“You are as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fears; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” - Samuel Ullman
Most of us pop out of the womb with a fairly high degree of self-confidence. We haven’t yet started to judge ourselves as smart or dumb, handsome or homely. We haven’t yet built up notions of possible versus impossible, safe versus risky.
And most importantly, we haven’t had time to absorb the judgments, fears, and limitations of the people and culture surrounding us.
Those were the real good ol’ days!
But for most of us, that natural, innocent self-confidence starts to erode pretty quickly. And by the time we hit grade school, the majority of us have bought into a new notion: you can only feel self-confident by earning it.
So who gets to feel self-confident around members of the opposite sex? The guys or gals who’ve had success with the opposite sex. Who gets to feel confident in sports? The kids who have shown athletic promise or skill. Who gets to feel confident about their appearance? The ones who have been told that they’re beautiful or handsome.
Unlike the natural self-confidence we were born with, this new self-confidence requires proof!
Even coaches and therapists who encourage self-confidence and self-esteem focus on what you can do as a path for gaining confidence. They tell you to take action and face your fears, practice strenuously, or rehearse until you have your speech down pat.
Our common wisdom agrees with William Jennings Bryan when he said, “The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you.”
And that approach works… to a certain extent.
But here’s the Catch-22: Without self-confidence, many of us don’t even attempt to begin certain things. And even if we do, the success of our attempt is largely determined by our level of confidence in that endeavor.
So if we believe that we’re awkward in social situations, we can push ourselves to join the party -- but our results will most likely measure up to our expectations. We can get a nose job or a new wardrobe, but as plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz discovered decades ago, our reflection in the mirror will still look as homely to us as we’ve always believed it to be.
True, lasting self-confidence doesn’t come from what we do. It lives in who we are. And who we are is determined by our beliefs about ourselves, not any external “proof” or judgment.
Let me repeat that: The unconscious mind holds beliefs and “truths” about us that really aren’t changed much by external facts or proofs.
So you can have an outstanding performance where the critics rave. But if your unconscious mind is convinced that you’re a mediocre actor, you’ll approach your next role with the same dread and hesitancy. On the flip side, if the critics tear you apart but your unconscious believes that you’re brilliant, you’ll simply ignore those rotten reviews!
Have you ever noticed those rare people who seem to exude self-confidence no matter what? A guy (like Walt Disney or Henry Ford) who fails at several businesses but never seems to take it personally? The woman who, by fashion industry standards would never make the cut, yet she walks into a room like she’s the hottest thing going? That talent show kid who sings off-key but with such enthusiasm that he’s the hit of the show?
That’s real self-confidence! And that confidence – or the lack of it -- is based in our unconscious minds. The beliefs we hold within our unconscious minds effect everything from what we observe (or don’t observe) to our emotional reactions to our very physiology.
Take the guy who doesn’t feel confident with the opposite sex. He’ll walk into a room and “see” women turning away from him – and he won’t notice anyone who seems interested. His body will probably feel tense, his breathing will turn shallow, and his mind might go completely blank. He’ll feel rejected and crushed if a woman tells him she’s “taken.” And all of this will happen despite the hours he’s spent consciously trying to talk himself into being more confident!
The only way to permanently change your level of self-confidence is to work with the unconscious to release limiting beliefs and install more positive, confident beliefs. In working with people one-on-one and in workshops, the most effective way to do this that I’ve experienced is using hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
Both NLP and hypnosis speak the language of the unconscious and communicate directly with it. Within literally minutes using the techniques I teach in these disciplines, you can release that feeling of low self-confidence and replace it with a sense of natural confidence that feels integral to who you are – not based on circumstances or “proof.”
From that sense of self, anything you attempt will feel easier, and any goal you pursue will be easier to attain. Rather than having your unconscious mind at odds with what you desire, it will support you and help you to succeed.
It’s beyond proof or circumstance. This self-confidence is simply who you are.
Until next time... Mahalo!
Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where students learn Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna and Hypnosis. To learn more about NLP and check out our new Integrative NLP Practitioner Certification® Training.