You’re sitting with one of your patients during an office visit and you’ve just finished creating a plan for their new dyspnea, when you realize that you are 40 minutes behind schedule and that they’re indicating that they have a few more things they wanted to talk about. You have two options – ask them to come back another time to discuss, or take care of things right then and there even though you will be further behind. You choose the latter, even though deep inside you were wishing you had the self-confidence to ask them, kindly and tactfully, to schedule another appointment. You’re also wishing that you wouldn’t be left afraid that you could’ve missed something.
You’re working in the hospital and you hear a Code Blue called overhead. You’re the hospitalist on call and you’ve done this so many times before, but you’re wondering why then you still get this pit in your stomach when you hear the page overhead. Things always go okay, and you’re comfortable applying the ACLS algorithms, but you wish that you had the self-confidence to run into each code feeling more in control.
It’s 2AM. Your 5-year-old has been up all night with a fever. He’s complaining of mild abdominal pain that started just before he went up for bed. You think to yourself that he probably just has a GI bug, but then realize you know too much just to stop there. Your mind races through all the worst possibilities. You think of calling your pediatrician but then don’t want to seem like you are overreacting. You go through all the symptoms and signs and possibilities in your mind. You try to convince yourself that he’s okay, but something tells you that there may be something more there. It’s hard to be objective, and you feel stuck. You feel palpitations as you call your pediatricians’ office for help, knowing it is the right thing to do and that there is no problem in calling, but feel guilty for doing so. You think, “I’m bothering them. I should know what to do. What will they think?” You wish you could just do what you needed to do and not feel so horrible about it.
What is the common theme here? What might have been part of the solution?
Placing yourself in these situations, you may have already sensed that having more self-confidence in each of these scenarios could have helped you to take a more appropriate action, catalyze more powerful actions, or alleviate unnecessary suffering.
What is Self-Confidence?
Self-confidence is a feeling of confidence that comes from how you think about yourself.
It allows you to be secure in yourself and your abilities, even when there isn’t yet evidence to support your thoughts and the success or results you are aiming for. It indicates that you trust yourself, trust that you will consistently take care of yourself and keep your word to yourself no matter what.
Self-confidence allows you to do what you need to do, even if it means others might not always be happy. When you have self-confidence, you have the ability to accept that you aren’t perfect and let go of the shame.
Self-confidence occurs when you know that you can experience any emotions, especially negative emotions that may come up naturally in life. You are better able to handle risk in life.
Self-confidence is different from arrogance, which is a situation in which you feel better about yourself by putting others down. Actually, arrogance often comes from a lack of self-confidence. When we look down on others, this is often a projection of how we feel about ourselves, as we are often trying to compensate for our own lack of confidence in ourselves.
Ultimately self-confidence is a state of being that is created by thinking thoughts that create confidence in yourself. Repeatedly thinking these thoughts, again and again, they become deep-rooted belief in yourself.
Why is Self-Confidence Important?
Looking at the scenarios above, having self-confidence in the office-visit example would allow you to set boundaries so you could stay on time and see your other patients. You would be able to set the boundaries because you would have respect for yourself (and your other patients). Also, you wouldn’t be afraid of disappointing that one person – you would be more in control of your feelings and be able to rebound better from any potential objections your patient might have to needing to come back another time to complete the visit.
In the Code Blue example, you have run these codes so many times and are confident in your ability to do what is necessary. But you are left with that pit in your stomach – maybe because you are afraid of losing a patient, or because you are afraid of not succeeding. It has happened before, where someone has died despite your best efforts, and it felt horrible. Each time, you though it was an unbearable feeling, and so you suppressed and ignored it. With having more self-confidence and experience processing that emotion, you can see that you can handle the challenging feelings of loss and grief and come out on the other side okay. Actually, you see that it makes the job of trying to save a life even easier, because then you are not so afraid to try an approach you haven’t tried before, or to be more aggressive in an approach when needed, knowing that you will have given your best and be okay even if you fail in the desired outcome of life saved.
In the example with your child, having more self-confidence would allow you to ask for help more easily. You would know that even though you are a physician, you don’t have to feel guilty or embarrassed to ask for help, especially when you aren’t being expected to act in the capacity of a physician. In having self-confidence in that situation, you would be willing to trust your instinct and ask for help, even if it meant that you might be wrong. This is because you would know that you could deal with any potential feeling of embarrassment that might come up, and know that it is okay to be wrong, especially when no real harm was done. Feeling secure in yourself and who you are, you would be less concerned about what others thought of you for calling in.
How You Can Start to Develop More Self-Confidence
1. Notice that how you think about yourself determines whether you feel confident in yourself or not. Choose thoughts that help you to feel confident.
Remember the Self-Coaching Model (developed by Brooke Castillo.)
Circumstance (in this case – YOURSELF)
Even when you have never done something before, you can develop confidence in yourself by practicing thoughts that create belief in yourself. You can also learn to trust yourself and that you will be emotionally resilient.
2. Be willing to be vulnerable and accept your imperfections. You may not succeed every time, and that’s okay. When you can let go of needing to be perfect, then you will be more willing to do more.
Brené Brown describes the “wholehearted” as people who “are the most resilient to shame, who believe in their worthiness…” She states, “The Wholehearted identify vulnerability as the catalyst for courage, compassion, and connection.” (Daring Greatly, pp 9-11.)
3. Seek out opportunities to do something outside of your comfort zone, where you might “fail.” Follow through! Take action and see that you will come out on the other side okay.
Intentionally create or seek out opportunities to potentially fail. The more you do this, the more likely it is that you will take risks to grow yourself. In failing, you will learn to rebound. In doing this again and again, you will have successes and develop confidence in your abilities. Ultimately, you will be more likely to succeed in your larger goals.