Ah, confidence. You tricksy little bugger.

It’s been on my mind this week, starting with a conversation between my brother and my step-daughter. She told him how she was really enjoying taking LAMDA exams because it helped with her confidence. My brother was impressed to hear an 11 year old say such an important thing. Funny how you sometimes need to see things through other people’s’ eyes to fully appreciate how awesome they are.

Confidence

We talked about how important it is to instill confidence in our children, particularly in young women and he pointed me to a book, The Confidence Code for Girls (due for release on 3rd May. Pre Ordered y’all!).

I was like, nevermind just Gabby I need this book!

When I think back to my twenties, I felt wholley unstoppable. Why wouldn’t I do Civil Engineering just because I’m a girl? It didn’t even cross my mind. I went on to get a first-class degree, work for the university and present to hundreds of people (mostly men in suits with grey hair) at conferences all over the world.

When I’d had enough of that, it seemed perfectly acceptable to start an Event Management Company with virtually no experience.  Competence felt irrelevant because I had confidence that I could do anything I put my mind to.

Nope, confidence in my twenties was not in short supply.

These days that person almost feels like a stranger. How did I have the balls to cold call? Or pitch something I’d never done before?

These days I scare easily and my mind takes me to the dark places of what could go wrong… confidence is not always forthcoming. For example, I know I want to write…so why is it so ‘hard’ to sit down and just put metaphorical pen to paper?

I come up with a whole list of reasons why this moment isn’t perfect and stop myself before I’ve even begun. And then I’ve lost momentum.

I need more confidence to – in the immortal words of Nike – just do it.

Side point: I talk a lot here about writing because that’s my thang. But you could replace writing with anything you’re interested in and it would still be relevant.

Order and Chaos

I’ve been listening to Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life while I walk the dog and do some gardening or house jobs. Honestly, at just shy of 16 hours long, it’s quite hard going, each chapter lasting over an hour and going beyond all imaginable depths to explain the concept. It’s not my usual self care pop culture of easy wins and ah-ha moments, that have me highlighting and bookmarking each page.

However, as he gets closer to his point and I feel him coming back to the chapter title, I have glimmers of realisation. There’s something in getting lost in his world that makes the realisation and ah-ha moments even more agreeable. I finally understand something.

He also isn’t afraid to take you to the places you don’t want to go. I found his explanation of chaos wholly uncomfortable. Frankly, I don’t want to imagine that world where the shit has seriously hit the fan; you’ve lost a loved one or your partner has cheated on you.

However, you can’t stay in order forever either. It doesn’t work. You can’t grow. Life is dull.

Once he got to his point that meaning in life comes from having a foot in both order and chaos, you understand why he has to go to such lengths to explain and labor each point. And I feel semi-clever for sticking with him. If I want to feel fulfillment, I have to have some chaos to keep pushing, keep ‘mastering’.

Mastery

I heard the mastery concept referred to in another book recently, and this is where I come back to The Confidence Code (the original book aimed at grown ups). Here, the authors, both successful journalists, explore why the world of successful women, from Politicians to CEOs, is rife with low confidence, despite high achievements.

First of all they say that confidence requires action (and not necessarily competence, which is why I managed to run an events management company without experience in business or events). In their experience ‘fake it till you make it’ just doesn’t work and is perceived by others as, well, fake. Your confidence has to be real.

I can attest to this idea of action – the more I do something, even just little bits and pieces, the more seeds of hope/confidence set in my brain.

Later on they discuss mastery as a way of acquiring confidence. Mastery is not being afraid of hurdles. Whether you succeed or not is virtually irrelevant as long as you keep looking, keep striving and keep trying.

On the one hand you might have a foot in order and the things you do know…but as long as you have the other foot firmly in chaos, taking on new hurdles, this is the sweet spot for happiness and fulfillment.

{After I published this I went into the kitchen and my husband was watching this very YouTube video by Rich Roll which is a perfect accompaniment to the idea of Mastery}

Confidence requires action

Which naturally makes me think of writing. It’s in the doing that I get confidence. I’m not especially competent. I don’t get paid to write. I don’t have a book deal or write for magazines. But when I write and I finish a piece that has come out of my head, often without any particular forethought, I feel a little bit of “oh, I can do this after all!”

It’s when I stop for a while that time makes me doubt myself and the longer I leave it, the harder it gets to sit back down to write.

Do you know how long it took me to start blogging again after these 2 years off? About 6 months of thinking about it on and off. It wasn’t until I finally put pen to paper that my confidence started to appear on the horizon. A bedraggled, almost unrecognisable figure.

And I can relate that to soooo many other things from starting an exercise class (just the thought of walking in to that room full of strangers fills me with dread) to parking in town (I fear that I’m going to have a confrontation or drive the wrong way and get stuck).

But once you’ve done the “scary thing” once, it starts to become a piece of cake…as long as you keep doing it!!

Confidence requires action. Constantly. It’s a delicate flower. And at the moment I’m not nurturing it enough through action for it to grow stronger.

With writing, I mostly get blogging and what I need to do – namely write daily.

Back in 2014 I blogged everyday (almost) and I wrote 2 articles about it. At the start I wrote about why I wanted to do daily blogging in this post and then 10 blogging tips from daily blogging after I’d finished.

{Little did I know then how helpful it would be to future me for getting back to a place of confidence. A reminder that you should always write what you want to read. If you’re thinking of starting a blog, do it! You never know how helpful it could be to future you.}

I feel as though the latter article was a bit of an excuse to not blog as much and didn’t take into account my personality. I need the discipline of a daily writing routine if I’m going to achieve anything. I need to stay in the groove.

You can’t lie to yourself but I tried and it was the death of my blog.

Action + Mastery = Confidence (and fulfillment)

And I believe, as I wrote 4 years ago, that action and mastery needs to be nurtured daily.

Inertia is the death of confidence and creativity.

Ironically, writing more frequently takes the pressure – as you’re writing more the words become less precious, less loaded and important – there’s plenty where that come from! When I’m writing once a week I worry that it has to be perfect and the self doubt starts to creep in making it harder and harder to just sit and write.

Self doubt is a sticky weed that self sows and grows strong in a matter of days or even hours.

You have to keep writing {insert your thing in here}, keep weeding.

Self doubt tries to stop you in many ways and LOVES perfection.

You can’t be perfect.

No one can! Therefore, self doubt is the master of using it as an excuse. I nearly didn’t sit to write this yesterday – it was already 2 o’clock, meaning I didn’t have long until pick up.

Also, you’re meant to write in the morning. That’s what everyone says. I’ll just start tomorrow.

Also I don’t have any ideas…etc.

In the end, I had to fight these urges and say, I’ll just write what pops in my head because if I don’t start it will make starting tomorrow harder. Now I have started, tomorrow should, in theory, be easier. Less pressure because I’ve already done the hard bit of starting…!

How about Chaos?

But while I might understand all that, and manage the order of a daily writing practise, how then do I keep striving for chaos and hurdles to tackle?

Partly I think frequency (aka daily practise) gives you the freedom to explore all your ideas, rather than just what you deem to be good and safe.

This is where Chaos comes in – the ‘unsafe’ ideas that you’re scared will bomb or offend or just be plain shite. But they could also fly and be awesome!

That’s exciting.

Learning is another way I think you can introduce chaos.

Happily, I’m just about to start a writing course with my Mum as my birthday present. I believe that should seriously push at least one foot, if not both, into a world of fear and disorder and chaos. It’s a scary thing to put yourself out there and actually ask to be judged. Very different to blogging – you’re welcome to judge but please don’t tell me!

I am naturally competitive and have an innate ability to see where I sit in the world.  It’s a bit of a millstone, to be honest, to constantly be aware that you don’t stack up to others is a bit of a drag. I struggle with not being the best to the point where I won’t even give something a try. So pathetic!

Don’t even bother asking me to go bowling. The answer will always be no.

Which is why I HATED my first skiing lessons. I was the worst in class, was always at the back and actually cried!

I’m fearful that this writing class could go this way too – the hope is I love it and get praised for my efforts in a field I want to excel OR it could go the way of the ski lesson and all end in tears.

That, my friends, is what is known as black and white thinking.

There is no grey scale in my mind’s eye. It’s either going to be amazing or shit (and I tend to air on the side of shit). Which is precisely why we (or is it just me?) shouldn’t trust our heads to forward think too much.

We don’t know what the outcome is going to be!

The rational part of my brain says it’s most probably going to be on the grey scale. Not perfect and ordered nor shit and chaotic but a foot in each.

And this is mastery, the sweet spot for both fulfillment and confidence!

And exactly why we should, no must, keep trying new things and tackling new hurdles.

Can you relate to this?

Is there something you feel particularly unconfident about that you’d love to work on?

What have you been holding yourself back from mastering?

I’d love to hear about it from your perspective so please do comment below or head over to the Mums Days Facebook page and join the conversation there.