselves and others from our bondage of blame. One of the greatest quotes (anonymous attribution) that illustrates blame’s detrimental effects is “Resentment is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
The year is still new, and each moment gives us the opportunity to re-invent ourselves and raise our confidence quotient through our awareness and response to that awareness by putting on and affirming the best version of ourselves, even if we begin as an actor with a new and improved role to play. It’s like cleaning out our closet and then filling it with only those things that we love. There is so much freedom and possibility through editing our self-view to support and boost our confidence. My wish for you is to notice where you need to lighten up on yourself (hint: if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, kick it out) and then insert your best version of yourself in its place, even if the facts get in the way sometimes. The truth of who you are is greater. You got this!