Be sure to check out our NEW App: Inspired! for convenient access to practice, programs and more!


Cultivating Confidence

I’m so grateful that Yoga has helped me reframe my life as a journey of Inspired Living. An adventure of learning the skills of Curiosity, Creativity and Courage in practice of doing what matters most. In being my most authentic compassionate self, I build confidence and competence to be me, in process, perfectly imperfect me.

That’s what this Inspired Shift! journey is all about… helping you to remember HOW to find ease in being your best, authentic, imperfect self. Why? Because research tells us happiness and joy reside in being your authentic, compassionate self and doing the things that matter most.

Brene Brown in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, identifies three gifts received as a result of accepting our own imperfection: COURAGE, COMPASSION & CONNECTION. I think Brene and her research would agree that compassion provides the foundation of safety that allows us to be curious, creative, and courageous so that we can acquire confidence and competence. Confidence and competence enables us to KNOW we belong in community.

Which comes first: Confidence or competence?

We’ve all heard the adage, “Fake it ’till you make it.” Now, I don’t love this idea, but, unfortunately, it has merit. It, actually, does work. Fake it till you make it means believe in yourself even while you are still in process. Now, this doesn’t mean we should over promise or over-inflate our skills and experience. Nor does it mean we should cheat and lie to get what we want. But that also doesn’t mean we should diminish or down-play our talents, gifts or opinions as an expression of humility. Rather, “Fake it ’till you make it” encourages us to embody our talents, to celebrate our skills even as we are acquiring them. We’ll come back to this idea in a bit.

First, let’s consider how we access these states of feeling and being confident and competent. The difference between feeling and being is an important distinction. What’s the difference between being confident and feeling confident?

Feelings and emotions are the language of the heart, or one third of the manas, the mind-stuff in Yoga Philosophy. “Being-ness” embodies the physical, includes the emotion AND the spiritual or energetic bodies as well. To “just be” is one of the most challenging, and powerful practices I’ve encountered. Meditation is a practice for learning to just be.

At its most basic, learning to just be means to practice. We practice. We observe our practice. And we practice some more.

What exactly is the practice of building confidence and competence? How do we learn to rest, to feel at ease, to trust in confidence and competence? How do we move beyond faking it to the place of authentic making it?

I think it comes down to three things.

  1. Believing that I am worth it, that I matter. This is our self-worth and self-esteem.
  2. Knowing what matters most (to me!). These are our values.
  3. Being willing to do the work. This is discipline or tapas.

Let me repeat that. To gain confidence and competence, we need to know our self-worth, clarify our values, and do the work of self-study and diligent practice.

Know your self-worth: Meet Atman

As you may already know, I have earned numerous degrees, certifications, and credentials. Too many to count! I could wallpaper my entire studio with the certificates and diplomas I’ve earned. I spent a significant portion of my life in some form of a classroom. All this credentialing was fueled by my need to prove my competence to myself and others. As a result, I grew in knowledge and skill. I expanded my scope of practice and deepened my understanding and comprehension. My competence grew because of the experience and the opportunities contained within the learning environment. However, for me, there was a significant delay in confidence due to decades of distraction: a pre-occupation with proving my competence. My attention was directed to earning credentials rather than building a sense of worthiness and enough-ness.

Atman is the yoga term for our inner divine spark. It’s a Sanskrit word that refers to the self-existent essence of individuals, as distinct from ego (Ahamkara), mind (Citta), and embodied existence (Prakṛti). The term is often translated as soul, but is better translated as “Self”, as it solely refers to pure consciousness or witness-consciousness, beyond identification with phenomena or context and conditions. Atman is our self, regardless or despite the roles, jobs, or labels we wear.

So what does it mean to be “self” and how does this term relate to self-esteem, self-worth and confidence? Let’s pause for some definitions.

  • Self-confidence is a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.
  • Self -esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It’s based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can feel difficult to change as they are rooted in culture and experience. We might also think of this as the precursor to self-confidence.
  • Self-worth generally refers to our sense of self, our values, and our belief that we are worthy of care, support, and compassion. With a healthy sense of self-worth, we’re often better situated to seize opportunities, develop a high level of self-esteem, and improve our mental/emotional and relational well-being.

So, can you see? Self-esteem, self-worth and confidence are related, but also progressive components of our own identity. Identity develops over time, as we, literally, get to know our selves.

The Atman paradigm affirms our uniqueness and inherent worthiness of love as a direct consequence of our connection to and reflection of the Divine. Vedic philosophy might say that our worth is inherent, based on the Atman’s presence, but that practice is necessary in order to experience the confidence of our worth.

Do you remember the three questions I shared in the Curiosity conversation? Thich Nhat Hanh taught 3 questions: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? I’ve since added two clarifying questions of my own to help me temper this conditioning to prove my worth by doing it all.

  • Is now the time?
  • Is it MINE to do? By this I mean, is it my responsibility, or does this Action align with my dharma?

This brings us to the discussion of values, or clarifying what matters most.

Values: What matters most

My life BEFORE yoga was a daily toil to do ALL THE THINGS. Maybe you can relate? I was doing the things I thought I was supposed to do, the things I was taught would lead to success. The problem was, I was doing the “wrong” things, I just didn’t know it. Wrong for me, at least.

There isn’t ONE WAY to succeed, just as there isn’t ONE definition of success. Because there isn’t jut one commonly agreed upon value. Our values determine what we define as success, and therefore our level of success is directly related to what we value. What do you value?

It’s NOT that our values are completely separate and distinct. Most of us would come to some sort of agreement that love is a common denominator. But HOW we do love, is a whole other conversation! These nuances and variations in how we define our values provide the spice to life, I think!

That said, there are some fundamental principles we can learn to optimize our experience of success. This is Yoga Living. Yoga is a living, wisdom tradition, which means its meant to be adapted and adjusted to the times based on core principles. These principles are what Patanjali coined the Yama & Niyama within the Eight-Limb path, or Ashtanga Yoga articulated in the Yoga Sutras. Once we learn the foundational principles, we can customize the specifics and details to build our personalized Inspired Life, without undermining the integrity of the ancient wisdom.

You’ve heard the old adage, insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Before yoga, and even for a while while practicing yoga, I was on a treadmill of insanity but didn’t know even it. I was running the same 100 yards of “road” with no access to break free or move on. I was working, HARD. I as working A LOT! But I was making little to no progress. A cost benefit analysis told me I should just quit.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that living well doesn’t require effort and work. What I’m saying is that when the Action of doing is aligned with our Intention for living well, an intention to live with happiness and joy, we cultivate an increase in ease, allow for moments of bliss, and find rest in enough-ness.

What I know now is that when I was trying to do it all, I was short on bliss and living without joy! I was so focused on doing the things, Inspiration couldn’t even find me. I was doing the things that had always worked, for others and for me, doing the same things I’d always done… making things happen through grit, will and effort. Doing the things that had earned me degrees and credentials. I was even rewarded with accolades and prizes and a livelihood for doing life in this way. But I was tired and so uninspired to do it again tomorrow! I felt stuck. I was stuck. Because I didn’t know a different way. I didn’t yet understand Inspired Shift!

So Busy Doing…

For years, I’d ignored the signs of stress. I’d denied the symptoms of burnout. I’d overlooked the disconnect between intention and outcome. I believed what I had been taught: that this was the price one had to pay. This was life! The real problem was I was doing the same things BUT expecting a different outcome. I had a revised objective: I wanted a life I loved.

After a severe bike accident and a year of bed rest and recovery, I gained new insight on the strategy I was using. Maybe that’s the upside of brain trauma. Post-accident, I had greater compassion for myself. Maybe it was all the intention on self-care, gratitude for being alive, and process of healing. Maybe my brain was rewired as a result of the concussion. I don’t know. Regardless, this increase in compassion created the foundation for honest reflection on HOW I WAS LIVING and opened my eyes to recognize the mis-alignment I had grown accustomed to. I’m NOT advocating for head trauma to assist in shift, but it does require a bit of mental re-wiring and relearning.

As a result of my “new” practice of yoga, more than a decade ago, I developed a new way of engaging in the world and, more importantly, a new way of relating with my Self. This two-sided practice of self-care and service developed into what I now call the Transparent Alignment philosophy and the strategy for Inspired Living. It’s the simple practice I call, Breathe-Move-Rest.

By practicing this three-pronged approach, I simplified my daily tasks and by default increased my success rate. With only three options, I had a 33% chance of doing the right thing! Those felt like pretty good odds! This simplification was critical to healing my brain AND has since proven to be even more powerful in simplifying and improving my life.

So, what’s different, now, you might ask. My life is still FULL and BUSY and yet I can truly say I LOVE MY LIFE! I frequently feel the Bliss that Yoga promises. I still do some of the things I did before: I pay my bills, clean the bathrooms, and answer emails. The difference is the BULK of my life, the tasks I do and the people I share my time with do not drain life and vitality OUT of me, in fact they fill me with joy and hope and gratitude. Today, I only do the things that matter.

Maybe now, you can appreciate why I like the simple three-part strategy of Breathe-Move-Rest. When clarity is lacking, I ask: Is now a time to breathe, move or rest? It really is that simple (notice, I didn’t say easy).

My friend (who knew me BEFORE yoga) described it like this: “You have built a life you don’t need a vacation from!”

YES! That’s it! That’s what Find the Yes! means. Find the Yes in your life that you don’t need to recover or escape from!

Does your life fill you up? If not, it’s time we talk!

This brings us to number 3.

Willing to do the work: Tapas

I’ve talked about the continuum of skills before… by that I mean we don’t have to be equally good at all things, and that mastery of skills evolves over time. Patanjali’s Yama and Niyama practice invite us to practice at a level we have the capacity to practice. I LOVE this idea of capacity as the foundation for skill assessment as it embodies the premise of compassion. Rather than compare my new skill to that of an expert, I compare it to my previous ability and assess how my expanding skill is better serving my intention. Rooted in compassion, I can let go of perfection, competition and judgment.

We build our skills through practice, over time. Tapas is developing the skill to do and NOT do, and perhaps the wisdom to know the difference. The more diligent the practice, the stronger our development of these skills. That means the more we pay attention to doing the practice, the easier the practice becomes. That makes sense right? For example, the more we practice driving a care, the better we get, as long as we are paying attention. Accidents are often due to distraction or failure to pay enough attention! AKA User error.

Mindfulness is the practice for learning the difference between agency of control and cultivating the skills of mind, body and energy control, or learning to direct our intention, attention and actions in curiosity, creativity and courage. Being in control of that which I can actually influence, my mind and my attitude, is a practice. We are all capable of learning to regulate our energy and how we use it in actions, words, and thoughts. Capability, mind you, is not the same as having the skill or even the desire. Capability requires practice ;p

The capacity to learn is a gift;
The ability to learn is a skill;
The willingness to learn is a choice.

-Brian Herbert, American Author

Capacity is a little like the volume of our gas tank. We can run the engine with only a half tank of gas, but we won’t travel as far. Likewise, we can burn fuel at a higher rate by driving fast, or conserve that same fuel to go farther if we moderate our pace. But no matter how much we push on the accelerator, once the tank is empty, we’re not going anywhere. We might have to call a tow or push the car to a station. We need to ask for help.

Self-care is the practice of refueling our own tank. Inspired Shift! is the strategy for determining how to use the resources we have available to pursue what matters most. Self- care is our best maintenance and prevention program. When we fail to do our self-care, we may have to call in reinforcements to treat resulting dis-ease, disorders, or  disease.

Do you ever have those days where you want to have done the thing, but don’t really want to do it? I have! I call those my “I just don’t wanna” days. As committed as I am to my self-care and supporting others in their intentional self-care practice, some days I just don’t wanna.

Self-care is challenging because our needs vary from day to day and season to season and person to prson. In fact, just as I think I figured out a strategy that works, something in my life changes: The season, my kids’ schedules, life demands. Learning to navigate effort (sthira) and ease (sukkha) in practice and in life is deeply rooted in the yoga tradition and it’s a great way to improve mobility and agility on the mat and in all that life is offering. Life is the ultimate balance challenge. Balance however is not stagnant or static. It is an ever shifting condition of sattva reflective of the pulse we call Spanda.

Before we go, I want to say one more thing about tapas and building confidence and competence. It’s inspiration.

Many of us expect inspiration to be the impetus for action, the spark before the fire of tapas burns. We seek motivation, look for a muse, wait for the perfect timing BEFORE starting the project, which often results in never starting the project, joining the team, or asking for what we need. Can you relate?

Learning to do new things; Learning to do old things differently; Learning to do hard things better. Requires practice. But before the practice begins, there is a pre-condition. Do you know what that pre-requisite is?

Yes, breath… but something else 😉 too.

A willingness to show up.

That’s it. Breathe and show up. Everything else will come with practice. We don’t even have to know where and when to show up or what we are going to do upon arrival. That will sort itself out in time. 😊 Nothing happens if we don’t show up!