Confession: I’m listening to country music right now…
Crazy. I know.
Hold up. That was the wrong confession… My bad.
Let’s try that again.
Confession (Take 2): I thought that once I got my first post out of the way, that writing the second one would be easy. I do, after all, have TONS that I want to write about, and I thought that the hard part would just be figuring out how to start. But I’ve been trying to write this second post since Sunday and well… it’s Thursday now.
At first I thought about writing a post titled, “How I Ended Up In An Open Relationship (And Totally Happy)” in which I was going to talk about how despite growing up on a steady diet of happily-ever-after Hollywood RomComs and despite the fact that my parents are still happily married (after 40+ years), and despite the fact that – like many a young girl – I always daydreamed about finding “The One,” for the past six months or so I’ve been questioning whether long-term monogamy – much less the “’til death do us part” kind – is really all it’s cracked up to be and whether or not it’s possible to have a healthy, intimate relationship with someone without it.
But, then… the weekend happened and for a split second on Saturday I found my happiness within said open relationship shaken and suddenly it seemed like a more appropriate post would be titled, “The Fear You Won’t Fall (Or How I Learned What Love Really Is)” in which I was going to talk about the relationship between Fear and Love and how all too often we let our fear of rejection and being hurt get in the way of our ability to experience the pleasures of love (self-love, platonic love, romantic love, you name it).
I was pretty excited about that post, not least because I’ve spent the better part of the last six years learning how to be more vulnerable and how to embrace (and at times run towards) my fears in an attempt to cultivate a greater sense of self-acceptance and love. And guess what? It has made a world of difference in how I interact with myself and others. Literally. A World Of Difference.
But, then… I started wondering if jumping straight into talking about a bump on the Open Relationship road without first setting up what it even is, what it entails, and why I’m even on it would make sense, or if it would just detract from the point of it all. All of a sudden it occurred to me that I’ve been working on my relationship to Fear for much longer than I’ve been in this open relationship, at which point I thought about writing a post titled, “How A Near-Death Experience Saved My Life,” in which I was going to talk about how coming face-to-face with my own mortality and the impermanence of life taught me what it truly means to live and love.
As it turns out, though, I’m not actually going to talk about any of those just yet. Instead, I’m going to talk about a few things that are close to love, that directly impact our ability to love and be loved, but that aren’t quite love itself: confidence and courage.
First, a quote:
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
– Dale Carnegie
Here’s the thing, the whole not “knowing what to write next” thing has been bumming me out a bit this week. I was riding high after finally having launched this thing last week and suddenly doubt started creeping in, as it often does with me.
What if I can’t actually do this? What if I fail…again? What if I whatever I write isn’t interesting enough? What if I’m a one trick pony? What if I can’t figure out the flow of this whole freaking blog thing?!?!?!
What the fuck if….
And so Sunday came and went and I didn’t write. And then Monday came and went and I didn’t write. And then Tuesday… you get the picture. Doubt led to inaction. Inaction led to self-loathing. And self-loathing is NOT love.
And then I remembered that Dale Carnegie quote that I so often use with my clients and I knew what I had to do.
Something. Anything. Just do it. Otherwise the lack of writing will continue to breed doubt and fear until you feel like such a failure for not writing that you give up all together and poof, there will go your self confidence, your sense of self worth, your ability to show up in LOVE and not in FEAR.
“Fear,” as St. Augustine once said, “is the enemy of Love.” But fear is kind of a coward so it doesn’t act alone; it’s got a few close friends like doubt and insecurity, and together they love to sabotage love’s hard work (which is a shame, really, because all love wants is for you to feel good about yourself and to chase your dreams.) Fortunately, you can help love level the playing field by giving it a few BFFs too – confidence and courage.
While it may seem that confidence is something that you either just do or don’t have, it actually fluctuates much more than most people realize. It can be built up and knocked down and is much more within our control than we often believe. As for courage, if “The Wizard of Oz” taught me anything its that we’ve all got a little courage tucked away somewhere…
So how does one build confidence, then? By doing two very important things:
- Setting small goals and having realistic expectations for yourself, and then
- Following through on reaching your goals.
Having realistic expectations of ourselves is crucial for developing self-confidence because it helps us to pursue goals that we are likely to accomplish. Accomplishing goals builds confidence, which in turn allows us to pursue greater goals, and so forth. Hello confidence!
Simple enough, no? The problem, of course, is that many of us have unrealistic expectations of ourselves; some of us think we are a lot less capable than we actually are and some of us think we are a lot more capable than we actually are. Both of these can lead to a lack of self-confidence (the former by keeping us from ever trying at something – let alone actually succeeding at it – and the latter by leading us to perceived failure).
So how do we set up realistic expectations? By being honest with ourselves and reflecting objectively on our past successes and current abilities rather than being overly critical or indulging in thoughts of our “ideal selves.”
Consider the three following situations.
A) You dream of being a great pianist so you sign up for piano lessons. You have an unrealistic expectation of being great during your first class even though you’ve never even played before. You arrive at your first class, struggle like any beginner would, and then lose confidence in your ability of ever one day becoming a great pianist and thus, quit. Suddenly, you’re feeling a lot less capable than you used to.
B) You dream of being a great pianist, but you have an unrealistic expectation of never being able to learn it even though you’ve successfully learned many other things (like how to read, how to drive a car, and how to type at a keyboard). Because of your unrealistic expectation of failure you never even sign up for a class and thus never learn to play the piano and consequently continue believing that you aren’t capable which in turn feeds your lack of self-confidence.
C) You dream of being a great pianist. You consider the fact that you’ve successfully learned how to read, drive a car, and type at a computer and estimate that you have the skills necessary to be able to learn how to play a piano too. You sign up for classes and arrive to your first class ready to start from square one, hoping just to be able to understand the basics by the end of it. At the end of the first class you know how to read basic sheet music and how to locate “C” on a piano. You leave feeling accomplished and excited and suddenly all the more confident in your ability to learn this new instrument.
This, my friends, is the power of realistic expectations and following through with small goals that lead to bigger ones. And it works for ANY situation: going after a new job, asking someone out on a date, learning a new skill, learning an old skill that’s been long forgotten… Whatever the situation, if you go into it with realistic expectations, you are likely to always come out with your confidence (and sense of self worth) intact, even if the expectation is “I’ll probably suck at this but I’m going to try it anyway,” or “they’ll probably turn me down but I’m going to ask them out anyway” (which, by the way, is how I ended up in an open relationship (and totally happy)).
So what was my realistic expectation for today? That if I started writing, even without knowing exactly what I was going to write about, that I’d find something worth writing about and in the process write my second post.
Well, my dears… Mission: Accomplished.
On that note, I’m going to leave you with this little nugget that I recently stumbled upon which filled me with feels. It’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about because at some point, Dana decided that even though she wasn’t sure she could be happy with her body as it is and even though she wasn’t sure she could do certain things (like yoga) given her body type, she wasn’t going to let it stop her from trying. So she took action, and in the process she realized just how capable she is (and has always been), helping her find her confidence and sense of self worth which she now uses to radiate Love and positivity into the world. Go Dana!
Is something breeding doubt and insecurity in your life? If so, set a realistic expectation for yourself and take action anyway! (Then drop a comment below so that I congratulate you on being the courageous human you are).