If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you probably already know that I’ve frequently struggled with self-confidence. It’s something most of us deal with from time to time. In fact, it seems to crop up again the minute you think you’ve got it licked.
I like to think of the journey to self-confidence as a mountain you must climb over the course of a lifetime. Sometimes we make great progress in a short amount of time, then we must stop to rest. Sometimes the going is more slow. Sometimes we slide back and have to conquer the same stretch of terrain a second, third, or fourth time. It can be exhausting, but the closer you get to the top, the better you feel. The trick is, not to give up.
This, of course, is easier said than done. When you’re face to face with a mountain of challenges, it’s easy to avoid taking even the tiniest of steps. This is especially true if you fall into the habit of letting the voice of fear overtake the other voices in your head. Fear will assault you with a litany of what-ifs and potential disasters. It will discourage you from taking the next step. It will convince you that it’s better to head down to the base of the mountain and set up a nice, safe camp. After all, you’re not strong enough to tackle this climb. Maybe you can try again in the future, when you’re stronger. When you’re smarter. When you’re better.
In the last few months, I’ve listened to that voice more often than I should. I settled into unhealthy routines. I put my books and my blog on the backburner. I let the housework pile up. In short, I let fear push me into a place where my anxiety and depression were in control.
Now, in my defense, pregnancy does some strange things to your brain. Not only do you have a barrage of pesky hormones throwing everything off, but you have a million and one practical concerns. You find yourself worrying about all the things you need to do before the baby comes. You worry about all the inevitable changes that will come with the addition of a new family member. You worry about your health and the health of the baby. There’s truly no limit to the things you worry about.
In the midst of all this, your body is going through crazy changes. Cue more worry. Does my partner still find me attractive? I don’t find me attractive. Am I going to be able to get my body back to “normal”? Not exactly the kind of thoughts that are conducive to feeling self-confident.
After a few weeks of dealing with this funk, I decided I needed to find a way out of it. I started a new self-care routine (that I will share in another post), I engaged in an open dialogue with my husband about the struggles I was facing, and I began looking into various exercises to overcome these obstacles.
A few pieces of advice that popped up again and again were:
- Focus on what makes you awesome.
- Do something out of the ordinary.
- Celebrate your successes.
- Stay focused on your goals.
- Acknowledge your progress.
- Learn to learn from your mistakes.
- Cultivate mindfulness/remain wholly present.
- Take a risk.
- Engage in positive self-talk.
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
Pretty good advice, right?
The problem is, reading advice is easy. Putting it into practice takes work.
So, what does painting have to do with all of this?
Awhile back, I had ordered a pack of seven canvases and a pack of vinyl sticker paper for my Silhouette (which is kind of like a Cricut). I had planned on using these items to create some wall-art to sell for some extra Christmas money, along with a few other crafts. However, once they arrived they sat on my desk for ages. I’d started second guessing the whole scheme. I had little to no painting experience, why did I think I could start now? Even if they turned out great, who would want to buy them? I should just stick to what I know and finish the next book…once my confidence returned, of course.
A few days after I’d made up my mind to push through my depression and related self-confidence issues, I found myself staring at the stack of art supplies on my cluttered desk. I remembered some of the advice I’d been reading. Painting a few pictures would certainly be something out of the ordinary for me, and it would be the first step towards the goal of selling some motivational artwork, which was also a risk. Taking it a step further, I would focus on nothing else during my painting time and work on mindfulness.
With a smile, I grabbed a canvas and brought out my paints. I decided that the first few were just practice. There was no reason to overly critique my work or compare it to others. Of course I wasn’t going to paint like them, I was going to paint like me and my unique vision is part of what makes me awesome. Not only that, but it was just a learning exercise. I could try out different techniques and practice learning from my mistakes.
That’s a lot of advice-taking crammed into one act!
Armed with this healing mindset, I got to work on my first piece. I fully immersed myself in the project, keeping in mind that it was just for me. Every step of the project was a new technique for me, and although parts of it were frustrating, I enjoyed the learning process. Plus, it kept my mind off all those doubts and worries that had been plaguing me. It quieted the voice of fear.
When I finally stepped back and took a look at the finished product, I was astounded.
For someone with very little painting experience, it turned out fantastic!
I took some time to engage in positive self-talk as I continued looking over my masterpiece. Whenever I found my thoughts slipping towards looking for imperfections, I shut it down and refocused my attention. I had seen this project through. I loved the color palette. I adored the quote and the word placement. I tried something new and it was fun! I was going to learn even more and be a great painter one day!
With this one act, I took another step up the mountain of self-confidence.
The next day, I painted the background for another picture. Then I did two more. And then another. Freeing myself from expectations, I then formulated ideas of what could go on top of them and wrote them down.
I decided to tackle the red canvas next.
At first, I was scared that I’d ruin it. The idea I had was too ambitious for a beginner. Maybe I should just set it aside until I learned more. I could buy some new canvas and do some tutorials first.
I stared at it for awhile and reminded myself that this was just more practice. I could roll with the mistakes. I could do this. I might even surprise myself. All I needed to do was have fun and do my best.
With this one, I ran into more problems than I had anticipated, but I didn’t allow myself to give up. When I made a mistake, I found creative ways to cover it up and create it into a better picture. When the words wouldn’t come off the transfer paper, I enlisted my husband for help and support and together we solved the issue. In the end, I had something I was proud of.
That pride led to more opportunities for positive self talk. I loved the way her hair came out. I loved the colors. I loved that I stuck it out and finished it even when it got tough. I loved that I found creative ways to fix errors. These skills would all transfer into other areas of life. I had added another way to have fun to my life. I had another thing on my list of qualities I admire in myself.
And with that, I moved a little further up the mountain.
Of course, as powerful as this experience has been, it works best in conjunction with other exercises. However, reflecting on the success of this practice when things get tough has thus far been effective in enabling me to carry out these other tasks. The road to self-confidence is long and arduous, and I’ve still got a long way to go, but today I celebrate how far I’ve come.
I look forward to sharing more of this journey with you, as well as the tips and tricks I find along the way. After all, we are all in this together.
Now, I want to hear from you. What are some tricks you have found to help build your self-confidence? Tell us all about it in the comments below!