Life and bad days are a package deal. You will have shitty days at work. You will get screamed at by your boss. You will fight with the person you love most in this world without a reason why.
You will doubt yourself. You will commit one incredible screw-up or do something so embarrassing it makes you wince every time you think back to it. Like that time you accidently farted in front of your boss. Yea, we heard about that one.
Time and time again, unfortunate situations will shake your confidence. You will question your self-worth. Your friends will try and fail to build you back up. Deep inside, you will wonder if YOU, the once beholden rockstar, are the real problem here.
I am really good at two things: Running, and committing the world’s biggest fuck-ups. I have totaled more cars, lost more keys, and caused more smoke alarms to go off than anyone I know. Each and every time, I allow it to completely tear me to shreds, draining me of any last reserves of self-confidence.
You don’t have to let things shake your confidence.
This week, I called my friend Sophie—arguably one of my favorite-slash-best coworkers I ever had (I wrote about Sophie once, here). Fun fact: Sophie and I once got fired from the same company (add that tally to my list of f-ups). When Sophie left our less-than-amiable employer, she vanished. I mean, I went from seeing this girl every.single.day to never hearing from her. She wouldn’t answer my calls or respond to texts. About every six weeks, she’d give me a sliver a hope by liking an Instagram post, only to drop back into silence. My friend Erica and I referred to these times as “Sophie Sightings.”
On the surface, Sophie and I could not be more different. She has bleach blonde hair down to her butt, dimples, and unexplainably maintains a tan year-round. Beneath the surface, Sophie and I are cut from the same neurotic, ultra-competitive, anxiety-stained cloth. We are both former DI athletes, both addicted to winning, and we both get really, really down on ourselves when we don’t perform our best.
I called Sophie because I was having a rough week. I knew she, out of anyone, would get it. On the phone, she practically begged me, “Just please don’t have this shake your confidence. You are smart, creative, and awesome—please, please, please, don’t let this bring you down.”
And that’s when I realized: It didn’t have to.
Does tearing yourself apart make it better?
Your reality is composed of your environment and how you interpret it. Two people could be placed in the exact same situation, and have completely different reactions.
Think about the last time you got screamed at—by a coworker, loved one, or your boss. Did you rip yourself to smithereens afterwards? Yes? Thought so. Second question: Did it make it better?
Second scenario: Picture the last time you woke up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat-panic, because you had a deadline the next morning. Did you worry? Thought so. Did it make it better?
Your reality is what you make of it.
Here’s an alternative approach—one Sophie and I never follow, and one she was desperately trying to get me to consider. You get screamed at. You say to yourself, “Wow. That person is having a terrible day. I put my best effort into this, so maybe we were in misalignment on the goals of this project. I’ll check back with him on the next one.”
Do you see the difference? Tearing yourself apart is not going to help the situation. It’s actually detrimental to your daily performance and wellbeing.
You are continuously conditioning yourself to believe certain things.
You are the person who talks inside your head, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You are constantly conditioning yourself to think or react certain ways. If you tell yourself you are an idiot, a screw-up, fat, ugly, or boring—that is the reality you create for yourself.
You have a choice in this. The happiest, most confident people in the world are the ones who train themselves to be relentlessly optimistic and assertive, no matter if the world is burning around them. Create a reality where you are smart, creative, and awesome—no matter how incredibly screwed you may be.