Today I’m exploring the concept of self confidence and how it can hold you back regardless of skill.
Some people unfortunately see the world in black and white. If you have the ability to do something the you should just do it and that’s that but there’s more to it than that for some people.
You can be the most skilled person on the planet at a particular task but if you have self doubts then it’s near impossible to do that task to a high degree because you are so worried that you’re not up to it. “You just need to have confidence!” is the usual cry from people who just don’t get it. That’s like saying “Cheer up!” to someone with depression, you just can’t turn confidence on at will becasue it has to be built and that is a hard, hard task. The sad thing is if you have trouble finding your feet the chances are that the cold world will drop you before you can flower and that is a terrible waste of resources.
A bit of trepidation when attempting a new task is normal and can actually be healthy and fulfilling to overcome but sometimes all you think about is “Something will go wrong and I’ll panic and not know what to do and I’ll get found out.” This is particularly true when dealing with other people who are relying on you. Even if a task is pretty subjective and there are many different ways of doing it there is always that voice in the back of your mind saying “They all expect things done a certain way and you’re not doing it that way and they know you’re a fake because of it”. The worst part is that this can actually affect your performance. You get so flustered that you make bad judgement calls which appear as if you are not good at your job but they are 100% not the decisions you would make if you were relaxed, jovial and excited to be doing what you are doing.
It all comes down to a complete fear of being judged. It’s there in things like a first band rehearsal where everyone is watching you play, or maybe you are an artist but you always hide your paintings as the worst thing someone can do is look at it and go “That’s um…nice”. It can also seep into other parts of life as well. A client of mine who suffers from anxiety told me that it took him nearly 7 years to get his first job after leaving school becasue the thought of the interview made him physically sick. He said the job itself (in IT) would be fine and he could do that to a high degree but his fragile mental state meant that the stress of sitting there being judged was bad enough but a rejection would plunge him into a deep depression and as we all know when job hunting there will be lots of rejections becasue “That’s just the way it is”. And it sucks.
A more personal side of the coin goes back to hobbies. Have you ever absolutely adored doing something which gives you so much joy but you have it in your head that you’re just plain crap at it? That tug-of-war between the insane desire to create and the crippling thought of “I’m rubbish at this” can be like a dagger in the heart especially if you are working with others as the chances are that you will encounter someone who isn’t that patient or constructive and the smallest comment can be soul crushing.
So yes, having a high degree of ability or skill is only half the battle. If you don’t believe you can do it then it’s going to affect your performance and that’s a waste of talents. It of course requires work on your part but in saying that where did this fear of being judged come from?
In my experience it usually came from school and crap teachers or even worse crap teaching methods. Having the bravery to ask a question and being ridiculed by your teacher in front of everyone isn’t nice or being great at a subject all term but having to do some forced public show in front of the class and getting into trouble becasue you didn’t do it well. Of course the teacher “Had evidence” that you could from the rest of the year’s work and so you got branded “lazy” or “uncooperative”.
External and environmental factors play a big part in someone’s ability to do something and not to lay the blame on others but it’s a simple fact that everyone is different with different needs of getting that ability out of them and so for everyone to be treated in exactly the same way may be fair but it may not be the best to fulfill potential.
The notion that if you just take a risk it’ll turn out ok is pushed a bit too much I feel. At least 70% of the stuff I’ve taken risks on have fallen flat on their face and it’s hard to muster energy just to get slapped down again but it’s not the failing which is the problem, it’s the reaction to it. We need to start telling people that if it doesn’t work out then it’s ok. If at the end of the day you made a total balls of it then there is always tomorrow to try again and in the grand scheme of things it’s not that big a deal, especially if it’s affecting your health. This is of course no excuse for blind and recurring incompetence but like anything great skill or great inability takes time to work out and to make a snap judgement about someone on the basis of one day or even a week is highly unfair.
So if you are working on a project and you see someone maybe making a few mistakes or if they seem on edge then take them aside, tell them it’s not that important and to just have fun becasue shouting at someone in public is going to make someone perform worse and then it’ll be on your head.