Recovering Confidence

It’s no secret that I fell off a horse a few years ago and got back on – eventually. I went into the ride the day of the accident full of confidence. The day after the accident – and for another 15 months – I avoided even the idea of getting back on another horse. My confidence had been shattered.

Since horses were neither part of my job nor my lifestyle, avoiding the moment of truth wasn’t that difficult. In fact, I deeply considering never getting back on another horse. My confidence was that low.

But…what if I had been in a car accident? Or blown a meeting with an important client? Or failed miserably at giving a big presentation? Those activities ARE part of my daily life. Being able to get back on the metaphorical horse would have been more or less necessary. I guess I could decide to always get Uber or have someone else drive me – but I live in Lake Lure, where there is no Uber. In other words, I would be stuck at home in my car accident example.

The problem with recovering confidence is that we base it on what we know we are able to do. When we have just failed, we have proof that we can’t do the thing – whatever it is. It’s difficult to drawn on a well that appears dry in order to gain the internal resources to try again.

But what if it’s not confidence we need, but courage? What if it’s not only the skills of the activity, but trust in our own mental tools to manage through pressure, fear and uncertainty? In my own journey, I’ve discovered that my confidence was rebuilt by reaching for my courage. In fact, it was so much more about accessing my courage that I’ve begun to call the process “couraging.”

I’m very deliberate in using the verb “access” in this context. Think about it. Where does courage come from? In my experience, it’s something cultivated from within. The bigger question might be this: What keeps us from accessing our courage, especially when we have lost our confidence and we are shaken with self-doubt?

If we remember that we have the keys to the kingdom, we will encourage ourselves. If we forget, we may become our own worst enemy. Have you ever beat yourself up for not being able to do something difficult? I know I have. Still do, more than I would like to admit. Of all the ways I see people trying to be better in my coaching practice, the beat-self-up cycle may be the most common strategy. The cycle is a self-energizing machine that gets worse with each turn. Or I can be the one to stop turning the machine.

Here’s a trick I’ve learned that almost never fails: Treat myself as I would a five-year-old learning to ride a bicycle for the first time. When I insist the only words I want to hear coming from my own head are encouraging, I open a small crack for my courage to shine through. All I need is a sliver of light to give me the courage to try again.

What’s your go-to strategy when you have lost your confidence? How do you cultivate your courage? In what ways can you encourage yourself or ask others to help you see your strengths?

My upcoming book Dancing the Tightrope, What Falling Off a Horse Taught Me About Embracing Pressure, Fear and Uncertainty is in the last few months of book production. I’ve learned that writing a book is three marathons: 1) Writing 2) Producing 3) Sharing it. We are deep in the Producing stage right now and I’m also starting the Sharing It phase.

One of the steps in the Producing stage is asking people to read the pre-production version. The book is for anyone seeking to get over a fear, be better under pressure or get back on their own metaphorical horse. If you fit the bill and would be willing to read the book to provide insight on what most resonates with you, hit reply to this email. I will get back to you with how to get your own pre-production manuscript.