How many situations in life do you find yourself avoiding challenges?
Do you avoid public speaking just because you think it’s really scary to talk in front of a group of people? What about that time your boss suggested you try out a new project, but you recommended someone else because you felt that it wasn’t your expertise? Or that time when there was a cute girl at the bar, but you avoided talking to her because you thought she was out of your league?
It’s all in your head
If you were to analyse these situations carefully, you’ll come to realise that the common trait here is ‘think’. You have let what you think about yourself and your capabilities control what you can achieve. It’s not really what others perceive you to be, and it definitely isn’t the gauge on how capable you are.
So, stop thinking that you cannot do whatever it is you’re making excuses for. Instead, consider the potential if you were to change your mindset to affirmatively proclaim; “Yes, I can do it!”
Here are the changes you need to make to a life with more confidence:
1. Bring your humility down a notch
We’ve been trained since a young age to be humble. Humility is the biggest Asian trait, and it isn’t a bad thing. The problem starts when you take this outlook of humility to the extreme until you become doubtful of yourself.
Remembering the regular conversations with your relatives at family gatherings?
“Wah Nadia, you got 10As ar! You’re so smart!”
As kids, we were taught by our parents to reply: “Nolar auntie, I’m not that smart lah. You’re smarter than me!”
But this negative response actually says to your auntie that you don’t trust her opinion, and in the long term you’ll also end up believing that you’re indeed not intelligent. Every time you deny the praise of others and you respond negatively, you’re reinforcing the belief that it’s the truth. Your self-esteem will begin to be affected and it will change the way you look at life.
And so, your confidence might start to fade or in extreme cases, you start to withdraw yourself from society. This is an example you think wouldn’t happen to you – but it’s a norm to think exactly this way, especially in Asian families.
Take home point:
Instead of replying negatively, how about accepting the compliment? Say something like “Thank you auntie!”
2. Do away with self-induced anxiety
Our self-doubt and lack of confidence stems from the way we’ve been brought up to think of ourselves (read point no.1). This setback causes us to feel that we are less capable than we actually are.
In psychology, we call this syndrome ‘performance anxiety’. The way you think affects your performance in everything. You become so engrossed with the fear of the inability to perform that it ends up overtaking the joy and excitement you should be really feeling.
Imagine this. You are in love and you want to be intimate with your partner. You want to make it special and you want her to feel the ultimate satisfaction. But suddenly, you start to doubt yourself and nagging questions start popping into your mind. What if she thinks I’m too small? What if I don’t last long enough? What if she doesn’t orgasm?
Due to this negative spiral of thought patterns, your mood changes and things don’t go as planned. You can’t believe this is happening. You feel embarrassed, confused and incompetent. What’s worse – it’s actually a vicious cycle of a self-fulfilling prophecy where you have spoilt your interaction with your partner.
In short, because you think you are not good enough, your negative mindset brings you to other discouraging thoughts and make the situation look far worse than it actually is. In the end, you react badly when you should instead be very happy.
Take home point:
When you catch yourself thinking negatively, stop your train of thoughts and just do it. You’ll realise that it isn’t so hard, or so bad after all. If you keep this up long enough, you will learn to believe in yourself and gain the confidence to succeed.
3. Change your outlook
When performing a task, you normally want to do your best to achieve success. Performance anxiety happens when your mind is busy considering the possibility of failure instead of seeking success. In other words, because you are so worried about failing, you dare not even give it a good shot.
If and when this happens to you, take a step back and try to find out where the problem lies. Is it in the way you think or has it got to do with your attitudes honed by your upbringing?
When you’re honest about what’s holding you back, and you tackle those issues, you’ll find that the challenges aren’t as daunting as you first thought they would be.
Take home points:
1. Get rid of your active imagination of negative possibilities.
To get yourself out of the negative vibe, try listening to music, talking to someone positive, and writing down five positive outcomes that could occur. Of course, a negative outcome can always happen, but that does not justify you worrying about it before it actually occurs.
2. Focus your attention on the present rather than the future.
This would be much more productive and you get to enjoy the process of your activity.
Once you have all your worries or issues sorted out, you can wave goodbye to your performance anxiety and start to enjoy life as it should be.
What are you currently avoiding? What’s your biggest performance fear? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!