If you fall, get right back up
There’s an ice skating rink by my house. They drag it out the day after Halloween and try to make it last till Easter, which is always a joke. It covers a perfectly nice courtyard, and is ugly as sin. For days I bitch and moan about it, until the shrink in me has the urge to watch people skate. I’m not at all interested in the show-off skaters, who skate so fast, they command more than their share of ice. They execute their tricks with finesse. I hate them.
What do you do when you “fall“?— escape or stay?
The skaters I like are the ones who are hanging on by a thread. They wobble and reach for a friend, who are as unstable as they are. They cling to the railings with such desperation that it’s hard to believe they actually paid for the privilege.
And then, there are my favorites. The ones who fly, flop, land on their hands or their butts. The traffic of the rink stops briefly as the wounded warrior achieves some verticality. I wince at the fall itself. But as a therapist, I’m most interested in the getting up and the keeping going.
Who are the ones who look mortified, like no human being has ever fallen on the ice before? Who slithers and slinks off the ice, avoiding the encouragement of their parents to stick it out?
Who lands ass first, looks up from the ice, scrambles up, and launches himself into shaky, but determined motion. Odds are that his butt and the ice will make contact again. It doesn’t matter that the sidelined skaters are actually better than he. For him, taking a fall, is part of the action, not an aberration, and certainly no reason to doubt or inflict embarrassment on himself.
Which one are you?
The essence of self confidence is the belief that we are capable and deserving. On the basis of confidence, we come to trust ourselves and have positive expectations of our efforts.
- A popular term is the psychological, “self-efficacy,” which refers to a person’s belief that she is capable in whatever she chooses to do (follow a diet, walk 10 blocks, assemble a table from IKEA). Self efficacy predicts success.
- It’s all about the small stuff. Confidence comes from the addition of small victories over time. Don’t diminish what you accomplish, even when it seems small.
- You get points for effort. Confidence comes from “going for it,” not necessarily winning every time.
- “Fake it till you make it.” Act as if you are “in the game.”
- Recognize that there are a lot of people walking around who feel like you.
Is there such a thing as a “confident person”?
- Not exactly, but we are born with different temperaments. Our wiring contributes to the way we interact with the world. Just watch a group of babies and toddlers, and you will identify a variety of “styles.”
- Some are hypersensitive and easily reactive to things that others may take in stride, so they register the hurts.They overestimate the risks.
- Some are most comfortable hanging back, not exploring or taking risks. Theye are tentative and careful.
- Others have high energy, low fear, and take risks, sometimes being too impulsive and overestimating their chances at success.
- And then there are those who size up the situation and seem to have an inner “sturdiness” then enables them to interact confidently with the world.
We grow up in confidence or doubt
In addition with being born with a confident “personality,” our experience differs in how we were treated as infants and children.
- It is much easier to approach the world with certainty when you have gotten messages that you matter, that your needs are important, and that your progress is wonderful.
- Unfortunately, many people don’t get that. Their accomplishments are diminished. They do not feel worthwhile or deserving of people’s affection and admiration. If we didn’t get it from parents and teachers, we have to look in other places for people who say, “Yes! You can do it!” “That was good.”
- A deficit in confidence in childhood shadows confidence in adulthood and may even require professional help to throw off the burdens it casts on your adult life.
Most of us are terrified of “taking a fall”
Especially as adults, we are very attuned to falling. I’m not just talking about falling on our asses on the skating rink. I’m talking about all kinds of other pitfalls like:
- volunteering an idea to your boss that is risky in terms of acceptance. You could end up being squashed. Maybe even in front of other people.
- approaching someone who looks attractive, at a party, in a bar, in the park. You could get a response like, “You’re the biggest loser who walked the face of the earth.” but it doesn’t mean it was a bad impulse.
- breaking the rules, or the protocols or the guidelines because you have an idea of how you can improve upon them
- trying a new sport or activity that you are highly likely to suck at, but enjoy the hell out of anyway
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
- If the answer involves getting fired or arrested or hospitalized, you may want to think it through. But if it’s that you will look ridiculous, stupid, or pathetic, you may need a kick in the butt.
- Ask yourself the “WHAT IF’s.” They are often loops of thinking that go around and around in our minds and have near total effect on our actions. What if your friends make fun of you? What if the woman you are trying to engage looks like she’d rather drink pond scum?
- So What?
The most dangerous thing to do is nothing.
Let’s face it, bad things can happen when we take risks. We could break a leg or feel embarrassed. Neither will kill us.The lousy things that happen to us can devastate our self confidence. We may take fewer and fewer risks. We take our loss of confidence as the sign that we should make our lives safer.
But in the long haul, living safely is one of the most dangerous things we can do. It stunts our intellectual growth, it makes us less social, less experimental, less interesting to ourselves and others.
If you’re going to live well, you will fall. It’s not a matter of IF, it’s a matter of HOW and WHEN!
The more you raise your voice at staff meetings, the higher the likelihood that you’ll land a few strikes. The more you put yourself out there, the more you run the risk of being brushed off every now and then. The more creative ideas you follow the the more likely some are going to collapse.
It’s not the fall that matters, it’s the getting back up.
Being confident even when you don’t think you are:
- Go into every new situation knowing that it is potentially good. Be positive
- Assess what’t the best that can come of it?
- How can it go bad?
- What’s your back-up plan?
- Rebound fast. “Bounce!”
- Imagine yourself as brave, as bold, as sturdy. What we think influences how we act.
- Visualize yourself doing something before you actually try it. “Rewind” as try out different scenarios.
- Keep a record of your goals. Write down what you tried, how it went, what you would do differently.
- Build your skills in areas you care about (take courses, find a mentor, join a group with interests you share). Sometimes you need more than confidence to succeed. You need to learn. Your confidence will build with experience.
- Try not to compare yourself with anyone else. This is your journey, your style and your pace.
- Develop an attitude that is more than “All or Nothing” thinking.“I tried/I failed/I’m a loser/Forget doing that again.” is not a winner. An alternative would be, “I put myself out there/It didn’t go as well as I hoped, but this part went OK, and this went pretty well.”
Losers don’t try new things!
If you start to “trash talk” yourself, you can gently whisper to yourself to “shut up.”
- Talk to yourself as you would to a good friend.
- Be your own good friend as you listen to the things you say that foster or inhibit your capabilities.