I do my best every day to appear as confident in myself as I possibly can. There are some days where it is easy to do, I have faith in my abilities and allow that to carry me through the day. There are other days when my confidence in myself is absolutely shot. On those days I like to be alone and completely shut myself off so no one can see.
Last week I encountered a couple of situations that made me really uncomfortable. On both of these occasions I was not alone. There was nowhere to hide and I knew for sure that my fear was written all over my face. I let the fear in and I let it take control of the situation.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” – Gandhi.
Psychologist Cassandra Dunn says that there is a common misconception that confidence is something you’re just born with. You see people daily that walk around with their head held high, letting no one get in the way of their path. They appear to be almost fearless. I have always been so intimidated by confident people that seemed to be so sure of themselves. There are parts of my life that I am sure but for the most part I am not. I possess a great deal of self-doubt in certain areas of my life and prefer just to dust them under the carpet and avoid putting myself in situations where I have to face them.
On Thursday my boyfriend and I decided that it would be a good idea to train together in the gym for the first time. I think he could sense my hesitation straight away. The plan was that I would come home from work on Friday, I would get changed, we would train, then come home and make dinner. All day at work on Friday I was freaking out. All I could think was, “Gel you’re going to embarrass yourself, what on earth were you thinking agreeing to do this.” I had these thoughts in my head that I wasn’t going to train hard enough, lift heavy enough weights, that I would fall over (likely); or that I was going to look totally lost in my own gym. Now there is no way that my boyfriend would have been thinking any of those things about me. They were my OWN fears that I never faced.
When I first started exercising I absolutely hated it. I didn’t want people looking at me (because I had no idea what I was doing) and I was scared people would judge me for the way that I looked. I thought that I needed to have a particular look and possess a certain ‘confidence’ to be in the gym. At the time my gym had this isolated little room at the top of a staircase. It had a few basic cardio and strength machines. There were only ever two or three others in there. I felt safe in there. I could do my work out and go home. When the gym got renovated one of the big changes was eliminating my safe haven. This meant that all those that trained in there would have to move to the main gym. I remember walking into the big gym and just completely freezing up. All of a sudden I didn’t know what to do anymore. There were machines I had never seen before, personal trainers coaching in there and people everywhere. I accepted that I had to work with that situation so I started training at a time when it was dead. At about 11 o’clock in the morning it was a ghost town. When my schedule changed I could only go at the peak times so I stopped going and joined classes instead in the hope I could just blend into the background; and that is what happened. I never faced my fear of being in a busy gym. I ran away.
On Friday afternoon when I walked in I felt myself really tense up and all the feelings of uncertainty came flooding back. I found it so strange that they did because I have become so much fitter since that time (about three years ago). But, staying true to my promise, I braved it and walked in.
I decided on the weekend to do some research on ‘facing your fears’ and came across Psychologist Albert Bandura’s theory of ‘Self-efficacy.’ He says there are two kinds of people. The first kind are those that place a great deal of assurance in what they do. They back their skills and abilities and love to challenge themselves. They see a challenge as an opportunity to master a new skill rather than a burden that will lead to failure. The second kind of people possess a great deal of self-doubt. They see challenges as a threat to their capabilities. They keep their aspirations low and within the realm of what they know they’re capable of. They dwell on their personal weaknesses, and see them as a barrier to success and excelling at something different.
Bandura devised four ways that self-efficacy can be built:
Getting ‘mastery experience’ – This means putting yourself in a position where you have to face your fear. It involves taking steps to build a positive foundation from which you can continue to grow and challenge yourself.
Watching others excel in the areas in which you wish to excel –By looking at a role model you start to believe that you can realistically achieve what you set out to achieve. The key here is to choose someone who was in as similar position to you as possible. Remember though, you are on your own journey. Things won’t pan out exactly the same, that’s where you really find yourself.
Surrounding yourself with positive people that will reignite your belief in your capabilities – This is so much more than someone telling you that you’re great and can achieve anything; because failure will quickly shut that down. What you need is to have people who really believe in you, that will push you outside your comfort zone; and hold your hand if things get a bit shaky. They know your boundaries and will not push you too far if they think you can’t handle it.
Finding ways to deal with the stress and negative emotions that surround your fear – Often times it is not the facing of the fear that is the issue, it is the way that we deal with ourselves when things don’t go right. By transforming the way we think about a situation we can transform the way in which we approach a new challenge. Instead of thinking. “I failed it’s all over”, think, “okay it didn’t work out this time but if I just keep practicing I will get it right.”
Looking plainly at these four elements, it seems to me that nothing is really impossible. If we take steps every day to get us closer to our dreams eventually we will reach them. I think the key is to keep trying no matter how hard something is because we are capable of mastering it if we set our mind to it.
On Friday I was really reluctant to try new things. I wanted to stay within the safe comfort zone of the things I know I can do. As soon as I felt the doubt kick in I let it control me. I tried some new things but others I completely shut myself off. I didn’t EMBRACE the fear and do it anyway. Confidence takes practice. Having my boyfriend there by my side encouraging me and believing in me and my abilities was so reassuring and makes me think I am capable of getting stronger. I have all the tools I need within me and around me to achieve great things I just need to BELIEVE IN MYSELF.
I think of so many things I have achieved in my life in the face of fear and this is just another one I have to tackle. I never thought I would be capable of having my own website and creating new recipes and content. One day I set the fear aside and put on my look of confidence and did it anyway.
This week I am going to hop right back into it. Just as I’m finishing writing this post I have sent my boyfriend a message to see if we can train again together this week. I know that if I keep going back into the big gym that I will become comfortable there. I am going to put on my game face and absolutely SMASH it. You never know, it might just be the drive I need to face some of my other fears.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Ambrose Redmoon.
Reference: Bandura, A. (1994). Self-Efficacy. In V.S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of human behaviour (Vol.4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press.