Have you ever felt as though you were good – really good – at something? I don’t mean false pride or arrogance. I mean being a person with faith. Faith in God. And almost as important, faith in yourself, at least in certain circumstances.
The word for that is confidence, and without it, you’re toast.
Have you ever moved confidently into a situation and blown it? I’m not talking about giving in to your weaknesses. I mean digging deep into the well of your greatest talent, knowledge, or skillset and serving up what they call “gopher balls” in baseball.
All of us can shrug off those areas of weakness. We know we won’t be perfect at everything. (You do know that, don’t you?)
But it’s hard to know where to go or what to do when we get hammered for what we think we’re good at.
I’ve seen a lot of that lately. I’ve had a few of those experiences myself, but I’ve also come across a variety of other people who’ve faced the same thing. Their confidence has been rattled, and they’re not quite sure what to do next.
Let me hasten to say that if your confidence is hanging in the balance, you’re in some good biblical company. Men and women who faced this issue read like a who’s who of Bible folklore… Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, David, John the Baptist, Peter and Timothy all had their choke moments. And in every case, it was in the face of something they were quite good at. Most of them found ways to move through it and regain their confidence, both in God and in themselves.
The writer of Hebrews recognizes the importance of this. “Do not cast away your confidence,” he says, “which has great reward” (Hebrews 10:35).
Did you catch that? If you don’t remember anything else, remember this: Failures and circumstances don’t cast away your confidence – YOU do.
How, then, can we avoid losing confidence when we don’t see success the way we have defined it, or don’t live up to the standards we have set for ourselves or others have set for us? How do we keep offering up the ways God has equipped and gifted us, even in the wake of disappointments or sub-par performance?
Here is an inside-out approach to regaining your lost confidence.
1. Nourish your spirit.
Confidence is first and foremost a spiritual issue. Even healthy self-confidence starts with healthier God-confidence. The word “confidence” literally means “with faith.” And the most important question to ask in the wake of a disappointment, rejection or failure is, “Where is God in all this?”
You nourish your spirit when you talk to the Lord about how you are feeling. You nourish your spirit when you are listening actively for His voice by reading His word and letting the Holy Spirit speak to your heart. You nourish your spirit by raising your focus up off the sting of the disappointment to anchor yourself in truth that never changes and is not based on your approval. You nourish your spirit by practicing what I call “going into my cave.” That is, getting alone with God and getting very quiet.
2. Take command of your thinking.
Confidence is not a feeling. It is a set of clearly-defined beliefs. And this is where restoring your confidence can get ugly. People who experience bad things can think really stupid things. Examples: “This always happens to me.” “I’ll never get this right.” “I’m just a failure at everything I do.”
Stop it. Now!
Failure, disappointment, even rejection are events. Not people. You have failed many times. That doesn’t brand you a failure. You have been disappointed or rejected plenty… more than some, less than others. That doesn’t make you a reject.
To take command of your thinking, you absolutely have to distinguish between your person and your performance. And please learn to distinguish between who you are and what others say about you. Petty, insecure people (including your boss) often use you as a mirror to spew out their own feelings about themselves. They criticize you, but it’s really all about them.
To take command of your thinking, adapt the posture of a curious student. Learn from the mistakes and failures. Look for ways to avoid the mistakes next time. Practice. Read. Model others. Watch YouTube videos if that helps. Be a student – not of failure, but of success.
3. Lead your feelings.
The big temptation with feelings is to let them lead you. That leads you to believe what you feel like believing, doing what you feel like doing, and avoiding what you are afraid of. That may be OK in the short run, but long-term it can be devastating. Many a man or woman has shelved their considerable potential because they never wanted to feel that embarrassed or disappointed again.
Here’s a thought: Lead your feelings to feel something different. Give your immediate feelings their due. Take a day and beat yourself up if you need to, or nurse your wounds for a little while. Then intentionally begin replacing those feelings with more productive ones.
Start with an encouragement file. Everybody needs one. Keep a collection of cards, photos, letters, emails, or whatever else that remind you of the people who love and believe in you, and the reasons you believe in yourself.
Also, surround yourself with encouraging people. Everybody needs bullpen friends. These are people you go to for relief, encouragement, or perspective. They speak into your life and remind you of who you really are and what you are good at. They don’t gloss over your shortcomings – but they do help put them into a larger perspective.
4. Take action one step at a time.
Slow down if you have to. But don’t stop. Put one foot in front of the other. Open the next email. Write the next chapter. Make the next call. Get back in the car. Show up at the meeting.
It helps here, and also with your feelings, to have verbal ways to reframe the situation. My favorite comes from the old Saturday Night Live skit series. Something bad happens, and the response is always the same, “I hate it when that happens.”
These have also helped me:
“This is just a blip on the screen.”
“Glad I got that over with.”
(To myself) “I give three people the right to be wrong every day. Guess I’ll be number one and you can be number two.”
Sometimes action means fixing what’s broken or experimenting with a different approach. Sometimes action means firing your boss and looking for a better place to use your talent. Sometimes action means going to bed and getting some rest and living to fight another day. Whatever it looks like, take the next step.
Yes, sometimes that takes extraordinary courage. That’s why this is the last step, not the first. Courage is the result of what you believe about God, yourself, your experiences, and the needs in front of you. Get that in line, and the courage will take care of itself.
You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t sooner or later crash and burn at the places of your greatest strength and confidence. Nor would you be human if you didn’t sooner or later question that very confidence. But now the ball is in your court. You can cast away your confidence and end up with a half-lived life. Plenty of people have. Or you can decide to get up, get renewed, and get back out there.
I think you know what you need to do.
You can do this.