Last week the world was shocked and saddened by the suicide of Robin Williams. Since then the social media outlets have been blowing up with posts with people expressing their sadness and sharing some of his moments that are meaningful to them. What has also received a great deal of attention is the topic of suicide.
Though I’ve been studying people for 13 years, suicide is something I know very little about; so in no way, shape, or form am I trying share expertise on the subject. I can empathize a bit. I have a very Expressive Style and that means I can be very emotional and very assertive. This Style also comes with a roller coaster of attitudes and emotions that present great opportunities, but if left unmanaged, can create some real challenges. July of 2004 was probably the most challenging month of my life. I lived three hours from family and friends, my girlfriend and I broke up, and I got hustled by a roommate and was broke. Was I depressed? I can’t say for sure. Was I suicidal? I don’t believe so, however I remember sitting in my apartment feeling alone and ashamed, and thinking to myself “I can totally get why people kill themselves, because this sucks.”
There are people out there who unfortunately experience legitimate depression and then there is a whole other group of people who find themselves in mental and/or emotional funks they can’t shake. The more I studied people the more I tried to zone in on what motivates them. I quickly realized that people can have all the goals, potential, and talent in the world, but if they don’t have confidence, they will likely never have the life they want to have. I began getting very curious about the concept of confidence and I started asking the question “If people aren’t confident, what are they?” The answer I’ve settled on is: Insecure. I define insecurity as any thought or feeling we have that is negative, either toward ourselves or the world around us. This could be stress, worry, fear, anxiety, regret, anger, jealousy, sadness, shame and the list goes on and on. In my opinion, insecurity is a disease, but instead of killing us, it just makes our lives suck until we die.
I look at confidence and insecurity as two different roads.
The Confident Road
The confident road is smooth and efficient. It’s a beautiful day and the driving conditions are perfect. The cruise control is set, windows are down, and your favorite song is on the radio. Your passengers are great company and everyone else you encounter is friendly. You consistently reach your destinations with no problems because the directions and signs are clear. You arrive feeling great without a worry in the world.
The Insecure Road
The insecure road is not smooth and efficient. There are times when the days are beautiful and conditions are perfect, but they can quickly and violently change leaving you looking for a ditch or an overpass for protection. The road is windy and bumpy, changes directions frequently, and the signs are not always clear or accurate. The people you encounter are not always friendly or helpful and your passengers are “backseat drivers” always criticizing you and making you second guess where you are going. The ride can be very uncomfortable and if you are lucky enough to reach your destination, you do so feeling confused, anxious, stressed, and worn down.
Which road do you want to be on?
In his Hierarchy of Needs, Abraham Maslow says that insecurity may hold us back from developing healthy relationships, keep us from developing the self-esteem needed to achieve our goals and prevent us from realizing our passion and potential in the world.
When you start to understand confidence and insecurity, you start to realize how big of an issue this really is. Millions and millions of people are not living the lives they want to live because they are insecure. That is a tragedy!
I think so many people experience insecurity for three reasons:
We Are Confused
We get hammered with thousands and thousands of messages every single day, most of which don’t have our best interest in mind. Simply, we are not focused on the right things.
We Aren’t Taught Self-Respect
We are taught to respect, be good to, and take care of everyone else, but how many of you were taught to respect, be good to, and take care of yourself? We aren’t proactively taught this, so we don’t know how to. We aren’t taught what self-respect means. We aren’t taught to set healthy boundaries that we must project. We aren’t taught to think about what kind of life we deserve? We are taught to put everybody else first and that thinking about ourselves is selfish.
We Lack Self-Awareness and Self-Management
You can’t manage what you aren’t aware of and because we aren’t taught to think about our self, we aren’t aware of our self. I train leaders all over the country and without any hesitation I have no problem telling them that a lack of self-management will be the difference between them being a great leader or a bad memory. Personally, I realize that I am more sensitive and insecure when I don’t get enough sleep and I don’t exercise on a regular basis. Because I have self-awareness, when I feel negativity I am quick to take a step back and adjust my world accordingly to get back on track. You must get to know yourself so you can manage yourself.
To close, I want to remind you of a few concepts you must become familiar with to gain the confidence you need to live the life you want to live.
Above anything else, Self-Awareness might be the most important skill you can learn. Google defines Self-Awareness as:“conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” I define it as knowing who you are and where you are going. What is important and meaningful to you? What excites you about the world? What do you expect of yourself and the world around you? What do you really want to do? What do you want your life to look like? What do you need to accomplish to fulfill your vision? What is your plan to accomplish your goals and vision?
When you know who you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there, you eliminate a lot of the uncertainty and confusion that leave people feeling insecure.
Self-Awareness is knowing who you are, where you are going, and having a plan to get there. There is no uncertainty or confusion because your vision, plan, and how you organize your life is based on your values, passions, and things that are meaningful to you. You will never find any greater motivation than this to help you keep thriving forward!
Self-Respect & Self-Worth
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? When you think about your life and what you want out of it, what do you feel? Are you motivated or discouraged?
While growing up it is beaten in to our heads how important it is that we have respect for people and things and the better we can do this the easier our life will be. However, I don’t remember at any point in my life anyone teaching me that the first person I needed to respect was myself. Yes, I was probably more insecure than the average kid, but I was so busy kissing everyone else’s behind and seeking approval and validation that I never thought about what I deserved. As a result I was very amiable with the world around me. Most of the time I just went with the flow and I was never too assertive. If I felt what I was going to say or do was going to hurt or upset someone, I didn’t say it even when I was in the right or at a disadvantage. I didn’t understand self-respect and self-worth. You must.
Understanding self-respect and self-worth is your best defense against the world around you. They create much needed boundaries that will keep things out of your life that will keep you surviving rather than thriving. They protect your self-esteem, confidence, and attitude. People who understand self-respect and self-worth are more confident and they are less likely to tolerate being bullied by people or the world around them.
Google defines self-confidence as “a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment”. You must trust and believe in your abilities! Self-Confidence is the opposite of insecurity. When you are confident, you are not insecure and when you are insecure, you aren’t confident.
What is confidence? A 2009 Psychology Today article titled The Key to Confidence says:
“Confidence is our greatest personal resource. With it, we can face any situation knowing we can handle it. Without it, we are destined to suffer.”
A 2013 article on HuffingtonPost.com titled What is Confidence, Really? states:
“Owning it. When you’re “owning it,” it means that you’re totally and completely at peace with who you are in every moment, interaction and experience. You make no apologies for being awkward, nervous, excited, loud, soft spoken or other… you’re just you. You radiate charismatic energy whether or not you have an extroverted personality because you are genuinely content with yourself and your present experience.”
In an AskMen.com article titled What Does Confidence Mean?, they say:
“Confidence is an attitude, a demeanor of coolness, a “swagger,” if you will. Confidence is not something that you can wear like a T-shirt or a gold watch, but it is something that can be enhanced by putting on a fresh, crisp new item of clothing or by putting a little extra effort into your physical appearance. It’s a certain pep in your step. A way of walking. A contagious charisma.”
A PowertoChange.com article titled You Can Be More Confident talks about confident women:
“There are few things more beautiful on a person than confidence. Women who wear it radiate strength, passion and conviction. It contributes more to a look than a designer label or the perfect diamond. When a woman knows who she is, why she is and what she’s supposed to do, she may be dressed in thrift store specials and be absolutely gorgeous.
A confident woman is not afraid to be herself. Plain and simple and beautiful, or flamboyant and fabulous. The key is: she knows who she is. She understands her purpose, and her gifts. She knows that there are certain things only she can contribute to this world, at this time, in this place.
She knows her style. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer zebra stripes and pink fur, or to be cloaked in grays and subtle greens. Whether you like volleyball or Victorian teas. Shopping or hiking. Or all of the above. What is most important is to be you.”
I want you to be on the confident road. I want you to have unshakable self-awareness, self-respect, self-worth, and self-confidence.
You must put the focus on your self. That doesn’t mean be selfish or act like a narcissist. The reality is, if you don’t look out for you, no one else will. If you are having trouble managing and concurring your insecurities, admit them, and get help. Talk to friends, seek out a mentor, or visit a counselor. Little insecurities can easy morph into big ones and you don’t want that. You don’t deserve that!
Find and embrace the confident you!