Sometimes when I think about the person I am today I have trouble recognizing the person I used to be. The funny thing is, I was that old me for the majority of my life – self conscious, quiet, shy, insecure, fearful of trying new things. You’d think that person would be familiar, but she’s really not. I can’t get over how much my perspective has changed – the way I see myself and others, the way I view good and bad experiences and situations, the way I see life and the world around me in general.
The most awesome change in me is, without a doubt, my level of self confidence. Previous to this last year, I had just about zero self confidence. I also had a very skewed idea about what it really meant to be confident. I thought it was all about thinking you’re better than other people, never making mistakes or being wrong (at least not in front of anyone), and having everyone’s approval of who you are and what you do. As a result of these wacky beliefs, I became a pro at being a people pleaser. Like, if there were an Olympic sport called People Pleasing, I would represent Canada and bring home the gold every freaking time. Which meant countless time wasted in near panic anytime I did or said something that anyone in my life wasn’t ok with.
I cannot communicate to you how mind-numbingly exhausting this was. Truly. Nearly every waking moment was spent thinking about how to be someone that everyone would like. I need to lose weight. I need to wear different clothes. I need to go to church. I need to have that hairstyle. I need to get good grades. I need to have a boyfriend. And don’t get me started about the ridiculous over-thinking and rethinking I did before actually opening my mouth and saying something. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing bad about wanting to lose weight or change your hair or go to church. Unless you’re doing all these things for the sole purpose of gaining approval or keeping people from thinking less of you. Which 9 times out of 10 I was.
There is so much stress and anxiety involved in living this way. Then one day I finally realized that no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot please everyone all the time. It can’t be done. And if that’s what influences how you make all the decisions you face in life, you’ll drive yourself crazy and end up living a limited, dull, inconsequential life dominated by fear and mediocrity.
You can imagine how incredibly different my life is now that I have confidence and am no longer a people pleaser. Once I realized that confidence was about liking who you are and not worrying about what people think of you, I felt a huge sense of relief and set about becoming the person I wanted to be. I slowly but surely let go of the need for approval. I took stock of what was important to me and let the rest fall by the wayside. I stopped taking myself so seriously and trying to be perfect all the time. I allowed myself to make mistakes. I acknowledged my insecurities, imperfections, and limits without allowing them to dictate my choices. For the first time in my life, I am truly living. I’m chasing crazy big dreams. I’m trying new things. I’m getting comfortable in my own skin. I’m finding my place in this world.
It didn’t happen over night. It took a lot of work, a lot of self talk, and a lot of practice. It was terrifying at the beginning and I had to take very teeny tiny steps. But with each and every step I took, I became more and more confident. And as my confidence grew I was able to take on bigger and bigger challenges and face bigger and bigger fears. I’m at the point now where there is not a lot I won’t attempt to do because I’ve done so many things I never thought I could do. I approach new situations and experiences with the attitude of, ‘Let’s see what I can do’ instead of, ‘What if I fail?’. It’s what I imagine a brand new superhero feels when they first discover they have superpowers. It’s a whole new world…if I can do that, what else am I capable of??
One of my favourite mantras that I use every day that I got from Robin Sharma’s book, The Monk who Sold his Ferarri, is ‘I am more than I appear to be. The world’s strengths and powers rest inside of me’. I use it when I’m feeling unsure or fearful. I say it out loud until I believe it. And then I go forth into the unknown and, typically, kick some ass. Self talk has been, I’d say, the most significant influencing factor in my development of self confidence. Most of the time I found that my lack of confidence came, not from people mocking me or from me being inept, but simply from crappy patterns of thought. ‘I can’t’, ‘What will they think of me’, ‘I’ll look stupid’. Bullshit.
So that’s what I do. I call bullshit whenever I catch myself getting caught up in those cycles of negative thinking. I counter them with things I know to be true and reflect on past victories and times I’ve proven those perceptions of myself wrong.
I’m finally in a place where I know who I am and what’s important to me. I can honestly say I like myself and am proud of what I’ve accomplished. I have my priorities straight and work my ass off everyday to become an even better version of me. I’ve stopped measuring myself against everyone else and their expectations of me. And I’ve never been happier.