September 20, 2020

The Two-Step Waltz of Confidence that Changed my Perspective.


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My confidence has taken a hit lately.

For some reason, a few weeks ago, I started to see myself sinking deeper into apathy about the world, and not feeling like anything that I do has enough value or tangible weight to actually help the world.

I felt like in my race against myself to get better and grow stronger—I was running out of fuel. It scared me to see myself feeling tired and weak.

I was too burnt out to even make sense of it; why my desire to help others was diminishing, or why my voice was despondent and low. I wondered if I was on the brink of some kind of depression, but it didn’t feel like that was the case. I just felt confused.

I kept going back and forth in my mind trying to understand why suddenly I was overwhelmed with feelings of low self-esteem and failure. Technically, I hadn’t failed anything. I’m working, I’m living, and yes maybe my dating life is a bit messy, but we’re all trying.

I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t holding myself in the same way that I normally do.

I’ve always placed a massive value on growth—and I still do. So, to see myself falling short on growing and developing myself saddened me. I was stagnant, trapped, and paralysed. And under a pandemic, with travel restrictions, and not being able to fly back home, I felt shackled to a reality I could no longer understand. It’s an unsettling feeling that no one around me was able relay in the same heat, and this made me feel even more alienated. All I could think of was my escape plan.

How one day I’m going to travel around Asia and marvel at all the flowers, and sip endless cups of green tea. How I’m going to visit South America and learn to speak Portuguese, so I can understand all of João Gilberto’s songs. Just dreaming myself into a different reality.

Then I read something by a philosopher who was explaining how confidence is an acquired skill. That even Serena Williams had 10,000 hours of practice behind her before she could become an expert. In that moment, I stopped the inner guilt trip and realised that I haven’t been nurturing confidence in myself through a skillset at all lately. That’s why I was feeling low.

I was telling myself that I needed to just keep my head up and continue meditating ’til I ride this strange feeling out. In essence, I was actually being toxically positive toward myself.

When, in fact, the real issue here was that my self-confidence was plummeting because I wasn’t dedicated to practicing a skill that would reflect back to me my thoughts and my creativity. My life had gone into a numbing routine. The philosopher, Charles Pepin, explained how some people actually thrive in routine and excel, but he made a very profound distinction between people who are competent and those who are confident.

We can be competent if we train a skill every day and never leave our comfort zone. The instinct of fear often drives competency, and the end goal is to have control and power over the unexpected in life. It’s as though we are trying to armour ourselves against life’s anxieties and twists and turns.

To be confident, however, is driven by the instinct of art, when we take pleasure in developing that competence. We’re relaxed. And it becomes about knowing ourselves through these skills, and that they tell us something about who we are each time we practice them. We aren’t in our comfort zones, instead, we are able to respond to situations outside of what’s familiar. We aren’t attached to the idea of complete safety.

There’s a catch though.

To be able to be confident out of our comfort zone, we need to regularly revisit the comfort zone to reassure ourselves, so as to then be able to leave it. Pepin explains it as a two-step waltz.

“Think of your comfort zone, your area of competence, as a circle. You go into it to soak up warmth. Then you leave it to explore the big world beyond. You come back to it to be reassured again. And so on. Compose yourself inside your comfort zone, only to re-emerge from it each time. Dancing. Moving forward. Enlarging both the circle of your comfort zone and the boundaries of your exploration. To a rhythm. This dance step, this two-step waltz, gives us a model for the way self-confidence operates. Each person has to know himself well enough to sense how often he will need to re-immerse himself in his comfort zone. The less security we received in childhood, the more often we will need to reassure ourselves. You must know yourself well to find the rhythm that works for you, your dance.” ~ Charles Pepin / Self-Confidence

When I gave myself permission to revisit my comfort zone and not feel like it’s a step backward, I felt connected to myself again.

Through that, I regained a little bit of what I felt that I had lost.

It inspired me to start practicing skating—something that was filed under “teenage fantasy” a while ago. I got better at it and my confidence in myself went up. I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t revisit my old comfort zone, listened to a few angry songs, wanted to topple the system, and buy a skateboard in sheer dissent of this capitalistic society we live in. But I’m glad I did.

Next time you are feeling lacklustre, uninspired, or going through a low ebb of confidence—try accomplishing something. Even if small. You might already be accomplishing a lot, but you’re not celebrating your successes. Celebrate big and small wins, always.

We grow confident in who we are when we enjoy doing something, and we see ourselves doing it well.


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