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I’m not very confident….so what?

| March 16, 2021

by Mike Sullivan Sullivan

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is by Mike Sullivan, MOR Associates Program Leader and Leadership Coach.  Mike may be reached at [email protected]]
I’m not very confident. Never have been. Always thought I wasn’t. Still think I’m not.
I get anxious and uncomfortable in new or challenging situations. Always have been. Still am.
I’m not alone by any stretch. That’s one you want to let sit a bit and give a little more thought.
Okay, that’s out of the way.
Many of you who are reading this know me. What do you think about my lack of confidence?
If you’re similar to a lot of people I’ve asked, you’d likely say that I seem pretty confident. Some think if I wasn’t confident I probably wouldn’t have experienced and accomplished what I have. Some think I must be confident or I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing. Some think I must be confident if they hear some of my plans. This is also one you want to let sit a bit and give some more thought to.
I’ve studied the topic of confidence over the past few years and I’ve reflected on my life and work experiences as I’ve studied. I’m still only an expert in my own experiences with confidence. I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned in hopes that you may find them helpful to you or someone you know and love who doesn’t feel very confident and can get anxious and uncomfortable when faced with new and challenging situations.
Confidence comes from taking action.
In the MOR programs we talk about mantras. Mine is ‘you do what you did, you get what you’ve got’. If I want to do something new and different then I need to do something new and different. I’ve done that continually throughout my life and career and I’ve been scared s—less a lot in my life as a result of it. However, I don’t have any regrets for taking on something new and with the full benefit of history, knowing that I failed at many things, did a lousy job at many things, and also succeeded at many things. That’s life and that’s growing up. Yes, you can still grow up no matter your age – neuroscience has proven that.
Leverage the experiences and actions of others.
If other people are doing it, it’s doable and I can probably do it. I’ll try to do just about anything myself.  I’ve always been a learner. My mom still tells stories about how tired she got answering my most common childhood question – “Why?”  If I want to do something I haven’t done, I always go looking for what other people have learned in doing the same thing. People like being asked for help and insight. Take advantage of it.
Be curious.
Take time to understand how the world works.  This knowledge helps to increase our confidence.  My cousin Roger still talks (not fondly) about the time he caught me trying to remove the back of his turtle to see what was ‘in there’ that made the legs and head move.
Use what you’ve already proven to yourself as the fuel for doing what you haven’t done.
Each new, challenging and uncomfortable thing I take on provides an opportunity to learn, be it from the success or the failures. Each of those lessons informs my next move, a move that will result in something different and maybe something better. The more I do, the more I think I can do. Ask me some time about my experiences in ultrarunning. Our youngest used to attend the track and cross-country meets of her brothers who are a decade older than her. We could always count on her to affirm the wisdom of youth as she yelled ‘you can do it”.
Seek out supportive people that appreciate and value you for what you can do and who you are – there is some magic here.
There are many people in my life who believed in me during good times and when I wasn’t at my best. Seek out those people as they can play a big role in fueling your efforts to take on new, challenging and uncomfortable things.  I do believe there is magic in you believing in me and there’s major magic when I am also believing in you.
Ask “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
I’ve asked this so many times and I get the same answer. “You might feel anxious and uncomfortable because this or that might happen.”
This leads me to the most common question I’ve asked in my adult life – SO WHAT?  Our biggest regrets in life are not where we’ve tried and failed.  Rather, our biggest regrets are when we never even tried.  Don’t let lack of confidence get in the way of achieving your life’s goals.
I’m not very confident…so what?