What was the last decision that you made for the wrong reason?
You know what I’m talking about. It could have been keeping quiet when someone was being dishonest, because you didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. It could have been hanging out with a woman you had no business seeing, knowing it wouldn’t lead to anything meaningful.
The last decision that I made for the wrong reason was trying to move to Spain to keep my relationship alive. It was as if I were selling out for a relationship; foregoing a healthy future for myself and moving to a new country to be with an awesome girl.
On the surface, it might seem like an obvious mistake to some people. But to me, at the time, I would have been crazy not to do it. What I didn’t know is that I was running away from a deeper insecurity that I had always been too scared to examine.
I had always tried to make other people happy—whether it was my parents, a girl I was interested in, a friend I was trying to impress, or even coworkers.
It eventually dawned on me that I was always trying to make other people like me.
Somewhere along the way, I had lost much of my own autonomy, drive, and even curiosity.
Over the course of the next few months, I did a deep dive. I started asking myself “why am I doing this?” and “what do I want?” If I realized I wanted to hang out with friends because I was lonely, I would sit with the feeling of loneliness instead.
The same happened with women. If I was attracted to a woman I would often talk to her, but not before examining what motivated me. Of course, attraction was a huge impetus. But I also noticed that much of my wanting to interact with people came from a sense of lack.
After a while, something astonishing started to happen. Certain friendships fell away, a blind attraction to any woman on the street dulled, I started eating much healthier, and an overall sense of well-being started to permeate my life.
It was as if certain shallow habit patterns, relationships, and desires stopped reappearing. It was unbelievably liberating.
I noticed I wasn’t bullshitting myself anymore.
The fear of judgment that appears when you want to be honest, communicate something you want, or be vulnerable had lost a lot of its power. I was surprising myself everyday with the words that came out of my mouth, the conversations that I’d start with people, the new activities I tried, and all the new friends I made.
Through my newfound, unashamed honesty, I was becoming a leader in my friend group and at work.
Then it dawned on me—this is what confidence is.
I’m not talking about the confidence for fixing a flat tire if you’ve never fixed one. That is acquired confidence. This is subtler. This was a confidence, rather, a conviction, that no matter what I did or said, everything would be okay.
What I’ve noticed about this type of confidence is that it gives you the freedom to mess up. Before, if I met someone I was attracted to, I would be in my head for half an hour after the conversation wondering if that person liked me. Now, I feel comfortable making a joke with a total stranger without fear of messing up or being liked.
The sense of freedom this transition has brought, as well as the inherent self-reliance, honesty, and deeper relationships, still astonishes me.
The most important thing that I’ve found to becoming confident and comfortable with yourself is to sit with uncomfortable emotions.
I’m not saying to be masochistic or force yourself to be sad. But if an uncomfortable feeling arises—loneliness, for example—the idea is to sit with that emotion. Feel it, and feel what images come to mind when you give that emotion space.
This can be used for just about anything. Say you really want a beer. What you would do is stop, look at that feeling of wanting as well as the image of the beer, and just sit with it without acting on it or pushing it away. Invite it in.
If you do this enough, the feeling of wanting will start to dissolve. By sitting with a desire, fear, or negative feeling, its intensity will eventually diminish. You might even find yourself lacking attraction to something that motivated you for years.
When sitting with uncomfortable emotions, it can also help to breathe through your lower belly. It can be tempting to want to escape the emotions by thinking about other things. Breathing through your stomach helps slow your mind down and relax your nervous system.
1. During the next 24 hours, try to catch yourself reacting out of old, habitual patterns three times.
2. When you inevitably do, try to feel in your body where the feeling (of wanting, fear, loneliness, etc.) is coming from.
3. For just one or two minutes, try to relax with the feeling. It can help to imagine yourself sitting next to it, as well as to breathe through your belly while feeling it.
4. Notice if the feeling dissolves, or the intensity diminishes. Try to do this everyday for the next week.
Let me know what you find: [email protected]
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