This posting on how to defeat fear and build confidence has been inspired by an email I received from one of my followers named Clint. We’ll get to the email in just a moment.
First, I want to preface what follows by clarifying that fear is a feeling that can’t be extinguished or eliminated from a man’s life. As much as we’d like to, we can’t rid or lives of fear. But we can learn to defeat it by not allowing it to keep us from taking necessary action.
It takes courage to overcome fear. And the only way to develop our courage is by taking action. As we take action in spite of our fears, our confidence slowly builds over time.
The most common reason today’s men are without the confidence they need to thrive and pursue excellence is that they’re unwilling to act in the face of fear. Their lives remain stagnant and dull as a result.
This can come with an entire host of consequences. Depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feeling unaccomplished and social isolation are the most prominent symptoms of lacking self confidence.
Each of these elements are implicitly or explicitly present in Clint’s life. In his email, Clint admits to struggles with suicidal temptations, bouts with one-itis, not being confident in his interactions with women, an inability to start and finish projects, and not feeling accomplished in his work life.
I’ve had my own struggles with each of these. I’m intimately familiar with how crippling they can be. I’m also living proof that men can overcome them through consistent, purposeful action. This takes us to Clint’s email.
Clint reached out to me because he rightly recognized the damage that was being done in his life. He asked me for some timely advice to help him to begin the process of defeating the fear and subsequent lack of confidence holding him back.
Seeing that his struggles are those that are common among men today, I decided to share the email he sent me, along with my advice. There are elements in the exchange that follows that will prove useful for every man that applies the advice contained in my response.
Here’s the email Clint sent me, which is followed by my reply (note: Clint’s original email has been lightly paraphrased for ease of reading):
Thanks for agreeing to help me out.
I’m going to start by detailing my personal history and challenges. It might sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself, but I’m presenting these details because I believe my history is important for context.
I grew up in a family of five with two sisters. My parents fought constantly and couldn’t have been more dissimilar. The constant conflict pretty much traumatized me.
My dad had anger management and rage problems because of his own dysfunctional upbringing. As I was the only other male in the house, he would often take it out on me. Sometimes he would get physical but most of the time it was screaming, breaking things and the general threat of violence.
He never taught me anything that would be considered part of a normal upbringing for boys, like how to play sports, talk to girls, be confident, succeed in reaching my goals, etc.
He pretty much taught me by his example to get angry and ‘lose it’, which has gotten me into trouble in the past. Luckily, I’ve now largely overcome this temptation.
The reason I would lose it is because I didn’t know any other way to deal with difficult situations. I didn’t know how to be assertive so people would walk all over me. I would get pushed and pushed until I reached the edge and then I would see red.
My mom also comes from a really dysfunctional family. She tried her best to make sure her kids didn’t go through the same.
She spoiled us. Whenever life would get tough she would swoop in and save us. As a result of the this smothering, protected upbringing, I didn’t learn to stick things out and persevere through challenges.
I believe it was this vast difference in the two parenting approaches (authoritarian vs. protective smothering) that led to much of the conflict between my parents. I suffered from anxiety and panic attacks at school because of what I was going through at home.
I’m only now realizing, at age 30, that my parents did the best they could under the circumstances, and I can’t expect any more from them now. Still, I’m left with having to find my footing in life.
Now that I’ve given you my background, here are some of my specific challenges I could really use some help with.
First, my struggles with women. I have had mainly long term relationships since leaving school. My main area of concern is that I feel like a failure in my professional life, so I tend to put everything I have into my relationships.
I’ve learned first hand the danger of putting a girlfriend as the center of my universe. When the relationship fails my world falls apart.
I’ve had some severe spells with depression after breakups as a result. The last breakup, about 18 months ago, left me suicidal. My libido has also disappeared since then, which is worrying.
I was very beta and naive, but I’m working on changing that (thanks to The Rational Male books). My confidence is much higher than it was and I actually don’t mind ‘cold approaching’ women.
My main challenge is I don’t really know how to flirt and build rapport. The book that resonated with me the most is Mark Manson’s book, Models, but I still feel quite lacking in this area. If you could recommend anything that would help with the conversation side of things, that would be great.
My next challenge is work. This is the big one for me.
After working in loads of different jobs I realized that I want to work for myself. I have two main problems here. The first is that I struggle to settle. I can’t focus on any one thing. My mind is always running on overdrive, jumping to something new.
I think this is partially a protection mechanism. If I don’t put anything out there then no one can judge it.
The other challenge for me is confidence. I don’t feel like I can do anything unless I’ve done it before. I don’t want to do anything that isn’t perfect. This puts a huge brake on any momentum and guarantees I don’t finish anything.
I’m not trained in any one particular skill. My general pattern is that I come up with an idea, get excited, and then do everything except actually making the idea a reality.
I will register a company, get a domain, basically do any ‘busywork’, and then lose interest before any actual responsibility is required.
The latest idea… I jumped through all the hoops to get a tourism qualification. Now I’m at the point where I need to commit to doing something in the tourism industry and I don’t want to make the leap. This is at least partially because I can’t decide where to start.
Any advice you can give me to help me get over these hurdles in my life would be very much appreciated.
This is just an overview, so let me know if you have any questions for me. Thanks for your time, I’m going to continue listening to your podcasts as I await your response, which I am really enjoying.
Use the media player below to hear my advice for Clint:
The Courageous Man
Musings on the Benefits of Sobriety with Ed Latimore
A Man’s Purpose and the Pursuit of Greatness
Polish Off the Stains Covering the Canvas of Your Masculinity
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These are the best ways for you to pay it forward and help me reach more men with the message of masculinity. It will only take a minute of your time and you’d be doing me a huge solid.
– Craig James (@MasculineDesign)