Going After Moby Dick in a Rowboat: Transform Your Life with Self-Trust Techniques

“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartare sauce with you.” Zig Ziglar, Sales and personal development guru.

But most of us wouldn’t even buy the rowboat, let alone give chase to a monstrous white whale in the deep blue ocean. And as for the tartare sauce? Forget about it.

As new teacher I was sweaty, palpitating, insecure mess. It was one thing to write an essay about educational psychology and classroom behavior management, but to be faced with a room of hardened teens hell bent on attack at the slightest whiff of fear just about brought me to a standstill. Loudly and often I heard the cruel voice that blames and shames until you have no trust left in yourself or your capabilities. With every step I took I felt I would be uncovered as useless, weak and stupid.

I also witnessed the crippling effects it has on students. Students who are regarded as ‘naughty’ are usually just distracting the adults from the fact they don’t think they can do the task. They swear, throw things, annoy other students or just shut down and no amount of cajoling, or threats of detention can motivate them.

I knew that I had to change not just for me, but also for my students. I began to analyse my relationship I had with myself. Was I a good friend to me?

I realized this the core of every confidence crisis. The word confidence derives from the Latin, to trust. Everything we say to ourselves and every action we take either builds or erodes our trust in ourselves. People we don’t trust lie, neglect or blame us, are guarded or pushy and don’t appreciate us. We know we shouldn’t allow such toxic people into our sphere of influence, yet this is exactly how we treat ourselves.

This lack of self-trust can have long-lasting, life inhibiting effects. It can cripple our education, career, relationships, and lead to serious mental health conditions. It is the worst friend we could ever have, and yet it becomes such a powerful force in so many of our lives, eating away at our self-trust. In the end we become our own worst enemy, instead of our best champion.

It is a condition of humanity that transcends age, race, gender, culture and time. The issue has been tackled since ancient philosopher Aristotle mused on its nature, all the way to our current day philosophers, like Taylor Swift, who admits to struggling with her own confidence issues.

Here are some statistics that highlight the scope of the issue:

  • According to the New York University Child Centre Study Website a girl’s self-esteem peaks at nine years old. It’s all down hill from there.
  • The UK Royal Society for Public Health conducted a survey and found the rates of anxiety and depression have increased 70% in the last 25 years.
  • A national survey in Australia found that more than 50% of respondents rarely speak of their appearance positively.

Over the last 15 years I’ve had the opportunity to test many confidence boosting techniques on myself and students. Here are those that brought the most success and have helped transform, not just my life and career, but also many of my students. I went from being the timid, insecure teacher starting out, to being awarded both Master Teacher and Teacher of Exemplary Practice status for my teaching. I have also had the priceless privilege of watching reluctant, fearful kids develop into happy, confident and successful students.

My colleagues and new teachers I mentor now can’t believe I ever struggled with confidence. It really comes down to these simple steps.

1. Channel Your Hero: You have them in you already.

Choose someone you admire for the qualities you want to embody. Imagine you are them, walk as if they are with you in body and spirit. Invoke your inner-hero. No doubt the fellow in the rowboat had Captain Ahab channeling through him. For me it was my mother. She was the strongest woman I know, so I became her when I strode into that classroom.

2. Body Language: It speaks to you as well as your audience.

People often rave about the importance of body language as a tool to engage with your audience, but I believe its power is how it speaks to you.

I can visualize the guy in the rowboat leaning forward against the waves, his hands strong and firm against the oars, with gritty determination etched on his face. He’d be feeling invincible.

As you stand taller, you feel stronger and more confident which is far more powerful in its effect.

3. Count Your Qualities: They are your blessings.

As your own best friend, acknowledge what makes you worthy. Learn to see the qualities that your friends, family, colleagues, pets and neighbors value in you, and don’t be coy. Take the tartare sauce with you. You deserve it.

4. Plan Your Actions: Have a plan B.

Fear of failure can be overcome with a plan B, a contingency plan that will give you confidence to take the risk in the first place. Think of it as a safety net: you wont always need it, but it’s nice to know it’s there. The rowboat character doesn’t have a plan B, but he’s confidence personified. We will get there eventually, which brings me to the next point . . .

5. Be Gentle: Patience is a virtue.

Often, we expect too much of ourselves, too quickly. Celebrate the little victories, but if you didn’t quite make it, understand that success is virtually impossible without some failure along the way. Give it time. Rowboat guy won’t rush himself because he knows setbacks are inevitable. He understands to keep going after each obstacle is more important.

6. Start Small: Build tall.

Don’t go charging off in the rowboat with your tartare sauce at the ready. Set small goals and build on them each day. This will help you build confidence far more quickly than aiming for a big goal and missing completely.

7. Put The Shoe On The Other Foot: Change perspectives.

We often forget to change perspectives. In any given situation, consider what others are thinking, expecting, fearing, hoping. What is the whale’s perspective of rowboat guy? Nothing. Doesn’t even know he exists.

You’ll find a great wight lifts from you when you realize the expectations of you are not as big as you build up in your mind.

8. Power Undies: Your secret weapon.

Treat yourself to some drop dead gorgeous undies and wear them when you need an extra boost to your confidence. You’ll feel a power course over you that’s hard to explain and it’s your little secret. Quite a delectable sensation. There’s no doubt in my mind you know who is wearing his best black pants and feels like James Bond.

9. Dance Like Nobody’s Watching: Endorphins are your friend.

Bring out your inner-Napoleon Dynamite and let rip. Some people prefer running, or basketball, or swimming, or even rowing a boat, but personally, the sheer fun of dancing releases a flood of endorphins that gives you a high that medications can only emulate.

10. Repeat: Build your confidence muscles.

It’s a cliché because it’s true. The more you do it the easier it becomes. This is a truth of anything in life and that includes overcoming crisis of confidence. Going back to Zig Ziglar’s wisdom: “People say motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommended daily.”

These are the building blocks to building your self-trust, to repairing the relationship you have with yourself. Practice these techniques, create habits and soon you’ll be out in your rowboat, going after your own white whale, tartare sauce in hand.

A teacher, writer and traveller, but not necessarily in that order. Writing on life, both real and imagined.

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