I had the privilege of being a featured member of BSC when still fresh into the club, and reading the article now gave me newfound gratitude for the opportunity (thanks again, Supatra!). It has become a record of my beginnings: my then reasons, passions, motivations, goals – or, more accurately, my lack of specific goals. While I will not argue the benefits of non-directed self-improvement, no one needs reminding that we only have 24 hours in a day with which we can use to perfect too many equally valuable skills. So, which one do we prioritise?
My current answer to that question: it depends on you – who ‘you’ are.
My journey thus far – in Toastmasters and in life – has revolved around self-confidence and self-acceptance. Perhaps it was growing up a sensitive child around some who were reckless with words that led to my silent struggles in seeing my self-worth. It frustrated me that I am the way I am – and others are the way they are – that I got acquainted with self-help books in my teenage years. I flipped through pages in solitude, hoping to discover the secrets of human behavior, or a magical formula to transform myself into a likeable, confident personality. Fast forward many years later, my search continues. Though I haven’t arrived at a simple answer yet (is there one?), I’ve come across various things that helped me gain valuable insights on the subject matter. Read on if I’ve piqued your curiosity!
On accepting vulnerability as the highest form of courage
“Who do you think you are?” – this is my inner demon’s favourite form of attack. It is the source of my anxieties when offering advice to students and friends, and when daring to dream of things better for myself. There are many others more worthy and capable, so how can I think that I have the rights? As I’m writing this now, my inner demon speaks. Thus, I am grateful to have watched two inspiring women share their journeys as they taught others how their vulnerabilities make them courageous.
While Brené Brown’s talk is conceptual, Amy Cuddy’s is practical. I was especially touched when Amy ended her talk on the Science behind ‘power poses’ by pouring her heart out in her story. Is it shameless to compare yourself to such high profile speakers and say that I see my own vulnerabilities in them? Regardless, I felt deep connection. Seeing them brave the stage and grace it with their true feelings and selves – and admiring their heartrending sincerity – gave me reassurance that the very thing that makes one view themselves as weak can be what actually make them strong.
I’ve also consumed three of Brené’s books – each in one seating (and no, I’m not usually that fast a reader)! I find her highly relatable and have found much needed comfort and strength from her writings. If you too carry self-confidence issues, I hope the talks and books would equally empower you.
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead.
- The Gifts of Imperfections: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
- Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.
On accepting thoughts as thoughts (and not as reality)
They say, we are our harshest critics. This is the definite case for me. I have a tendency of being stuck in my own head, constantly reliving uncomfortable past experiences, often at the most random and inconvenient of times. Do you also cringe at and condemn yourselves for embarrassing occurrences that happened eons ago over tea? Then maybe Russ Harris will be able to knock some sense in you too! You will recognise parts of the book mentioned in my previous speech. Having read several self-help articles that focused mainly on changing your thoughts into positive ones, ‘The Happiness Trap’ offers what I find to be refreshing and realistic strategies that have worked wonders for me!
On accepting who I am (and who others are)
This is going to sound like a shameless plug for friends and family, but I cannot deny how much lighter I felt having gone to ‘The People Manual’ Workshop by ePiPeople Consultants. The workshop confirms my frustration that I am wired differently to some, while also bringing to light that there are plenty others who function like me. More importantly, it taught me what should have been common sense: that if people are different to you, then you should not expect them to prefer your ideals of communication and way of working. Accepting this helped tremendously with my self-confidence because I can understand now that what I perceived as people ‘not liking me’ is natural and not as personal as I thought – and there are systematic steps one can take to build effective relationships regardless.
I also owe it to Hal, who went through a Life Coaching exercise with me, and helped me discover my core essences. Realising what it means to be ‘me’ enabled me to figure out why I may be feeling down in the dumps, then proactively plan projects that could allow me to feel happy with myself again.
On discovering yourself and your goals
Maybe you have read this far and felt that none of the above really resonated with you. You do want to work on yourself and work towards something, but you can’t quite outline the details yet. My goals unravel themselves slowly to me as I continue to learn, question myself and complete various reflective exercises. If these are things you would like to try, then I recommend looking at some exercises from Aileen Xu of Lavendaire. She advocates being ‘artists of life’, inviting all to actively create a life you love, and I have gained clarity from doing some of her worksheets.
I believe in the importance of discovering yourself: your likes, your motivations, your purpose. In my experience, the more one understands himself, the better he is in planning meaningful life goals that would lead to his version of peace and happiness. However, figuring it all out is not an easy thing to do and most of us may not know where best to start. I don’t either. But, I hope this article has given you ideas on where you can start.
Have a look at videos I’ve shared – or not. Spend some time on the recommended readings – or not. Attend workshops, book an appointment with a Life Coach – or not. If reading through this article has somehow moved something in you, I hope you will take the time to put in the work towards becoming you. Truly, I am excited to see how you will progress and I wish you all the best!
Written By: Rahmat Tarsat, CC, ALB