Why do we make such a big deal about self-trust as a key ingredient to success? Self-confidence has become widely talked about as a key ingredient to initiating change. Confidence is a word containing two parts: “con” is “with” “confiderae” or “fidelity.” Overconfidence is just as dangerous as under-confidence. Why don’t we remove both from the creative process?
The self-confidence trap goes like this: We’ve attempted something and failed, which is no basis for trusting oneself again. When we pull off a good decision—against our old habit we count “One point scored against the old habit!” Then we look to our self-confidence and it’s just not there next time like it’s supposed to. It’s lost and must be found. “Who am I,” We ask? Our identity is married to the situation. So we tell ourselves we believe we can do it better prior to getting it better.
If I’m addicted to pain killers, and I choose suddenly to not take them, the idea when I complied is “I’ll trust myself not to again and again.” We expect things to go the same again, and after several good tries, wham! We backslide! Self-confidence didn’t do it for us. Jinx! Why? In one word: truth. The truth is that the pain killer is more alluring than our will-power, and we tend to be susceptible. Who would trust themselves if this were true? Well, most often it is true. And it is the starting point to creating successful change!
Self-honesty drives resourcefulness. When we attempt to lie to ourselves about our current self/ability/capacity/conditions, we do it because underneath there’s a problem with us, and it must be fixed or improved. Then lower confidence disqualifies us from our creations. But after closer examination, it’s that we think it does. The key is what we think that imprisons us.
If a person believes it’s about his self-esteem, then he’ll make it about self-esteem. If you make it about trust, it’s what it’ll be about. If you make it about telling the truth, it’ll be about truth. I propose moving trust to the truth. When trust reaches the truth, fear is bypassed to building and learning upon current reality. When our confidence is up, we argue with reality when it fluctuates because it’s inconsistent with our expectations around power and worth. Then we shift to feeling power-less and worth-less when things turn out worse. Who but a person that needs to affirm they’re confident and powerful wouldn’t not have it? Who but a person who affirms they’re doing well would be someone who isn’t? We tell ourselves white lies.
To make matters worse, when we conclude we’re inadequate or insignificant, we seek symbolic packages of power and significance to load other people into to offset our shame. This is the mischief of the ego. We overstate, impress, and reflect what we are not on the inside and hide our negative belief. We manipulate the opinions of others by withholding information and telling lies, to affirm our false identity.
People who work on their confidence are usually lousy creators. They’re so busy with themselves that they forget focusing on their creations. In reality, we have no basis for believing we can do anything. The nature of things is that nothing stays the same, despite our sense of false certainty that it will. At best, we look to ourselves for control via our confidence—to count on something to happen by overcoming fear or doubt. We attempt to predict rather than create the future. What’s wrong with having doubts about something we haven’t created yet? That’s called being human!
Believe in it after the result, not before it. You don’t know what you can do or can’t until the result comes into reality. We make the game about winning back our self –trust from loss, rather than creating something we want. “I’ve lost my self-trust, so when I get it back I’ll retry.” But it doesn’t happen because nothing’s been accomplished of any significance to support trusting. That’s the only verdict ultimately about confidence and trust. Otherwise it’s just useless self-propaganda attempting to use human potential instead of the creative process.
So what happens when you blow it next time, which you probably will, you’re human aren’t you? Start rewarding successful failures by taking your identity out of it. Take self-trust out of the game, and replace it with self-honesty. When you’re depending on trust so much, this becomes the cause of setting you farther back in a self-sabotaging funk. Any attempt at change will be neutralized because the game is about lifting your confidence, instead of recognizing what is actually going on (the actual state things are in). Learning then gets depleted by human potential atta-boy determination. We fail to give ourselves the second chances we need and instead attempt to get it right the first time. This is the outlook of a “performer” not a “learner.” Learners learn in stages and depend on the truth, while performers are pressed to get everything right the first time. Learners initiate change because it’s a learning process, while performers depend on guarantees and perfection. They depend on determination, confidence, and other predictors to alienate failure. People who require so much determination simply aren’t very good at what they do. They haven’t learned to confront themselves with the truth; to learn.
You may be asking, “Why did the four minute mile happen for 30 people after someone did it.” You probably assume it’s because it seemed possible after someone did it. But actually it wasn’t that these 30 achievers thought it was possible, buying that notion. It was that they stopped thinking that they could or could not and starting running, and learned how through deep practice re-attempts to build capacity toward the goal. Their commitment to the truth leveled them up. Every mile was a source of learning through what worked and didn’t work. It’s not a test of self-confidence. It’s a test of self-honesty. Thinking they can or cannot isn’t relevant.
When you create, don’t make it about trusting you, the result, anything…just create, and once you get there, then you can confirm that it happened. Creators don’t depend on a good or bad relationship with one’s self to create. It’s not at issue and doesn’t apply. They focus on creations, not their quirks or identity. They turn to current reality as a point of reference to make adjustments to their actions, to build capacity. They know that starting something is a stage of looking like a fool. This is because when you create, you start with nothing. It’s all new territory. This is what makes the creative process such a powerful structure, and equally why our self-trust trap ambushes and neutralizes success.
In summary, if you walk down the street and fall in the hole, don’t walk down the same street. Focusing on removing your deficiencies is inconsistent with knowing what you do or don’t do well. Deficiency-based motivation isn’t generative and doesn’t motivate learning via the creative act. Knowing where you are compared to where you want to be is more essential. Confidence or no confidence is just an accessory. And as you confront the truth without argument, you find yourself gathering the resources, actions, and tools needed to create what you want.
Copyright 2013 John Davidson