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5 Self-Confidence Myths (And How To Avoid Them)

5 Self-Confidence Myths (And How To Avoid Them)

A while back I ran a short survey asking people of all generations, both genders, and different walks of life what they thought was the biggest problem most humans face on a daily basis. Not to my surprise, the answer was “self-confidence.”

Many of us are aware that the one thing really holding us back from taking action and making our dreams come true is our lack of self-confidence. Even though we realize this, very few of us are willing to take a little time and a little action to improve it.

We fail to realize how improving our self-confidence, which is made up of thought patterns we develop over time, can be a true gateway to help us score that incredible life partner, create that million dollar business, get that degree, land that dream job, create that dream body, stand up to people who intimidate us, not allow others to treat us badly, and most of all, help us stop self-sabotaging our own lives.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-confidence is defined as, “confidence in oneself and one’s power and abilities.” But where does confidence really come from? Why is it that some have more while others have less of it?

Self-confidence is a belief and an emotion.

I would describe it most simply as the measure of thought patterns about oneself that develop over time. These thoughts patterns then produce feelings, which produce actions (or lack thereof), which then produce a specific outcome.

Most people relate self-confidence to a positive belief and emotion. In society we look up to people who are confident. There is something about confident people that magnetically draws us toward them.

We usually see confident folks as happier people, and it makes us want to break off a piece of that happiness for ourselves. We see them as those who continuously shower themselves with self-love and have a high sense of self-worth – this makes us respect them more, and even makes us want to model them.

We see confident people as those who are not afraid to take risks, and more importantly, we see them as those who take massive action in their lives to create the exact life they want – a life that others dream of.

Most of us want to improve our self-confidence, but so many of us are trying to do it the wrong way. Could it be that we were taught and told the wrong things about self-confidence?

Whether we were conditioned by society to increase our confidence using the following ineffective ideas, or we developed these thoughts based on our own experiences, I’m here to debunk the following confidence myths for you.

Here are five self-confidence myths and simple steps on how to avoid them instantly to increase your confidence and win at the game of life.

1. “I need to build up my confidence first, then I’ll take the action.”

One of the biggest mistakes I have heard that confidence coaches made when they were younger, and before they become coaches, was waiting to feel confident before they did something.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

I can, however, relate to this belief because I used it all the time.

When I was younger, I knew I enjoyed teaching, performing, and speaking in front of big groups. Although I would practice speaking alone and would pretend to play “professor” with my imaginary students, I didn’t feel confident enough to go out into the real world and project my voice and actually speak in front of large crowds. I kept putting this off because the thought of actually acting up on my idea terrified me.

It wasn’t until I forced myself to take the action of speaking in front of big groups as officer of student organizations in high school that I was able to finally start chipping away at my fear.

The first few times I did, it was nerve-wracking. Each time, right before I had to go up to speak there would be hundreds of thoughts that would cross through my mind, such as, “What if everyone thinks I’m weird?”…“What if no one wants to listen to what I have to say?,” and the worst, “What if I embarrass myself and look like a complete fool?”

In those moments, I would regret putting myself in that position to begin with. When I would go up to speak I couldn’t even look at the audience. The whole time I would lower my eyes and stare at the page I was reading off of. I would feel my ears turn really hot and feel my heart beat faster and faster. This continued to happen many times.

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However, each time after I was done speaking I would feel a sense of calm wash over me, and I would take a huge sigh of relief because it was over and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I predicted.

After I finished speaking each time, I realized all the fears and “what ifs” I had built up in my mind before speaking never really occurred. People actually treated me the same, or even better in some instances because they liked what I had to say. I did not expect that!

After repeating the action of speaking over and over again I was able to quickly develop confidence in this area, much faster than I thought it would take.

Pretty soon, I sought and obtained leadership roles in college, graduate school, and work-related organizations, including becoming student class president of my medical school.

Moral of the story: By facing my fears and taking the action first, I was able to build solid confidence in this area as a result of taking the action.

Today, I love speaking in front of crowds of hundreds of people. I get asked to host social events and have been offered to be paid to speak for conferences.

People ask me today, were you always this confident in public speaking? I tell them “heck no,” and if they’re interested, I tell them a little bit about my story.

This isn’t just about me and my journey, though; this is about you, my friend. I want you to know that I would have never gained confidence in the area of speaking if I waited to become confident first. It doesn’t work that way.

How many times have you sat in a meeting wanting to speak up, but holding back because you’ll wait ‘till the day you feel more confident to speak up? Again, the problem with this mentality is that unless you actually speak up when you’re not ready, you will never gain the confidence you are looking for. The confidence will develop after you raise your hand and speak up. When you do this over and over again the confidence will grow very quickly.

Remember, to avoid this myth from now on, take the action and just do it when you’re not ready. Do it when it feels uncomfortable. Force yourself to do it if you know the action will be good for you in the long run. Rinse and repeat.

Confidence will come as a result of doing this over and over again. You may find it won’t be long before the action that you once feared becomes second nature to you, and you’ll wonder why ever held back in the first place.

Coaching Exercise 1: Confidence comes after taking the action. Today, I want you to take action on one thing you’ve been putting off or have been holding back on. Don’t think about it – just do it. It could very well change the course of your life.

2. “When I ‘look like this’ or ‘have that’ or ‘get this,’ then I’ll do it.”

How many of us have ever said, “When I look like this, I’ll pursue her.” Or, “When I have X amount of money, I’ll join a gym.” Or, “When I get this job, I’ll finally pursue this other hobby?”

There’s nothing wrong with planning and setting goals. Usually, however, when we have that kind of self-talk it’s because we are putting off doing something that we want or is important to us because we have low-self confidence.

Due to social media and the pressure to look “perfect” these days, a common thought pattern seen in many today is wanting to look a certain way before pursuing a partner. Even worse is believing that you have to look a certain way before you can feel like you deserve someone whom you like.

The truth is that we use these excuses to put off taking action and actually pursuing. We may not recognize we have low self-confidence in this area. We blame our inability to take action on some deficiency in our looks. We refuse to admit that the issue we really have in this area comes down to our low self-confidence.

The problem with the above example is not that you want to look better, but your negative beliefs about your physical appearance and how you assume you must associate those beliefs with pursuing someone you like.

As you may recognize by now, these negative belief about physical appearance stem from low self-worth. If you’re someone who thinks like this, what can you do about it?

The first step is to recognize that your self-talk and perception of yourself may not be actual reality, and may certainly not be the reality that others see in you. Your self-talk is just that: self-talk.

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The second step is to realize that your negative self-talk stems from a place of low self-confidence. If this wasn’t the case, then how are there people who are more overweight than you, older than you, and superficially speaking, not as physically attractive as you, who are pursuing and getting incredible partners? What sets them apart from you?

It’s most likely their self-confidence and their sense of self-worth. What they believe about themselves has a lot to do with how others perceive them.

When a person feels confident in his or her own skin, they do not allow their looks or any other excuse to hold them back from getting what’s theirs – the partner they desire. This confident go-getter approach to life is considered attractive by everyone, and ironically, it’s the confident attitude, not the looks, that capture the attention and attraction of the partner they are pursuing most of the time.

This confidence myth isn’t just associated with looks, though.

Many people use excuses of waiting until they “have this” or “get that” before they can pursue their goals or go after their dreams. Granted, sometimes there may be circumstantial limitations involving money and resources when wanting to pursue a goal, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start pursuing your goals right from today. You just have to learn to start using other paths to reach your end destination until you can secure what you need to go full out with your pursuits.

Waiting until the “perfect time” to do something is the worst thing you can do. A lot of us believe that by doing this, we’re actually doing the right thing, because we’re waiting until we reach that perfect state to take action. There will never be a “perfect state” for most of us to pursue anything. Even when you don’t feel confident, you just have to dive in and go after what you want.

Remember, confidence is a result of going after what you want.

Coaching Exercise 2: Never make an excuse again about how “when this happens” or “when that happens” you will pursue X goal. Recognize that those thoughts stem from low self-confidence in those areas and decide to go after what you want, right now. You may never feel completely ready, and there may never be a “perfect time,” but if you want to develop rock-solid confidence you have to start going after what you want before you’re ready.

3. “My self-worth is directly associated with how I look and how much money I have.”

Perhaps the biggest struggle people have in life with self-confidence is associating their self-worth with 1. their physical appearance, and 2. how much money they have.

Society has conditioned us to place an unhealthy and enormous amount of importance on these two aspects, and because of it, we are seeing a society of less and less confident people and higher and higher divorce, depression, and suicide rates.

There are reasons why people value looks and money so much in society. It’s not always a bad thing, so let’s dissect this a bit.

We like looking at a good-looking person. Not just because of the aesthetics and pleasure our eyes get from it, but because of what we associate with a good-looking person. We usually believe when a person is really good-looking that they’re also probably really popular, well-liked, treated better by others, and that they may even get certain shortcuts in life because of their looks.

People also look up to people with money, not just because they are fascinated with the wealth they’ve acquired or how big their bank balance is, but because of what they associate with a person who has a lot of money. We usually believe when a person has a lot of money that they are also extremely independent, self-sufficient, have a big reputation, a higher social status, prestige, and the ability to make others happy by contributing to them through their wealth.

We associate all of these positive societal advantages to someone who has good looks and/or a lot of money. It makes us want to be around them or be more like them so we can enjoy the same perceived advantages.

Having a lot of wealth and being in your best physical shape are great things, and can lead to a lot of happiness and good things in life. There is nothing wrong with working hard to become very wealthy or working hard to get into the best physical shape of your life. Those are enhancements to your life, and you can enjoy and appreciate them.

I’m here to tell you today, however, that those two things are not everything, and that your self-worth has absolutely nothing to do with how you look and how much money you have.

I repeat, your self-worth has nothing to do with how you look and how much money you have.

Your self-worth comes from who you believe you are as a person. These beliefs should stem from your character, your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses, your skills, your determination, your drive, your sense of humor, your empathy, your contribution, your creativity – the list can go on.

Your self-worth as a person should be measured by the beliefs you have about yourself as a person.

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If you have a lot of wealth or a great body and aesthetics to go with it, hey, those are cherries on top. Who doesn’t like cherries on top? But your self-worth stems from the belief you have about who you are as a person. Once you can look into your bank account, look yourself in the mirror, and realize that the two things you find in both places do not define who you are or your self-worth, you have set yourself free.

Too many of us are conditioned to believe that our self-worth is directly associated to those two factors, and most of the time these beliefs come from our own family and friends; not out of spite, but perhaps out of ignorance, prioritizing the wrong things, or possibly from a self-perpetuating cycle of self-confidence myths being passed on from generation to generation.

Aim for the highest and work hard to have financial freedom and look your best if you want. If pursued in healthy ways, these two areas can add to your life in incredible ways and bring lots of perks with them.

One thing I’ve learned, though, is that if you were a generally happy person before you had those two things, you’ll become an even happier person after you get them. If you were a miserable person before had those two things, you’ll most likely become an even more miserable person after getting them. Money and looks can only take you so far. They are not and never will be who you are. Remember that.

I want you to go out today and start living life, speaking up, taking action, and doing what you want, when you want regardless of how much money you have or how you believe you look. Continue to work towards your goals in both departments, but realize that your self-worth comes from only what you think about yourself, not what anyone else thinks of you.

Coaching Exercise 3: Do something today that you stopped yourself from doing because of the amount of money you have or because of how you believe you look. Remember that your self-worth only comes from what you believe about yourself. Do something bold today that is a reflection of this. C’mon now, make me proud!

4. “Building high self-confidence is a long process, and God knows how many years it’ll take me.”

A big myth is that developing high self-confidence takes many years, or even a lifetime to achieve. That’s just not true at all.

Honestly, it’s more about how frequently you perform certain actions that will be an indicator of how quickly you develop confidence.

For example, if you want to become more confident when talking to strangers in social settings, then you have to take the action and practice this often, especially when you don’t want to. If you do this 10 times in a row within a span of two weeks versus doing this 10 times over the span of an entire year, you’re much more likely to gain confidence in this area after two weeks in the first scenario and gain confidence after a whole year in the second scenario.

You see, some will say the length of time it’ll take you to become confident in a certain area is time dependent, but I came up with a different term to describe it better: frequency dependent. The number of times you take action on something you fear or are not confident in will determine how quickly you develop confidence in that area. Therefore confidence is frequency dependent and not necessarily time dependent.

Developing high levels of confidence in public speaking did not take me years; in fact, it was only a matter of a few months where it really exponentially catapulted, meaning my confidence levels in this area went from 45% to 95% (if I were to put a percentage on it). It was in my second year of college when I held an officer position for an organization that required me to get up in front of a group of people every two weeks and make announcements. By the six or seventh time doing this, it become so easy that I didn’t get nervous, and my confidence levels in this area soared.

If those six or seven announcements were spread out over the entire year however, it may have taken me a lot longer than just a few months to develop high confidence in this area.

Coaching Exercise 4: Make a plan today of an action you will take and write down 1. what you will do, and 2. how often you will do it. Whatever you’re planning on doing, I highly recommend that you do it at least once a month. The number of weeks, months, or years it may take you to develop high confidence in this area is relative to you, your current state of confidence, and the action you’re choosing to take, but if you stick to taking the action at least once a month you’ll get there sooner than later.

If you take the action daily or weekly then expect the wins to come in much faster! Before you know it, it’ll be time for a Confidence Party! ;)

5. “Some people were just born confident. I know I’ll never have that kind of confidence no matter how much I practice.”

How many of you have seen someone super confident walk into a room for the first time and just completely own it? Confidence oozes out of them, and you know they demand respect and get it!

When you saw this person you probably thought to yourself, “This person was probably born confident. It’s in their DNA. I can never be that confident no matter how hard I practice. They’re lucky.”

Guess what? Contrary to what some may believe, no one was born confident.

When a person is growing up it’s because of how they choose to react to things, or their choice to take action that determines their confidence levels. Just like all the factors we’ve discussed above, confidence comes from taking repetitive action and practicing a certain skill set over and over again.

You may have certain family members, friends, or coworkers who seem extremely confident, but I’ll bet you that they weren’t always that way. They were either forced to take action in certain areas or they chose to take action and build that confidence up over time.

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Having the right mentors and support as a child can definitely help speed up the process of building self-confidence, but if you don’t really have that growing up it doesn’t mean you’re at a permanent disadvantage.

The good news is that confidence is something that you can develop and build at any age and in any area of your life. If you’re not there yet, you can decide today that you want to become the most confident version of yourself.

You can decide today that you’re going become that confident person who walks into a room and dominates it.

You can decide today that you’re going to become the most confident person among your family and friends.

It’s possible for you to become this person through a tiny shift in your mindset when you realize 1. change is possible, and 2. it happens by taking massive action.

Coaching Exercise 5: Think of one person you believe is extremely confident. Every time you interact with someone or go out, model this person and pretend to be as confident as him or her. It’s like the “fake it ‘till you make it” strategy. Don’t complicate it too much, just think and act how this person would in any social situation – even when you’re alone.

The more you do this, the more you will innately develop your own self-confidence. Very soon, you won’t be modeling anyone else, and will transition over to becoming the most confident version of you.

Conclusion

Years ago, I was extremely lean, but I had major body image issues, and would literally starve myself some days because I thought it would make me look leaner in certain clothes, and because of it, people would accept me more. I could barely speak up in a group of 3 people because I believed no one wanted to hear what I had to say. I would decide to be the “nice guy” rather than fully express my opinion for the fear of disagreeing with someone else.

I would allow myself to react to other people in negative and unhealthy ways. I was scared to walk into a gym because of what the other guys would think of me. I was too shy to ever think about approaching someone to pursue as a life partner.

Today, I can’t believe that guy was me. I still love that guy and I have absolutely no regrets, because I had plenty of wonderful times during those low self-confidence phases, filled with lots of loving family, friends, and blessings. But today I’m nothing like that guy.

Public speaking is one of the things I enjoy most. I love debating and expressing my opinion on controversial and intellectual topics, and I don’t care about disagreeing with someone because I do it in a respectful way.

I’m technically “overweight” in my recommended BMI right now, but I’ve never loved the way I look as much as I do today – I appreciate the muscle mass I’ve put on over the years, and when I look at myself in the mirror I love what I see. I know there’s work to do, and I want to improve, but I’m happy with how I look today.

I’m okay with not being the “nice guy” and disagreeing with others, because it’s a lot more important to just be real and to be myself – I’ve noticed people respect me more for it too.

I don’t’ immediately react to negative people anymore – I’m much more grounded and have enough self-respect to pick my battles.

I love going to the gym every day, seeing other guys of all sizes (bigger and smaller than me), and connecting with them because we’re all there for the same reason – to improve our health and fitness.

Over the years, I developed the self-confidence to show the “real me” to a girl and pursue her until she became my wife; she is truly the most beautiful woman in the world, inside and out – the woman who solidified my belief in love, soulmates, and a “happily ever after.”

By the grace of God, I have been able to do all of this because I chose to invest in myself through coaching, reading, practicing, and working hard on one area: my self-confidence. I know with the right guidance and strategies, you can achieve the same, if not better results.

Here’s wishing you a ton of success on your self-confidence journey.

Remember, you’re never alone on this path. I’m always here for you if you need me.

Now go out and put your unique dent in the universe. Much love.

More by this author

Wasi Saleem

Confidence Coach and Medical Doctor

5 Self-Confidence Myths 5 Self-Confidence Myths (And How To Avoid Them)

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Last Updated on March 25, 2020

How Systems Thinking Makes You a Smarter Person

How Systems Thinking Makes You a Smarter Person

There are several perspectives on the term systems thinking. The discipline goes beyond a collection of tools and techniques. A lot of individuals are fascinated by tools like brainstorming tools, structural thinking tools, dynamic thinking tools, as well as computer-based tools. They believe the system thinking tools can make them smarter and productive. However, it goes beyond that as systems thinking is more strategic and sensitive to the environment we find ourselves.

So what is systems thinking and why is it good for you?

What Is Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking is a diagnostic tool that can help you to assess problems before taking action. It helps you to ask questions before arriving at conclusions. It prevents you from making an assumption, which is the lowest level of knowledge.

A systems thinker is curious, compassionate, and courageous. The systems thinking approach incorporates the act of seeing the big picture instead of seeing in parts. It recognizes that we are connected, and there are diverse ways to solve a problem.

Characteristics of Systems Thinking

Systems thinking can help you in analyzing the connections between subsystems and understanding their potentials to make smarter decisions.

In a soccer team, the elements are the coach, players, the field, and a ball. The interrelationships are strategies, communications among players, and game rules. The goal is to win, have fun and exercise. We all belong to several systems and subsystems.

Some characteristics of systems thinking include:

  • Issue is important
  • The issue is familiar with well-known patterns
  • Attempts have been made to resolve the issue.

Given these characteristics, systems thinking goes beyond an operational tool; it is a strategic approach and a philosophy.

How to Use Systems Thinking

Here’re 3 ways you can use systems thinking:

1. Understand How the System Works and Use Feedback Points

The first task is to know what system is all about and identify the leverage points or feedbacks that influence its functioning. This is what will help in adjusting the system.

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If you want the system to be productive, enhance the feedback points. If you want it to be less productive, exhaust the same points.

A good example is that of a bathtub. The leverage points are the faucet and the drain. If you forget to close the drain, having turned on the water, the water will never stop flowing, and the tub will never overflow.

If you want more water, close the drain while you turn the water. If otherwise, turn the faucet off and open the drain. You can apply this to your personal development.

Once you discover the feedback points in your life, find your leverage or feedback points, then enhance those points. If you want to be fit, get a trainer, find a mentor, or eat healthy foods.

2. Discover the Patterns, Structure, and Events

Trends and patterns could be compared to clues for a crossword puzzle. As you aspire to enhance the system, trends and patterns offer you hints and cause to shift your paradigm. Usually, they can direct you to unusual and unexpected aspects, to ideas, people, or places you have never thought about.

Smart people watch out for trends and patterns so they can be conversant with changes.

You can view the world from 3 different perspectives:

i. The Event Perspective

If you consider the world from an event perspective, the best you can do is to be smarter is ‘react’. You tend to be smarter by reacting quickly, becoming more lighter on your feet, and flexible as you advance through life.

So how do you view the world from an event perspective? You ask a question like, ‘What happened?’.

There is the possibility of becoming more aware and seeing more at this level. An excellent technique to achieve this is by telling a story to a group. If you can see beyond each event, see beyond patterns and trends, you will be empowered to anticipate, predict, and plan.

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ii. Pattern Perspective

To view the world from a pattern perspective, you need to ask, ‘What has been happening?’

It is most times difficult to see the actual size of an iceberg (underlying structures that are the causes of events). The waterline dissects what’s visible from what’s not visible.

A systems thinker does not assume from what’s visible only; he or she seeks to know what has been happening.

Take a look at this video to understand more about the Iceberg Theory:

 

iii. The Structure Perspective

To view the world from a structure perspective, you need to ask, ‘what is causing issues?’ The answers will be the factors and forces responsible.

If you find yourself in a traffic jam, you don’t blame the next driver as a smart person; you could ask, ‘what’s been causing the traffic jam?

The usual answers could be a decaying road surface, careless driver, or high speed, but that would be the same things identified as trends. What makes the structure perspective different from others.

The structure is what propels your energy. It is what affects happenings. A systems thinkers make deductions based on internal structures to arrive at a conclusion

3. People Problems vs System Problems

Several issues ranging from security breaches, product flaws, poverty, to transportation inefficiencies are systemic.

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Even when you misbehave, there is usually an internal system to blame.

If you are not productive in your business, it may not be caused by you. There may be a system that you need to enhance.

Do you remember our feedback points? As soon as you assess the system, you can focus on people. Is a new hire causing lag in the packaging process? Is poor communication affecting the team’s performance? Reallocating job roles may be a perfect leverage point.

In the traffic jam example, there could be a system-based solution such as installing traffic lights and subsequently enforcing traffic laws in the area to penalize reckless drivers.

How to Foster Learning with Systems Thinking

Systems thinking helps you to appreciate the interrelationships of people, organizations, policies, decisions, ideas, and relationships.

Peter M Senge propounded five disciplines that foster learning in your DNA- whether you are leading an organization, starting a venture, or working as a freelancer.[1]

1. Gain Mastery

You can take online courses, attend conferences, read blog articles and books, listen to podcasts, converse with leaders within and beyond your industry, watch documentaries, learn from your team, and stretch yourself by improving your skills.

2. Discover Your Assumptions and Biases

There was this parable of four blind men who made different assumptions about an elephant. Their assumptions and biases hinder them from understanding how the animal looks like.

Biases can rob you of innovation and prevent you from experiencing personal growth. To become aware of your biases, you have to take an internal trip and engage breakthrough thinking.

3. Establish Your Vision

Systems grind to a halt when the goal or mission is not defined. You will not have the motivation to complete the online course if you don’t know why you subscribe in the first place.

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Is it for career advancement? To up your game or to gain general knowledge? Vision inspires you.

4. Learn in Groups

There is power in shared learning. There is a solidification of understanding when you learn in a group. You can have the lessons etched in your long term memory.

For instance, you can join learning groups where information is shared weekly.

5. Think in Systems

Systems thinking is about lifelong learning and improvement. It has also been linked to the Iceberg principle, which affirms that visible events are insignificant compared to what’s visible. There’s more ice below the waterline than what you can see with your physical eyes.

Anytime you are battling with a challenge, think in systems. Understand the details of the issue. Discover your leverage points. Assess, adapt, and keep improving your models.

After all. If you meet a lion in the wild, you need to understand what you are facing.

Final Thoughts

You can foster systems thinking by modeling your own environment. Participate in training, watch TED Talks, and create time to connect with others.

Also, practice critical thinking instead of making assumptions before you make a decision. The more you think systems, the more you will become smarter and productive in every aspect of your life.

More to Help You Think Smarter

Featured photo credit: Olav Ahrens Røtne via unsplash.com

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