Getting off the confidence hook

Having a thought "You're a banana" doesn't make you a banana. :-)

Having a thought “You’re a banana” doesn’t make you a banana. 🙂

I planned on writing a post about 7+ ways of exercising smarter, but the post just doesn’t seem to get written.

It’s still in a list format in an unfinished Word document. 🙁

At least I’m finally so frustrated that I’m ready to write just about any old sh*t just to get back on track with blogging.


I opened my Facebook account today and read Carla Birnberg’s update about changing [career] paths. Carla spoke about pruning her garden-of-work and planting new seeds AND about the fear and uncertainty that are part of the process.

That reminded me of a story I read a while ago in a book, one that is very relevant to the subject of feeling confident.

The story is from Russ Harris’ book the Confidence Gap: A Guide of Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt. It tells of a mountaineer named Joe Simpson who was left behind by his partner in the Peruvian Andes (because he thought Joe had died in a fall). It took Joe Simpson three whole days to crawl to the camp with a broken leg and a shattered knee.

Was he confident he would survive? No, but he did it anyway.

I have a similar, though much less dramatic story of my own to tell.

For many reasons, it took me a very long time to write my master’s degree and graduate from university. As far as I remember, I was plagued by doubt practically the whole time. Nevertheless, even all my negative thinking and self doubts weren’t enough to prevent it.

Actually, when I think back I remember that in 2003 when I lost 28 lb with WW I didn’t much believe in losing the weight either and I’m sure I could find other examples from my life.

Russ Harris is of the opinion that our culture is our worst enemy in teaching us that in order to succeed, it’s essential feel confident and have positive thoughts about whatever it’s you’re trying to do. According to Russ Harris, people get stuck because they are taught to  think this way:

“I have to feel confident before I can achieve my goals, perform at my peak, do the things I want to do, or behave like the person I want to be. “ (p. 23)

Feelings of fear or negative thoughts aren’t the problem – they only become a problem if you are so entangled (i.e. fused) with them you can’t act.

The only remorse I feel about the whole business of finishing my studies is the fact that it would have been much shorter and much less painful if I hadn’t been so engrossed in my own doubts and negative thinking.


One of the goals of my happiness project is to learn to stop taking my own thoughts so seriously. That’s why one of my October resolutions is “Defuse from your thoughts”. There are many techniques you can use to learn to get off the hook with your thoughts. What they all have common is the fact that they teach you to relate to your thoughts as mere thoughts.

Thoughts can’t really prevent you from doing what you want to do. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment (also from Harris’s book): Think “I can’t life my arm” and lift your arm at the same time.

I told you so! 🙂

Well, at least got myself off the “I can’t write a blog post” hook…


  1. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! Well, I basically wrote about this same topic today. How funny that we are thinking the same sorts of thoughts. I think the story/metaphor of crawling hurt for 3 days because it is necessary–we all understand that one. We know it well. If we can somehow now trust ourselves to be able to do that again–whenever we need to do that. 😀

    • Satu says:

      HI Marion! The problem is that I am often so engrossed in my “stories” that I forget I actually have a choice about what I do even though. I hope to become better at recognizing when I’m hooked in some story so that I can unhook myself and get going again.

  2. Satu I just read something the other day (cannot recall where – but it would have been online) in which someone talked about the benefit that ‘feeling fear’ or nervousness can have on performance – and why it can be a good thing.

    Like you – my fear of failure (or not succeeding) is sometimes so great I just do nothing.

    I like the tale of Joe and think – in his case – he had no option… he tried or died. Most of us aren’t faced with such a grim decision (thankfully), although I wish I was more motivated than I tend to be by the ‘alternatives’. (ie. lose weight or be unhealthy / single forever etc!) xx

    • Satu says:

      Hi Deb! I tend to procrastinate a lot too. What often gets me moving though is the threat of becoming a bitter old woman – which I will become if I don’t take action. That has been an unusually effective incentive for me – it’s often bigger than fear of failure! 🙂

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