How to Gain More Confidence In Your Life (And What My Dog Can Teach Us)

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Our new dog Roscoe is very timid. He dreads walks. He reacts to even the slightest noise on our (relatively) quiet street. A passing human or dog is enough to make him hide behind our legs. And anything—from a fire hydrant to a trash barrel—can look like a grimacing menace. In fact, he’d rather jump into our arms when he sees something scary than walk himself.

Now, we aren’t totally surprised by his timidity as a new dog in a foreign place (a city, no less), fresh out of shelters. But we’ve been working diligently on helping Roscoe to have some confidence in himself. To understand that he’s safe to explore the scary thing rather than immediately want to be picked up. To understand that he has tools to assess the ‘danger’ rather than running away immediately. To understand that he’s much more capable than he realizes.

Every night, Roscoe explores scary objects in the home, like a hamper or a cardboard box, in search of a treat. As scary as it is to first step on the cardboard, he eventually realizes that he can enter slowly, and he alone does a pretty damn good job of assessing if it’s scary or not. He’s also much more clever than he realizes at figuring out how to get to those treats.

Slowly, but surely, he’s building that confidence in himself.

And it’s gotten me thinking a lot about confidence. From the Latin, “with faith or trust.” It’s really about self-trust. About knowing that we have the tools to handle any situation. Even if we don’t know what that situation might be just yet. We’re good enough. We’re strong enough. We’re smart enough. We’re enough.

And the world is a whole lot less scary when we are confident. Because sure there are bad, scary, harmful things out there. But we’re equipped to handle those things. Or, at least, to assess when something is a real threat and when it’s something easy we can handle.

Like Roscoe, I wasn’t always so confident. There were plenty of things that seem just as terrifying as that cardboard box. Like starting a business. Or speaking on stage by myself for the first time. Or telling the world that I’m in love with Garrett. Or talking about spirituality to people who thought I was crazy.

Now, those seem so simple. Ridiculous to be scared of. After all, they’re just cardboard boxes. What’s so scary about that.

But, when I had never experienced them before—when I doubted my ability to handle those things, they freaked me the fuck out.

I remember when I was really, really sick years ago. I had an undiagnosed illness. One that made me vomit blood and hardly control my bowels. I remember that I was trying acupuncture for the first time. I was already so nervous to leave the house, in case of an accident. And I wasn’t much of a city driver, so the downtown location freaked me out. And I had to find the building amidst busy travel and cars honking. And parallel park. And then find quarters because I didn’t think of it since I never drove.

I was so nervous I was screaming in the car. I was terrified. What if I had an accident in my pants? What would acupuncture be like? What if I couldn’t park? What if I had a car accident? What if I can’t find quarters? What if I’m late?

The stress built up. Everything seemed scary. And looking back now, I laugh. It was a cardboard box. It was just an acupuncture appointment. But it sure seemed like life or death.

The amazing thing about confidence is that, when you start realizing that some things are just cardboard boxes, you’re able to face others much either. Not that the items change. But you change.

You realize that speaking on stage is just talking. And reaching out to your dream client is just sending an e-mail. And starting a new business is just learning new ways to share your gifts. And none of it is ever quite as scary as it seems.

But it only becomes less scary slowly over time. As we gain confidence. As we face those little obstacles in our way. The stuff like standing up for ourselves. Or asking for what we want. Or taking a small chance.

As we do those little things—as we step into our own proverbial cardboard boxes—we gain confidence. We gain trust and faith. In ourselves. And we know that we can do the next thing. We know we can walk out into the world bravely and face whatever comes our way.

Soon enough, Roscoe will be walking the busy streets with his head held high and exploring all that this great city has to offer.

Where will you be? What will you be able to do? And what cardboard boxes do you need to step into first?

With confidence, you can do anything. I can’t wait to see what you do.

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