A few years ago, I gave a presentation on anxiety. In doing research for the presentation, I learned one of the ways to combat anxiety is to involve yourself in the thing creating the anxiety rather than attempting to avoid it. Avoidance may feel better in the short run since we are not facing the thing leading to the anxiety, but at the same time, we are not learning how to deal, cope or overcome the cause for the anxiety. The avoidance leads to increased anxiety over time, which further leads to living a smaller life.
I am thinking about doing another presentation in the future about confidence and have started to do some early reading on the topic. In many ways, these are related concepts so I should not have been surprised when I read that an aspect of building confidence is involving yourself in activities and situations in order to increase confidence.
The more often we do something, the more confidence we typically gain in what we are doing. It is a reason why people are often most confident with the things and people in their homes and in their jobs – these being what they are around most frequently. New activities, new people and new situations tend to make us more anxious, less confident.
Another aspect of gaining confidence is how we think about the things we do. Recognizing our experiences with self-statements of, “Well, I accomplished this, so maybe I could do that,” is a good way to build confidence. The opposite often happens, however, where we minimize our experience and success. Instead of acknowledging ability, we may say we got lucky or things just seemed to come together.
Our expectations also play a large role in building confidence. If our expectations are too high, we will have difficulty meeting them and rarely gain confidence in the things we do. If we expect too little of ourselves we may have already entered that vicious circle of not acknowledging our abilities and not trying as often. Leading to smaller expectations and more denial of our abilities – and the cycle builds. To gain confidence, it is important to expect a little more of ourselves than what we might be comfortable with, while not expecting so much that attainment is not realistic.
Having confidence helps us deal with some of the uncertainties, ambiguities and confusion in life. Yet one problem I still struggle with in thinking about confidence is when self-critique gets left behind. I become wary when overconfidence leads to black and white thinking and confidence seems to take the place of good judgment. Being confident in something does not necessarily mean we are right. For myself, I prefer the healthy skepticism and perspective of, “This is what worked for me, perhaps it will work for you,” to the viewpoint, “This is what we should all be doing.”
It is early, I am still researching, hopefully I’ll have more to share in the future.
Reggie E., MSW, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor. Reggie has a master’s degree in Social Work as well as bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and the Comparative Study of Religion from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Prior to a career change to social work, he worked in a variety of fields, including banking, trucking and metal fabrication.