Self confidence is a skill and skills are things that you can practice! The downside is that to practice you need to be in situations that make you uncomfortable, situations that require that new skill, situations you have been avoiding because you keep on making ‘mistakes’. By doing nothing more than changing the way your think about mistakes and owning that relationship (rather than allowing other people to tell you how to think about them), you can change the way you approach and experience your life.  It takes courage – but courage is also a skill and something you can practice and so create.

How do you think about mistakes ?

This was highlighted for me in one of those normal moments that suddenly shifted my entire thinking. I was watching a favourite child at one of her first horse jumping competitions on the weekend. There she was, all of 12 years old on what seemed to be a giant horse, jumping over a series of fences. Each time she had to go round I could see the stress on her face, she just couldn’t relax. Turns out, she was petrified of making a ‘silly’ mistake. It was a state of mind I could totally related to, having spent most of my life trying to avoid being labelled stupid or silly or incompetent, or..or …or. The fear of making mistakes has always been there,  a normal part of being. But is it normal or is it something we have created ….unnecessarily ?

To cut a long story short, one of my favourite children managed to come first the first time she ever did a cross-country circuit, beating riders who had been riding a whole lot longer than she had. Which was when my next ‘aha’ moment arrived. I suddenly heard her parent telling everyone how she couldn’t relax. Chatting to her, she then told  me exactly the same thing, “I can’t relax !” Which was odd because she had just done it in front of me and yet she totally believed that this was something she couldn’t do. I then watched in increasing surprise as her sister walked back to the car with her and proceeded to tell her (in detail), every single thing she had done – the words ‘silly’, ‘mistake’ and ‘stupid’ featured extensively.  No wonder she couldn’t relax, she was petrified of making a silly mistake and being judged by the people she trusted and needed to accept her.

All of a sudden my life clicked into place and I suddenly realised how much time the world spends pointing out what other people are doing wrong and even more depressing, how those people start to believe it to be the truth without question. Yes, it is all well-meaning, but it breaks down the other person’s self confidence.

So what to do about it ? Because there is no way you are going to stop the world from their favourite pastime, pointing out what you are doing wrong. Nor is there any way to avoid making mistakes. In fact, the ability to make mistakes is something I have always admired in self-confident people.

Practical Steps that use Mistakes to Create Confidence

1)      Become aware of what people are telling you about your performance

Are they telling you what you are doing wrong or are they telling you what you are doing right ? How much judgement is in those words ? Until you are aware of the continuous stream of negativity you are allowing into your consciousness s you can not start the process of unbelieving it.

2)      Start to become aware of how you react when you get told you made a silly mistake.

 I feel it in the pit of my stomach and it is an almost paralysing fear that totally immobilises me – how do you experience it ? Start to pay attention to those physical symptoms and use them to jolt you into awareness, “Aha, someone is judging me right now”

3)      Change the weight you give this criticism.

Are they really right ? What makes them an expert ? This is a useful step, but not your most powerful, the most powerful come next.

4)      Own your mistakes, they are how you learn

This is one of the truth’s that no-one will tell you, the , you only way to learn is by making mistakes. Never be ashamed for going out and trying. Never! Ever!

5)      Actively and ruthlessly search for what went right in these so-called stupid mistakes of yours

 There is always something you did right. Always, even if it was not loosing your cool or coming back to try again. Find that and do more of it.

6)      Focus on what went right and do more of that!

7)      Change the picture in your head

I love the power of visualization. Practice that moment over and over until you find a way you could have done it that would have changed the outcome. Now visualize a new situation where you might face the same challenge and practice this new behavior. The power of this is that no-one else can see or judge. Visualise until you no longer feel the fear and then go out and try it in the real world. You will be surprised at the results.

8)      Change the people around you.

Find the people who support you and don’t judge you. Sometimes that is just not possible, so if you really can’t, just repeat in your mind over and over and over while you are listening to the commentary, “I am using my mistakes to my advantage”

Every so-called mistake is an opportunity to practice a new skill. Every mistake is an opportunity to create a new experience and the only way you learn is through practice. In fact, in diving the divers who had never had to struggle with a skill were the ones I was wary of because they would often fall apart under water when faced with something they couldn’t do simply because they had never had to learn how to manage those moments and learn.

So, how do you think about mistakes ? How would you like to think about them ? Why can’t you create that for yourself ?

Side Note:

There is a small side note to this blog and that is, once you start to become aware of how other people judge and label your actions you start to become aware of how you do it in turn. If you are anything like me that moment of ugly truth can paralyse you once again, so watch for it, accept it and then start to change it by changing the words and focus you use when you talk to other people. Gift them self-confidence by actively and consciously choosing to point out what they are doing right.