I’ve always been a stickler for doing things the „right“ way. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’ve been excellent at it. I don’t hesitate to admit it, and here’s why: I have the proof in my school and university grades. Someone decided that I was doing great. There’s a unique satisfaction in knowing that an external authority has quantified and approved of my performance. This confirmation legitimizes my confidence and the pride I take in my actions. After all, if I’ve earned excellent grades, it must mean I’m on the right track, doing well, right?
This belief system functions admirably during childhood and in the academic realm, acting as a motivator and guide. However, as one matures and enters the workforce, the absence of such a clear-cut system becomes evident. How can I determine whether I’m excelling or heading in the right direction? For someone like me, who relies heavily on external confirmation and may even have built a substantial part of their identity around it, this absence has been disorienting and is profoundly impacting my self-perception.
How can I draw confidence without the confirmation from others?
We not only need to stop seeking for external confirmation but most importantly, we have to alter that belief system that was hammered into us throughout all of our forming years.
1. There is no „right“ way of doing things
We have to get rid of the idea that there is a „right“ way of doing things. There is no one correct answer to the questions we are asking ourselves – life is not a multiple choice question, where there is only a single truth. If at all, the only correct answer could be „all of the above“. But life is also about making decisions, so we might just have to follow our intuition (like with exam questions where we have simply no clue because we forgot to review the chapter about it). This might me less satisfying, but without a concept of right or wrong, we ought to embrace the idea of ambiguity.
2. Only YOU can know if you are on the right track
Without external confirmation, I started to believe that I am not this confident person I thought I was but that I am actually deeply insecure about myself. This made me realize that true confidence cannot come from external validation, but it must come from inside for it to be real. YOU have to believe in yourself, not someone else. Only you know if you’re headed into the „right“ direction (remember there is no „right“; only your intuition). While this may sound like a cheesy quote they would put on top of a sunset photo, I now truly understand what it means.
3. Re-define personal accomplishments and pride
The system taught us that high grades are the most desirable achievements and therefore you can be proud of yourself. Again, we have to start questioning this concept. There are many reasons you can take pride, may it be just for getting out of bed in the morning. YOU set your personal accomplishments, not someone else.
It’s time to create your own system of confirmation
I believe that if we keep these three things in mind, we can create our own system of confirmation – one that is defined on a personal, individual level. One that is not as simple as a grading system, but truly reflects the complexity of life and the plethora of possibilities we have in order to make ourselves proud and build confidence that is real and not socially constructed.