Being confident in ourselves and our abilities is essential in life. It is confidence that allows us to fight for what we believe in, to succeed in our careers, and to put ourselves out there in a personal way. But at times confidence can be hard to come by. So what do we do when we’re lacking that extra oomph that allows us to know that we can do it? I’ve spent a lot of my life contemplating this question. Those moments when I am lacking faith in my abilities always seem to spring up when I need confidence the most. So, what should I do in those moments?
I began learning how to program about a year ago. Along the way I noticed that when everything is new, it is very easy to doubt yourself at every turn. Doubts like, “Am I smart enough to do this?”, “Do I belong in this industry?”, “Why is this so hard for me?”. Luckily, this past fall, I had a teacher that I would meet with occasionally when I was experiencing a lack of confidence. One of the most useful things that she would help me with, in addition to teaching me how to code, was to listen to my concerns. Instead of internalizing all of these worries, I was able to share them with her. When I was stressed that I would never understand everything that I needed to know to be a programmer, she would reassure me by saying that “it’s normal to be confused, but you’ll get it eventually”. Though simple, this little bit of encouragement was profoundly helpful for me. In this one small sentence she helped me to realize that programming is hard, and it’s okay if it’s difficult for me! This just means that I may have to put in a bit more time and effort to truly understand it. And I realized that having to put in more effort to learn how to program isn’t a bad thing at all! As Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort….”
I believe that the crux of this realization is self-forgiveness and self-acceptance. Though I would love to be the best programmer in the world right now, I’m just not. And being able to forgive myself for not being the best, is a great start. When I’m able to take a step back from the situation, and remember that it’s okay to not be perfect, I’ve made some great progress. I’ve stopped the negative thoughts: “I’m not good enough”, “I’ll never get this”, etc., and now I can start to build my confidence up. Sometimes this building is done by accomplishing something incredible, yet most of the time it is in remembering that I know more today than I did yesterday. This is an understanding that accomplishing something worthwhile is an incremental process, not a drastic change. It is allowing myself to accept my weaknesses and gaps in knowledge as opportunities for growth, since we’re only ever able to grow by identifying where we need to grow.
Since having this realization, I’m neither confident all the time, nor content in my imperfection. But for me, this mindset has given me a way to cope during those times when I lack faith in myself. I now put my effort in focusing on my progress and what I have accomplished, rather than being overwhelmed by what is still left to do.