“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Adair
The other night our iPad fell on the ground. My kids and I were getting in the car after visiting my brother and his wife. My brother folded the stroller and the iPad that my 6-year-old daughter always uses fell out of the pocket and landed on its corner. We picked it up and went on our way but as we drove, my daughter discovered that the power button had been slightly crimped down by the fall and so all the iPad would do was show the Apple icon and then go black over and over again.
This iPad is her favorite thing in the world. It represents her agency in the world to discover things that other 6-year-olds are doing. It has her books, videos and games so it is also her main source of entertainment. That iPad holds a lot of power and possibility in one sleek package.
She started wailing in the backseat that it was broken. I calmly said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take a look at it when we get home. We’ll try to fix it.” And she wailed back, “We can’t try. It won’t work.”
What?? We fix things all the time. This was the little girl that just an hour before had confidently stood up on a paddle board and was paddling it by herself on Lake Union. And then she was jumping off the paddle board over and over into the lake to swim around with not a worry in the world.
And now she was saying we couldn’t even try. That all was lost. Everything was broken and would stay broken. This wasn’t normal or rational, this was fear.
It struck me that confidence can’t show up when fear is running the show. So in my ongoing inquiry into confidence, I went digging in to get some perspective into this.
In their book The Confidence Code, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman distill the definition of confidence from all their sources of research and erudition into “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.” They also describe the other positive attributes that often go hand in hand with confidence, what they label as the confidence cousins: self-esteem, optimism, self-compassion, and self-efficacy. But all of these things, confidence and the cousins that work to create belief that you can make something happen, are part of our rational/thinking brain.
Neuropsychiatrist Dan Siegel and parenting expert Tina Payne Bryson have great illustrations in their book The Whole-Brained Child that illustrate how fear is a downstairs (limbic) brain function and that when we flip our lids, we temporarily lose access to the upstairs brain that supports thinking. The downstairs brain that provides quick reaction so when we are in critical moments of fight of flight doesn’t stop to think about it.
So in our moments of fear we lose, maybe just momentarily, access to the stuff that creates confidence until we move though it. This brought to mind for me of one of the rapid fire questions Brené Brown often asks her guests on her podcast Unlocking Us: “You are called to be very brave but your fear is real and you can feel it in your throat, what is the very first thing do you do?” And the answers from her guests are things like:
- Oprah: “Take a deep breath. Remind myself to breathe.”
- Dr. Angus Fletcher: “I think of the bravest person I know who happens to be my son who is much, much braver than me.”
- Dr. Julie Gottman: “Put my hand on my heart.”
Coming back to my daughter in the car I asked her if what she was saying was because she was afraid of losing her iPad. She said she guessed it was. And owning that, we then could reason through the fact that the only sure outcome was the one if we didn’t try. If we did nothing, the iPad would stay broken. So we had nothing to lose by trying.
Sure enough, we got home, fiddled with the button and it came back to life. The button is a little tricky now but our confidence is restored. We could try – and it worked. As the quote for this post says, and it is one of my all-time favorite quotes because it has gotten me through many barriers of my own making, “Everything you’ve always wanted is on the other side of fear.”
This is my second post delving into confidence. I Can was the first.
(featured photo from Pexels)