Confidence, as most of us know, tends to come and go. And in my vast experience, it often comes and goes on a whim. Recently I’ve found it going on long holidays without me, far too often.
To be fair, it has taken a few knocks of late and as we all know, confidence can bruise easily.
When self-belief is low anything can be taken as a confirmation of your own inadequacy, such as forgetting to do something, feeling overwhelmed by everyday technology, or even a failure to park your car between two white lines (yes, we’ve all been there).
Off the cuff remarks from someone can be taken as a slight, and our head can slip into safe mode where every decision can be perceived as a risk. As a result of this we can tend to back away from things for the fear of failure, as self-doubt puts down it’s suitcase and takes residence in our everyday psyche.
The paradox is of course, that the more we back away, the further off we get to a solution. As Alfred Einstein once put it, ‘a person who has never made a mistake, has never tried anything new’.
Social media can exasperate the problem as we develop into beings who seek Likes and Shares and Re-tweets as confirmation of our own popularity or affirmation of our particular point of view. Failure to get what we determine to be sufficient support from cyber space can be construed as a snub on a par with being deliberately ignored in ‘real’ life.
ANOTHER REJECTION, ANOTHER SKIN
For a writer, or indeed actor, musician or one of a collection of others wishing to progress in a creative field, it’s necessary to develop several layers of thick skin – not easy for those of a naturally sensitive persuasion.
But these skins are only formed by taking hits, otherwise known as rejections. Each rejection comes as a small punch to the stomach, and can make you doubt whether to continue on in whatever ridiculously difficult creative profession you’ve chosen to pursue. They do say; though I’m yet to be convinced by the generality of this statement, that it’s those who keep getting up continually after rejections that ultimately prevail.
Trouble is, if you’re a long way down the road and have had to pick yourself up time and time again the probability is that you’re in love. In love with the process of it, the hope, even belief, that this time will be different. And you know what it’s like when you’re in love, common sense slips into a self-induced coma as we continually convince ourselves of an eventual happy ending. Sometimes it just isn’t going to happen.
That’s not to say however, that we should stop believing.
I was once told, by a BBC script executive in the pouring rain of the Media City concourse (we’d all been told to evacuate a nearby office due to a fire alarm) that a script I’d written didn’t make sense, and that the world I’d placed it in wasn’t believable.
I trudged home, soaked to the skin and devoid of any remaining belief in myself as a writer. But, with support from my family, I continued on. The script, in its same form, ending up getting a glowing review from Paul Ashton, then Head of New Writing at the BBC, got me a finalist placing in the Red Planet Prize and a subsequent meeting with the hugely successful Kudos Productions.
So, I do have a track record of being able to rise from the ashes. However, it’s true to say of late I’ve had significant dips in my own level of confidence, both creatively and in the real world.
To address this, as I must, it’s helpful to look at what has worked in the past.
BUILDING BACK A WALL OF BELIEF
In these current covid-ravaged times, self-confidence is at a premium for so many who have lost jobs, or are fighting tooth and nail to keep businesses afloat. And it’s not just self-confidence that can take a battering, it’s confidence in a future that can get better soon, or in a government that has got our backs.
The only control we have in such situations, is in the way we choose to react. How do we build our self-confidence again?
Maybe you have your own processes to get back on track?
Personally, I’m a great believer in marginal gains, taking one step at a time, no matter how small. It helps to stop seeing everything as do or die, learn to laugh at ourselves a little. This isn’t always easy, but it can help, as can a chat with someone we trust.
Don’t expect too much of yourself. Step back a little, if this is possible.
This will pass. By the same measurement that we can take any little thing as confirmation that everything we touch turns to dust, so should we take comfort and conviction in the things that we do well, no matter how small they may seem at the time.
And whatever we judge as failure or success, confidence or doubt, it’s good to remind ourselves that they are simply two sides of the same coin.