I would say that believing in yourself 100% is possibly one of the hardest things to do! I have been thinking long and hard about this question and about when, in my life, I have had 100% faith in me. Looking back it’s maybe not as often as I would like! It also seems to follow as very distinct pattern; I seem to only believe in myself when I’m ready to take the next step… Sounds exciting right? Maybe I have stumbled on some incredible insight into myself that my self-belief rocks up at exactly the right time. Well no, actually what I mean is that the times I have felt most confident and most self-assured in what I am doing have been when I have already been doing what I do for so long that I’m ready to leave it behind and move on. Maybe that’s my pattern; maybe I am only really happy when I’m pushing myself beyond feeling confident into new and uncomfortable territory. I understand why that might be good for personal development but I do sometimes wish that I could let myself sit in my comfort zone long enough for the confidence to resonate!
My business turns 10 this December. I run a dance and entertainment company and before this I ran a dance school. When I look back on my time towards the end of Woodlands Dance (my dance school) and the start of Darley Dance (my professional dance company) that was probably the time when I was at my most confident. I had been working on Woodlands dance for years and had built it up so much that it had now outgrown where we were and it was time to move on. I knew with 100% confidence that I was doing the right thing and that it was time to let one thing go and grab hold of another. I was confident in what I delivered, confident in my knowledge, ability and product and absolutely knew with all certainty that opening my own professional dance company was the right step. In short, I totally believed in myself! Some of the decisions I made in the year that followed were fantastic and have shaped my business to this day, some were catastrophically bad but all the time I knew that I would come out a winner because there was simply no doubt in my mind.
That was nearly a decade ago and I do often wonder if I feel the same way now. I have confidence in myself but I also question my decisions a lot and wonder more about the ‘what ifs’. It’s a strange vantage point to experience and makes me wonder whether or not I was really confident back then or whether I was simply young, naïve and loud. Being in business has given me a beating! I have smashed through walls and accomplished amazing things but I have also fallen hard and been bruised and battered. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I ever made it to the end of the year still intact. I used to look ahead and wonder about the amazing things that I was going to do, I was angry at the gaps in the market and determined to fill them but in time my ideas got stolen, my business was copied, my ego was bruised and my bank account ran dry! When I first started out there weren’t really many other businesses doing what I wanted to do but now there are lots and lots and “comparisonitis” is a real thing that can pollute your business brain so easily. I feel like I have been bashed around in the business rapids and put through the ringer and now I’m sitting in the sun pensively trying to dry out.
The truth is that perhaps back then I didn’t really have 100% confidence in myself but I simply knew 100% what I wanted to do and knew I could do it. Is that confidence or simply knowing your stuff?
I think over the past decade the biggest lesson I have learnt is probably based around a fantastic quote I once heard and sadly I have no idea who said it,
“Ships don’t sink because of the water around them; ships sink because of the water that gets in them.”
It’s so important to remember that there will always be things around you that can knock your self-esteem. Other businesses doing well, the girl on Instagram who has thousands of followers and earns 6 figures a week, the perceived perfect world of others online, the bad decisions that you made and supposed failures that you still hold onto, a bad review, a negative comment, I could go on! All of these things will cause little holes in your ship and if you don’t seal those holes back up then eventually the water will creep in and you will sink. It’s so important for you to spot the holes, seal them up and then scoop the water out. It’s hard to do that, it’s hard to pick yourself back up when someone has knocked you down but it’s so important because then you have a safe secure ship and as this ship has to carry you and all your dreams to the end of your life it’s important to take care of it.
So maybe confidence isn’t a loud foghorn that tells the world to brace itself for your arrival, maybe it is simply sealing another hole and trusting that your ship is heading for greatness. My ship has had a lot of repairs and I’m still working on getting out some of the water from my last dink but I know quietly in my mind that I will keep sailing forward. Whether I hit storms or calm water I know I will find a way to get through them and I can say that with 100% confidence in myself!
Abbi Burns, owner of Darley Dance
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