There I was, terrified.
I had climbed too high and the worst had happened: I was stuck. I had taken a dare, and now I couldn’t get back down. It was over for me… or would’ve been, if I had been climbing Everest or some incredibly dangerous cliff face.
But I was five years old, in kindergarten, and had climbed on top of the monkey bars during a sunny day at recess.
Getting up on the bars was easy. I was confident I could do it, and I succeeded. But once I was up there? I was so high up! If I fell, I would’ve fallen to certain death.
With a teacher’s help I managed to survive. I made it home for some milk and cookies and life went on.
As an adult, chances of us getting stuck on top of the monkey bars are pretty slim. But losing our confidence?
Sometimes you get started on a project or begin chasing your dream and face a setback. You start wondering if you’re doing the right thing and begin questioning yourself. You’re high up, and you’re not sure whether to keep going or get down, and both are stressful.
So what do you do?
1. Master Your Stress
Stress isn’t always what we think it is. In Dr. Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk and book, “The Upside of Stress,” she talks about how stress benefits us. Our stress can actually help us instead of holding us back.
2. What is Confidence?
I’ve had people tell me things like confidence is “power” or “success.” But it’s really something different.
The trick with confidence is you can be confident and still be stressed. You can be confident and be afraid. And even if you don’t feel confident, you can trust that it’s going to be ok and still take action.
3. The Key is Your Perspective
It’s all in how you look at it. If you look at stress and fear as a friend that’s actually trying to help you, you can take control of it.
If you look at an impossible situation as a learning experience there to help you grow, you can change your feelings toward it. I didn’t have that skill as a kid, but if I looked at my monkey bar problem as an opportunity to learn, I would’ve seen that I had the resources to get down down safely… and that really, if I did fall, it wasn’t far and I would’ve been fine.
How can you look at the big picture instead of just your own limited focus?
4. Where Are the Bright Spots?
While you don’t want to live in the past, you can learn from it. You might be going through a challenging time now, but when in the past have you gone through something similar and succeeded?
What did you do to get past the challenge? What was the result?
What lessons can you take from back then and use now?
5. Get Your Teacher
5-year old me did do one thing right. He asked for help.
You might have lost confidence in yourself, but who else do you have confidence in? Chances are there’s at least one person in your life who believes in you and can help you.
And if not, you can find them. Start looking at everyone as a potential mentor or teacher. What lessons can you learn from them?
If we look at confidence as an event that comes and goes, we’ll run the risk of losing it. Instead, look at confidence as a skill. If you feel you’ve lost it (or just lack it), take it as an opportunity for some practice.
And most of all, take action and trust. You might get stuck on top the monkey bars, but it’s your choice to stay there.