There’s a scene from a TV series we’ve been watching where one of the central characters walks through a noisy city listening to a meditation telling her how powerful she is. There’s such irony there. Her life has literally fallen down around her ears and nothing could be further from the truth.
I totally believe in the power of a positive mental attitude, but I know that listening to a random recording is not going to cure the self-doubt and insecurity that can plague my own creative nature, or anyone else’s.
There is one thing that I’ve found to make a massive difference in how much I can do, and the quality of my work, though. It’s called confidence.
Today I’d like to tell you about my own dance with creativity and confidence, and help us all to get more of it so that we can reach our full potential. Calling all the doubters — this is for you.
Where Confidence Comes From
A little while ago, I heard that a prestigious retailer I’d admired for a while was coming to town to give folks the chance to pitch their products. This was pretty unusual, since where I live is hardly the center of the universe. I decided that this was a huge chance for me — and I was going to grab it with both hands.
My youngest son was just starting school and to me, this hailed the start of a transition from stay-at-home mum to, well, I didn’t know what. Something else.
I had just over three weeks to get ready and at that point, I had no product and no pitch so I got to work with all my might. I was determined that if I turned up and got a ‘no’, I was at least going to walk away with the satisfaction of knowing I’d done everything I could to convince them to take me on.
I re-wrote my pitch several times and practiced again and again with my husband playing the role of hard-nosed buyer. On the day of the pitch, I was so nervous that I scraped the side of my car against a pillar parking up. I felt sick. I kept telling myself that I would be content with constructive feedback and my own pat on the back for being brave. Deep down, I was desperate to be accepted. This really mattered.
To cut a long story short, they said ‘yes’ before I’d even finished the pitch.
I was blown away, and in the weeks that followed the floodgates opened. New projects, drawings, bits of writing and new ideas literally started to pour out of me. I stopped, at least temporarily, worrying about whether what I was making and doing was any good or not and just let loose. The ideas and the path were exactly the same as before. The difference was that someone whose opinion I really valued had told me my work was good.
The Tightrope of Comparison and Confidence
Now, there’s definitely a tightrope to walk between caring too much about what people think and having your work and ideas validated by people who matter, most of all your customers.
A life lived based on comparison and only caring what others think is not much of a life at all. But the real point here is that I didn’t get confidence by just blindly telling myself something that wasn’t true over and over again. Confidence came by taking what felt like a huge risk, stepping out and coming up with the goods.
It came by taking action.
Confidence Brings Freedom
If you don’t think that confidence follows action, then let me tell you another story about my first few months of motherhood. You should have seen me. I was a total disaster, wrecked by a lack of confidence and a fear of what other people would think of my emerging mothering skills. Every time my beautiful son cried in public I would run to hide, frazzled and emotional, terrified that the world would find out that I had no clue what I was doing.
When my little boy was six months old we needed a break and so we decided to go on holiday to Spain. Naturally, I was fraught with anxiety, whilst my laidback husband, whose self-confidence I envy and adore, was just looking forward to how great it was going to be.
And it was.
When I came back home I remember thinking that if I could take my six-month-old to Spain on holiday, I could do anything. My entire perspective on motherhood changed as my confidence got the kick up the backside it so badly needed.
It was the doing, the action, the rebellion against the fear and anxiety that gripped me and the stepping out in spite of it all, that led to a freer and happier way of life.
Get Yourself Some Confidence
So what are you going to do? Are you going to keep struggling with your creativity and stay paralyzed by a lack of confidence? Or are you going to break out, take a chance, follow your gut and get in line for action?
Set yourself something to do. Don’t make it an impossible mountain (you’ll only get discouraged if you don’t get to the top), but something small that matters.
Ask yourself these questions.
What is that I want to head towards?
What are the steps, working backwards, to get there from where I am at the moment?
Based on that, what’s the very next thing I need to do?
What’s stopping me?
Pick just one practical action. If it’s fear that’s stopping you, then politely acknowledge that although you recognize it will always be a part of your creative journey, you’re now kindly asking it to move to one side so that you can press on.
I believe that this is what success really looks like. Not fame, fortune, or a six-figure salary, but setting out to do the things that matter to us — and scare us because of it.
I reckon you’re going to surprise yourself. I reckon if I can then you can. I reckon that confidence is the key to the next great thing you’re about to do.