I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
When planning a series of exercises for athletes, the coach considers their fitness level, physical condition, injuries, etc. He will not suggest lifting a 100-kilogram barbell to a person who has never done any sports in his life. A person with a broken arm needs to apply a plaster cast and gradually restore the arm muscles. And with an open bleeding wound, urgent medical attention is required.
To develop confidence, it is also necessary to know a person’s level of mental health. “One size fits all” solution is very careless. It would seem that this should be obvious. But all too often, I see success coaches emotionally pumping packed houses of people for some feats. The feeling of oneness with others convinces that now everything will be different. But after such an event and some time during which the chemistry settles, reality again shows its merciless face.
After residing in castles in the air, returning to earth seems incredibly daunting. And earth is not the worst case. For some, it may well be a dungeon, pitch-dark, full of horrible monsters. The higher into heaven a person ascends in his fantasies, the more painful it will be for him to return to reality. In critical cases, this can lead to mental illness, and even suicide, when life becomes more painful than just dying.
Emotional falls may be very painful. And in case you have a suspicion that you are not able to cope with your condition on your own, I strongly recommend that you immediately seek the help of a professional psychologist. There is no shame in it. And, unfortunately, it happens. Life can be challenging. And we are just people who can’t solve all their problems on their own.
A little about the spirit
I see the wounded and weary spirit in many people every day. Somehow they found themselves in the place of a frightened little animal, afraid to make the slightest mistake. I don’t see any way to get them out of there other than by tiny, maybe ridiculously so, steps, which are, in fact, giant feats for them!
I’ve been through frustrations more than once. I’m very familiar with the feeling of powerlessness. And the realization that a simple act of opening the laptop might be considered a separate successful step towards writing an article was a kind of revelation for me. I suspect that this kind of action the majority of people wouldn’t even consider as an action. They would see it as funny or silly, but in no way as progress towards a goal and not a thing for which they can praise themselves.
I agree. It may sound funny. But it didn’t feel funny to me when I was afraid of writing a single sentence. One fucking sentence! “What if they misunderstand me?” “What if someone exposes my stupidity?” “But one sentence is not enough!” “And I have to do so much more!” “It’s just too hard!” This swarm of thoughts kept me in a stupor until I allowed myself to forget about everything and binge-watch a series.
I would paralyze my mind during the day with anything I could think of: eat something sweet, go to the store, watch a movie, read something useful, watch a video on YouTube. All not to think about the things I’m scared of. And at the end of the day, when it was time to go to sleep, I would reassure myself with the thought that the next day I would get down to business.
Such behavior was conditioned by my self‑image of a brilliant person. The goal of my conscious and subconscious mind is to defend this image. Any threat to it is perceived as potential death. Writing articles for me is a skill I haven’t mastered yet. And the probability of people seeing me as a fool is too high. So I come up with very reasonable and unreasonable excuses. But my self‑image remains intact. I am still brilliant since I haven’t made a mistake. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m a genius!
Putting aside my ingenious self-image, let’s return to the terrifying sentence. Somehow, I thought that writing one sentence was the smallest indivisible action. “I can’t be so dumb that I have to divide this action, too,” my inflated ego told me. As it turned out, I can! And I believe this excuse is not my own invention. Probably a couple other people in the world are saying the same thing to themselves. (I really hope they read this article. And if you know them, please send them the link.)
There is no action so small that you cannot praise yourself for taking it.
You can divide actions as many times as necessary until you feel confident that you can do them.
Any action is divisible. Opening the laptop may also be divided. You can just come up to it, say hello, tell it about your doubts and fears, about whether you should open it or not. As silly as it sounds, it can work. Because the brain needs to be aware of progress, which is like candy for it. It wants more of it.
Small, often tiny, almost invisible steps are the secret to getting out of depression. This way, you can develop a basic level of confidence to pass for an adequate person in society.
Hurry is forbidden
It is forbidden to rush. And you will want to. Feeling the slightest confidence after taking small steps, the voice that was saying everything was difficult may start singing a different song. It will tell you that you are moving too slowly and you can do more and faster. This may or may not be valid. Who the fuck knows! The most important thing now is to maintain the level of confidence you have already developed. It is your life force and must be nurtured and protected from risks. There is nothing more important to you at the moment.
Haste is a form of fear. Speed is a learned skill!
This may take a couple of years. Or maybe not. It shouldn’t matter.
Now it is not the speed of movement that is important, but the direction — forward!
Take only those steps that you know for sure your confidence will not diminish if the outcome is negative.
Taking your time may be more challenging than getting out of a deep depression. It may seem to you that you see through everything and understand the nature of things. But I assure you that it is not the case. It will seem to you that you are smarter than others, but you are not. This is a critical stage at which it is necessary to remain attentive and remember the main goal – not to lose the confidence that you have gained!
You need to treat your confidence as Warren Buffett treats his money. Warren Buffett rules:
#1. Never lose money.
#2. Never forget rule #1.
#1. Never lose confidence.
#2. Never forget about never losing confidence.
Don’t gamble with your confidence.
Tiny steps will grow naturally. There is no need for feats. At some point, you will realize that what you consider to be commonplace may have seemed an impossible project to you before. Now, we can talk about the next level of confidence when the new rules take over.
If earlier, you simply brought yourself into an acceptable psychological state, then here you begin to acquire real strength.
If it is not advisable to take bold steps in a weak psychological condition, then on the hard level they are simply necessary!
Time to get to know your fears better, invite them to dinner, look them in the eyes, try to understand them with all sincerity, without trying to avoid or suppress them. This is the time to listen to your feelings and be curious about them. This is the time to try the hard things and learn from the results you get.
In no way should you build your self-esteem on the results of your actions. This is a very fragile foundation. Since you will have to make mistakes. And the results at the beginning of studying anything will be frankly mediocre. Which only means that you are human.
You must build your self-esteem not on the results of your actions, but on whether you have learned from these results and whether you made progress.
At this stage, correcting errors is the most crucial action.
Only by drawing conclusions from work done, you can adjust the course according to the new information.
It’s vital to relentlessly ask yourself questions directed towards improving your skills: “What should I learn from this?”, “How I wish it were different!” etc.
This is how you begin to tackle challenging problems. So your confidence will start to flourish, your vitality will grow! You will stop looking away when difficult issues arise! You will treat them as your friends! Because you will know for sure that they will make you better!
And it all started with ridiculously tiny steps.
- You must understand your current situation. There is no “one size fits all” solution.
- If you have a serious condition, seek professional help. There is no shame in it. It is not a weakness. People are not always able to solve their problems on their own.
- You must start with tiny steps. It doesn’t matter how idiotically tiny they might seem.
- An action can be divided as many times as needed until you feel confident that you can definitely do it.
- It is forbidden to rush. It is not the speed of movement that is important, but the direction — forward!
- Haste is a form of fear. Speed is a learned skill.
- Don’t gamble with your confidence.
- On the hard level, you need to challenge yourself.
- On the hard level, correcting mistakes is the most crucial action.