I've been told for most of my life that I am a strong, confident young woman. This is not true. If I appear strong, it is because I am afraid of looking weak. If I appear confident, it is to live up to the expectation that I am. Most of the time, I am constantly worrying about what I do, say, and think. This is not particularly helpful in a creative field.
What's the solution? This post is a creative brainstorm to find my way out of this self-confidence problem. And hopefully help any other creatives who are struggling as well.
Problem #1: Achievements Catch-22
(Great book, BTW.)
To achieve something great, you have to put yourself out there. This is THE advice given to every single struggling artist out there by everyone who has made it, so it must have some strong truth behind it. However, to put yourself out there, you have to have the confidence to either convince someone else that you're worth that achievement, or the confidence to take their rejection and keep going. The catch-22 is that, for me at least, I gain confidence through my achievements.
Succeeding at something difficult or important makes me feel like I am a worthy human being, like my thoughts and contributions are important to the world, like my art will matter. Failure and rejection make me feel like I have nothing to contribute to the world and that I should just stop and find something else to do. I know that a lot of other people tend to feel this way as well because I hear it all the time... from the people who haven't "made it" yet. So, this feeling is counterproductive and doesn't make anyone do better.
Possible Solution: It seems like there are two possible ways around this problem. One, is to blindly believe that you are amazing and worthy and put yourself out there no matter what. Ignore the little voice in your heard that tells you that you are looking/acting/sounding stupid and just embrace it as part of the unique, perfect person that you are. Two, is to gain confidence through something other than achievements. This leads me to...
Problem #2: How to Grow Confidence?
What is words? How is self? Confidence-building is something they should have taught in school instead of topographic map coloring in geography class. In all the times I was told I was confident, I never once asked how you can become confident. I think that would have been a more helpful use of my time than pretending to have something I didn't.
So, now we're adults and we are great at coloring inside the arbitrary lines of countries. How do we build our confidence with something other than grades, promotions, or kudos? Since all those things are given by those around us, hinging our confidence on accomplishments awarded puts our sense of self outside of our control.
Possible Solution: Put our confidence back in our control by building our sense of self on the things we are, not what we do. According to a Google-search-dictionary, confidence is "a feeling of self-assurance arising from one's appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities." There is nothing in there about accomplishments at all! Confidence, when it comes down to it, is about self-love. So appreciate your ability to be creative rather than hinge your confidence on the product that creativity puts out. Love yourself for being a good friend, rather than judging yourself for how many friends (or followers) you have.
Problem #3: Starting From a Dead Stop
Things feel especially tough for me right now because I am trying to kick-start a new career and begin my professional creative life from a place that feels like a dead stop. In my mind, having a little momentum would boost my confidence and help me achieve even more. Whether or not that is true, it does not help me now.
I have seen a lot of people wish for different lives, jobs, relationships, etc. and give this reason for why they can't have it. They've just been in the old way for too long. They don't have the necessary money/time/confidence to get what they're wishing for. I could never understand this sentiment because for most of my life, I had to struggle to get what I wanted, but I always got there in the end. I always saw a clear path to my goal.
Now, I see a gorge between myself and my goal. I have become one of those people, stuck in the idea of what I have been, rather than seeing how I can become what I want to be.
Possible Solution: Stop looking at where I am as Nowhere. I need to recognize that I have applicable skills and abilities to help me achieve my goal. I always saw the way that others could achieve their goals if they were willing to see their own worth. By seeing my worth, as a creative and a scholar, I might be able to build my confidence by believing that I am starting from the middle of a bridge crossing that gorge.
Problem #4: Stress
Not having the confidence to be happy where you are can lead to a lot of stress. Stress can in turn lead to emotional and physical pain, which can feel inhibiting to your confidence. This vicious cycle is no fun at all. Right now, stress is my constant companion and frankly, I am tired of it.
The insidious problem of stress is that it can be caused by anything and can in turn cause any number of issues. For me, my stress causes my muscles to tense all over my body. I am constantly forcing my shoulders away from my ears, reminding myself not to grind my teeth together, stretching out my hips, etc. I just wish that the source of these tensions were gone so that I could feel good in my own body.
Possible Solution: I might be able to remove stress from my life by embracing uncertainty. The life of a creative is forever an uncertain one. It is not the most "stable" of career choices, but that doesn't make it the wrong one. Instead of trying to control the outcome of my creative life, i.e. make it certain, I should rejoice that my chosen career path is so full of opportunities. There are so many avenues to take to be a successful writer and you do not need to decide on any of one of them. You just need to write.
I hope that this post has been as helpful for you to read as it was for me to write. There may not be a definitive answer here to the Self-Confidence Problem, but I hope that by following these possible solutions, I may start to find one. Is there anything you do to fix your self-confidence or any of the sub-problems I've listed here? Share it in the comments below.