Throughout the years, I’ve guided several clients through social anxiety therapy—before dedicating myself to helping others through their confidence training, I was a clinical psychologist, after all—and one case from years and years ago always stands out so vividly in my mind:
In this case, my client was dealing with major social anxiety issues, which is something I see a lot . . . but he was asserting quite avidly that the reason for his lack of confidence was because of his father.
His dad was an alcoholic who was both physically and emotionally abusive. He was also in the military, so they were always moving from place to place, and he was never able to get settled at one school.
This, he believed was the reason that he lacked confidence and had never learned how to be social.
Now, let me be clear: the situation he was describing was tragic, and no child should have to endure abuse of any sort . . . but it wasn’t what was currently causing his social anxiety.
I know, I know—it’s a compelling narrative, and I wanted to believe his argument had merit as well at first. But let’s take a moment to look at another situation before we start taking sides:
Not much later, I had another client who had experienced exactly the same thing: a military father who was verbally and physically abusive; unstable home life; constantly on the move. The major difference there was that he did not experience social anxiety at all—on the contrary, he was incredibly gregarious and easy to be around.
I was intrigued, so I had to know how he’d managed to come out of that situation so socially unscathed. For this question, he had an immediate answer: “I didn’t want to end up like my dad, so I made the decision at a very early age to always do the opposite of whatever he did.”
So, what did that entail? His father drank, so my client decided he would stay sober; his father was aggressive with people, so my client decided he would always handle people gently; his father mistreated his family, so he decided he would always treat his family with love and patience.
Finally, my client said that his father was actually a very lonely person—he never had friends or let anyone in emotionally. So, he decided he would always make an effort to meet people and connect with them.
Think about it! My client was six years old at the time that he made this decision . . . and even then—as a small child walking into unknown buildings full of unknown people—he had the courage to CHOOSE to step outside his comfort zone, walk up to other kids, and introduce himself with a handshake and a smile.
He instinctively knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that his actions would determine the kind of life he would lead, and he was not willing to compromise on the quality of that life.
This was when it dawned on me: our circumstances do NOT determine our reality.
Life does not make decisions for us—rather, how we react to a situation is how WE decide which life we are going to live.
Let’s take this whole Coronavirus situation, for example. We are all in a pretty dire situation at the moment. Even if your state has not mandated the closure of various public facilities, the state of the national economy has probably got you a little worried. And yet, people all over the country are dealing with it in about 1001 different ways.
How are you reacting to this crisis? Are you using it as an excuse to freak out a little and look toward the worst possible outcome? Or are you using this time to get things done, connect with others, come up with an innovative plan, and start finding solutions to your problems?
Here’s why I ask: if you are in that first category of people, I guarantee you that right now, there is someone in your EXACT same situation who is making the CHOICE to maintain a positive mindset and get to work!
This is not me being unreasonable or demanding—it’s just reality.
There are also plenty of people out there who want to rationalize their behavior: “This is a terrible situation, and plenty of people are just as paralyzed by fear as I am! It is perfectly fine for me to react this way!”
That is correct.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, and you are not a bad person . . . but the fact is that it is your CHOICE to react that way.
Is that really what you want to do? Is that really how you want to live your life?
What if, instead, you make the decision to turn your energy around? What if you make the choice to believe that your confidence is not determined by your circumstances? What if you decide to act boldly in spite of your fear and anxiety?
I’m not saying you need to suppress your feelings—we’re all going through a lot. But maybe on the days when you wake up with that pit of despair in your gut—and you want to ditch it all, pour a glass of scotch, and head to the races—you can choose to take stock of your emotions, breathe, and take the time to reset your brain.
How do you do that? I always start with a powerful mantra and move on from there!
Whenever I’m feeling powerless or out of emotional control, I like to repeat this mantra:
“I am the captain of my ship. I determine my destiny. I decide which direction I head. I defy doubt. I defeat doubt. I destroy doubt. I am the captain of my ship.”
I repeat that statement OUT LOUD over and over again until both my mind and my body start to believe it. After a few repetitions, my mind starts to calm and quiet; after a few more, my body starts to relax; in time, I begin to feel the power and control return to me, and I no longer feel like I am not in charge of my destiny.
Now, even on a real ship, a captain has no control over storms and tides—but when the water starts to look rough, does he just throw his hands up and jump into the ocean? NO! He looks ahead, makes choices, and steers his ship in a better direction.
The same story applies outside of the metaphor as well.
There will always be forces beyond your control keeping you on your toes—but how you respond to them is your choice.
Your confidence is completely independent of your circumstances, and there is always an opportunity to bring more of your natural confidence into any situation.
One of the best ways to do that (especially in our current social climate) is to reach outside yourself and ask, “How can I contribute? Who needs help more than I do? What do I have to give?” This is the ideal time to reach out to those around you and become a leader to those who need a positive force in their lives.
If you’re looking for a great way to spend your free time during this quarantine—while also building an excellent foundation for ultimate confidence—then you should also check out my program, Confidence University. This course includes intensives on building a strong foundation, developing social mastery, dating mastery, career acceleration, and how to boost your confidence levels in every area of your life. You can access the course enrollment by clicking the link below or visiting TheConfidenceUniversity.com.
I look forward to continuing our journey through these challenges together. This is a trying time for all of us, so please leave your thoughts and questions below so that we connect through this community and continue to find support during these trying times.
Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.