The Priceless Gift of Confidence

Have you noticed when you feel insecure you are more susceptible to the influence of others? The need for predictability can cause you to adopt ways and ideas that provide temporary relief. In the end they turn out to be false.

Life’s journey is a process of figuring out what works while you are in the middle of uncertainty. In that sense, arrival on earth is like the person who gets to a play in the middle of the second act. You can’t understand the playwright’s intention until you near the end of the final act. Then everything that happened in the previous acts makes sense.

Just as an author writes and rewrites until he gets a satisfying outcome to his novel, you can alter your circumstances by picturing the future you want. You also need to understand the forces that influenced what you believe about yourself, and life in general.

As an experiment, write what you want your main character to experience, lacing those thoughts with the emotions that go with success. As an example, how do you feel being healthy? How do you feel as a secure person, pleased with where you are and what you are doing?

In his book, Becoming Supernatural, Dr. Joe Dispensa offers scientific evidence for why thoughts filled with emotion create what you experience. The brain is essentially a record of everything you know, he says. Most people wake up every morning and think the same thoughts they did yesterday and the days and years before, routine that guarantees a repeat of the past.

Training the mind to be detached from the known changes your brain circuitry and chemistry, Dispensa says, and it also regulates the nervous system.This is because the mind and the nervous system cannot tell the difference between now and the past and the future. If you are feeling something it is real to your body.

This is why negative emotions trigger the release of stress hormones even when you are not in danger. For the same reason, positive hormones are released when you feel at peace. Feeling as if you are already where you want to be draws this outcome to you, often in mysterious ways.

This is not to say you can bypass the work of looking at how the past affected you. Remember, you want what works in the long run. Healthy living is accelerated when you see the meaning to your story, for the following reasons.

The Plot of Your Story Begins Early

According to neuroscientists, downloading the plot of your story begins in the third trimester of birth. Data flowing in from the mother wires your brain with expectations about how your life is going to turn out. If the mother is calm and attuned to your needs the brain imprints basic trust.  You are off to a good start, although challenges will come later.

If, on the other hand, the mother is depressed, anxious, emotionally or physically absent the developing brain imprints the necessity to calm the caretaker to survive.

The brain’s early adaptation to an unsafe environment takes a great deal of time and effort to change, but it can be done. You are off to a rocky start, the challenge you are to overcome, often with professional help.

Add to your story your father, siblings and generations of family members, neighbors, peers, teachers, authority figures and a culture full of influencers, many of whom had their own challenging starts.

Now you understand why John Keats called life on earth, “the vale of soul-making,” a sometimes grueling test of our inner resources. Just when you think you have a handle of life, along comes midlife and beyond, when the human psyche undergoes a radical shift in values. The plot thickens.

Fortunately, there is more to you than the biological matrix into which you were born. You are a spirit with a plastic brain that can learn and expand as you travel through the stages of your life on earth, shedding excess mental baggage as you go.

Since this is your story you can hold on to the past. But when you decide to live your life you let go of what is outmoded so the new you can emerge.

Suffering Versus Presence

How do you know when you are holding on to what is not working? You experience what Buddhists called suffering. The mind is focused on material reality, your identity, your body, possessions, worries about the future, regret about the past, other people, tragic events in the world, rather than the present.

Being in the present is the ultimate challenge of life, since stillness stirs up your conditioned mind’s fears: what if I fail, what if I miss out on something, what if I lose what is important to me, what if I am abandoned? The need to be in control is all the conditioned mind can think about, creating erratic brain waves that upset your mental balance. Paradoxically, what you are afraid you will lose is what you need to lose to grow.

If you ever had a wardrobe makeover you ventured into the unknown. Throwing away or donating your former wardrobe was not easy because of the attachment you had to what those items represented. But once your closet was clear you felt revitalized. It is the same with letting go of your old personality.

Where To Start

Make a list of what your family believes about money, work and relationships.  Then make a list of what you believe. If you are not sure of what you believe think like a writer: look at your current circumstances; they will tell you what the character believes.

Becoming conscious of what you believe does not mean you blame yourself, although that is the first response when you become more aware.  If you can look at yourself without judgment the energy of repressed aspects of your personality will come to the surface. These split off selves are what the family and your culture believed to be bad, such as anger and the desire to think for yourself.

Psychologist Richard Schwartz, the author of No Bad Parts, says that until you acknowledge and integrate these exiled parts into your adult personality, it is hard to know yourself and what you want to do.  Nor can you distinguish between accurate and distorted mirrors, people who may or may not see you as you are.

When your own mirror is clouded with the ideas and opinions of others you are likely to believe what they say about you. What you hear can be a projection of their own positive as well as negative traits.

In the first case, others idealize you, and then get disappointed when you fail to live up to their unrealistic expectations. In the second case, others accuse you of what is true about them.

For example, you take your strengths for granted, believing everyone can do what you do easily and well. Perhaps you received little praise from your family when you were growing up, so you are not comfortable with acknowledgement.

At the same time, you envy those who are at ease in the spotlight. So what part of you have you rejected? Can you see how your lack of appreciation for her undermines your confidence?

Let’s say you sacrifice your needs for others’ needs. Tuning into the needs of unhappy, depressed people was how your story began. As a result, tuning into your needs is the lesson of this lifetime. But when you focus on yourself you feel guilty, which threatens your survival, or so you believe.

Denial of the part of you who wants to concentrate on her needs, wants and desires causes you to be angry with people who clean up others’ messes. Or you have recurring dreams about washing everybody’s dirty laundry (your dream self has a sense of humor).


Confidence is the payoff for doing the work that frees you from the past. This word is the English translation of the Latin word confidere: to be sure, to have trust in. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, trust means “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

If you take this definition and apply it to yourself, how does that feel? What happens to your body and mind when you think about trusting yourself? Is this the happy ending to your story? It can be, if you focus on what you believe is good, true and worthwhile, and you let everything else go.


Nancy Anderson is a career and life consultant based in the Sacramento/San Francisco Bay Area. She is also the author of the best selling career guide, Work with Passion, How to do What You Love For a Living, and Work with Passion in Midlife and Beyond, Reach Your Full Potential and Make the Money You Need. Nancy’s website is



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