Limitations, Rejections, Fear of Failure, Oh My!

Let’s spend 4 minutes with a few more of the Twelve Rules for Building Self- Confidence from Alan Loy McGinnis’ book, Confidence: How to Succeed at Being Yourself. 

Focus on your potential instead of your limitations

McGinnis says, “All of us have weaknesses. The important thing is to determine which ones are improvable, then get to work on those and forget about the rest.”

What if we really aren’t competent? Then we figure out what help we need and stride confidently ahead, knowing we will learn from our mistakes. All successes are built on learning from failures. Failure, if we learn from it, is simply one step closer to success. One of my favorite quotes is from Kent Sayre’s book, Unstoppable Confidence!, “If you want to do something well, it’s worth doing it poorly at first.”

What if we don’t feel confident? We fake it until we make it. We act as if we were self assured. The more we behave as if we were confident the sooner we will feel confident. Our words and our thoughts and our beliefs and our actions all are intertwined, affecting one another.

What if we don’t feel as good as everyone else? Each of us is a child of the King of Kings. As such we are royalty! We are no less (and no more) than everyone else. By the very gift of our life we are wonderfully made. We are so important that God himself wants to be in a relationship with us. He gave us unique gifts and delights in us, his creation! He wants us to feel good about ourselves so that out of that confidence we can accomplish something wonderful with the gifts he’s given us.

Even if it’s one of those down days when you are convinced you don’t have any strengths, bask in the knowledge of being a beloved child of God.

Think about the wonder of having an almighty, all knowing, all loving God who counts the hairs are on your head and loves you so much that he wants to become steadily closer to you. God is thrilled with you just the way you are! He is very easy to please. True, he’s hard to satisfy and he will always be encouraging you to grow, but he is delighted with you right now, too.

Replace fear of failure with clear pictures of yourself functioning successfully and happily.

This follows along the same principles as improving our self-talk. We want to influence our subconscious and heal the years we’ve been sending it negative talk and images.

Sports psychologists discovered that when athletes practice envisioning themselves performing their skills perfectly, their actual performance improves. We think in pictures, as well as words. If we can picture ourselves succeeding, behaving in a confident manner, our actual confidence improves, as does our behavior.

In the book, Unstoppable Confidence!, Kent Sayre cites “neurolinguistic programming,” or the study of how verbal and nonverbal language affects our minds. He recommends imagining our memories of our failures, or unconfident responses and then turning the memory to black and white, getting smaller, quieter, less important. Next we should imagine ourselves in Technicolor on a giant theater screen behaving in a confident manner. He writes of imagining the action complete with strong sound, smells, tastes, and feelings.

Visualize yourself with strong posture (back straight, eyes meeting eyes) and gestures. Notice others in the scene responding well to you, smiling, nodding their heads. Rehearse daily, if necessary, until you envision confidence as a matter of habit.

Refuse to allow rejection to keep you from taking the initiative with people. Like a good sales person, the ability to accept rejection is necessary for success. McGinnis advises us to:

  • Expect some rejection as normal
  • Consider that sometimes perceived rejection isn’t rejection at all, just misinterpretation
  • Accept that some people reject everyone, not just you
  • Try to learn from the rejection
  • Allow yourself the right to get angry when appropriate
  • Keep trying until you connect
  • Don’t withdraw because that is a sure path to loneliness

Kent Sayre builds on that advice, “In all interpersonal relations, assume that you can get and maintain a rapport. Operate under the belief that you have far more in common with the person than not, and you will easily connect with him or her.”

Dr. Phil would say not to let that person take your power away from you. It matters less what they think about you than what you know about yourself.

With all this talk of how positive we should feel about ourselves, and all this effort to grow in confidence, is there a tiny voice warning (or maybe it’s shouting), “Be careful! Don’t go overboard!”? McGinnis foresaw that worry and included

2 anchors that keep our self confidence from turning to pride:

  • Worship – Look up. Recognize the grandeur of God. When we know God is in charge we keep proper perspective.
  • Compassion – We can have great self-confidence without having it turn into pride, so long as we are always looking for places to serve and to love.

He reminds us, “Self confidence, like happiness, is slippery when we set out to grab it for its own sake. Usually it comes rather as a by-product. We lose ourselves in service, and suddenly one day we awake to realize that we are confident and rather happy.”

Next week we will expand on McGinnis’ advice to “Find something you like to do and do well, then do it over and over,” as we explore another author, Elizabeth O’Connor.


Betty Arrigotti

  • By Steve Connor, March 23, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

    This is a wonderful series, because even those of us who are generally confident have that confidence shaken or challenged, from time to time. Today’s topic is one that resonated with me enough to write.

    I had always “hoped” to start my own business someday, but as a friend of mine says often, “Hope is not an action item!” You must couple the positive self speech mentioned last week with actions (similar to the way the Faith is beliefs AND acts.)

    In addition to the writings that Betty recommends, I leave one more: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book was written at the sunset of the Great Depression and is more a primer for life and less about how to get rich than the title implies.

    Napoleon Hill devoted his entire life to the study of success and interviewed an amazing collection of successful people such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Charles Schwab and the man who challenged him to collect and unlock for the world the secrets of success – Andrew Carnegie.

    The book covers in amazing detail the need to persevere in the face of adversity. Hill gives us a similar quote that “every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage.”

    I close this comment with a brief excerpt from Think and Grow Rich:

    Persistence is a state of mind, so it can be cultivated. Like all states of mind, persistence is based upon definite causes, including:

    1. Definiteness of Purpose. Knowing what you want is the first and, perhaps, the most important step toward the development of persistence. A strong motive forces you to surmount many difficulties.

    2. Desire. It is comparatively easy to acquire and maintain persistence in pursuing the object of intense desire.

    3. Self-Reliance. Belief in your ability to carry out a plan encourages you to follow the plan through with persistence. (Self-reliance can be developed through the imagery exercise Betty described with the athletes and through autosuggestion – the continuous repetition of affirmations which MUST be at the same time infused with both faith and positive emotion.)

    4. Definiteness of Plans. Organized plans, even though they may be weak and entirely impractical, encourage persistence.

    5. Accurate Knowledge. Knowing that your plans are sound, based upon experience of observation, encourages persistence; “guessing” instead of “knowing” destroys persistence.

    6. Cooperation. Sympathy, understanding and harmonious cooperation with others tend to develop persistence.

    7. Willpower. The habit of concentrating your thoughts upon the building of plans for the attainment of a definite purpose leads to persistence.

    8. Habit. Persistence is the direct result of habit. The mind absorbs and becomes a part of the daily experiences upon which it feeds. Fear, the worst of all enemies, can be effectively cured by forced repetition of acts of courage. Everyone who has seen active service in war knows this.

    Over the last two years, I personally have encountered more rejection than in my prior 37 years, but it has refined the metal that will make my next 20 years extraordinary! I have the conceived a plan and over the next two months I am taking the first steps toward accomplishing that dream of starting my own business!

    Just do it.

    Steve Connor

  • By Betty, March 23, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

    Great input, Steve. Thank you!

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