Last updated December, 2017.
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Here is this weeks installment of "Question and Answer Tuesdays!"
"I have always had issues with self-confidence. I can't stop myself from thinking I'm going to fail at what I'm doing (presentations, work, relationships) - no matter how hard I try, the negative thoughts always creep in. In the past, it has sometimes become paralyzing and actually hindered my ability to do anything at all. So, I end up failing as a result of my self-confidence issues! I am wondering if meditation can help me with that, and how? You also talk a lot about being in the 'present moment' - can that help with being more confident and if so, how?"
We are fond of saying "You can't escape your mind." It shapes every experience you will ever have, including struggles with self-confidence.
In last weeks Q&A, we used the analogy of treating the symptoms instead of the disease (or, as I prefer, the "root cause"). In the case of self-doubt, we try many things to treat the symptoms:
But, none of these things address the root cause - your mind. And, any results you achieve from doing them will be temporary at best.
Don't get me wrong - you should strive to expose yourself to (and surround yourself with) positive rather than negative influences. All other things equal, that's the more skillful path. But, it won't solve the problems created by your mind.
To deal with confidence issues, you need to strengthen awareness of that "voice in your head" and what it's telling you. You need to understand your compulsive mind and non-stop mental noise. This is exactly what a consistent meditation practice will help you do.
Meditating helps you develop the skill of observing thoughts (and all your mind-made activity) as they arise. When you notice them, you have two choices:
If you make the first choice, you are identifying with thoughts. You either believe - or are battling - what your mind is telling you. Those thoughts give rise to emotions which then give rise to more thoughts and more emotions. They bury you in a landslide of mind-made activity that conditions your behavior and dictates your quality of life.
If you make the second choice, however, you will see thoughts are temporary: they come and they go. You realize you don't have to follow them down the same old path that results in the same old outcome (for example, self-doubt and self-confidence issues). Your mind tries to convince you that thoughts, emotions, and urges are critical - that they'll never go away, and in many cases are a matter of "life or death."
But, you no longer have to take the bait.
It's as simple as saying:
"There's that thought again - I see it, and I'm letting it be as it is (letting it pass, the same as it came)."
It's simple, but it's not easy because you have to practice. You have to put in the time and effort to change the lifetime of conditioning that has led you to this point.
A consistent meditation practice helps you strengthen awareness (cultivate mindfulness), which - when applied - will reduce self-doubt and self-confidence issues. It does this by showing you how to shed the delusions of your mind, and how to distance yourself from the mental drama you've been subjected to your entire life.
The second part of your question asks about living in the present moment. If your attention is focused on the task at hand - what is happening right here and now - you will perform better at anything you do (washing the dishes, talking with a friend, presenting to an audience, et cetera). If you don't allow your mind to distract you by pulling your attention into the past, projecting it into the future, or creating a fantasy for you to indulge, you are fully dedicated to the present moment and it will be reflected in your efforts and results.
Staying grounded in the present moment will also help you accept what happens, and not let it condition (shape, determine) the next moment - and, the moment after that. For instance, if you stumble over a line while making a speech, you learn to accept it and move past it. It has already happened, you can't change it, and you don't get caught up in the mental dialogue telling you that you "screwed up," and that you're doing a bad job. Which almost always leads to more "screwing up."
Our minds will often take small stumbles and turn them into HUGE disasters. But, by being mindful, not following thoughts and emotions, and returning our attention to right here and now, we interrupt that process and keep it from unfolding.
What are you trying to "cope" with?
Coping doesn't work - addressing the root cause does. We'll show you how.