I had a rule for myself when dealing with test anxiety at school. Once I finished an exam, I wouldn’t let myself think about it. I wouldn’t let myself second-guess or reconsider my answers outside of the classroom.
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After leaving a math exam in college, a fellow student asked what I thought of it. I told him my philosophy, and he was shocked at my ‘confidence.’ I stopped in my tracks, confused by what he meant.
“I'm just as scared as anybody else. But when I get out of there, I let it go or else I'll sob for 20 minutes with my head under the pillow,” I replied.
It’s important to remember losing confidence is temporary. It will go up and down, but never disappear. Paolina Milana’s article for Life Hack, “Losing Confidence in What You Do? 4 Steps to Regain Confidence,” goes over these common causes and solutions to loss of self-assurance.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
“Are you comparing yourself to other people’s ‘highlight reels’ on social media?” Milana asks.
Sometimes, you lose confidence when you see someone else’s life online, but you're only getting a slice of their reality. You could make a ‘highlight reel’ like that, too, and look like the most perfect person on the face of the earth. But it wouldn’t be real.
Don’t Stick to Perfectionism
“Are you putting unrealistic expectations on yourself? Do you feel as if you have to be ‘perfect’ or that you have to ‘know it all’ from the word go?” Milana says.
When I began making jewelry, my self-doubt arose from two parts -- the learning curve and perfectionism. I often threw away pieces with mistakes. This led me to create a new definition of perfect for myself. Perfect is, “It's really pretty, and I put my heart and soul into it.” If there's a little air bubble somewhere, so what? That mistake doesn't matter because it's irrelevant to my definition of perfect.
Learn New Things
"Whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, or beyond, every season of life brings with it new experiences, and sometimes, having to learn something new contributes to our losing confidence in who we thought we were,” Milana writes.
Learning something new should add to your confidence. You may not look the same and be able to do everything you used to do. So what? People younger than you don't have your wisdom and experience.
Remember the Positives in Your Life
“Humans tend to remember and reflect more on the negatives in life—past traumas, unfavorable experiences, perceived failures,” Milana writes.
The brain serves as self-protection. If everything's going perfectly, the brain doesn't need to pay attention to the present. If something's not working right, the brain has to defend you.
People often call me when they fear doing something. I challenge them to tell me about a time they did something very difficult and unrelated to the problem at hand. When asked what was different between then and now, they’ll express the fear of failure.
“But you were failing, you then persevered, and you finally succeeded,” I tell them. I guess the difference now is you're quitting and hating yourself for it.
I Lost My Confidence on the Ocean
I completed the TransPac earlier in my sailing career, a route from the mainland to Honolulu. We were still in sight of the starting point when the wind picked up tremendously. We had been practicing before we left, but not in these hairy conditions. If I did not turn the boat correctly, bad things could happen.
We started to turn, but someone accidentally let out a line too fast. With all the screaming and yelling, I edged back to where I had been.
“Now, we're going to gybe,” the coach then said to me.
I told him ‘no’ three times. At that moment, I didn't trust myself to do this right. But he was relentless: he was the kind of coach that does not take the helm away.
Eventually, he got frustrated and then yelled, “Gybing, 3-2-1.” Because we had practiced so often to the count of “3-2-1,” I turned the boat just perfectly. The boat didn't flip, and nobody fell in the water. It was a nice turn. The answer to my loss of confidence was to do it anyway, rely on my knowledge, trust my gut and go forward.
We've all had tons of experiences -- not necessarily in the middle of the ocean --- where we have to grit our teeth and trust that we know enough to make whatever happen reasonably well.
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