I know I haven’t been blogging much lately, but it’s just that I’ve been trying to live offline more than online this year, adding new experiences to my list, and opting to meet people face-to-face instead of hiding behind usernames and passwords. But it’s quite interesting how during my visit to Kenya this year, I met a lot of people who brought up my blog over and over again discussing possible topics I could write about.
So today I’m going to address one of those topics. One of my closest friends told me that her problem in life was with self-confidence. She said she didn’t even have the self-confidence to talk to customer service people on the phone, and the topic made me laugh because if I had enough self-confidence in my life, I’m not so sure I would have ever become a writer. It was because I found it difficult to connect with people and express myself that actually made me pick up a pen as a child. So how was I to teach her on self-confidence, when I obviously needed a few lessons in that area myself?
But I’ll try.
My advice to her was to take risks and expose yourself to an experience over and over again regardless of how you feel about it. For instance, I personally have an issue talking to customer service myself, and until recently, I used to delegate that task every chance I got. But picking up the phone to talk to them, I realized that we avoid tasks like that because we dread we’d sound so stupid in front of these people, or we’re scared they’re going to judge us. And I suppose many people in my community would relate to that, because we grew up listening to people being judged all the time. Dialogues got dissected, behaviors got misinterpreted, lifestyles got judged…it was no wonder we were always scared of making a wrong move lest we step on a verbal land mine.
But it gets easier when you tell yourself to accept that feeling as normal, whether it is the fear of being judged or being seen as stupid, or deaf (which sometimes happens when you can’t understand what that customer service woman is actually saying). Accept that feeling uncomfortable is normal, and accept that you’re not perfect, so there’s no point in pretending to be perfect all the time.
Accept that you will make mistakes and you will be judged so be prepared for it and don’t sweat it. Whatever it is, you don’t have to lose sleep over it. People make mistakes. People learn from their mistakes. People move on. Again, taking into consideration our society, unfortunately, the communal memory of our people can astound you. You’ll hear people recalling someone else’s mistakes decades after they’ve made them.Why? In the decades you’ve been holding on to a grudge on whoever it was, Pluto got demoted so it’s no longer a planet, Japan’s coast moved 8 feet after the 2011 earthquake and over 30 new countries came into being (since 1990 at least). My point is, the world changes, and so do people. So cut others some slack.
Empower yourself with knowledge and be more competent. The main thing that makes us lose self-confidence is when we don’t know. In some scenarios we don’t know what to say, how to behave, how the other person will perceive what we say. Not knowing makes us think, “Oh God, they’re going to think I’m so stupid.” So in order to negate this, learn. Sometimes learning is simply done by spending time with a self-confident person and seeing how they do it, how they deal with different scenarios.
Practice in low-risk scenarios. This is very useful advice for people who struggle with public speaking. To some, speaking in public can be quite a terrifying experience, especially when the audience consists of high-calibre people in your field. Just the idea of presenting something can make you sick to the stomach. So step number one is to know your stuff (previous point), and step number two is practice in front of your friends and family; people who won’t judge you so much and exist in your life to be supportive. Of course, shifting from a low-risk environment to a high-risk one is not going to be easy, but at least with practice you manage certain aspects like your nerves, or how you present the material…
Fake it until you make it. This deals with your body language. I personally struggle with this because I tend to act small, disappear into the wall every chance I get. But people who fake self-confidence feel that self-doubt rise inside them and yet they never fail to stride through the room, walk tall and speak loudly even if they knew that they’re not so sure about what they’re saying and even if they knew you knew they’re not sure about what they’re saying.
If you found this post useful, feel free to share with your friends.
As you grow older you tend to appreciate the beauty of silence. Silence so deep that the only thing you can hear are your thoughts, and the occasional birdsong outside the window. Silence, as a response to questions you can’t start to fathom, let alone find words to express your opinions about them; like what has the world come to. At least by being silent, you are not adding to the sound pollution, even though you know that sound pollution is not the world’s biggest problem right now, but at least you’re making a contribution somehow.
“I don’t know what to say.” Has become your default because you really don’t know what to say. You can cry out and yell and try to say something but if nobody is listening, what’s the point? And if people do listen but nobody is willing to understand, what’s the point? Or if people do listen and do understand but what you say doesn’t change anything, then what’s the point?
So resort to silence.
Because sometimes, silence is the best answer you can give.
Toddlers are intuitive when it comes to the touch screen. They seem to learn how to use ipads without much instruction. All they have to do is hold them and experiment. But if they become too addicted to these touch screens, do they go through life thinking that there’s a huge invisible screen in front of everything? Do they end up swiping at everything else outside the screen?
If you’ve dealt with children then you’ll know the answer is (amusingly) yes, but can you blame them? Then there is another question that parents need to ask themselves, are these screens even good for their brain development?
In a Psychology today article titled “Is it okay to let your toddler play with the ipad?” Nancy Darling writes, “Child development is optimized when children engage in activities that are cognitively and sensorily stimulating.”
Her argument is that having babies addicted to ipad-screens is simply not good for brain development because screens call for passive attention and provide a very limited sensory environment.
Besides the fact that it could turn a child’s bouncy lifestyle to a sedentary one right from the start of life, what about all that we learn when we experience life in 3D? And I’m not talking about watching 3D movies as that is not experiencing life in 3D).
What about children learning the physics of gravity and dimensions of objects? Throwing a ball and catching it may help a child develop his motor and coordination skills, and might open his mind to the basics of trajectory.
What if our children never get to write in cursive using a pen because they’re always typing and swiping? Or they never get to know the smell of grass after it rains because they’re always indoors? Or they never feel the joy of finger painting (and the consequent dirtying of flat surfaces) ?
As they grow older they will probably be attached to technology as it infiltrates every aspect of their school and work life. So do we want them to miss out on life experiences right from the start? When do they look up from their screens and learn to rediscover the wonder?
Ask yourself that question the moment your child reaches out for the ipad.
Do you sometimes find yourself stuck in a quagmire that is so complicated that you wish you can just throw everything out, press the reset button and start over? But then you might think that you’ve invested so much time and effort in whatever it is that you are pursuing that maybe it’s better to just plough through and see where it ends. But then you might think that more time would be wasted if someday down the road, you do decide to u-turn and start from the very beginning.
So between starting over and continuing, one is left thinking, how do you make the choice?
For some people, the choice is pretty much made for them. For instance, take someone who is forced to start over because they’ve lost their job suddenly and then they realize that they never liked it anyway so maybe it’s better to start over and go in a different direction. But when you have to make the choice yourself, you need to start looking at the ratio of benefits to effort of whatever it is you are doing. So if you are putting a lot of effort in terms of time, money and personal health, then discover that you are getting nothing of value in return, then maybe the better choice is to quit.
However, it is not always easy to quantify benefits and efforts related to life decisions. And as Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” But I guess that is why it’s important to understand the values and priorities in life, because then it would be much easier to rate your benefits and efforts based on that.
So what is your opinion on the topic? When should a person just quit what they’re doing and start over in their life/career?