When I reflect on my own life, it is absolutely clear to me that my self confidence has played a key role in two distinct areas of my life, those of work and love. In terms of my self confidence, these two areas are poles apart, as different as night and day, and because of this, the luck and the opportunities afforded me, are remarkably different too. In the one where I consider myself to possess a high degree of self confidence, I seem to have been blessed with some very good fortune and many great opportunities, which I recognised and seized upon. In the other, where my confidence is low, if not lacking entirely, I consider myself cursed by ill luck and misfortune, where opportunities are few and far between.
When I first started my working life, I suffered from a general lack of self confidence. But what I found in the office and among my fellow colleagues, was that I was able to leave behind everything that had gone before and I entered a new world, a world where I quickly felt comfortable, a place where I felt I belonged. More importantly perhaps, was that in the office, no one knew who I was. None of the people who had been in my life, putting me down, teasing me, telling me I was no good, were around. I was able to be myself, to start over with a clean slate. I discovered that here was a place where I was respected, where I was able to learn and understand the processes and how things were done, and where my way of thinking allowed me to excel. My confidence began to grow and as it grew, so I worked hard and pushed hard, and in return, so too did the responsibilities that I was given increase. The more responsibilities that I had, the more my confidence in myself and what I was doing grew. I entered a phase of positivity, where my success grew my confidence, which in turn led directly to further success. I was able to see potential opportunities and I worked hard to make them mine. With my confidence, I pushed and I made it known that I was ambitious, that I had the ability, and I proved it to my superiors and to myself. I felt as though there was nothing that I could not do and I believed that I was just as able, if not more able, than anyone else. In this guise, I possessed the confidence to stand up in front of 800 fellow employees and deliver a presentation; I could voice valid points and concerns at important meetings; I could dial in to teleconferences with some of the corporation's vice presidents and they would seek my opinions on certain subjects where I was deemed an expert in my field; I was offered and secured an international assignment overseas; and I held multiple management positions. In short, from humble beginnings, I was able to enjoy a successful career, one in which opportunities arrived and one in which I feel I benefited from great fortune and luck to have experienced.
Then there is my love life. This is an area of my life in which I have zero confidence. From my being overweight as a child and adolescent, and from asking girls on dates and being constantly rejected, my self confidence ebbed away and for many years, there was nothing that came along to replenish it. With each new rejection, it became increasingly difficult for me to find the courage to ask again. I began to believe that I must be ugly, worthless and offer nothing desirable to the opposite sex. Even after I had my first girlfriend and first experience of love, this lack of confidence was so strong, I could do nothing to change it. If I saw a girl I liked and was attracted to, I could not walk over to her. I knew that if I did, I would not be able to find any words to speak, at least no words that I believed would be of any interest to her, and more than likely, my advances would be rejected anyway. At a nightclub, if was dancing next to a girl I liked and another guy came along and began to show her interest, I would immediately back off, believing that the other guy had the better chance and that I should just save myself the embarrassment and humiliation. Because of my actions in these situations, my chances and opportunities to find love remained low. I did nothing to enhance them, nothing to grow my confidence. So entrenched in my psyche was the idea that I was ugly and worthless, that I was unable to alleviate this way of thinking. Every action that I took, served only to compound and exacerbate the problem. And it remains this way even now.
Let me use a recent situation from my own life to illustrate how confidence plays its part in luck and fortune. Only a few weeks ago, there was a girl, Marie Claire, who came out diving one morning, and whilst I was giving the dive briefing prior to our first dive, I felt a strong sense of attraction towards her. It was a powerful, overwhelming feeling, one that I had not experienced since the break up with my ex last year. As I was in my work mode, I was confident, happy, and engaging, easily making conversation with everyone, keeping everyone entertained. The attraction to Marie Claire continued throughout the morning and by the time we surfaced from our second dive, I had decided that I would ask if she would like to have a drink with me that evening (as I knew she was leaving Costa Rica the following day), when a suitable moment presented itself. However, the closer we came back to shore, the more I felt my confidence beginning to ebb slowly away. By the time everyone was back at the dive centre, my confidence, which had been brimming over back on the boat, out in the ocean, was now almost non-existent. A perfect opportunity arose to talk to Marie Claire, as she was standing quietly and alone outside. I looked at her standing there and I made the assumption that if she was interested in me, then she would not be standing outside on her own, away from where I was. I wanted to act, but I froze, my self confidence was gone and with it, my ability to walk out to talk with her. In this moment of self doubt, and in this moment of hesitation, so too was my opportunity lost. Marie Claire left and I was left wondering what might have been.
A few days later, I needed to ask Marie Claire something related to the diving the day that she had been with me, and so began a conversation via e-mail. After a few exchanges, I decided to let her know that I had wanted to ask her for a drink, because I knew now that since she was back home in the States, nothing could come of it and I thought it would be nice for her to know the impression that she had left on me. Marie Claire replied that she had been thinking the same, that she too was going to ask me for a drink that evening, and that I should have asked her. An opportunity was missed, a chance wasted, the curse of my bad luck had struck again. And why? Only because I severely lack confidence in myself when it comes to matters relating to the opposite sex.
How many opportunities have I missed due to my complete lack of self confidence? How many times could I have crossed the dance floor to ask a girl to dance with me? How many times could I have asked a girl to have a drink with me? Too many. In the same way that I consider myself very lucky in my work life, I consider myself unlucky in the extreme in my love life. But this is actually nothing to do with luck. I have experienced just the same amount of luck and opportunity as the next person. What separates them from me is our own level of self confidence, our ability to believe in ourselves. The lucky guy who always gets the girl, is the confident guy. Confidence breeds opportunity, since those people who are confident will push themselves and will take the opportunities that come their way. A lack of confidence means less opportunity, and less opportunity inevitably is seen as meaning less luck. It really is very simple.
If you find yourself cursing your poor luck or the lack of opportunities in your life, ask yourself whether that is actually the truth, or whether perhaps, the truth is more a question of your confidence in the given situation. How do you build confidence? The only way is to push through the doubt and the fear and to seek the truth for yourself. Even if what you find is not that which you looked for, knowing that you sought it in the first place makes all of the difference. And each time you try, each time you push yourself forward, you will generate opportunity and with that opportunity will come luck and success. That is how confidence is created. Through trying, we dispel all fears of failure. We learn to understand that through trying, we create more opportunities, we increase the probability of success, and therefore reduce the chances of failure.
Watch a baby trying to learn to walk. It totters on its legs, takes a step, perhaps it falls. It gets up again, totters, takes a step, then another. Maybe it falls again. But the baby has learned something very important. It has learned that it could take two steps, the next time it will try to make three. Slowly and surely, the baby grows confident and learns to walk. We each must do the same in our lives. If you lack confidence, do not shy away from the fight. Instead, climb to your feet, take a stand, and take a step forward. Perhaps you will fall and be defeated. But perhaps you will not. Perhaps you will be victorious. Unless you try, you will never know. And from each step that you take, you will grow your confidence. The journey along the one true path is just a series of small steps after all.
I shall not regret that I did not ask Marie Claire to have a drink that day, since regret is useless and wasteful, but I shall do my best to not let it happen again. After all, fortune favours the self confident, right?