Yesterday on my Facebook page, I posted: Today I taught my first real yoga class: one hour of teaching strangers how to stretch their bodies and calm their mind in exchange for money(!). Last week, I had a meltdown while trying to teach my boyfriend the sequence–so much so that I couldn’t even finish the class, I was so stressed about it not being perfect. I write a lot about confidence and daring to follow your dreams and taking big risks. But the reality is that I get super scared and overwhelmed with self-doubt all the time–in my career, relationship, blogging, traveling. The secret I’ve found is to JUST DO IT. I always come out on the other side and wonder why I wasted so much mental energy: “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t really get you anywhere.”
In a lot of ways, I’m pretty terrible at taking my own advice: it’s so much easier to write about it than it is to actually DO it. I still overthink and overanalyze regularly: about yoga sequences, relationship progress, career goals. I compare myself and my achievements to everyone always, and inevitably end up disappointed. I struggle with living life in the moment instead of on the screen of a device.
But there’s one thing that I think has made an incredible difference in my confidence levels: I force myself to take action. I say yes to things–teaching yoga classes to strangers, flying to South America because I have a spare two weeks before a new job, taking on an extra freelance gig in a different field–and figure it out after I commit. Taking action is such a key element of building confidence because it proves that you can do exactly what you set out to do.
The Confidence Code states: “The beauty is that when you fail fast, or early, you have a lot less to lose. Usually you are failing small, rather than spectacularly. And you have a lot to gain from learning as you fail.” This is something that I’m still trying to get better at: the notion of throwing out a bunch of things and seeing what sticks. I’m especially trying this with digital marketing and online advertising initiatives at work, but I’m also trying to transition into how I market this blog and coming up with enterprenurial ideas.
Take a risk
I always like to tell myself the greater the risk, the greater the reward–especially since it’s continually proved itself true! I’ve taken some big risks over the past few years, from quitting my well-paying and fast-track-to-success PR job to move to France to spending most of my savings account on travel throughout Southeast Asia to turning down sponsorship in Australia for new adventures. But all of those risks have worked out splendidly, and it’s a big reason why I keep deciding to mix things up with new countries and new experiences.
A favorite quote from The Confidence Code: “Nothing builds confidence like taking action, especially when the action involves risk and failure. Risk keeps you growing, improving and gaining confidence. By contrast, living in a zone where you’re assured of the outcome can turn flat and dreary quickly. Action separates the timid from the bold.”
Don’t try to be perfect
One of the funny things about social media is that it enhances this tendency to only show the good parts, to portray a practically perfect life: a life in which portraits are well-lit and collections are well-curated and there’s always a witty story or hashtag to go along with it. I’m definitely guilty of trying to achieve the “perfect” life: I just want to be stylish and successful, with a popular blog and a rewarding job and a handsome boyfriend and everything else I could ever dream of. But while the reality is fantastic–and in many ways, exactly what I have dreamed of–it’s not perfect. And I only hurt myself when I make the goal perfectionism. As The Confidence Code states: “If perfection is your standard, of course you will never be fully confident, because the bar is always impossibly high, and you will inevitably and routinely feel inadequate…Perfectionism actually inhibits achievement.”
At work, my motto is done is better than perfect (stolen from Lean In); I try to keep projects moving and take risks instead of getting hung up on inconsequential details or letting myself become paralyzed by indecision. I get shit done, and then I move on.
That said, I don’t think aiming to be good is a bad thing. I can’t leave my house in the morning without my bed made, the dishes done, the counters wiped down: I need the house to look as “perfect” as possible as much as possible. But that’s because I know myself: I can’t work in a cluttered environment, and as I learned in The Happiness Project: taking care of those small tasks immediately actually leads to more happiness. I want to have a healthy relationship, rewarding friendships, a well-curated closet: aiming high doesn’t necessarily need to lead to feeling inadequate.
How do you take action to increase your confidence?