We all need to feel that we have some competence and an ability to master certain things in our life. When all around us we can so easily see examples of superior excellence, it can be hard not to question our worth, including our abilities, intelligence, strengths, and even our future as a valuable contributor. Self-doubt can cause both performance anxiety and apathy. If we are anxious we may constantly fear failure and in the process becoming angry, disappointed, and feeling hopeless. If we are apathetic we may use it was shelter to shy away from challenges, we may procrastinate and end up with a lack of drive and passion for living life fully.
All of this causes us to stop trying, learning, growing and contributing. We often won't ask for help when we need it, and we hide our inadequacies and vulnerabilities for fear of being found out.
In general, we can say that our subjective competence level determines...
1. What we will give attention to.
2. Our choice of tasks and activities.
3. Our effort level.
4. How adaptable and resilient we are.
5. Whether we will lead or follow.
All of this in turn will shape our confidence, in what has become known as the "Competence-Confidence Loop": The more competence you have, the more confidence you feel in trying new things and taking on new and bigger challenges; the more you do that, the more mastery you develop and the more competent you feel.
So how do we activate the loop, or rather spiral, in a positive direction?
#1 Assess and Direct Your Desire to Learn
Assess why you want to lean and what would prevent you from doing so. Learn to choose learning challenges that actually light you up and shape your future. Is this goal or activity relevant to my future identity? Is it an intrinsic or extrinsic value? Will you get something out of it? How long will it take? Can you convince yourself that it will pay off? Will you be able to create meaningful relationships along the way? Will I have enough tiem to focus and do a good job learning and doing this new activity? Do you have the required resources? If you don't, is this just an excuse? Will I be given the trust and decision-making authority I need to feel as though I am in control and able to make things happen?
#2 Set a real challenge and plan for success
Are you at the same level of skill and mastery in any important areas of your life that you were at three years ago? In other words, are there any meaningful areas of your life where you don't feel you've grown? Work on setting real, time-bound challenges that that have observable effects throughout to avoid fooling yourself. Write them down and have a clear plan. Whatever learning-challenge you choose, push yourself.
#3 Integrate success into your identity
Do you feel a sense of pride in accomplishing things? Do you feel and register it when you do progress? Do you take time outs to celebrate your victories? If we never feel accomplished, it is hard to keep pushing for success. If we never get any sense of accomplishment, we can forget our victories and lose our confidence. It is important to keep reminding ourselves that we have pushed through obstacles before and that we can do so again.