Mindfulness Equals Confidence

I joined my aunt and uncle’s morning meditation group today at 7:30am for the second time. Last week I felt a little awkward since I didn’t know any of the other members and didn’t know what to expect. So it was a bit surprising to me that I felt the same awkwardness today as I did last week even though I knew what was going to happen and that everyone was happy to have me join them (they said so, repeatedly).

I thought about that a bit today, wondering what it was that made me feel like I didn’t belong when I had been shown and told the opposite. Since it wasn’t coming from outside, I figured it must be coming from inside myself.

I had the same feeling later when my uncle asked me if I wanted to help him with some work he was doing for a client. He wanted me to help him analyze some data from a survey he’d taken, and as he was showing me what he was doing, my first thought was of my own inadequacy. In that moment, I felt totally incapable of doing meaningful work. It was like someone had taken my confidence and just sucked it out through a straw.

This particular incident is not the important thing though. What I want to figure out is why I have this sudden drop in confidence in certain situations. For example: I didn’t feel self-conscious hardly at all during my first Tai Chi class with several people I’d never met, contorting my body into awkward positions in front of a giant mirror. You’d think (and I would too) that I would have felt more at ease at home just talking to my uncle about data analysis than in a group of strange people while balancing on one leg.

Weird.

Having pondered this I am forced to conclude that my surplus of confidence during Tai Chi and deficit thereof during meditation this morning is a matter of practice and familiarity. Although I was not familiar with the instructor or some of the other students during my first Tai Chi lesson, I had spent about a week practicing Tai Chi on my own and was familiar enough with it to not worry. Whereas I have not ever sincerely practiced meditating, although I have done some guided meditation work on my own in the past.

I think it is not just familiarity. It is also a matter of my own expectations. During my first Tai Chi lesson I had no expectations of myself. I wasn’t trying to be perfect or impress anyone. I just wanted to learn. I came to the class with no pretension, presenting myself as what I was: a beginner.

Somehow, with the meditation this morning, I had the feeling that it was important for me to show people how quick of a learner I was. I wanted to be able to slip right in to their routine without disturbing anyone else and without making any “mistakes”. Of course, that attitude makes no sense. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, and it doesn’t make any more sense to me now. All I know is that the way I approach something clearly matters.

When I expect myself to meet some sort of expectations that others set or that I imagine others have set (or that I have set for myself), I forget that I am here on this planet to learn.

After all, isn’t that what this whole wellness quest is about? For me to learn?

Ok, so that’s the issue. Or the opportunity. Or the obstacle. Or the process. Whatever you want to call it. That is what I’m facing. So what is the application, the “take away”, the action point?

I think stated simply, the best thing for me to do to combat my tendency to lose confidence in myself when approaching situations in which I may have imagined expectations is to be mindful of my thoughts as I engage in  my daily activities. In truth, it isn’t just Tai Chi or meditation that I could be mindful about. I can be mindful as I eat, mindful as I take a shower, mindful as I breathe, even mindful as I walk. If I try to approach every situation as a potential learning opportunity I think first of all, I’d learn a lot more, and second, I would have more confidence and less awkwardness. Because even I know better than to chastise someone who is just beginning to learn something new. Even when that person is me. (Ok so not always. I’m not perfect. But you get the picture.)

Thanks for putting up with my post this evening. It’s kinda preachy, but I wanted to make sure I exposed this growth opportunity of mine and proposed a solution of some kind.

Thanks for reading,

-Nathan

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9 responses to “Mindfulness Equals Confidence

  1. Hmmm, I’d be interested to hear you define mindfullness, I think you are using as synonymous with “living in the moment” which I agee with. A very conscientious (unspellable word) person or a thoughtful person would certainly have breaks in confidence and they might be described as mindful, but they are worriers. On the other hand, idiots who don’t think about anything are well known for their high confidence. I guess stupid people are really good at living in the moment… that’s probably why they are so much happier.

    I heard a good quote once which was “Being happy is not having to stop and think if you are.” That’s a difficult task for me, but one that could be solved with mindfulness.

    • QuietMonolith

      So the way I would define mindfulness is sort of like “living in the moment”. But I would qualify it a bit. I would say that to me, mindfulness means “living in the moment without judging the moment”. I think that is why people who don’t think about the possible outcome of their actions often have high confidence levels. They rarely make judgments about their actions. Whereas when it comes to someone like us, we have to work to not constantly analyze the things we do and I know that for myself, I have to work to not be judgmental. Not just in a negative way either. If I am constantly labeling my thoughts, feelings, and actions as being “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong” etc. that makes it difficult for me to be content with the moment.

      I like that quote. I know that usually when I am happiest I am not thinking about my emotional state. I am usually too deeply involved in what is, without questioning it or worrying about what was or what might be.

  2. I think everyone actually walks around with some level of fear (or even terror) inside, but they don’t show it, and they try to keep it hidden. I know this is true for me, and when I trust myself enough I can let down my guard and be more real, as you are doing in your blog posts every day. Quite a gift you’re giving with your open sharing.

    Thank you

    • QuietMonolith

      Thanks Richard. As you know, being open is difficult for me. I’m great at seeming open, but actuallybeing open is harder. A question I’ve been thinking about often since we talked about those voice dialogues is: how can I get more in touch with the disowned part of me that represents vulnerability?

  3. Thank you for this honest and inspiring post. We all deal with fear and other difficulties as we develop our spiritual and wellness practice. In fact, getting in touch with all this stuff is what it’s all about. Our writing has a lot in common – come say him at http://www.mariewetmore.com

    • Thanks Marie. I took a look at your site, looks like you’re really doing some great work. I admire people make their career out of helping others. Thanks for stopping by, and I look forward to exchanging ideas through the theater of blogging!

  4. lindsaypermiegirlpdx

    I really resonate with this post. I think most people probably do. It is so easy for us to make ourselves small in circumstances where we perceive ourselves to be inadequate in some way. I think a lot of this comes from comparing ourselves to others. I can be faced with a situation where I feel confident in handling it one moment and then if someone walks in who I perceive to be better equipped to handle things then I lose all my sense of power and knowing and give it all to the other person. There are also certain circumstances that I know are triggers for me to make myself small. I think the key to overcoming this is not to fight it or judge it but to engage it. What is behind the feeling of anxiety that some situations trigger? For me its often times a feeling of not wanting to disappoint others, so if I make myself small from the beginning then expectations are not set super high and I have less chance of disappointing someone. But when I examine this energy, the value behind it is that it is important to me to be a positive, contributing member of my community which I know I am capable of, so the next time this anxiety comes up I can say “Thank you anxiety for reminding me that this is important to me, I am going to chose a way of being that demonstrates the importance of this value and therefore I am confident that I will fulfill my purpose here in this moment in exactly the right way.”

    One of my favorite quotes just popped into my head: “Life is right in any case. My heart is as open as the sky.” To me this says that no matter how difficult our last step was, there is opportunity for learning with every step and in that learning we choose our next step. We are not our past choices and if we can love our past choices, no matter how “bad” they might seem, for the learning they provided, for the fact that each one of those was necessary to bring us in this way to this exact, perfect moment in time, filled with infinite possibility, then we can choose to make a different decision now, one that moves us toward our highest self.

    Thanks for sharing Nathan, and thanks for creating the space and inspiration for us all to share.

  5. Pingback: Altering the Ending | The Wellness Quest

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