Saturday, January 15, 2011

Confidence and Insecurity... or the lack of it

I have been thinking about this for quite a while ... say for about 25 years now. Hey am not old, it's just that over the past 33 years I've gone through experiences that most people will never go through in an entire lifetime! And I still do have my entire life ahead of me.

I have been trying to figure out what saps one’s confidence. No, have not read about it or discussed it with anyone, it's just my observation over the years and by meeting people from all walks of life and background. No, I have not studied psychology, I tend to read people better than others and this has definitely helped me in my work; trying to anticipate the next move of a client or a person. But what really baffles me is that I am still unable to predict the people who are close to me. When I say close, I mean emotionally. I'm stunned by their actions / reactions over and over again. People say love is blind, but that's not true; one immediately knows when they're is in love. In fact, being in love is an eye-opener of sorts. There is a big difference in being in love with someone and loving someone. But many can't differentiate the 2 and struggle with it. Maybe we can discuss that later. It's emotions that really blind us. And the feeling of being obligated that makes us weak and insecure.

Seriously! What’s wrong with me? I start on a topic and soon I'm discussing something that's not directly connected.

So, back to the topic of my post on Confidence & Insecurity. Everyone is born alike. Like I mentioned in a previous post of mine, we obviously can't choose the family we are born into, it just happens.

Personally, I feel its one’s upbringing and family that plays an important role in the confidence department and not so much the reaction to the situation they are in. The situation just acts as a catalyst or moment of truth where one’s confidence and insecurity really comes to test. I've noticed that men/women who hail from orthodox or conservative families tend to have lower self-esteem compared to others than have had more freedom to express themselves in their families. No, I'm not hinting at any particular religion or sect; lack of confidence is religion agnostics. It's not always the alpha male in the family, but any authority figure, mothers or siblings and even close relatives, who adds to one’s belief that he/she lacks confidence or is inferior. However, it just complicates things if the said authority figure is also successful in his or her business/professional life.

If there is an overly dominant figure in the house, a child tends to be less self-expressive and insecure, too scared to say or do anything against the 'norm'. The child always thinks a million times before doing anything and mostly ends up giving in to everything without any opinion. In such households, if the kid goes against the 'norm', he could be termed as 'rebellious'. I've known quite a few rebels but they are highly unconfident and insecure about themselves. They use aggressiveness to hide their lack of confidence. 

It impacts both men and women, but it's us guys who suffer the most!

As we grow, we experience a lot of different situations. If it works out for us, we pat ourselves on our back and self-acknowledge the great job we did. But if the situation gets bad, what do we do? Blame the situation? I don't think we usually accept that we screwed up. Very few people own up to their follies and take responsibility for their actions and not blame it on the stars, or sigh in regret thinking, “in hindsight…”! Those, in my opinion, are the confident ones. By the way 'hindsight' is always 20/20. It is easy to analyse a situation afterwards, but not think through in advance, without realising the extent of damage it can cause later on. And then what do we do? Cry about the situation and say there was nothing else we could do. When in reality we could have done something that made us happy but because of our insecurity and obligations we chose not to and end up suffering instead.

Why can't we just stand up and take responsibility for our actions? What are we scared off? And why must we do things out of obligations to others and further make ourselves feel less confident, weak and insecure. Why must we look for excuses? For how long should we let people take advantage of us? When should we stop being obligated to others? Why should we sacrifice ourselves over and over again? Why must we let other's insecurities sap us of our confidence?

Questions that only you can answer for your own self.

People from orthodox, conservative families with an authority figure tend to be less confident than people from more open families. If we cannot express ourselves while growing up, it's not going to be easy to express ourselves when we become adults. And it affects us more when the father is successful and stern. This has a negative impact on the child, especially on the son. Tough trying really hard to match the reputation or success of the father, I've not seen too many sons take up their father’s business and really grow it as their fathers did. They always live in the shadow thinking they will never be like their fathers. And at the same time they also sap everybody’s confidence around them with their insecurity and inferiority complex. And then these guys try to dominate their spouses and make life a living hell. Dumb asses! Why must we compare ourselves to anyone? Specially with our fathers? And then beat ourselves up for having successful fathers?

I've noticed that people who think they lack confidence always tend to sacrifice their happiness for the sake of others and always think that they are obligated to anyone and everyone because they feel they are inferior. They are always doing things to please others even if they don’t want to or it comes at the cost of their happiness. At the same time they tend to forget and notice that they have everything they need right under their nose and in their moment of weakness due to the lack of confidence and obligation, they lose out on love, joy and happiness. But as they say, better late than never! So what are you waiting for? Go and take action. Now!

So am I confident, secure and strong? Or not?! Of course I am. I have taken responsibility of each and every action of mine. And have so far never shirked my responsibility. Yes I grew up with a very successful father and my mother was the authority figure in my family. In my teens, I did lack confidence and felt inferior, but finally just over a decade ago, I made peace with myself and stopped comparing myself to my father or with anybody else. I stopped blaming my situation too. Similarly I don't think twice about asking anyone for advice, support or help if I feel I may not be able to manage alone. It does not make me feel low about myself, in fact I feel stronger, secure and confident by having the ability to approach people.

Remember! We have the ability and capability; it's just that we need someone to help us regain it. And that someone is YOU!

My confidence building song - We're Gonna Win by Bryan Adams. Lyrics.

Some Confidence building tips
  1. First and foremost kill the negative internal voice that keeps nagging us and empower yourself. Think Positive and Good about yourself. If there’s a test or a new business pitch, think that you have already passed it and won it. Failure is just an added step to success. Never say never. I used to always think that I’m not good enough. So when I failed I was like ’i knew it, i’m useless'. But since I started thinking I can do it or have done it, things just start to flow easily. 
  2. We Lose 100% of an opportunity that we do not go for. There’s always a First Time for everything so do not shy away. So think through every opportunity that comes by. Weigh the pros and cons. When in doubt Confide in others. Find a MentorThe past few months have been the worst ever for me. But I let go of my ego and confided in a couple of my closest friends. And now, I’m stronger than ever and have taken some bold steps. 
  3. Walk with your Head Held HighBack Straight and Make Eye Contact with people and not with a cowered stance/look. Always have a Smile on your face no matter what. Look in the mirror everyday and tell your self ‘I am confident’. No fidgeting. It’s not only mental but physical too. I used to hunch, avoid eye contact and felt miserable about myself. Now, I have a smile on my face no matter what and walk with a confident gait. 
  4. Focus on what you like and who you are, your feelings and emotions. Don’t bend yourself to others' whims and fancies. Your self-esteem is most important. Don’t let anyone put you down. They are just jealous. For years I would listen to others when I wanted to take up something and would always receive a feedback that I’m not good enough or cannot achieve it. Now, I just tell them what I want to do and don't wait for negative comments. 
  5. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. If you do not succeed at least you know you gave it your all. Then go and give it another shot and then another and another... till you succeed. If you are not prepared you will never succeed and be confident. If I pitch for a business and do not get it, I learn from it and prepare myself better for the next one. 
  6. Don’t aim for the stars. Breakdown your end goal into Smaller Steps and Reward yourself at each milestone. Simple! Learn to walk before you run. 
  7. Compare yourself to yourself and Not Others. Your self confidence depends on you and your needs, not others. Be True to yourself. Stand up and defend yourself. I only try to better myself. It’s like long-distance running or playing golf. You only have to compete with your past best and better it. 
  8. Throw your hat over the wall and Challenge Yourself. Do not get too comfortable and cozy. Break out of your comfort zone. I was in a very comfortable zone in Bombay but was unhappy and unsatisfied. So, I took up the challenge and moved to Bangalore 8 years ago. 
  9. Give time to yourself everyday. Meditate, Exercise, Relax. Pamper yourself. Love yourself. Listen and Talk to yourselfTill April’08 I had never run more than 3km non-stop and always had a mental block for running. From May’08 - July’08 I struggled crossing 5Km. I made some mental alteration and within 5 weeks hit 20Km. 
  10. There is Nothing to Fear but fear itself. For 23 years I did not eat raw tomatoes, had a block against it in my head. Finally in June’10 I picked one up and ate it and now I love it. 
  11. Visualise. If unsure, put yourself in another’s shoes and imagine how they would react to do a task. I have a couple of idols. Whenever I’m at a crossroad I think about what my idols would do. 
  12. Improve your Social Skills and think outward not inward. Expand your Horizon and make friends outside your normal circle. I joined a running club and was amazed by meeting people from all walks of life. It gave a new meaning to my life. And I can’t wait to run with them weekly/fortnightly. 
  13. Pick up a Hobby of Interest to You and not necessarily another’s. I like running hence I run. Tried getting my wife into it but she hates it. So, she goes for dance classes. We both are happy as we get our space to do our own things and don't have to do everything together. 
  14. Take Responsibility for your actions. When I screw up, I admit it and don’t make excuses for what I did or did not do. If I have to take a tougher route I take it because that will make me happy. Not my father or my wife.
  15. Learn from and Help others. No greater feeling when you can lift another person up. Knowledge is second to none. One can only gain from it. So learn from anyone and everyone. It could be your child, your boss or even a total stranger. And when we help others, we not only lift them up but our spirits too. 
  16. You Do Not have to be Perfect all the time. If we all could make something perfect there would be no need to make a new product. Life is a search for excellence. We need to keep pushing ourselves.

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