The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

Category: ‘Building self-esteem’

Feb 16

Apples & Oranges - They Don't CompareYou know those dark moments you have?  Those moments when you’re not thinking at your best when you might look at someone more successful than you and think, “Great.  Just look at that.  They’re so far ahead of me, why am I even bothering?  I’ll never have what they have.”

Comparing yourself to someone more successful than you achieves nothing, and it may just destroy you. Here’s why.

  1. Your judgement and decision making becomes flawed.
    Comparing yourself to someone more successful is comparing 2 very different things.  Apples and oranges.  Bagpipes and banjos.  Pumas and pandas.  In comparing 2 very different things you start picking over the craziest of details and making them relevant.  And when the wrong things become relevant, your ability to make great decisions gets confused and compromised.  You start feeding a sense of lack instead of growth.
  2. You’re competing for the wrong reasons.
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a competitive spirit, but you gotta pick the right event to compete in.  If you’re motivated by overtaking someone else the reasons for you being in the game become completely lost.  You’re competing for glory, not for meaning.
  3. You’ll start believing that you’re less than.
    Keep comparing yourself with others and you’ll establish all sorts of reasons why they’re better than you – or in other words, why you’re less than.  Keep occupying yourself with those reasons and it’s easy to start believing them, and before you know you’re thinking and behaving as though you’re less than in all parts of your life.
  4. You end up being type-cast.
    Once you’re in the habit of comparing yourself unfavourably to others, you end up casting yourself in the role of victim, the hard-done-by or the struggler.  Stepping into that role becomes a habit, something known, familiar and something you can trust. You brain triggers the pattern of behaviour that it knows the best, and so struggling becomes more important than using your true capability and value to make something extraordinary happen.
  5. You become bitter.
    When you’re giving fuel to the sense of lack, it’s easy to start resenting those who are successful rather than being pleased for them, celebrating with them or even learning from them.  Your world view dims and your spirit becomes diminished.  You end up resenting the success of others and even enjoying it when they screw up.  You become bitter that they have something you don’t.

I get that our society seems to instil competition and comparison into us from a young age, but you can’t blame society for the way you think any more than I can blame the aliens for sneaking into my house in the middle of the night and injecting me with a parasitic life-form that makes me crave gooey cheese and alt-folk.

Who’s the Boss of You?

You’re in charge of the way you think, and the way you think determines your experience and the level of meaningful success you achieve.  A couple of pointers for you.

  • Just because you’re where you are and they’re where they are doesn’t make them any better or you any worse. You’re still you and I happen to think you’re pretty brilliant.
  • I don’t have a competitive bone in my body when it comes to others, but I’m fiercely competitive with myself.  I know what I’m capable of and I know how I am when I’m performing at my best – that’s my yardstick.  Compete with yourself, not someone else.
  • There’s always someone with more.  You can’t be in front of the world all the time.  Nobody can.

So if you ever have those moments when you look at someone else and feel like stamping your foot and shouting “Damn it, I deserve better“, it’s okay. A lot of folks do.

But be sure to catch yourself and notice how your mind’s working, then replace that thought with, “Damn it, I can be better.”

Jun 29

Damn it man, I'm a coach not a doctorTo paraphrase Dr “Bones” McCoy from Star Trek, “Damn it man I’m a coach not a psychology Professor“.

That’s probably why I often use the terms “self-esteem” and “self-confidence” interchangeably.  I don’t know any better.

Some folks come to me and talk about building their self-confidence, others come to me wanting to build self-esteem.  To me, the end result is the same.  And the dictionary kinda, sorta agrees with me.

self-es·teem
–noun
1. a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself;

self-con·fi·dence
–noun
1. realistic confidence in one’s own judgment, ability, power,etc.

See how close they are?  They’re really close.  If being close were people, they’d be China.

Building self-esteem is a process of valuing yourself; it’s building enough belief in your own worth that it enables rather than disables.  Building confidence is a process of recognizing, applying and trusting capability; it’s building enough belief in your ability that it enables rather than disables.

One is about respecting who you are, the other is about trusting who you are.  For me, that’s an incredibly powerful combination and it’s at the heart of what I do.

Respecting yourself starts on the inside.  You have to honestly open up your beliefs and face the truth of how you think about yourself.  You have to put aside the self-doubts and the self-criticism to look for the truth of who you are and see the golden threads that are woven through you; the foundations, cornerstones and building blocks that make you utterly unique and whole.  A lot of people get stuck here because they’re not used to a. being so honest about themselves and b. diving into their own worth.

A lot of people feel icky doing this and it’s here where it gets scary, because things start changing.  And it’s here that trust becomes an important part of the process.

Trusting yourself starts with a leap of faith.  Trust demands that you allow yourself to be scared and take a conscious step into the unknown.  That leap of faith becomes easier if you’re stepping towards something that matters, and it becomes more graceful if you do it with a dose of self-respect.

See how this all starts weaving together?  Self-esteem, self-confidence, respect and trust – all growing and all working together.

A current client of mine is a great example of this.  She came to me with zilch self-respect and no self-trust.  So we made a start.  Step by step and bit by bit we worked on her views about herself and her ability to trust her decisions.  We saw the fear when it appeared and we dealt with the compelling urge to back away from change.  With each step forwards she saw that she could make change happen and she could feel differently about what she was doing.  In turn, that provided momentum that opened up another layer of insight and took us another important step forwards.

We’re half way through and still have a lot to do, but I know she’s building something that will last.

To be honest, I’ve never really thought about the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence until I started writing this post.  To me, it doesn’t really matter, which is why I don’t worry about whether I call it self-esteem one day and self-confidence the next.  Psychologist’s would probably laugh and point at my naivety, but for me it’s all part of the same process.

Just forget about the words you or I use.  Forget about labelling it or defining it.  Focus on what it means to you, how you experience it and how it feels.  Then make a start.

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Jun 02

Don't be a doormatSometimes in life people walk all over you.

For no apparent rhyme or reason and despite youre good intentions, they just run rough-shod over you, doing whatever they want in the way they want, as long as they get what they want.

If you’re sick and tired of being a doormat, here’s how to stop.

Value Yourself

When someone else devalues you there’s a fair chance that you’re not valuing yourself.  If you’re giving away stuff for free, whether it’s cookies, favours or love, it’s easy to perceive it as having no value.  It’s easy to throw something away that didn’t cost you anything, no matter the true value.

So it starts with you placing appropriate value on who you are and what you do.  You have to invest in yourself; even if that investment is made purely on faith.

Find the traces of gold that are woven through you.  Locate the rich wells that you can tap into.  Start to recognise the things you have at your core that are immeasurably valuable, use those things if you haven’t been using them, and inch by inch your investment will blossom.

So, do you think you deserve to be treated badly?  Or do you feel worthy enough to be treated with respect and consideration?

Teach Them What’s Acceptable

A long time ago I heard Dr Phil say “You teach people how to treat you.”  In other words, by your response to someone else’s behaviour you teach them what is and isn’t acceptable; by your communication you let other people know what manner of communication you expect in return.

If the person treating you like a doormat has learned previously that it’s acceptable to do what they’re doing, they’ll keep on doing it.  People are dumb like that, they’ll do what works until they have evidence that it doesn’t work.

If your response to their behaviour is to smooth things over, try to ignore it or accept it, you’re teaching them that their behaviour is acceptable.  All the time you’re rolling over and taking it you’re making it easy for them to believe their behaviour is okay.  If it’s damaging your self-esteem and self-confidence their behaviour is not okay – you need to teach them that through your responses.

Reset their expectations clearly and unambiguously to let them know that you expect to be treated with respect.

Stop Pleasing Everyone

Are you a people-pleaser?  Do you find yourself always on the go, doing things for other people in an effort to see a smile on their face or hear a “thank you”?

Stop it.

There’s nothing wrong with doing things for others, except when the price for doing so is your own self-esteem.  People pleasing is not a selfless act, it’s a selfish one.  It’s about trying to make yourself feel good by receiving positive attention from others.  It’s about trying to be validated.

You can’t be a bottomless pit for people.  You only have so much energy to give and once it’s gone it’s starts costing you in self-esteem.

Stop pleasing everyone else, and start doing what pleases you.

Stand Up for Yourself

Being a doormat means you’re not used to standing up for yourself – you’re used to maintaining the equilibrium and trying your darndest to not rock the boat.  So I get that the prospoect of standing up for yourself can be a scary one.  It feels difficult, and sometimes it feels terrifying.

Stand up for yourself

But despite how difficult and scary it might feel you have the right to be treated with respect and consideration, and you have the ability to assert yourself.  The moment you think you need to forgo those rights to maintain the status-quo is the moment you decide to continue damaging your self-confidence.

Being assertive simply means calmly and confidently knowing what matters to you and asking other people to respect that.

Standing up for yourself means that you’re likely to be operating right at the edge or past the edge of your comfort zone, so it will feel uncomfortable.  You haven’t been here before, but just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean you can’t do it, and it doesn’t mean you’re not confident.  You still have confidence and you can still apply confidence.  You still have some amazing things to help you that are hard-wired in your brain and you have the ability to connect with what allows you to push yourself.

Trust those things, and assertion follows.

Don’t Do it Alone

Always remember that you don’t have to do this by yourself.  Sometimes, before you tackle the situation it’s helpful to get input from outside.

This could be a family member, a mutual friend, your partner, your best friend, a friend at work, a respected colleague, an approachable manager or even (if necessary) someone in HR.

The whole point of getting help is to allow you to step back and see another perspective.  It’s a way of getting fresh input to see just how much your story is colouring your experience and judgement, or if your thinking is right on target.  Talking to someone else can help you to define the problem as well as the solution, and you may find new ways of tackling this by talking with someone outside of your direct situation.

What’s important is to find someone who’ll listen.  People might be shocked to hear about what’s been happening and might want to leap into action to help (which is to be admired), but sometimes it’s just about being heard.  You don’t need them to fix things and you don’t need them to do anything.  What’s valuable is to state your experience and possibly to explore what the options are.

Don’t Lower Your Expectations

Turning this around is hard, I understand that, and there might be times when you feel like it’s easier to just keep quiet and get on with things as they have been.

Before you go down that road however, be crystal clear on the true cost of keeping things as they are.  How will you feel in 6 months time?  How about a year?  3 years?

I like a stress-free life as much as the next guy, but don’t fool yourself that continuing to be treated as a doormat is a way of minimizing stress or difficulty.  In fact, lowering your expectations to the point where it becomes okay for you to be treated badly is immeasurably more stressful and damaging than the bad treatment itself.

The cost of lowering your expectations and deciding to put up with being treated badly is too high for anyone.  You need to be completely honest about your motivations and acutely aware of the cost of your decisions.

How to Stop Being Put-Down

If you want more detail on these tips and strategies take a look at my new e-book, “Staying Up When You’re Put Down”, 45 pages that step you through how to turn situations like this around and give you step by step strategies for getting back in the driver’s seat.

Go take a look.

May 28

Staying Up When You're Put DownToday I’m completely thrilled to be launching my latest eBook – “Staying Up When You’re Put Down“.

A lot of people find me and stumble across this blog because they’re being made to feel small or being put down by someone; someone who should be respecting or even celebrating them,

I’ve worked with people who’ve been on the receiving end of hurtful put-downs, and I’ve seen how damaging this kind of behaviour is.  It’s not often spoken about, and it’s completely unacceptable.

That’s why I put this together – to give solid ways for people who are being put down to change their situation.  I want to play a part in changing this; it’s something I believe in strongly.

“Staying Up When You’re Put Down” is something that offers practical help.  If you’re on the receiving end of hurtful put-downs it’s aim is to help you get back to how things should be; it’s designed to help you find your self-confidence and build your self-esteem.

It’s not a simple read through, it’s not something you can pick up, read and then get straight back to what you were doing.  There are 7 chapters and 9 detailed worksheets for you to complete, and you need to complete them to get any of the benefits.  As you’d probably expect there’s a strong focus on self-confidence and self-esteem, because that’s what I care about the most and that’s what will change things for you.

Sure it’s scary.  It’s scary doing anything that matters, and even though it might feel like there’s nothing you can can do or no way to change it I know with complete certainty that you can move through this and have something better.  You deserve better.

It’s rare for me to be so serious, but it’s a serious subject.  Go take a look, and let me know how I can help or if you have any questions.

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Oct 15

I’m about to get a little fluffy.  Forgive me, it’s only temporary.  I’ll be swearing like a drunk docker before you know it.

I was doing my mindfulness meditation (that I’m still not doing nearly as much of as I want or need to be) from the pioneering and wonderful Jon Kabtat-Zinn, and  my ears tuned in on a particular passage of dialog that I wanted to share with you.

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Just this moment
Just this breath
Just this drinking in of the air
This flowing of the air
Through the body
This giving and receiving of the air
This unfolding of life
Moment, by moment, by moment
In awareness

This struck me as important, for one simple reason.

My life, and your life, is unfolding right now.

Breath, by breath, by breath.  Moment, by moment, by moment.

Each breath comes and brings a new moment in your life, a place you’ve never been before.  And as it fades, so does that moment in your life.

Always something new.  Always a new start.

This happens by the very nature of life, moving forwards without any pondering, any striving or any struggling.

I have no doubt that my next breath will come; that the next moment will come.  I have no doubt that my life will unfold without me forcing it or telling it to unfold.

It doesn’t get any simpler than that, and I trust it implicitly.

True self-confidence is trusting your ability to meet that unfolding of life in awareness.

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Sep 24

Do you trust in God more than you trust in yourself?I don’t really understand religious people.

I mean, I can understand the need to belong to something bigger than yourself, and I think that’s an honourable and fundamental human need, but I don’t get why that ‘thing’ needs to be a set of beliefs that some guy came up with yonks ago that you’re supposed to just accept as truth.

Your brain is hardwired to make sense of the world around you; without that facility you’d simply go nuts.

But while this need to derive meaning and belief from the data around us is central to being human, the content of those beliefs – whether you believe in goblins, a political leader or a higher power – is entirely up to us.

This remark outrages the sensibilities of those who have deep religious convictions and attachments and they regard it as insulting,” says Prof AC Grayling from the University of London.  “But the truth is that everyone takes this attitude about all but one (or a very few) of the gods that have ever been claimed to exist.”

“No reasonably orthodox Christian believes in Aphrodite or the rest of the Olympian deities, or in Ganesh the Elephant God or the rest of the Hindu pantheon, or in the Japanese emperor, and so endlessly on.”

This makes complete sense to me, but what doesn’t make so much sense is taking someone else’s belief system and adopting it as your own.  It’s like doing a Sean Connery impression and expecting to be allowed into MI6.

Another professor, Professor Bruce Hood, is the author of a fascinating book called “Supersense” and a very clever man.  He agrees with me,

I would say that our brains are programmed to try and understand what causes things to happen in the world and coming up with a supreme being seems to be the most sensible and easy solution…. and it is one of the reasons religions have been so successful” he says.

We’re all looking for answers.  We’re all searching for a path that feels right to us, a path we’re eager to follow because it just might give us those answers.  The easy way is to follow a path that’s already carved out and marked, and in that way I think religion is often the easy way out – a way of dodging self-actualisation in order to find an already carved out self-concept and world-view.

I’ve come across individuals who place their faith in a God above their faith in themselves, and I gotta say, I have a problem with that.

The impact of believing in a God more than you believe in yourself is vast.  That belief in a higher power may give you strength at times, it may give you comfort and it may give you hope.  But how much more amazing would it be if you came to see that those qualities come from your own self, rather than looking to be granted those qualities by a supernatural being?

Believing in God more than yourself means that you externally seek to be granted the values and qualities that you are capable of manifesting internally.

It means you get to miss out on the threads of gold that YOU have.  It means you don’t fully feel the true scope and scale of what your head and heart are capable.

To my mind, what’s altogether more powerful, more life affirming, more graceful and more freeing, is knowing and exploring your own belief system based on the things that matter to you, personally.

What’s more self-actualising is the evolution of your own beliefs and your own values, rather than having that work done for you and grappling with them to try to make them fit.

I know I’m likely to get into trouble with this post because it’s an emotive and deeply personal subject.  Yes, I fully accept that religion does make you ask questions and it does make you think, but at the end of the day it ends up in faith – the catch-all argument to end all arguments.

It’s that unquestioning belief that I take issue with, because, for me at least, the magic of life is in exploring the world and your own heart and mind in a spirit of openness, curiosity and grace.

Sep 02

Do you need to be more selfish?The Errey family have a peculiar knack of putting everybody in the world ahead of themselves. Right now I’m giving my all at my current freelance gig, a high-pressure, non-stop environment where I’m putting doing great work ahead of my own needs, including my health.

I should be prioritising meditation and getting well ahead of working hard for my team, but I’m not.

I don’t know where we get it from, but as far back as I can remember we’ve all stepped back and done things for other people, whether it’s each other, partners, colleagues, bosses, friends or whoever else happened to need something.

Now, I think that’s awesome – it’s important to be there for people you care about and selflessness is a rare trait indeed.

But I wonder what the cost of that has been, for all of us.

My family would happily swim the Atlantic on a bread board if it meant being there to help a friend or family member in need, but at what point do you say have to say “No more, get lost“?

I know this sounds like I’m saying “Screw everyone else, just look out for yourself“, and to some extent that would be true.

The simple truth is, you’ve got to have the confidence to put yourself first.

You have to be the most important person in your world.

At its most benevolent, this is about the times when you don’t speak up or don’t make your voice heard.  At these times you’ll end up sitting on your hands so that you don’t run the risk of upsetting anyone or looking silly.

Going up the scale is falling into people-pleaser syndrome, then higher still is becoming a “bottomless pit” – doing things for everyone else without regard to yourself.

Perhaps at the top end of the scale is staying in an abusive relationship because you don’t want to hurt your partner, don’t want to rock the boat or don’t believe you have a choice in the matter.

All of these things stem from a lack of confidence to exert yourself in your own life, letting other people take the lead because you want other people to feel good about you and because you’re trying to feel good about yourself.

Nobody else can do it for you – you have to make yourself important in your own life.

The cost of these patterns of behaviour are high indeed, and being very male about it I’m going to apply a formula to solve these complex equations.

If you can’t afford, on a personal level, to put into a relationship what you’re putting in, you need to get out.

What does that mean? It means that if you personally don’t have available what you’re about to give, you have to make a different choice.

You can’t damage yourself to make someone else feel better.

That’s too high a price, and even though it might take more guts, courage and confidence than you think you have, there’s always another, better way.

You might not be comfortable with the word ‘selfish’.  Fair enough, feel free to use ‘self-centered’ instead.  Or perhaps self-confident. The point is that it’s about self.

You.

A few days later…

That’s the article as I originally wrote it.  And while I agree with every word I said, there was something about it that’s been troubling me.

It’s this.

I honestly believe that generosity of spirit is the human race’s finest quality.  I have to remind myself of that frequently, as it’s all too easy to become jaded or cynical.

I honestly believe that giving of yourself has a nobility and grace that goes beyond a reasoned argument for pulling back and protecting yourself.

Yes, there are times when you need to make a choice to put yourself first, but there are also times when your instinct to do that can be better replaced with that spirit of generosity and giving.

It’s saying “What can I do for you?” rather than “What can I do for me?

I think that’s how you can rise above your own limitations and realise that you’re more powerful than you let yourself be.

What do you think?

Aug 20

Sabotaging yourself is than a sack of weasels – why the heck would you go and do a bunch of stuff to make sure you don’t get what you want? Crazy indeed, but it’s something we’ve all done.

Keep doing it and how can you expect to have any confidence in your ability to get results in your life? With sabotaging behaviour, there’s a sad inevitability that you’ll end up with low self-esteem and no self-confidence.

To demonstrate the problem, here’s a recent email exchange I had with Barbara from Madison (thanks for agreeing to feature your email B). We went on to have a fantastic 30 minute session, where we were able to laser right into what was happening and get some rapid insights. I loved talking with her and it was so cool how her eyes were opened to a different way of doing things. Here’s how it started.

I’ve always wanted to work from home as a writer, a novelist. Since that does not pay bills, writing direct mail copy and catalog copy is an option for me. I used to be a vp/creative director at a direct marketing agency so I have experience in copywriting and customer service and marketing. And I can’t take the first step.

I’m 50 so I feel old and out of touch. I don’t have experience with online copy so that’s a negative. And everytime I come close to reaching a goal I sabotage myself. Even with weight. Whenever I’m within 10 pounds of my ideal weight i eat junk and gain. Funny thing is, everyone thinks i’m such a positive person. Help!”

Barbara, Madison, CT, USA

First of all Barbara, there’s no way that 50 is old these days.  Not a chance.  You’ve still got another a few careers left to go if you want them!

It’s pretty clear how important writing is to you, but I get the sense you’re second guessing how good you are or how good you might be, and then slipping into looking at all the reasons why it won’t work.  If you’ve always had a pull towards writing there’s a good chance you have a talent there, and as you’ve had experience as a CD there’s a weight of evidence to support that.

Instead of looking at the reasons ‘why not’, how about looking for the reasons ‘why’?  Copywriting is a core skill that only needs a little tuning appropriate for the channel – as long as you can write on a subject with thought to tone, message and audience, you’re all set.

You’re pretty good at beating yourself up, aren’t you?  What’s the reason for being so hard on yourself, and what do you think your nearest and dearest would say if you told them the things you tell yourself?

There’s a habit here, and habit’s are hard to break.  The trick is to notice when you’re slipping into that automatic well-known behaviour (self-sabotage, self-criticism, eating junk, etc) and stopping yourself.  Noticing it with brutal honesty is important. Without that you won’t have a chance to do something else.  When you notice it, take a step back.  Remind yourself of what’s important to you and look at the evidence for why you’re darned good and get ready to make a different choice.

Right before I saw your email I had a home-made cupcake with two inches of vanilla frosting and half a bag of potato chips with dip. I have spent the last two weeks trying to lose weight and lost eight pounds. I am within ten pounds of my ideal weight and look what I did. It’s funny, actually it’s not funny at all. So I read your email and the tears started flowing. You are good!

Hearing what you had to say, that I am so hard on myself and asking why, kind of startled me and made me realize that this has been a life-long thing with me. And as I said, I try to be positive and am great at comforting other people. So why can’t I comfort myself? I would love to have a 30-minute session with you.

I got the sense that there was a lot of emotion sitting just under the surface of your email, and it looks like that’s the case.  Losing 8 pounds in 2 weeks is a great achievement, so 3 things re the weight loss thing –

  1. How can you take credit for losing 8 pounds in 2 weeks?  That’s a good thing, right?
  2. Who set this ‘ideal weight’ of yours?  Where did it come from and is it realistic?  What happens when you get there?
  3. The cupcake thing – what was in it for you?  People repeat a pattern of behaviour because they get something out of it.  Apart from the fact that they’re tasty, what are getting from it?

So, the lifelong beating yourself up thing.  Where do you think you learned that?

If the ‘comforting, nurtuting, caring’ you were to sit down and talk with the ‘beating yourself up’ you, what would she have to say?

Mar 02

Not too long ago I watched ‘Lady in the Water‘, a movie that got universally panned, but which holds a strange fascination and beauty for me.

M. Night Shyamalan’s films have been a bit up and down, but I like what he does  (he’s the guy who did ‘The Sixth Sense’ if you don’t know him).  What I like about his movies is his peculiar knack for looking into humanity and weaving magic into what he sees.

A talented guy.

Anyway, ‘Lady in the Water’ is a magical film that ‘s described as ‘a bedtime story’ (just watch the clip and try not to be drawn into the magic of it) and there’s one stand-out line from the film that leapt out of the screen and left me pretty much speechless.  I wish I could have found it online somewhere to show you, but you’ll just have to rent it instead.  In this scene, the mesmerising Bryce Dallas Howard softly asks Paul Giamatti, “May I say one thing?”

“The moment a person finds their voice…is the moment their life takes on grace.”

Just sublime.

I’m not a religious man so the word ‘grace’ holds no religious connotations for me.  I’m grateful for that, because it offers me a definition of the word that’s threaded with gold.

Grace is simplicity, effortlessness and congruity.

Think about it.  What are you speaking with before you find your voice?  What are you saying?  And who are you being before you find grace?

Everything before you ‘find your voice‘ means that you’ll be struggling with things in and around your life, for the simple reason that you’re missing something fundamental.

Your life might be full of clutter and noise.  You might feel like you’re searching for something.  You might drift through much of your career, with no real plan or agenda.  You might feel, in those quiet moments, that something’s missing.

You’ll be dying a slow, safe death.

And all because you haven’t found your voice; that voice that gives you elegance, ease and a sense of wholeness.  That voice that gives you the confidence to do things your way, follow what matters and relax into yourself.

Find your voice, find grace, find confidence.

One thing flows into the next.

Dec 18

Christmas gifts under a Christmas tree‘Tis the season to be jolly, and if we’re to believe what the world-famous, big, jolly round man in the suit says (that’s Santa, not Norm Peterson) it’s a time for giving.

As Bill Murray’s character Frank Cross said in ‘Scrooged’ (one of my favourite Christmas movies — I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve seen it) when he was receiving the award for humanitarian of the year – “Sometimes I’d find myself hurting, from giving too much. And I’d say, stop it.”. The irony being that all he gave was a company branded face cloth to his employees. The gift that keeps on giving.

So I got to thinking what this giving lark is all about.

At it’s simplest you give something in response to a request for help. Someone asks for something and you give it. Someone asks for a fish and you give ‘em a fish. Someone else asks for a song and you give ‘em a song.

It’s not just restricted to fishes and songs (or songs about fishes) — the most stunning example of this was when I read about a guy who asked for help after he wrote off his car in a horrible car accident. He asked for help taking care of his bills and people responded.

People gave.

The guys at Men with Pens then raised the prickly issue of whether you’d have enough courage to ask for help in the same situation, and in my confidence work I’ve learned that the resounding answer is No. People have a hard time asking for help for all kinds of reasons – they fear ridicule, they fear looking weak, they fear that it takes away from what they’ve achieved and they fear people saying No in response.

People fear being rejected and being alone, but have learned so much independence that they play a solo instead of joining the orchestra.

James is right in his article, it doesn’t have to be that way (and he came up with a brilliant idea to help change things). Sure, people have a heap of issues around asking for help but people have an equally sized heap of issues around giving – and that’s where I want to go with this post.

There’s obviously a big emphasis on giving at Christmas, but like puppies, I don’t think this particular human trait should be just for Christmas. As Brett Legree says over at 6 Weeks, “Give, and give again – even if they don’t ask for help.

Giving is one of humanities most amazing qualities

Giving is one of humanities most amazing abilities.

And we all have it.

It has the potential to change the world if only we’d figure out how to do it consistently and gracefully.

But people have a hard time giving in the right ways and I think there are 3 reasons for that –

1. They’re too wrapped up in their own stuff to notice when or where they can give.
2. They feel self-conscious about giving – they feel silly or awkward because they don’t know how to give or a part of them feels like it’s not appropriate.
3. They fear that what they give will be rejected.

Notice how similar those reasons are to the reasons people don’t ask for help? Just thought I’d point that out. :-O

It takes guts to give.

You have to trust yourself that you’re giving in the right spirit – not to get back but simply because you’re able to give.

You have to trust that even if what you give is rejected, it doesn’t stop you from giving again.

You have to trust that giving doesn’t take away from what you have and who you are, but adds to it.

You have to trust that giving is valuable, even when it appears thankless.

And that trust takes self-confidence.

Like all these things, there’s a balance to be struck. Don’t become a bottomless pit of giving, where your self-worth becomes tied in to how much you give to others. I’ve worked with some habitual bottomless pits in my time, and it’s a tough habit to break.

Don’t give to get validation back – that’s entirely the wrong spirit.

The right spirit is to give without expectation of reciprocity and to give the right things. Don’t give someone a private jet in the hope that they’ll give you a 70ft yacht in return (although if you have a spare jet or yacht lying around I won’t say no). Instead, give unconditionally of the following things –

1. Your time.
Time is precious, and giving someone your time is hugely valuable. Take a couple of hours to help a friend out with something they’re working on. Take time to call a family member or put time aside to have a cup of coffee with someone who could use a friendly ear.

2. Your attention.
Giving someone your attention can make all the difference in the world. I’m afraid to say that sometimes when I’m with a friend I’ll find myself drifting off and thinking about other stuff, tuning out of where I am and what’s being said. Giving your attention let’s people know they’ve been heard, and it’s gold dust.

3. Your resources.
Giving someone your resources is about giving what’s appropriate. This doesn’t have to be about things – money, objects, gifts, etc – but can be about giving the resources you have in abundance – your strengths, talents and values. If you’re great at something offer to help someone out where they might be struggling. If you know a way for someone to get a great result, offer to help out.  Give what you’re naturally good at (just don’t be smug about it).

Giving of yourself without expectation or attachment is what raises you from a mammal to someone who’s embracing what it is to be human and participating fully in the world.

So tell me, what can you give, today?