Ever been lying in bed, just about to fall asleep, when suddenly your thoughts are invaded by some embarrassing memory?
Maybe a flashback to that time when you stuck your foot in your mouth and insulted a friend. Or vividly recalling the time when you spilled coffee on your blouse during an important meeting. We all have those cringe-worthy moments and we all replay them, often to the detriment of our self confidence.
It’s hard to feel like a go-getter when you’re constantly reminding yourself of all the times you were less than articulate, graceful or suave. Good thing there’s a way to break free of the grip of these cringe-inducing moments and strengthen your self confidence at the same time.
Why We Take Ourselves So Seriously
We all have an idealized version of ourselves, based on things we value or think we should value. Trying to live up to this idealized self is hard work and leads to feelings of anxiety and tension. Think of how dead serious you are when you’re faced with an anxious, tense situation like attempting to make sure that the world sees you the way you want them to.
For example, in my idealized version of myself, I know how to eat artichokes in public without spattering my décolletage with butter. And I actually have some décollatage and know how to pronounce it without making French people across the globe shudder.
So, when it turns out I can neither eat artichokes gracefully or wear most evening gowns without specialty enhancing undergarments and my French accent is exactly what you’d imagine a girl raised by a guy named Bubba would have, well, it destroys that idealized version of myself and with it my confidence.
I can reach inside my mental toolbox and find a way to stop obsessing over dripping butter on my flat chest in front of a gaggle of cringing Frenchmen and stop taking myself so seriously.
The first step is to look at myself from an outsider’s perspective. This can be tricky, because most of us will naturally start thinking of how we look to an outsider and start feeling tense and anxious again instead of truly looking at ourselves from an outsider’s point of view. It sounds like a small distinction, but it’s important.
If you weren’t yourself, wouldn’t it be funny, just a little? Or maybe a lot?
Now that you can see the humor in the situation, you can move on to step two, re-framing. This is just about the most awesome thing that we can do as people. We have the ability to choose how to perceive any given situation.
Why not go straight from the cringing to the re-framing?
You could do that, but it’s much easier if you first do something to break your state of mind. Laughter is terrific for this, which is why humor is one of the best ways to make friends and influence people. The more you can laugh at yourself, the easier you’ll find it to move on from the humiliation and distress and look at things in a more positive, productive way.
So, in my example above, am I a graceless, stick figure yokel or am I a free spirit, unfettered by society’s definition of female pulchritude and unafraid to try new things and eager to apply my knowledge? If given the choice, and I am, I know which perspective I’m taking!
The cynics in the room are probably muttering something about delusion at this point; however, this is a lesson about self confidence, not how to please cynics. The truth is, I’m doing nobody favors by beating myself up and ruining my self confidence, so why not laugh at myself, pick the option that helps me move forward and then decide what I can learn from the experience?
Laugh at yourself, re-frame the situation and learn
Many people work under the assumption that if you give yourself too many breaks, you’ll never improve. I think that’s grade-A baloney and that we learn best and are better able to accept criticism and see our weak points more realistically when we have a positive self image and are full of confidence.
After all, if I feel like I’m klutzy and unattractive and unsophisticated, there’s really not much hope for me now is there? But awesome people who sometimes have hilarious hijinks and misadventures are full of potential.
Taking yourself too seriously will give you lots of reasons why you should improve and change, but it also leaves you with very little energy to do so and scant confidence to work with. Once you learn to laugh at yourself and re-frame negative experiences into more positive ones, you’ll be better equipped to work productively on any areas that you want to improve and shrug off the rest.
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