Beside The Point: If I’m Confident, Why Do I Still Have Negative Self-Talk?
I recently discovered your website through the Well/Aware podcast you were featured in and I wanted to tell you that I am so inspired by what you are doing. In the last year or so, I have been very focused on self-exploration. I have been a yoga practitioner for 7+ years, (try to) maintain a steady meditation practice, and consider myself a pretty self-aware person.
However, over this past year, I have come to realize that I display a lot of negative self talk. I was actually quite surprised, when I looked, how negative my unconscious reactions were – and how much they affected the way I feel about myself and how I approach the world around me.
After poking around the site for a bit, I was struck by something that you said in your bio – you mention that you are a confident person, but still struggle with negative thoughts and self-doubt in a very real way. This was a bit of an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. I consider myself a confident person – my confidence has led me to be successful professionally, personally, and socially. There is a lot I know I can do, no questions asked – and, yet, there are many things I automatically and unconsciously assume I can’t. To me, this seemed so counterintuitive.
If I am confident and truly believe in myself, then why do I fall into negative talk patterns and question certain abilities? Even though I am still working through it, it is comforting to know that another innately confident person has dealt with (or is dealing with :)) this challenge.
Again, I think what you are doing is so fantastic and I am so inspired by it – it takes a lot of bravery and a lot of courage, and I think it’s wonderful.
First off, thank you so much for your kind words – I’m so glad you found WANT and have become a part of our community.
Oh, the paradox of the negative self-talking confident person.
As the WANT manifesto says, “Confidence is not synonymous with vanity.” But even if we don’t feel we’re being narcissistic or vain, there can still be this little voice inside us that tells us we are not allowed to have it all.
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Grounded, inclusive confidence is a rarity these days. The confident female tropes we see in movies and on television usually come with a caveat – either the woman is perceived as selfish and snooty (see pretty much every boss lady on film), or more often, she’s a lovable mess behind the scenes. Confident in a crowd, self-depracating and stumbling behind the curtain, questioning her every move. The “mess” trope is to make the character relatable, of course – it’s the on-screen version of those “Stars – They’re Just Like Us!” articles we see in the tabloids. Oh look, so-and-so wears yoga leggings to run errands! No way, watch such-and-such balance two coffee cups while simultaneously walking her dog and answering the phone! Can you believe that, just like us, pop-star-of-the-moment eats burgers and gets ketchup on her shirt?
So rare is the woman whose confidence has a firm back bone of kindness towards both others and herself. It’s only sometimes we see a character who is self-confident and self-respecting. Once in a blue moon is the “sweet, pretty girl” confident in her intelligence, her creative powers and yes, her looks as well. Every now and then is the leader of the pack shown as empathetic, gregarious, in a loving relationship, AND self-loving on top of that. We’re taught that to be relatable, we should show our underbellies, which way too often is mistaken for “finding what’s wrong and bonding over it.”
Using negativity as a bonding tactic can make the confident gal feel isolated. And that extends way beyond interpersonal conversations. We start to believe that self-confidence is a balancing act and too much would be overstepping our quota. We’re not allowed to be good at everything, and if we are, we definitely need to undermine ourselves about it. As confident women, we strive to be leaders – but how can we lead if we don’t belong? Because being the only positive in a sea of negativity means we’re the ones who are on the outside.
And so the negative self talk comes in. We question certain abilities and put limitations on certain successes. We fear that if we’re too confident – too “perfect,” as the world would have it – then we’ll be too much to handle. For others. And for ourselves.
There’s a quote I love by Marianne Williamson in her book A Return To Love that I repeat to myself often when those negative questions, doubts, and statements come flooding into my brain:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
When I am feeling inadequate or unsure of myself, I ask one question of myself:
Do I believe this to be true because I don’t feel prepared, because I don’t feel on par, or because I don’t feel like I have permission?
If you’re feeling unprepared (say, for a new project), the answer is to seek out knowledge and experience. If you’re feeling that you’re sub-par to your own vision of yourself (say, you’re fatigued and sick all the time), the answer is to make proactive lifestyle changes to get you feeling good again.
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The toughest question to answer is if you’re feeling like you don’t have permission to do what you want to do, be who you want to be, or feel how you want to feel.
It can feel like a sigh of relief to gain permission from someone else to do something or be something, because the ball isn’t entirely in our court. Someone else saw something in us and gave us the green light, so we don’t have to shoulder the entire responsibility or weight of the decision.
Waiting for permission is no way to live. Click To Tweet
Being what Jeremy calls a “big wide open heart” empathizing all over the place, I KNOW how tempting the urge can be to wait for someone else to be in on the decisions you make. Because if it’s a group effort, then it’s definitely not a selfish or ego-driven act.
The thing is, we so rarely get permission from others to be ourselves, nor is that really permission – it’s validation. It’s someone else saying “I bless you to do this or be that, because it’s what I deem acceptable and how I can guarantee my support.”
And so we must courageously move into our own greatness, despite others’ thoughts, and grant ourselves permission anyway.
By repetition. By feeling the fear of judgement, disconnection, loneliness, and moving forward anyway. It might feel awkward and your greatness might knock you off your feet. Keep going. Keep your kindness at the helm, your courage at the mast, and your heart at the forefront. When you come from a place of radical empathy and self-love, others can’t help but follow suit. Like Marianne says, As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Let your confidence shine in all areas of your life, L. You don’t have to be a “mess” and you don’t need to apologize. If you’re waiting for permission, it’s you who holds the key to the other side. Guarantee yourself your own support. Then move forward. Fearlessly.
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