I ordered Russ Harris’s book The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt last September. I’ve read and reread parts of the book ever since and probably will do many times in the future when I need some reinforcement, so now is a high time to write a formal review.
I want to add that writing this blog post is actually a proof of the approach the book teaches – that you can do stuff even though you doubt yourself or you aren’t feeling particularly confident.
Part of me would very much want to loll in my bed burrowed inside my blankets – (it’s -13°C / 8°F outside at the moment) because I don’t feel motivated to write. I’m sure I could write a better review tomorrow. 🙂
I really do like Russ Harris’s book very much, more than his first book Happiness Trap that I felt was a bit disjointed. That is probably because Confidence Gap focuses on a single problem – lack of self-confidence.
Russ Harris begins the book by discussing what the confidence gap is and how what we learn about self-confidence growing up actually prevents us from creating genuine self-confidence.
Many people are completely lost in something I call the confidence gap. It’s the place where we get stuck when fear gets in the way of our dreams and ambitions. You know you’re stuck in the confidence gap if you believe something like this:
I can’t achieve my goals, perform at my peak, do the things I want to do, or behave like the person I want to be until I feel more confident (p. 20, emphasis mine)
Russ also outlines a simple plan for increasing your self-confidence, which he names the self-confidence cycle.
- Practice the skills
- Apply them effectively
- Assess the results
- Modify as needed.
Looks pretty un-astonishing, doesn’t it? No walking on hot coals, no complex visualizations or positive affirmations.
The rest of the book is devoted to teaching the concepts and mental skills necessary to gain more self-confidence and start doing the things you want to do instead of waiting till your fell more confident.
There skills are learning to defuse from your (negative) thoughts, learning to deal with difficult emotions, engaging in the present moment plus clarifying your values and goals.
One of the most important skills is learning to defuse from your thoughts – i.e. learning to take them less seriously so that your unhelpful thoughts don’t prevent you from doing from what you want to do. It also teaches how to deal effectively with your negative thoughts – you learn to let them come and go instead of getting into fistfights with them or trying to get rid of them.
I’ve been practicing these techniques for four months and I’ve noticed some subtle but real changes in myself. I’m less likely to get caught in endless negative trains of thought and it’s easier for me to start doing things. I just wish I had learned all this stuff in my early 20’s or earlier. These concepts and techniques would’ve been a life-saver then.
p.s.If you get the book, get yourself the tapes (mp3) with the formal exercises. Just reading the book is not going to help you much. You can get the exercise tapes here.