Growing confidence

Growing Confidence

By Malinda King

Why is  starting something new so daunting? Is it be the fear of making a mistake? Not doing it perfectly?  Or maybe it is the fear that people will see failed miserable and judge us as dumb, not good enough, or worthy. Fear of failure and what others think is a common theme for keeping us stuck, feeling like we can’t do anything, that we aren’t good enough. Honestly, what’s the point of trying at all?  If only I were confident, then I could handle this.

We all have an internal dialogue, whether we are aware of it or not.  It whispers just loud enough that you are not: smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough, good enough, maybe just plain old “not enough”. This internal dialogue is commonly known as our inner critic.

Oddly enough your inner criticis not bad. Even though it can be a negative Nancy, it does not want to see you crash and burn, although it may certainly feel that way. Consider instead that it is a way our brain has figured out how to keep us safe.  Like a parent who screams at their child for running into the street when a car is coming and then tells them how stupid they are for doing that. Ultimately, the parent just wants to keep their child safe. But now the child is left feeling dumb and incapable. In the same way, our inner critic wants to keep us safe…in the most dysfunctional way possible. This occurs because at some point in our life we experienced significant events that reinforced our fears and now our inner critic is working overtime to keep us from ever making that “mistake” again.

Due to the pain we experience from past or present criticism and judgment we tend to avoid it by any means possible. We strive for perfection as an attempt to reduce the opportunity for pain. As in, if you don’t make any errors then you won’t be criticized! That sounds like a worthy pursuit and it LOOKS great on the outside.

As Brene Brown, a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and connection, puts it “perfectionism is very addictive because it is very seductive.  It’s so great to think there’s a way to do things where we can never be held in judgement by other people, that we can totally escape criticism.  But it doesn’t work.”  Perfectionism, at its core, is striving to earn approval and acceptance by living, looking, and acting in a perfect way to avoid pain of judgement and failure.  But, as Brene says, it doesn’t work.  Why not?  First, because no matter how much we strive, we can never control what someone else thinks of us. No matter how helpful, sweet, kind, and caring we are, everyone is still free to still think however they want. Secondly, when we are living for the approval and acceptance of others we are not being true to ourselves and who you really are longs to be heard, seen and accepted – not by others, but by you. Therefore, what holds you back is not what you are but what you think you’re not or who you think you “should” be.

The first step of moving away from self-doubt and towards confidence is identifying the obstacles that keep you anchored to where you are, where you feel most stuck. For example, do you struggle with long term commitment? Expressing how you feel? Accepting yourself as is? Start to get curious about this inner critic and how it makes you feel.  Ask questions such as: What is the message I’m hearing? How is it keeping me where I am? How am I benefitting from continuing to live this way? Where does this inner critic voice come from? The more you learn and discover about your current relationship with your inner critic or self-doubt, the more you will know where to move toward acquiring more confidence.

The next step is getting to know the inner you.  What are your values, likes, dislikes, passions, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, doubts, fears, and emotional triggers (what sets you off?).  What would you do with your time, appearance, and close relationships if you had no concerns about what other people thought? Look for connections, themes, and incongruences between the inner you and your inner critic.  This is where you are able to change your story.

This journey is ongoing – learning about the inner you. Learning to trust yourself, understanding your worth. Knowing that you have what it takes so that when you fall you can get back up. Also, remember to practice self- compassion during this process. This means, reduce being so hard on yourself or viewing your personal obstacles as either “good” or “bad” but instead, simply aspects of who you are. Consider it as part of the picture, not the WHOLE picture. And when you do struggle with this process, attempt to observe the struggle and offer yourself care, kindness, and concern that you might extend to your own child or best friend when they struggle. Ask, “What do you need?” A listening ear? Some time alone? A walk or time doing something less productive and more soulful like baking or painting?

Confidence does not mean you’ll never fail, you’re never scared, and never seen making another mistake again. Confidence is knowing that you will be ok even when you fail, because your worth is not tied to how you do something or what someone else thinks about you. You have innate worth just as you are without doing anything. Move toward being ok with being imperfect and being human. And know that when you fall, you’re able to get back up regardless of what anyone thinks or says about it.

Take back your life from fear, doubt and insecurity. Instead, transition to moving toward the ongoing journey toward confidence.  However, like all journeys, the most important part is starting despite the fear.  Join me this month in my Confident Women Workshop. A great place to begin your journey and find out where to get support along the way.

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”

-Anna Quindlen


Resources for the journey:

The Gifts of Imperfection- Brene Brown

What Happy Women Know- Dan Baker

Self-Compassion- Kristen Niff

I Thought it was Just me (But it isn’t) Making the Journey from “What will people think?” to “I am enough”- Brene Brown 

TED talk: The Power of Vulnerability- Brene Brown



Malinda King, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Thrive Therapy in Burnsville, MN. She approaches each of her sessions with the belief that clients are the experts of their own lives, and that therapy can offer a new perspective or different options. Schedule a session with Malinda or meet her at her upcoming Confident Women workshop.