Posted in On confidence

The Quest for Confidence – Part 3

Now we know what it is, and that there ar two types, it is time to ask: What causes a lack of confidence?

For many of us, it is one of five things:

* Excessive expectations
* Harsh self-judgement
* Preoccupation with fear
* Lack of experience
* Lack of skill

When I look back at the areas where I have lacked confidence in the past, each case is under those flags in one way or another. My concerns about dating were a lack of experience, memories of nasty experiences was a preoccupation with fear. Struggling with school work was excessive expectations. My worries about pushing myself was to do with harsh self judgement and believing I had a lack of skill so I held off. When I did take the plunge it became excessive expectations. Inability to cope with curve balls was lack of experience believing myself lacking in skill.

I had to laugh at the disparaging comments on self-help books and courses to deliver ‘instant confidence’. They deliver just that – confidence that lasts for an instant! This isn’t used for comic effect, chapter 2 explains why this is the case and why such programmes do not work. We cannot control our feelings. Positive affirmations are doomed to failure; we fool ourselves thinking that confidence is something that can be imposed through quotes or calming our minds in order to feel it – and when it fails we collapse, at best ending up back where we started and at worst, feeling a whole lot worse. Scientific research shows that constant positive affirmations have no effect on our state of mind in the long run and in self-esteem treatment, it made the sufferers feel worse!

So far I’m enjoying the CBT approach to this book. It is something tangible with proven methods, not fuzzy thinking and cheap quotes about ‘thinking positively’ or new age belief wrapped up in dodgy pseudoscience. This is the sort of approach that will always work for a scientific mind like mine.

He goes on next to challenge four common myths about fear which unfortunately includes statements from Lance Armstrong. To be fair to Harris at the time of writing he’d have had no idea about Armstrong’s deceptions but the quotes do take on a new meaning with this new understanding.

The message is though: Embrace your fears.

Typically our fears are similar and they are fears all too familiar to me:
You are not good enough
You don’t have what it takes
You’ll mess up
You’ll get rejected

Yes, I know these thoughts and feelings well and I’m feeling them now as I go through some big changes in my life. My two biggest fears in my new life changes are the top two. Number three I don’t worry about so much (everybody does and if I do in this case I’ll have to deal with it myself) and number four I am expecting… it is one of the perils of self-employment and I am generally not as worried about rejection as I was before. I used to beat myself up but I don’t do this any more.



I go by the name of Frank Speaking. My blog "In the Mind of Men" (former name Chin Up, Chest High) started out as a chronicle of my mental health recovery. Now it is a forum where I discuss issues related to male mental health.

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