The key to confidence: think less

August 6, 2014 in Career,Life,Philosophy,Travel

Here’s the thing: I choose joy about 80% of the time (hey yo 80-20 rule!). The other 20% of the time, I let myself go into a seemingly-endless loop of personal negativity: there’s not enough money in the bank, I’m not successful enough in marketing, I’m not successful enough as a blogger, I’m not a good girlfriend, I’m not in good shape, I’m not flexible enough to be a yoga teacher, my vocabulary isn’t good enough to be a writer, I’m not a thoughtful friend. Logically, it’s insane: I’m happy, I’m healthy, I have a roof over my head and plenty of people who love me. It’s often comparison (to my peers, to other bloggers, to 26-year-old celebrities and 35-year-old celebrities and 19-year-old celebrities), but it’s also just a tendency to allow myself to go down the deep, dark hole of negative thoughts.

One of the main reasons why young women aren’t taking risks? They’re overthinking things. They’re coming up with a big long list of everything that could go wrong instead of booking the around-the-world flight. They’re worrying about making a new set of friends or finding a new favorite gym instead of moving to a new city. They’re listing all the reasons why they should be happy instead of just BEING happy. The Confidence Code states: “We think too much and we think about the wrong things. Thinking harder and harder and harder won’t solve our issues, though, it won’t make us more confident and it most certainly freezes decision making, not to mention action.”

Think small

This is one of my favorite tips when it comes to women who are overwhelmed by the grandness of travel: with budgets and visas and flights, they just don’t even know where to start or where they even really want to go. The Confidence Code states: “Teasing out the individual parts of a challenge, and accomplishing even one-tenth of it, can give you a confidence boost.” So figure out where you want to go. Get your passport Book the ticket. Put money in a dedicated savings account. Make a list of what you need to do to make your dreams a reality, and dedicate yourself to checking at least one thing off every day. I would never have gone anywhere if I convinced myself that I needed to have everything figured out and scheduled to perfection before taking the leap: I bought my flight, and the rest fell into place (because it had to!).

Counter negative thoughts with facts

I’m a huge proponent of the worst case scenario: figure out the absolute worst thing that can happen, and then realize how your irrational fears are holding you back. A practice that The Confidence Code recommends is listing your achievements and successes when negative thoughts start to act up: it’s one of my favorite ways to counteract a downward spiral. But when it comes to traveling solo, moving to a new city, daring to break away from the status quo: don’t let yourself snowball all of the bad things that could possibly, probably, never happen. Remember all of your own personal wins as well as the success of others, and list those as logically as possible when doubts threaten to take hold.

Meditate

My first winter in New York was HARD. Despite years of perfectionism and high stress, it was the first time I felt consistently anxious: I was physically short of breath and had chronic back pain, and it was mostly due to the crazy pressure I was putting on myself. I visited a wonderful acupuncturist and her first recommendation was to make time to meditate 10 minutes a day. Nothing crazy, but 10 minutes a day to set aside to just BE, to turn off the never-ending worries and just breathe. Unsurprisingly, my anxiety gently eased; now when I feel that tightness of breath acting up, I make extra-sure that I’m not going more than a couple of mornings in a row without a 10-minute meditation.

As The Confidence Code states: “The brain is literally rewired on meditation. Your fear center, the amygdala, shrinks. You have an increased ability to control your emotions and to be clear, and calm, about your goals.”

Be grateful

I’ve been blown away from the response to my New York City-aversary post, mostly because, you guys: my life isn’t perfect. Far from it! Real talk: I have a resident mouse named Rhombus in my apartment that we are valiantly trying to poison, a teenager smokes weed in our courtyard most afternoons and it wafts into our living room, the humidity is 91% sometimes when it’s 90 degrees out, and there is smelly sewage and garbage EVERYWHERE in Brooklyn.

But over the past two years, I’ve been incredibly intentional about cultivating a habit of gratitude. There are so, so, so many things in this city that can drive you crazy if you let them–and there are SO many things in travel that can go wrong every single day. But holy cow, I have the opportunity to live in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations: it would be simply terrible of me if I wasted it. If you have the means and ability and drive to travel: you are luckier than so many people in the world. Embrace it fully, say thank you, believe in the good things people say about you–and stop overthinking it.

Do you overthink things? How have you gotten better at stopping negative thoughts?

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    Wow, this is exactly how I deal with anxiety too. Yoga/meditation have truly changed my life by making it so much easier to push negative thoughts out of my head. And gratitude is truly the nemesis of anxiety in my opinion 🙂

  • HippieInHeels

    Yoga classes in India rarely start without at least 10 min mediation, and usually end with another 10 which I love. On days I don’t do yoga, I try to meditate a little in the mornings and right before bed… I really do better with someone guiding me – but I think it’s a great idea for you to share some of your tips! PS lots of yoga teachers aren’t super flexible! no biggie!

  • I would totally be more interested in more tips on meditation!

    I’m someone who is super in her head and is finally dipping more into that world of being present and meditating — though I am still very stubborn about it.

    But I think you’re right. When I was younger, I wasn’t really scared to make big leaps or decisions. I just had this sort of trust that everything would be okay (it was more subconscious as I didn’t really even think about it) but as I’ve gotten older, I think things out a lot more… to the point of almost paralyzing myself. I’m looking for more balance, to embrace these new “logical” skills but also just… LIVE.

    Anyway, I appreciate this post!

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  • Briel79

    Great post! I’d enjoy a post with tips for meditation. I don’t do any at all now so anything would be helpful!

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  • Hana Kazazovic

    I have problems with low confidence since I’ve been born. Now I see that I overthink things and I will try these tips. Thank you for this post!

  • I like these tips and now I want to check out the book. I’d definitely be interested in a post on meditation as it’s something I’m trying to incorporate into my daily routine as well!

  • Heather

    This may sound silly and over-simplified, but I’ve seen a dramatic uptick in my confidence since I’ve stopped paying attention to celebrity news and gossip. I used to read People magazine religiously and gossip with my coworkers about the latest scandal. I watched all the Real Housewives and other trashy shows. But then I moved to China and that aspect of my life went completely away, along with the comparisons and envy. Sometimes I still get in my own head, obsessing about the size of my bottom or my blog stats, but I’m more aware and am able to tell myself to stop. I’m not sure where that clarity came from, as I don’t meditate, but I definitely feel like I’m more in control of my own well being. I think the celebrity rags and even the national U.S. news focus too much on the negative and that habit has been ingrained into us as well.

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  • camorose

    Yes! Just takes a little effort sometimes to be able to focus on gratitude instead of letting yourself be swept away by anxiety.

  • camorose

    I love it when yoga classes start/end with meditation–guided meditation is always such a fantastic experience for me. On the yoga/meditation retreats I’ve gone on, the day usually starts with 40 minutes of meditation: challenging but so rewarding!

  • camorose

    Yay! I’ll work on that post. Taking risks is a bit of a skill to learn, but sometimes it’s so gratifying just to trust that everything will be OK and take that leap 🙂

  • camorose

    I’ll start working on it!

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • camorose

    Will work on it! 🙂

  • camorose

    YES! So true. I don’t have TV and I only read gossip mags when I’m getting a pedicure and less focus on what celebrities have/spend/etc is super helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you for the shout out Christine! I love your commitment to your health and happiness! It’s working! I have a Guided Meditation workshop on Sunday, September 14th at The Wallplay Gallery in the LES if anyone would like to learn how to meditate!

  • camorose

    Oh yay–will definitely pass it on!

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