(Written in 2014 and revised in 2021)
‘Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do’
– Bruce Lee
Self-confidence. Without it you can’t move forward in your life and career.
You won’t be able to achieve what you desire. You won’t grow. You won’t win.
Most of my life I‘ve been going back and forth trying to work on my self-confidence. There’s always that same question creeping up…
‘Are people born confident… why can’t I be like them’.
For years I had issues with presenting in front of people. I let my nerves get the better of me. We all know as creators that no matter how cool our work is, if we don’t express it as good as how we perceive it in our minds…
The magic disappears.
I tried so many different techniques i.e. reading books, watching videos and hoped that one day I’ll master my self-confidence.
But even trying different techniques didn’t help me. Nothing worked.
I’d design one of the most marketable product in Sheffield Hallam Product Design Department, and yet found myself not able to confidently select a design brief on my own.
The Incessant doubts didn’t leave me alone.
I can remember making promises to myself. That I’d be more confident ‘next time’. But the sad thing is… there was always the ‘next time’, and the next.
I didn’t improve. I felt the same. Angry with myself and trapped.
I made the same bad habits over and over again. Some I realised and some were discreet.
And that’s why I wanted to share with you the bad habits that many of us don’t realise where doing.
So what are these bad habits that won’t go away from us?
1. LACK OF SELF BELIEF
Whether it was from my university tutors telling me I’ve made the right decision with my concept. Whether it was from a family member telling me that my work was cool. I always use to wait for validation from others.
It made me feel confident.
It went to a point that people who I knew not to trust. Well, I sadly did.
I valued their opinion more than my own.
I can remember in my final year when I had to step up and create a brief for my graduation project. It was all or nothing at that time. This was the moment when I had to believe in my design concept but most importantly to believe in myself.
I began believing in my concept 100% and was confident that I can create an awesome concept. Tutors went from…
“Oh it’s only going to be another inhaler design” to “Whoaw I want one Weaam”.
You see, lacking in self-belief can happen when you’re a student, a graduate, and even in the middle of your career.
Yes I was confident at the end of my design degree. But that didn’t stop me falling back to square one when I received thousands of job rejections and started building my sculpture career from scratch.
You see instead of allowing your self-belief to become so fragile that you feel confident one minute and insecure the next. Try finding a good mentor.
A mentor who can help you discover your inner strength.
After three years of thorough mentorship with Adam Taha in 2013, I was confident to say that I was becoming a successful product designer. And today I’m confident to say I am a sculptor and expressionist who has her own business.
(I wouldn’t have thought this let alone saying it back then).
2. NEGATIVE SELF TALK
Negative self talk can be one of the worse things you can do to harm yourself.
It’s self sabotage. If you keep doing this bad habit, you’ll never reach your true potential.
I can remember before every presentation in university or any occasion that required talking in front of people (even interviews), I use to mumble to myself…
“Here we go again; you’ll mess up all over again…”
“I can’t do it, I just can’t”
“I’m going to stutter again and they’ll notice”
“Oh you idiot! Why can’t you be like everyone else”
I use to get so angry with myself. Deep inside I knew that I can do a kickass presentation. But because in my mind I’ve been saying this crap for years to myself…
Well my negative remarks became a repeating DVD. That will not stop!
You see, if you don’t stop talking to yourself like this, unfortunately in time you’ll harm yourself mentally and emotionally without even realising.
You’ll say negative things unconsciously.
So to avoid battling with your negative self-talk (I know it can be tiring) you have to learn how to twist it into… positive self-talk.
Why? Because if you don’t it will affect your self-esteem and gradually will crush your self-confidence. And we wonder why we aren’t like the others who are confident.
Well now you know one of the reasons why we as artists and designers can’t sometimes decide by ourselves. It’s our own self talk. We stop our own selves.
A great way to start to become positive is to write a script that you read to yourself every morning. Every day, persistently. Until it becomes part of your daily routine.
I do this every day. I wake up and first thing I do is stare at my script. I stare at it until I feel ready to read it out loud to myself.
I read it slowly and feel every word that comes out of my mouth.
After reading it immediately I close my eyes and visualise myself doing the work and achieve the success I desire. As though it already happened.
(I know it sounds crazy right?… ‘Talking to yourself’ but trust me it works!)
3. BELIEVING YOU’VE FAILED
‘There’s no such thing as failure’– Paul Mckenna
As creators’ part of our design development is to learn from our trails and errors.
We try again and again and again, until we solve the problem.
We don’t care how long it takes us, because we’ve got one vision. That is the final outcome. But what many of us don’t do… is we don’t implement this powerful mind-set in our lives.
Whether we’ve got rejected by a company. Whether we’re not at a great position in our artistic career. Whether we don’t get many sales. We all think the same thing…
We believe that we’ve failed and are failures.
Can you imagine constantly not getting something right the first time? And thinking you’re the number one failure in the world.
That’s depressing isn’t it?
Just think how huge of a knock would that be to your self-confidence. It will not only crush it, but also bury the slightest confidence in you.
That’s why you must think like Thomas Edison. This is what he replied when the New York Times reporter asked him, “How does it feel to have failed seven hundred times?”
His reply… (which always touches me)
“I have not failed seven hundred times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those seven hundred ways will not work. When I have eliminated all the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”– Thomas Edison.
You may find yourself ‘failing’ a billion times. Especially as an artist/ designer.
But that’s how life works. Some things we’ll get them right the first time. And somethings require a bit more effort and determination.
How you perceive ‘failing’ in art and design as part of your development phase. Well it’s the same idea in life. You need to stop putting yourself down.
Everything we do whether its right or wrong… Will be part of our journey.
It will still move us forward.
4. YOUR GLOOMY PERCEPTION OF EVERYTHING
It’s easy to find yourself repeating these bad habits over and over again without even realising. Some, you work on them and try really hard to avoid. But the sad fact is that you find yourself back at square one again.
Carrying on repeating them.
You go in circles trying to figure out how to become self-confident, and believe that there’s some sort of magic button that will one day make you confident.
You look at building your self confidence as this impossible mission.
How about you look at it this way for a change?
Look at your ‘self-confidence’ as a skill.
Yes you heard me!
You can learn how to become self-confident. It’s a skill. You have to work at it like any other art and design skill. No one is born this way.
How we as creators stay for years practising a craft i.e. Sketching in perspective, SolidWorks CAD, Sculpturing etc. We can also do the same here.
This is how you can master your self-confidence…
- Being persistent: Keeping at it
- Repetition: Making the skill familiar to you
- Positive self-talk: Create a personal motto to repeat to yourself everyday
- Positive perception: looking at things in a more optimistic way
Whatever it is you work on, remember to make sure you don’t just focus on one thing. Or even worse stop doing any of them.
Spread your time as this skill is like any other skill that you’ve learnt.
It requires patience. So be patient and remember that the skill of ‘self-confidence’ is far more important than technical skills.
Without it you can’t move forward.
So practise practise practise!