This is my daughter, Lilly. She just beat me in Memory for the first time and is pretty happy about it in this photo. It took her about 20 times though, and of course I didn’t let her win! Now in all fairness to myself, I didn’t really try because I was answering emails and texts (hey a working mom has to do what a working mom has to do!) The point is, this child demonstrates something worth talking about. She has great CONFIDENCE in doing the things she wants to do and thus begins to do them well. I guess we can argue that most humans are designed this way. The more we enjoy things, the better we get at them through increased practice. However, confidence isn’t a trait everyone shares at a natural set point, and there’s a reason why.
The definition I’m referring to is, a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities. Personally, I’ve become more confident over the decades for a multitude of reasons, getting healthier is just one of them. Unfortunately, many women I’ve worked with over the last couple years seemingly began life confident, only to have their self-assurance and appreciation of their abilities erode over time. The I can turned into maybe I can, then later became a flat out I can’t.
As we progress through life, we become more self-aware. We compare ourselves to others, we set goals or benchmarks that we think we should achieve with some arbitrary timeline attached. We say things to ourselves like, I should be able to do that at this age, or I should have that by this time. And all too often, these thoughts create negative vibes and self-doubt when we don’t achieve all the things we think we should be able to do, when we think we should be able to do them. Many times it’s because we’re comparing ourselves to other people. What do you think this does to our CONFIDENCE?
Take yourself back to when you were 5 years old. I think it’s safe to say that the list of things we used to compare ourselves to others was pretty short then. However, it was still there. Kids see other children do tasks or fun obstacles, and they set a goal for themselves. They declare that they will do that too! So they begin to practice by implementing small but progressive action steps through play. Most start small. That’s key, because by starting small they build confidence with each successful pass, and they have fun developing a new skill.
Two things are happening in this stage of goal setting and attainment. First, because they are starting small, they don’t worry about getting it right on the first try. They aren’t concerned with how it might look to the other children, there’s no perfection pressure. Second, THEY ARE HAVING FUN! If the desire to acquire a new skill is less than or equal to the actual fun they are having in achieving it, they will absolutely keep at it. Humans crave pleasure, joy, and happiness. Are you seeing how confidence fits into all of this? Of course you do, it’s simple, especially when you’re thinking about hitting your 5 year old goals!
Well I believe that confidence comes from a narrative. What is the story you’re telling yourself? Are you even aware that you’ve been telling yourself your story almost your entire life? Are you confidently able to keep trying or maybe move on to something better through self-discovery? A problem many encounter is that they are living their biography through another's narrative, enter I should have… the comparison complex comes from somewhere. When we’re experiencing negative feelings about not achieving specific benchmarks our confidence decreases, and the narrative tends to shift. Inversely, when we’re doing well our confidence expands and our story takes flight. Take a second to think about that… mind blowing, right?!
Now I want to talk to you about mudballs. Yep, mudballs. So my beautiful, always-has-to-wear-a-skirt, unicorn loving, lip gloss wearing child is her happiest when she’s at her nature school. She goes to a forest certified preschool and practically cries most days I pick her up. She isn’t physically gifted or brave for that matter, meaning she’s very cautious about being adventurous within the realm of her gross motor skills and abilities. However, what she does do she does with confidence. She moves at her own rate and owns it. When she sees a child doing something that looks fun to her, she tries it. Which brings me to the mudballs.
I recently asked her what she likes so much about her school, and her answer was simple and beautiful. She loved making mudballs. She didn’t seem to care about getting her dress dirty, or that some of the girls in her class just weren’t into it. I imagine her inner narrative read something like, this mud isn’t so bad, I’m really interested in it, and I think I can make something really pretty out of this. I’m going to try to do that because it’s fun. She honed in and focused (easier said than done with this one) and she spent real time on this skill and loved it. She had the confidence to do what made her happy, without comparison, and she did it well. I think we can all learn a lesson from our 5 year old self. Explore, determine if you actually like what you’re doing, and either move on or get better at it. Write your narrative in a way that helps you achieve your goals because you can.