Some say you don't need confidence.
In a way, you don't. You can be scared and do things anyway. But at the same time, if you don't believe you can make your dream come true, it's likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if you decide to try despite your lack of confidence, you're going to mess up for yourself along the way.
At least, that's what I did.
When I wrote without confidence
I've dreamed of writing novels for a long time. And as any aspiring writer, I've been made very well aware of the fierce competition, of how unlikely success is, of the depressing statistics.
Bold dreams make people anxious, even if it's not their own. Disappointment and failure are so feared, we're advised to avoid them at all cost.
Did all this thoughtful advice make me stop wanting to write novels? No, it just smashed whatever belief I had that I could actually be a successful author.
So I tried to write my first novel, anxious to write a very good one so I'd have any chance of getting it read, while in my heart not believing I would make it happen.
This made me create in a way I believe is very common when you're trying to do something you don't quite believe you can do.
I couldn't write at a calm and steady pace, but wrote in bursts of activity when I convinced myself to push through all the doubt.
I set myself up with too steep goals, based on fragile hope rather than a solid, reasonable plan.
I didn't deal with my lack of confidence, because I was scared I would find out I was right.
I was very anxious around writing, struggling to sit down and get started every single time.
I fell into writing blocks constantly, having to start over again and again.
I second-guessed everything I wrote. I couldn't look back on what I'd written or I'd fall into despair over how it wasn't good enough.
Every little mistake felt like another piece of evidence that I'd never make my dream come true.
Trying to do something I didn't believe I could do was like trying to plan for someone I wasn't, for a reality that didn't exist. I tried to be who I thought I'd need to be to succeed.
As you can imagine, it didn't go so well. After years of struggling, I had had enough and decided that I couldn't go on like that.
The confidence for dream work
My relationship to writing, to my dream, has changed a lot since I started to deal with my lack of confidence. Building up your confidence is no quick and easy feat, but it can transform your creativity in fantastic ways.
Here's what has been the biggest game-changers for me.
Dissect what specifically it is you don't believe you can do.
Going after a creative dream is a big and complex adventure. I bet there are things you feel that you could do, and things you're more doubtful about.
For example, you may believe that you can paint beautifully, but don't believe you'll ever figure out marketing. Or you may be confident about the parts but not think you'll pull of the whole thing.
I thought I could write a novel, even a half-decent one, but I didn't believe I could write a novel good enough to break through the noise.
There's two things you can do with this information. Either you can see it as a hint about what you need to learn. If there's a specific part you lack skill in, make an effort to get better at that, or find someone else to help you do it.
Or, if it's something more vague, you're actually allowed to adjust your dream. That's what I did. I changed my dream to just writing a novel that's goodish, instead of trying to write a freaking awesome novel. Of course, this makes me much more likely to write that awesome novel, because I'm spending much more time writing and less time despairing.
Accept failure and disappointment as part of the journey.
When we freeze up, when we get stuck in no confidence land, it's often because we're too scared to fail. You've got to accept that if you go after your dreams, you will experience failure along the way.
I know, this is easier said than done. But explore what failing would mean, and what it wouldn't mean. You can even fail a little on purpose, to get used to it. Consider how you could be more okay with a failure, how you can change the story around it.
You need to see working towards your dream as a big, beautiful process, filled with ups and downs. It's not just stepping from A to B. It's going to be a messy, tricky journey, and that's what it's supposed to be like.
Count your failures with pride, they show you've had the courage to try and it will bring you closer and closer to where you want to go. Learn from your failures. Respect them.
Define and break down your dream until it feels doable.
Maybe your dream is actually a tad unrealistic. Dreaming of writing the next Harry Potter is probably not a particularly helpful dream, and you'll likely always feel bad about your results.
Don't be scared to redefine your dream, or create sub-dreams. Being a full time artist is a beautiful dream, but so is being a half time artist. Or an artist who makes $100 a month on your art. Or just an artist who paints a lot.
You don't have to go for your ultimate dream right away. I could dream of writing novels for a living, but it's not likely to happen any time soon. So instead I dream of just getting that first novel done and out there and it being read by an okay amount of people.
Don't give up on your dream, adjust it. Make it feel scary but like something you could actually do, if you really tried.
Dream with confidence
Some say you don't need confidence.
Maybe you don't, but it'll be a hell of a lot easier if you actually believe you can make your dream come true.
Don't underestimate how much damage your lack of confidence can do. How much it can screw with your efforts. Don't just ignore it, and pretend you have confidence enough. You can't fool yourself.
Find a dream you can get confident about and I promise you, going after it will make that confidence multiply. Because confidence for big and bold dreams come from making smaller dreams come true.