Most of us are familiar with the “easiest” way to grow confidence: you go for it, you work for it, you get it!
But I want to introduce you to the “hardest” way to grow confidence, as well.
It might be even better than the easiest way, in terms of the quality of confidence it grows, even though it will kick your ass the whole way.
So, the easiest way to grow confidence goes something like this:
You set your sights on something that’s a stretch but still in your zone of genius. You go for it. You give it your all. You sweat. You feel the fear and do it anyway. And you hit it out of the park, you nail it, you win!
For example, when I was in my twenties, hustling as a contemporary dancer in New York City, one day I auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Along with hundreds and hundreds of other hopefuls.
Scared I’d be laughed out of the building, I felt the fear and did it anyway, I gave it my all. I stretched. I sweat. I sweat some more.
And at the end, I was standing in a group of ten women who had just been hired for a well-paid, prestigious contract, dancing on one of the most famous stages in the world. And my contract would be extended again and again over the next six years of my dance career.
Naturally, my confidence grew. I felt as we all do from an “easy” way: I felt special, confirmed in my unique gifts and my worth. I felt the gratification that comes from pursuing excellence and landing right in her golden lap. I felt like I could do anything.
Love these easy ways.
And then I had a long stretch of my life where I could hit absolutely nothing out of the park, an unwitting apprentice to the “hardest” way to grow confidence. But I came out of this time with an even deeper confidence than I grew from dancing alongside Placido Domingo for half a decade.
It’s the kind of confidence you grow when life takes you low. All the way low.
There in the lowlands, scraping bottom, you feel the opposite of confident. You feel like shit, actually. You feel the fear — boy, do you feel the fear! — and you try to keep doing it all anyway. You stretch, you sweat, you give it your all, and you fall flat. You are confirmed that you can’t do anything, that you are worthless, a joke.
And then sometimes — not all the time of course, but when some graceful dark magic is afoot — something incredible happens.
Instead of getting up again to try harder, you surrender.
Instead of running from your doubts, you turn to look at them.
Instead of putting on a good show, you let yourself be stripped bare.
And what you find in these lowest of the low times, is priceless.
You can suddenly see beauty everywhere, even in your own uglies.
You find a resiliency, a clarity of knowing, a desire to be a great friend to yourself.
You discover the most healing force in the world: unconditional positive regard for yourself (and all of life), even though (and because) you are at your worst.
The swirl stills and you rest in your unquestionable worth.
These jewels can only be extracted from that precise location where it’s so dark you can’t see shit, and at that precise moment when you pass through the impossible eye of your proverbial needle.
From the easiest ways, you learn that you are extraordinary.
From the hardest ways, you learn that you are utterly ordinary.
At first this might sound like a booby prize, but it’s not. Anyone with this kind of confidence in their bones will tell you that true humility — finding yourself on the same level as the entire human race — is a form of grace like none other. It is connection, communion, a blessing, a deep trust fall into the arms of Love Itself.
The hole you’ve been trying to fill with accomplishments and trophies, heals.
The love and adoration you’ve been hoping to become worthy of, blossoms within you.
You become radiant and rich with the kind of confidence that grows only through the hardest of ways.
I wish for you lots and lots of the easiest ways. I’ll be the one throwing confetti from the bleachers as you hit it out of the park, again.
And I wish for you a brush or two with the hardest ways. I’ll be the one smiling at you over a cup of tea, saying, welcome home, friend. Welcome home.
OK, your turn. If you’ve read this far, surely you’ve got a little more in you!
I’ll see you there.
PS: Image by Annie Spratt from Unsplash