On Confidence

These days, I’ve been focusing on cultivating self-confidence.

Like many people, I’ve been affected by the isolation meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. The impact on me has been minor, compared to most – I am able to work from home full-time, so my paychecks haven’t taken a cut. Besides boosted grocery bills on account of buying a little more each time I shop, I haven’t seen much of a financial impact.

I also started a new job earlier this week.

For me, the main impact has been on mental health. The isolating part of this has not been hard; I’m a natural introvert, so I need alone time to really recharge. The hard part is the perceived danger in going outside. At this stage, people in the US are advised to stay at home, wear masks everywhere, and to limit trips outside to absolute necessities. Everyone I know always talks about COVID day-in, day-out. It’s just been exhausting. It’s important to keep your mental health in check – loneliness can weaken your immune system, I’m finding.

Recently, I read a tweet from Brittany Packnett Cunningham that read like this:

and it really struck a chord with me. It’s made a lot more sense in recent days than it did when I first encountered it.

Before isolation began, I had lunch with someone I used as a reference for my interview. She told me she advised the interview panel that I needed to work on confidence. It isn’t surprising; I’ve had low self-esteem my whole life, and there are days where I recede into myself and just coast to get through my work tasks.

When we started to work from home full-time, the impact of long term telework started to hit me. It sort of hit like a train – I’m just tired all the time, and the nature of my role means it’s important to interact with other people. After reading the above tweet, I woke up the next day and decided that I want to devote energy to building my confidence up. Better late than never, no better time than now, and all that jazz.

I tend to hold myself back from celebrating myself. I don’t like to let myself win. I don’t feel comfortable receiving praise all of the time. In facing myself, I noted those were the most common thoughts or feelings. It’s important to curb those for a variety of reasons. My teammates and partners at work would be better served by someone confident. But will also reap benefits in every aspect of my life.

Since isolation, I’ve started practicing a few things to help boost confidence. I wanted to highlight some of them here.

Meditation

This has been recommended to me for years and years, but I never got it off the ground. Some videos explaining it go way over my head, but for the most part I never made time for it. I decided to earnestly make time for it now and try it with Headspace.

So far, it’s been a great experience. The video linked above, at least for me, loses me with the worldly images we’re meant to conjure. I’m more focused on wondering if I’m doing it right. Is my posture okay? Am I breathing in the right way? It’s probably a me, not you kind of thing – the point is to not focus too hard on one thing and just go with it. But for those reasons, I could never get it to click.

Headspace’s guides are helpful on an introductory level, as the focus shifts between the things in your space. You focus on different senses, generally a combination of the weight of your body, the breathing cycles, and the sounds you can hear, among others. Headspace also has more in-depth courses on different areas – meditating for sleep and for focus are some of the ones highlighted for me. Because of the guides, I’ve thankfully been able to make this an everyday practice. I look forward to it, and I’ve noticed it has helped me outside of my head.

Headspace isn’t perfect. There are (in my opinion) fair criticisms that it misunderstands the purpose of meditating. The guides do ask you in every session (at least in the Basics sessions, which I imagine most people start with) to remind yourself of your intentions for meditating. Some of Headspace’s ads include why people start meditating. I think the goal of meditating, in my limited understanding, is to let go of longstanding thoughts and try to exist in the present moment, with the present version of yourself. It’s not an egregious offense by any means, but that aspect of it I tend to not put much weight in, now that I’ve made it a habit.

Not only that, but Headspace is expensive. It’s $13 per month, $8 per month if you buy an annual subscription, or $400 for lifetime access. That’s more than Crunchyroll, more than a Twitch subscription, and on par with Netflix. I can understand if people don’t have the means.

All that said, it has helped create a healthy habit, and for that I am grateful.

Exercise

Exercise is a necessity for all of us, and I am trying to be more conscientious in getting that regularly. I try to go for walks at least once a day, but I haven’t been the best at that lately.

I wondered if walking alone is enough, though. I’m not interested in weightlifting or any sort of gym equipment – I like to go outside for exercise, whether it’s hiking or walking through my city. A friend suggested I try yoga. I watched some videos of different routines and decided to give it a shot.

I’ve been following Yoga With Adriene for yoga practice. I am practicing as close to every morning as I can (I find I fit in a few rest days between practice in, so I’m not quite there yet), but I am happy to say I’ve committed to it for a whole month and feel better for it. So far, the routines are mostly deep stretches with some higher intensity exercises built in. I end every routine feeling relaxed and energized at the same time. It helps me focus, and like with meditating, I’m better able to selectively focus on my thoughts. It keeps my feet on the ground.

My hope is that the routines get a little more intense as I progress – yoga was presented to me as a way to build strength, but I’m not sure if the exercises here are intense enough to help that. My understanding is that the 30 days of yoga series by Adriene incorporates intense poses, and I’m slowly working my way through that. For now, though, I think yoga is serving its purpose. It is helping me mentally.

Singing

Music is my favorite thing, and I’ve been playing instruments and using music software to tinker for a significant portion of my life. I’ve been taking voice lessons for going on three years. The one thing I’ve noticed in isolation is that my pitch has improved a great deal. When sharing recordings with friends, they’ve told me I sound more confident.

Singing is my favorite thing to do. As of late, a lot of my hobbies – gaming, books, etc. – are not clicking the way they used to. Singing is the one thing that hasn’t lost its luster, so I’m using now as an opportunity to hone that skill a bit more. My hope (and indeed, one of my intentions with reviving this blog) is to share some recordings soon.

Journaling

Outside of the blog, I keep a physical journal for writing. They have always helped me sort my thoughts out. I’ve been trying to do this at least once a week since isolation.

Results

So far, I feel a bit better. I like to think all of these things are interlinked in terms of helping me feel better. Yoga and meditating, at least from my teachers, focus very heavily on breath. My meditating brings a lot of attention to my breath cycles; Yoga With Adriene uses breath intervals as a counter for poses (i.e. “stay in this pose for five breath cycles, inhale, exhale…”). Because of this, I more actively notice my breathing throughout the day. During singing, I feel more able to breathe “properly”, so that my voice is more consistently on pitch. I sound more comfortable, and so it sounds better overall. Journaling and singing help to express whatever feelings I might be feeling, and I think that release helps me more easily make the time for physical activities like yoga and meditating. It’s a little early to tell if these things will help me in all aspects of my life like I hope, but I think they’ve reaped enough benefits that I’m committed to continuing them.

If you are struggling with confidence, I do encourage you to take a look at some of the things described above! They may be able to help you get out of the rut.

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