Creating Confidence in the Midst of Chaos

In today’s high stress, success oriented and “second shift” work/home environments, confidence and self-esteem often lose their steam. It’s easy to get out of sort, to not feel that you are on top of the world—rather, more like out of this world. The continuing change that is woven throughout today’s scenario is the norm, not the exception. 

Women are usually overworked, underpaid, over-stressed, and under-appreciated. Finding confidence, much less creating and growing it is a s foreign as getting five years off at full pay. There are times that you may feel that Siskel and Ebert have given a thumbs down on your entire life! Any feelings of thumbs down leads to a decline in self-worth that dominoes in every facet of your life—work, home, play, parenting, even fantasy. When confidence and self-esteem are in scarcity, it can make you sick.

Entrepreneur, businesswoman, actress, songwriter and singer Dolly Parton said that she has more confidence that she does talent, and that of the two, confidence is the main achiever of success. Granted, most of us don’t have the basket of talents that Dolly Patron has; yet, most of use have quite a bit in common with her than we ever thought. Impossible, you think. . .read on. Parton doubted her value and talent for years. She believed that she wasn’t bright, attractive, or amount to much.

Contrary to popular belief, confidence comes from a variety of areas. The most likely is crisis—multiple crises. 

One of the great myths is that upbringing—coming from the perfect family, the ideal environment, one with no money problems—is the greatest influence on building confidence. Not true. 

According to the most successful women in America, confidence comes from the school of hard knocks, Life 101—age, experience, maturity, crises. Ideally, everyone should have a supportive family, friends and work environment. For many, it’s a myth—who do you know that had the perfect family…the family like the Huxtables, Cleavers, or Nelsons of TV land? Most likely, not you, or your pals. Perfect families are mostly fantasy, not fact.. .a fairy tale.

Self-esteem is the value, appreciation and regard you have for yourself. It’s your reputation with inner self. Confidence is different—it’s the ability to create that value, appreciation and regard. Confidence is power. 

When the chips are down, your confidence factors come actively into play. In the study of 6,000 women and men across the country, differences appeared among women and men. Ninety percent of the women reported that their confidence came from crises. When it hit, they were more inclined to turn to themselves and their faith to begin the healing and rebuilding process. Many shared that when crises did come their way, there were times that they felt so weak that they felt it impossible to breathe. . .to survive. Yet, in the end the crisis created strengthening factors. 

The most confident women and men at some time have a bad day, week, month, or year. A series of “bad luck” years can pay an unwelcome visit. One of the keys to understanding, surviving and thriving when disaster strikes—whether a failure, betrayal, tragedy, any crisis—was to get it into perspective. Measure it. Evaluate it. Live it. And finally, leave it. Cheryl, a TV producer said, “My confidence comes from the baptism of fire.”

Identifying the Confidence Factors

Six confidence building areas emerged from the study: Upbringing, work, relationships, appearance, listening and crisis. 

If your upbringing was not ideal, the Accomplished Women and Men of America are saying that there is plenty of hope in building confidence. If anything, normal in America means coming from a dysfunctional family. Real Life 101 demands that your neck gets stuck out, that when risk is present, rewards— financial, mental, physical and spiritual—can be yours. It’s not, though, handed to you without a few strings attached.

The more women viewed themselves as successful, the more important they felt it was to be financially independent. They strongly believed that their work expanded on who they were—whether it was a work for pay job or work within the community. Men viewed success as a factor of how much money they made.

Relationships stirred up several gender issues. Men reported that it was important for them to be in a relationship, whether with a partner or marriage—they were able to work better build their confidence and make more money. The women had a different viewpoint. They felt that being in a relationship was nice for the self-esteem, but it wasn’t the key factor in building theirs. Listening ranked at the top of their list. “When someone takes the time to listen to me, I feel that I’m valued, cared for.”

Emotional support created variances. Men reported that they could count on the support they needed from their partners and wives. The women responded, “Are you kidding? We depend on ourselves first for support.”

Anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital knows about the appearance factor. Imagine visiting a friends who are really ill—do most really care what they look like when they first are admitted? When someone is really ill, they don’t give a hoot what they look like. But, as the miracle of medicine is delivered, requests for brushes, combs, lipstick, and a change from the “designer gowns” to their own gowns, PJs and robes are heard on every floor. Looking better on the outside was coupled with feeling better on the inside.

Whether to crisis or not to crisis is not the question. Crises happen. You may go through more than your co-workers or friends do. How you react to them becomes key. Assess, grow and move on was a common motto. 

The number one crisis from the workplace was being fired or laid off; from a personal side, the ending of a long term relationship or divorce.

Managed care has swept the country. In some regions, the experience has been tantamount to a 100 foot tidal wave. Coreen was the nursing director of one of the emergency rooms in a newly formed health system consisting of eight hospitals statewide. Reformation became the new buzz word in her system. Mutilated and ostracized is what she became when she began to openly speak out about the changes been implemented,

I was fired for saying what I believe. I was absolutely shattered by it—it was a horrible feeling, total rejection. Not only was it a shock to me but I felt like my whole professional career was going down the drain.

At that time in my life, being fired was the worst thing that had happened to me.

I had to do some soul-searching. I always felt that I was a strong, capable and confident person. All I felt was failure, I was riddled with it.

Failure. Rejection. Fear. No confidence. All common reactions to a crisis. Are there steps in moving on, to growing, even thriving through confidence shattering experiences? According to the Accomplished Women and Men, there are.

The Ten Commandments to Creating Confidence

Eleanor Roosevelt’s often quoted words, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission,” was a personal motto for many of the nurses interviewed. Affirmations and catchy phrases were used to remind themselves that they can’t be, or shouldn’t be, their own worst enemies. The top ten steps, or commandments, to rebuild self and confidence included:

1. To Your Own Self, Be True

On almost everyone’s list was being true. But how easy is it? Being pulled every which way is the norm for many. A communication specialist shared, 

In the past, I have tended to let other people either destroy of weaken my self-confidence. I’ve learned that you have to trust yourself from the beginning and keep facing yourself—in your beliefs and morals.

Listen to your inner voice, practice self-talk, don’t let others derail you. March to your own tunes, not the tunes that someone else is orchestrating. If there ever was a time to “walk you talk,” being true to self fills the bill.

2. Create Positive Thinking

Look around you. Who do you work with, play with, pal around with, confide in, live with? Ask, “Is this person positive or negative?” Is she or he an energy charger. . .or an energy sucker, like a parasite? Negative people, things, places and work will drag you down. In the end, they will make you sick. Eliminate them. If family members are negative forces in your life, it is critical that you open communications with them, and possibly a therapist NOW. Rarely, will it get better without help; usually it gets worse.

3. Know That You Are Not Alone, Ever

You may feel that the pain you are feeling is exclusive. . .but, thousands, even millions are in it with you. They may have walked in your footsteps before you, or are ready to plunge in behind you. 

It didn’t matter to Dolores that others were also losing their jobs with the consolidation of duplicate departments in the new joint venture her company had recently embarked upon. In fact, she didn’t really care, all she could focus was that she didn’t have a steady paycheck. She shares,

Until the partnering of two companies in town, I felt that I was fairly secure in my employment. One day, we were all working toward the merging of our various departments and shifting types of care over to each hospital. On a Friday, we were told that 20 percent of the managers would be either let go or reassigned to staff positions. I was stunned to find myself in the “let go” category the following week.

I was the meal ticket in my house with two kids to support. When I finally tucked my pride in, I went to the unemployment office. Just ahead of me was one of the managers from the new “sister” company. It didn’t ease my anger, but it did help to know that I wasn’t a solo act.

Whatever the issue is, there is help out there. America has over 50,000 support groups, each a phone call away. Dial, and ask.

4. Learn Something New

One of the single best things that you can actively engage in is to keep your brain active. Keeping learning, no matter how trivial it may seem. Sign up for a class that is outside your personal area of expertise; read a book; sign up for computer classes; learn to draw; enroll in school; reach out to the community and work with its needs—from the homeless to children with AIDS, to domestic violence, to planting trees —whatever you do, it will rejuvenate your brain cells. And, make you a more interesting person.

5. Assess the Situation

Life isn’t easy. There’s going to be some major bumps along the way. Ask yourself, “What’s happening?” Did I lose my job because the administration reduced the size of my department? Did I not really do the job I was suppose to do. Did I lose out because I lack certain skills that are needed? Did I foul up some way? 

In other words, what really is going on? Sometimes, it’s just the luck of the draw–a wild card or the roll of the dice; sometimes, you really are the reason the job was pulled out from under you; sometimes you screw up. It happens. It happened to William, a foreman,

I was really counting on the promotion. I didn’t get it. I was told that I was ‘difficult to work with.’ This wasn’t pleasant to hear. I knew, and had been told that I was technically competent. The issue was one of human relations skills. In looking back, I wasn’t the most skilled, especially in dealing with conflicts. My new goal became to learn them, and I did. I learned that I can adapt my behavior and responses. . .a huge step for me.

Sometimes, assessing the situation is difficult to do alone. You may need some input from another source to either validate, or invalidate your assessment.

6. Take Credit For Your Accomplishments

Taking credit is usually easier for men than for women. Women grew up with the momism of “don’t brag.” When the chips are down, this is exactly what you need to do. Melanie works in a clinic that has 27 physicians, one that has felt a significant amount of change since managed care arrived in her city. She added,

When I was in the middle of transition, of the keys things that helped get me back on track was being able to sit down and tell people who I was and what my accomplishments were . I literally wrote down what my strengths, and what my weaknesses were. I also took the time to start tracking the things that I was proud of–even little ones. 

If a patient went out of the way to tell me that I was helping her or doing a great job, or I got that kind of feedback from a family, I began to write it all down. Now, I keep every nice note and letter I receive.

Each time I feel in doubt, I go back and read over my lists and saved letters. It’s amazing, sometimes I actually forgot some of the strengths I have.

Go ahead. . .pat yourself on the back post the good news in your work space and at home; keep a file of notes of great and kind remarks that others have said about your and your work. When a crisis lands on your doorstep, it’s hard to remember one good thing that has ever happened to you. Now, you have a “nice letter–pats on the back” file that’s full of good input just when you need it.

Do yourself a favor and review it every once in a while even when times aren’t bleak. It helps you to regroup and visualize the success elements of the past—are you in a similar situation, where the past can help move the present forward?

7. Aspire Higher and Further

Taking a time out doesn’t work when your confidence is at stake. Along with learning new things, continue to stretch. This is about learning and acquiring skills that are simple, although new. This is about the big stretch. Who are your role models? If you had a magic wand, what skill, topic or field would you really like to master? What “masters” are presenting or speaking in your community or region? Your option is not to sit there, doing zip. Don’t let the nay-sayers tell you that you can’t do something—only you know until you have really put your foot in the water.

8. Don’t Bottle Up, Get Some Feedback

Internalizing issues and problems doesn’t solve them. It can, though, make you sick. Along with Assessing the Situation, getting feedback makes sense. But, there is a side to getting feedback that can make it, or break it. Feedback should come from someone who is caring, supportive and non-judgmental of you. Not just anyone.

Solicited feedback should come from someone who knows and understands what’s going on in healthcare—someone who has experienced the twists and turns of the ever evolving climate. Your feedbacker may, or may not be, your close friend, partner, spouse or a professional. Robin, an insurance marketing manager cautioned,

I use to take my “big problems” to my shrink. No more. Most allow you to wallow in your misery over and over. They encourage you to “talk it out.” I have discovered that when I am unhappy, and I continue to talk it out, and over, I end up reinforcing the negativity of the situation. The doesn’t help me rebuild my confidence at all.

A word of caution: make sure that your confidant is not a potential saboteur—someone who could take your fears and concerns and pass them on to others who in turn can use any sensitive information against you.

9. Take Care of Yourself

How many people do you know who talk “care” yet they don’t practice it? Taking care of yourself means eating right, sleeping enough, getting exercise, playing and laughing. It includes getting, and staying in balance with your family, your spirituality, yourself.

Most of us work long stretches. If you are typical, you pull a full shift in the for pay work world, and duplicate the shift at home in the not-for-pay world. Women who are married spend four times the amount of time doing house related activities than their male married counterparts.

A woman traditionally takes many more hours taking care of others. . .from the kitchen sink to making sure the kids gold fish are cared for. She’s usually last on the “to take care of” list. Don’t let your name take her place.

10. Keep in Circulation

It’s true, misery does love company. Keeping in circulation means that you will be more discriminating with those you allow around you. Keep them positive. When the rough times hit, it’s as common as daylight is going to appear the next day to withdraw. After all, you hurt. The last thing you want to do is step up to the spotlight .

Barbara, a dental hygienist, added,

When you keep in circulation, you spend more time with people who are confident about themselves, you’ll begin to feel better about yourself as well.

One of the worst things you can do is to withdraw and become a hermit. When you remove yourself from the mainstream, no one knows you’re alive. Your withdrawal leads to a perpetual wallowing in self-pity. 

Wallowing in self-pity is a lose-lose in the confidence game. You end up being invisible, most people are so busy, that your lack of presence literally deletes you from their vision and thoughts. You may be wounded, but you need to become the walking wounded. The sooner you re-involve yourself, you reinvent yourself. The end result is you get back on track.

These Ten Commandments of Creating Confidence are loaded with common sense. None are mystical or magical. When the potholes of life are at your doorstep, everything looks bleak — your world will never be right again. Obstacles surface—the most common is the feeling of desperation. With it, you reach for any solution to remove the pain and uncertainty. Even the weird ones. If you put the above commandments to work for, you have a new life partner, one that is woven with common sense—a commodity that is not so common today.

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