People tend to think that finding their dream job is only about knowing what they want. But finding the job of your dreams is just the beginning. Of course you need to understand yourself and your motivations and talents but even more important is to believe in yourself and learn to find fulfillment in what you already have. That is, right NOW. Time and again, I find that firm trust in your self – your self-confidence - and with it your look on life are the most important factors for success, or maybe even fulfillment. In this post I want to give you my look on self-confidence and the steps you can take to lead a fulfilled (career) life.
Trust or self-confidence is a common denominator I see that prevents people from leading a fulfilled life. I do not mean the mask you are showing to the world, however self-confident it might seem. I mean the full trust you have in yourself without any conditions, the feeling that you are great the way you are even without your job, spouse, car,… You know, the feeling that you love yourself.
According to Dictionary.com, self-confidence is a ‘realistic confidence in one's own judgment, ability, power, etc’. This would mean that as long as you’re realistic about all your skills, that you are self-confident. If you would realistically be aware of all abilities, skills, power, would that truly make you self-confident?
Interestingly enough, the origin of the word confidence has nothing to do with a ‘realistic’ view. The word confidence originates from the Latin word ‘confidentia’ which translates to ‘firmly trusting, bold’. The ‘confidere’ means to have ‘full trust or reliance’. In essence, confidence thus once meant a firm trust, hence self-confidence should mean a firm trust in oneself, or not?
Well, an overestimated believe in yourself can make you blind to your negative aspects, unwilling to look at your failures or potential ways your actions harm your surroundings, or give you an overblown sense of entitlement. An underestimated believe in yourself, to the contrary, can make you depressed or dependent on external factors that you associate with your own self-confidence, often to your own detriment. This is one of the reasons why we keep bad relationships, or why we are so sensitive to marketing – some product or service completes us, meaning we are incomplete without it (read a great article about it here: http://markmanson.net/insecurity).
For me, self-confidence means a full trust in myself. Loving myself for who I am and seeing and accepting my self with my less positive characteristics. It also means standing up for my core beliefs, being compassionate to others, and daring to live my own life despite of the opinions of others.
How can you boost your self-confidence, or perhaps even lead a more fulfilled life?
1. Know yourself
Be aware of what you love, of your strengths and weaknesses as well as your judgments of others. Here’s how:
Look back at your life until now, what were the things you loved doing? And why did you love doing them? Write down everything you’ve done or liked until now, from childhood games, hobbies, subjects at school, student jobs, travels, jobs etc. Next to each activity you’ve done, write down why you did it and why you liked doing this. This will tell you a lot about your motivations. Figuring this out will help you find out what jobs, tasks, and paths you would love to pursue and that will give you energy.
Start observing your behavior and thoughts without judging yourself. You can best write them into a journal. For example, you are stressed at work because a customer/colleague/boss is unhappy about something, what do you tell yourself? Is it something like, “ow I should do it better next time, let’s learn from this”? Or something like “it’s my fault, I’ve done something wrong, I’m so stupid and incapable,…”. Note down your own self-talk to become aware of it. Our brain is efficient and makes these thoughts automatic. Being aware of them is the first step to change that automatism.
Be aware of your judgments of others. Judgments of others are a great way to understand yourself better. Each judgment is a reflection of a behavior that you do not allow in yourself. For example, you might dislike arrogant people because they think they are the best in everything. Ask yourself, what positives are there in thinking you are the best in everything? This might be to dare to show yourself, appreciate what you’ve done or who you are. Whatever the answers, look at the possible positive aspects of the ‘bad’ behavior you judge. It will make you aware of qualities that you are suppressing in yourself, most likely due to your earlier childhood experiences (e.g. if such behavior was not accepted or if someone you disliked showed such behavior). Look if the positive aspects of such behavior is something that might benefit you in some ways and try them out.
2. Accept yourself the way you are
Accept all aspects of yourself, positive as well as negative. This is easier said than done but is extremely important. If you do not accept yourself the way you are already right now, it means that you spend time thinking about the things you’ve done wrong or need to change. It also means that you think you need external factors (job, clothes, spouse,…) to make you feel successful or even simply OK. Your thoughts might make you feel sad or angry, in any case, negative thoughts and feelings cost you energy. Reflection – without judgment is key so once you know yourself, see it for what it is and accept it.
Once you accept who you are completely, you gain energy to focus on things you might want to change in your life – from a place of self-love. If you find it difficult to accept your negative aspects, try positive affirmations or guided meditations that focus on self-acceptance. Another good exercise is to do more of what you love by asking yourself ‘What would someone who loved themselves do?’, read more on this exercise here: http://tealswan.com/processes/365-days-of-self-love
3. Decide who you want to be
Once you accept yourself, evaluate which aspects are not serving you, where they came from and decide if you want to change them. It is extremely important that you decide who you want to be from self-acceptance. If you attempt to change your behavior from a feeling of guilt or shame, for example, it is very likely that this change will not last. That is because your motivation is not true to yourself but you are likely trying to change for someone else. The moment you change something about yourself only for another person and not from your own motives, both of you end up paying for this eventually. In the worst case, you might end up living somebody else’s life rather than your own.
Obviously, in a romantic relationships we make compromises for both of us and need to balance our own needs with those of our family. But if you really hate cooking and do this for your family in a stressful manner, hating what you do, believe me it’s no good for anyone for you to continue doing so. Not only is a stressful mummy not fun to be around but the message you are sending to your child is not to listen to their wants and that it’s ok for mum’s (women) to continue doing what they really hate and only do it to serve others.
I suggest you examine what your motivations in life are and define who you truly want to be. You can do that by for example listing all the qualities you have and why you like them. On a fundamental level, you need to ask yourself, if I was on my death bed, looking back at my life, what would I like to see? How would I want people to remember me? You do not need to change your life completely but can start doing more of what you love and slowly becoming the person you want to be. The key is listening to your own needs and being yourself.
4. Act with integrity
Knowing who you are and what you stand for is important in your life. It helps you make decisions and understand your ‘why’. It serves as your internal compass. I suggested you write down what you’ve done in your life and why. If you look at that writing, what is the central message coming out? In other words, what is your life mission? For example, as a kid at school I’ve always loved math and at home I used to unscrew all the chairs and put them back together. Later I enjoyed working for NGO's. If I look at what I liked about this – math because it is logical and logic is easy for me; the chairs, well I love trying to understand how things work put them apart and back together; and NGO's because I love helping others and have a great sense of purpose when I do so. This is the reason I combine working in IT and coaching because I love it all – logic, understanding how things and people work, and helping others.
Once you are aware of your motivations, make sure you act upon them. If you feel that what you are doing right now in an aspect of your life is not in an alignment with your inner compass, evaluate it and change it. This may be a job you are in but also relationships or friends you surround yourself with. It might also simply be how you do things. Don’t beat yourself if you realize you are in a ‘wrong’ job or a relationship, every ‘wrong’ path you take in your life is there to remind you of what you do like and which path you better take instead. See your failures as useful lessons, not as mistakes.
Whether your belief in yourself is overblown and not realistic, or whether you downgrade yourself, the most important is to accept yourself as you are, right now. You are ok the way you are with all your weird habits, traits, scars and history. The more you accept yourself, the more energy you gain to do the things you love the most. From a place of self-acceptance, look closer into your thoughts, skills, talents and behaviors and decide which aspects to keep or work on. If you look at your life and understand it without judgment, you become more aware of what you truly desire and which path to take. Most importantly, by accepting yourself the way you are and trusting in yourself, you might discover that the fulfillment you seek in external sources such as a career are to be found much closer home – inside yourself.
With love, Marta