How to Recognize False Confidence And What to do About it.

If you’re a little familiar with my blog, you probably know that I’m currently entangled in a rather large financial issue...

How To Recognize False Confidence And What To Do About It.

If you’re a little familiar with my blog, you probably know that I’m currently entangled in a rather large financial issue that wrongfully landed on my shoulders.

So far, I’ve been good at dealing with the fears, and anxieties that usually result from such unpleasant affairs. That is, I’ve been good at dealing with it until last week, when the first correspondence about the case made its way into my mailbox, and I was confronted with an account of events that absolutely didn’t match my reality.

I’ve worked hard these past few years to achieve inner peace, and a chatter free mind. And I thought I was on top of it, that I nailed it big time. I even wrote about it a few weeks ago.

Then Friday I get an email. And all of a sudden I’m not so sure anymore. Where I can usually stop the chatter in an instant, my inner voice now lingers on. Instead of quieting down, she becomes louder and louder. That night, I don’t sleep. I can’t keep the voice out of my head, I’m anxious, and afraid.

And I don’t understand why. Then I remember.

I’m a recovering people-pleaser.

For the biggest part of my life the only thing that I wanted was for people to like me, to tell me I did a good job. I spent most of my waking hours trying to look like the perfect picture of myself.

When I was a people-pleaser I dreaded criticism like it was a deadly disease, something I had to avoid at all costs.

Whenever someone would criticize me, it felt like I was dying inside. Being anything short of perfect was unbearable to me. Of course, it was living that way that was unbearable, not the criticism. Trying to achieve perfection in every aspect of my life was so time-consuming that it kept me from focusing on what actually mattered: what I really wanted.

The thing is, I thought that I was over that. I thought I had learned to deal with it, and that I’d become confident enough in myself that I didn’t need that external validation anymore. Until last Friday.

You’re never at the end of your journey

These past few days, I’ve been questioning myself and my so-called confidence, wondering how I could find myself in such a shitty spot again, after having worked on myself for so many years. That’s when I came across a beautiful article about the confidence of visionaries that my fellow BYCA coach, and online buddy Victoria posted on her blog a few weeks ago. In it she talks about what true confidence looks like, and how that differs from what she calls false confidence.

After reading her article it all started to make sense to me. I’m not afraid of the outcome of the issue (I’ve come to terms with that, it’ll be what it’ll be), and I’m not anxious about the process (a very masculine, and structured system with well-defined steps).

No, what bothers me about it is the fact that someone on this earth might think that I’m not perfect after all. Because if I indeed was perfect, so my inner critic tells me, then I wouldn’t be bothered with this issue to begin with, even if I have nothing to do with it, like it’s the case now. Yes I know, total craziness right there! But that’s unfortunately how people-pleasing works.

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This is where the concept of false confidence comes in. In her article, Victoria has a beautiful way of putting it. She talks about false confidence as acknowledging and owning your “good” parts, but not your “unacceptable” shady parts. Those parts, as people-pleasers know, are the ones we work so hard to hide – our flaws, weaknesses, and insecurities, afraid that all hell will break loose if anyone ever found out that we’re not perfect after all.

What happened to me last Friday was the harsh reveal of my false confidence. A big slap in the face, yet also one of the most important lessons I got to learn this year (and I do learn a lot of lessons!).

Aversion to criticism leads to aversion to conflict

Being able to recognize this false confidence as the hiding place of my “cured” perfectionism, that only lasts as long as this picture perfect of myself is not being threatened, is very powerful. Add to that the aversion to conflict (in direct connection with the aversion to criticism) that most people-pleasers suffer from, and you can imagine why being wrongfully for something I have to defend myself for, but have nothing to do with, turned out to be the catalyst of this painful realization.

This is the heart of the issue. I was stripped of my false sense of confidence because I was forced to defend myself. Because I’m conflict averse, and have been avoiding conflict so much all my life, I really suck at it.

It brings so many negative feelings up in me, with all of them directed at myself. Including the healthy anger that I might have towards the people or situation putting me into this unpleasant spot.

But there’s no room for blaming others. As a people-pleaser the only one I’m blaming is me. For not being perfect. Because if I was perfect, this wouldn’t be happening to me.

True/deep/real confidence is a state in which we’re all-accepting of ourselves. A state in which we’re not trying to be anything other than we are, and know that – however flawed we may think we are – deep down we know we’re just fine. This doesn’t mean we believe that we’re perfect. We’re all human, remember? What it means is simply that it’s all OK. There’s no perfection to be attained, no rules on how to being human, no external validation to aim for.

In the end there’s only you

When I reminded myself of this, a new sense of calm came over me. The fear, the anxiety that had suddenly showed up subsided. Why? Because they can only exist, and persist in the realm of the imperfect. The realm where you think you need fixing, or aren’t good enough.

As soon as I became all accepting of the fact that I’m not – and will never be – what other people think of me, and that in fact, I am who I am and that’s just fine, my inner critic went to bed. And I was able to sleep again.

If you’re a (recovering) people-pleaser, or you’re on a journey similar to mine, I want you to know that:

  • You’re doing great just by recognizing how you operate, and actively working on yourself,
  • You’re doing great, even when you think you aren’t, because this is a journey filled with lessons,
  • You’re doing great, because people-pleasing or not, you’re fine just the way you are…

I hope these words help you to find more joy, and happiness in your life. In the comments below, let me know what your take is on false confidence. I’d love to hear you’re story.

Featured Photo by Alex Holyoake on Unsplash

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