Before I started my business just over a year ago I was not too worried about the fact that I was having a complete career change, that I would have to start from zero or that I had never been a teacher before. The things that scared me included the prospect of creating a business page on Facebook, editing my own website and making my own voice recorded meditations. All things that I have learnt to do with relative ease. But why did I (and still do) lack such confidence when it comes to anything remotely connected to technology? (You might be amused to know that half way through that last sentence I had to facetime my friend to ask why what I was writing on the screen was the size of an ant’s handbag!)
Confidence. How do you acquire it? Why do some people have more than others? What is it anyway?
What is Confidence?
According to Dr Joan Rosenberg, confidence is the deep sense that you can handle the emotional outcome of whatever you face, or whatever you pursue. This sounds good, but what is the emotional outcome of me messing up an online adventure, or usually more accurately misadventure? The world will not end if I accidentally order 240 meditation cushions (although the storage was an issue while I negotiated their swift return) or if I advertise my hourly rate as 45 Japanese Yen instead of British Pound Sterling (that took a little more explaining).
No, the world won’t end but the feelings that such a debacle can conjure up can be difficult to handle at the best of times, never mind when you feel like everything is riding on getting it right. What sort of feelings do I mean? I bet you know. I bet you can relate to embarrassment, vulnerability, disappointment and frustration. And I wouldn’t mind betting too that you’d like to avoid them at all costs. Even if the energy spent avoiding them far outweighs the energy spent experiencing them.
When I was at university, by far the worst part of any assignment was having to type it out. I’d spend hours in the library lovingly crafting my essay with my beautiful ink pen, only to then have to trudge to the IT block for a 48 hour stint of what can only be described as cringingly painstaking labour. Yes, this was way before we all had iMacs tucked into our tote bags and the mobile phone was still something that weighed the same as my granny’s fruit cake. (Which could have sunk ships). On one such miserable shift, I was almost at the end of my rather dry commentary on contract law when I lost the lot. Gone. Tears pricked in my eyes, I felt completely helpless and overwhelmingly angry. Not handing this work in meant a fail.
Having had that experience which I felt traumatised by at the time has no doubt stuck with me when it comes to tech. How is it then, that I can now tackle these tasks without the fear of imminent failure constantly at my shoulder? How did Little Miss Pen & Paper come to be a whizz at not only doing digital voice recordings but then converting them to MP3 format before emailing them out or uploading them to my resources page? I’ll tell you how. By coming to terms with the emotions that might arise if something did go a little pear-shaped.
How did I do that?
Well, it will probably come as no surprise to learn that I did it mostly through meditation. Sitting with those uncomfortable feelings. Seeing what happened when I did. Seeing what happened afterwards. Evaluating the experience. Then: repeat, repeat, repeat. If we are not afraid of the emotional outcome, if in fact we know we can handle it, then in theory we can do anything.
Don’t get me wrong, I have still got a lot to work on, but at least I have made a start. And whatever my next challenge is, I know I don’t need courage or bravery. Not really. I just need to work out what I am afraid of feeling, and make friends with that. Pema Chodron says that “the root of true confidence grows from our ability to be in unconditional friendship with ourselves, to train in gentleness and to trust our natural intelligence to navigate life”. I may have less ‘natural intelligence’ when it comes to IT, but I’m rather liking this friendship that I have struck up with myself. I can help myself through the bad times and then laugh about it afterwards. And I’m learning to be far less judgmental about myself too.
Meditation is a powerful tool that can help us to see solutions when we thought there were none. It can get us from fear to acceptance and from failure to success. And, yes, it can give us confidence. In case you were wondering, I didn’t fail my contract law essay. The same friend that I facetimed today helped me out of a hole 25 years ago and all was well. Oh, and 45 Japanese Yen is 32p!