Walking the Line


balanceOne of the things that I don’t always see addressed when I read about building self-confidence is finding the balance of self-confidence somewhere between no confidence at all and overinflated ego. I know that one of the things I worry about when I find the self-confidence to say out loud, “I’m good at that” is, do I sound confident or do I sound like an egomaniac?

Granted, the fact that I worry about it probably means that I will tend not to get too overinflated, but I think that people who are tentative about their own value, and working up to healthy levels of self-confidence may find themselves underselling their talent for fear of looking egotistical. You might say, “I have pretty good luck training dogs”, when in reality, you’re a highly skilled, successful dog trainer. You might tell someone, “I don’t have any professional training, but I take halfway decent photos if you need some,” when you actually take beautiful photos, training or no.

Highly sensitive people tend to be acutely attuned to the opinions and reactions of others, and may worry about offending people, or coming across as a “know it all.” It’s some of this sensitivity that tends to lend itself to encouraging us to downplay our confidence and talents. We may not be aware of it, but we may picking up on the person’s jealousy, or perhaps their own self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy. It can be difficult to separate out others’ feelings from our own, and also to not put so much stock in their emotions and reactions.

In addition, while it may in fact seem like the opposite is true, people who over exaggerate their own value, hype their talents, brag, and belittle the value of others are more than likely operating out of just as much poor self-confidence as the rest of us. An egotistical person can be a bit like a skunk, a whole lot of show, a big stink, and a hope that you’ll be distracted and not notice their weak spots.

finding balanceA confident, balanced person is able to feel comfortable saying that they’re good at something without the need to show off, brag, or otherwise make a big fuss about it. Part of my own sensitivity, I think, is that I can tell intuitively when someone is feeling frantic about their own lack of confidence, as much as I can when they are quietly stewing in it, and it tends to put me off.

If you are also sensitive, you might feel put off or repelled by these people. If you further investigate the source of what you are feeling, you might sense a certain frenetic, frantic energy behind their words and actions. A sense that they are over explaining their worth. They (inadvertently or on purpose) belittle or trash talk yours or someone else’s work. (Which of course only serves to squash your fledgling confidence).

So then, the goal is to find a way to be opening and accepting of your own worth. You should be willing to share it (calmly and honestly), and refrain from shouting it out to anyone who’ll listen, loudly proclaiming your greatness and causing sensitive people to want to avoid being around you (further diminishing your self-confidence).

Well, how the heck do we do that? As I have often mentioned in this blog, the answer lies in part in being self-aware, paying attention to the words we use and the things we say about ourselves and others. Keep it simple. When people complement you about something, all you need to do is say thank you.

When someone says they need help with dog training and you know how to help, say “I have experience with that, I can help”. Offer references if you don’t feel comfortable explaining your skill level. If someone says they need help taking photos and you know you can do it, you can simply say, “I would love to take some photos for you.” And again, if you’re not so confident yet to say just how good a photographer you are, you can always direct them to samples of your work. No need to say “Oh my GOD, don’t use HIM, he’s SO expensive, and blah, blah, blah!” Over exaggerating yourself, particularly at the expense of others, is a big turn off, particularly if the person you’re speaking with is also sensitive to such things.

Walking the PathI find this all particularly interesting/challenging as a person who does a lot of things that require the ability to self-promote. Art, writing, even healing and psychic work require you to put yourself out there in order to actually work and earn a living. Which of course puts you out there to the opinions and criticisms of others, and requires a huge leap of self-confidence. Yet, you don’t want to come across as so egotistical and filled with hot air that you turn people off and lose their interest in your work entirely.

I suppose that like someone who loves dessert, you can choose to eat cake and cookies every day, or completely deprive yourself. Or you can find a healthy point in between, where you can eat the things you love occasionally without gaining 100 pounds. Like everything in life, be it food, finances, or self-confidence, it’s all about finding balance.

May you find your own balance and make it safely (and sanely) across the wobbly suspension bridge of life…

A Gentle Reminder: What You Create Has Value (and so do you)


cotton grassYou might have noticed in reading my posts that I have a bit of a pet peeve about watching what you say. I’m a big fan of “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” And this doesn’t just apply to what you say about others, it applies to what you say about yourself and the things that you do/create/share.

I see this happen a lot with creative people. They produce a beautiful photo, brilliant art work, or incredible writing, and then, when they show it to you, almost instantly devalue their own efforts by adding “it’s not very good”, “I really don’t know what I’m doing”, or “it’s not my best work”. It makes. me. crazy.

Okay, I admit that it makes be MORE crazy because I used to do it – a lot – and I understand where their head is at. But it also makes me crazy because if it is something that you created, it comes from you, and from your heart, by saying that it’s not any good, you’re also devaluing yourself on a subconscious level. You’re holding yourself back, limiting your creative potential, and beating up your own self-confidence.

It may have started subtly enough. We might discover that by saying, “Oh, it’s not very good.” a friend might disagree and insist that the work is truly wonderful. Instantly, the reward part of our brain goes “Heeyyy… I say it’s bad, I get a compliment!” Soon we automatically unveil the fruits of our creative labor and simultaneously announce “it’s really not my best work”, while preparing for the freshly delivered reassurances and compliments from our audience.

While getting compliments is nice, this is really not the greatest way to validate the worth of your work. You create a pattern of constantly devaluing your creation and at the same time your own worth. This doesn’t mean that you have to go flying off in the other direction and declare to everyone who’ll listen how fabulous your latest work of art is. (Which may result in your friends running for the hills when you appear.)

The simplest way to stop devaluing your work really is, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” or “keep your mouth shut”. Oversimplified, maybe, but the idea is to get you to stop trash talking yourself and smothering your creativity and self-esteem. By all means, show friends and strangers your art work, but do not tell them how awful it is. We create art for art’s sake, what you have created is what it is, good, bad or ugly, but it is a part of you, treat it the way you want to be treated.

Beaver Lake SunsetWhen someone compliments what you do, a “simple thank” you is the most powerful phrase you can utter. On a subconscious level, you’re validating that what you have made has value and so do you. It takes a conscious effort to stop whatever else you were going to say and just say “thank you”, but once you get the hang of it, it can be a truly liberating experience.

Those two small words can help grow your confidence, boost your creativity and inspire your faith in your own creative processes.