Confidence. Girl practicing karate

Confidence

Where does confidence come from?

Why do some people have great confidence while others don’t?

Confidence can be complicated, as it is related to so many other emotions. Courage, happiness, excitement, and other positive emotions can feed confidence, while negative emotions can negate, or decrease confidence.

Confidence is a critical factor in many aspects of our lives. In our professional lives, every time we have the opportunity to advance or take on something that is new to us, we have to feel that we can handle it. We have to have the confidence in our romantic lives to believe that we are a person who is worthy of affection and that we can complement our spouse and make her or him happy.

When I was in my 20s, I had the kind of confidence that comes with youth (read: arrogance). This kind of confidence might actually be a defense mechanism when we don’t have confidence. I think this was probably true with me, especially in my job. When I started as an environmental economist, I didn’t have any experience, so I didn’t know what my strengths were. I was sometimes timid about specific parts of my job (like public speaking). Eventually, I discovered my strengths and learned to play to those strengths with confidence.

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Atone. Young man feeling regret.

Atone

Whoopsie!!

We all make mistakes. Some of us (probably most of us) have made some doozies in our day. Sometimes we may feel that there’s no way to recover—no way we can move on with our lives.

It’s true that bad stuff happens when we make mistakes; they can have serious consequences. They may result in people getting hurt or being otherwise impacted. When this happens, it can affect the way we feel about ourselves. We may feel guilty or ashamed. We’ve not only harmed the person or people that had to suffer the consequences of our mistakes, we’ve also harmed ourselves.

When we make mistakes, sometimes our knee-jerk reactions are more harmful than helpful. We may try to hide from what we’ve done. We may try to deny that it happened, deny that there were consequences, or deny our complicity. We not only are failing to own up to what we did and the consequences of that action (or inaction), we are also being dishonest. And that dishonesty can become part of who we are, and ultimately add on to our guilt and shame.

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Evolve

Evolve

Nobody’s perfect.

Each of us has things we’d like to change about ourselves. We might want to eat less or exercise more. We might want to be more assertive. We might want to read more or become experts in something. We might want to be more adventurous.

How many of our desired changes would fundamentally alter who we are? Are we evolving as people?

Evolution has a lot more nuance than change. Evolution means we are building on what came before. It means that exposure to some events, ideas, or changes in circumstance has resulted in our moving forward in a different way.

Many things can lead to our personal evolution. Examples include an epiphany we’ve had about how to make our lives better, a recognition of some truth that had previously evaded us, a wake-up call we’ve had about our health or our state of mind, or an experience we’ve had that alters our worldview.

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Dreams. Man sitting under The Milky Way Galaxy

Dreams

Everyone has dreams.

Our dreams help define us as people.

As children, we grow up wanting to be rock stars, or bestselling authors, or the president. We are “thinking big” — thinking about reaching the pinnacle of our passions. But achieving this height does not just happen. The realization of any big dream takes a combination of hard work, cultivating relationships with the right people, diligent preparation, and luck.

For some, the image of our dreams drives us to obsessive routines. Practicing for hours and hours every day, reading anything they can get their hands on, endless networking. For others, dreams remain dreams.

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Transformation. Boxer getting up and trying again.

Transformation

When things in life are going according to plan and clicking along, it can be comfortable. Sometimes so comfortable that we hesitate to make changes or take risks. It’s when things aren’t going quite right (or horribly wrong) that we often make fundamental changes in our lives — changes that can lead to evolution and growth.

Life never happens according to a script, and thank goodness. How boring would that be?

Everyone has times in their lives when it seems like the world is against them or they can’t catch a break. It’s very easy to feel sorry for ourselves, or feel like the world is against us. But it’s during those times that we might have an opportunity to “reboot” our lives. Instead of thinking about what we’ve lost, think about the potential for what we have to gain, or change, or try. There’s no reason we have to try to get back to our life as it was — we can try to get to where our life is going.

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