Sunday, September 18, 2011

Reclaiming Your Mojo

mojo, a slang word for self-confidence, self-esteem, or sex appeal

The last two months, I’ve felt like something’s missing and I couldn’t figure out what I’d misplaced. Life is good. Nothing had really changed all that much. My family is happy and healthy. We’re on track. I’m working hard and pursuing my writing goals while I provide for my family. Everything important is still firmly in place. Purpose, check. Goals, a little dinged, but check. Dreams, check. All still right where I’d left them. So what’s making me crazy? Has me walking in circles questioning myself and wondering what’s the point of it all?

Then it hit me. I’d lost my mojo. No, not my sex appeal. My self-confidence. How? I’ve finished four manuscripts. Won writing awards. I earned an MFA in writing. Editors and agents have requested each of my finished manuscripts. For an unpubbed writer, I’ve found my share of successes along the way. Not the pen ultimate success--publication--but getting closer. So what’s suddenly robbed me of my mojo?

I’ve heard it countless times. Creative types are often harangued by self-doubt. For some, this self-doubt can be debilitating. True. I’ve always struggled with self-doubt, but until recently, I’ve been able to push through it to achieve my goals because I’m not just a right-brained thinker, I’m a left-brained one, too. Creative and analytical. Many writers are both.

So as any good scholar and writer would do, I went searching for answers at the book store. I came across a new book by Russ Harris called The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt. The book has helped me identify that I’ve allowed my feelings to circumnavigate my actions. I’d begun to believe the fears and self-recriminations I throw at myself every day. Harris’s book has done a lot to help me reclaim my mojo and put me back on the path to achieving my goals.

With Harris’s help, I’ve come to realize fear is normal. Confidence is all about trusting yourself to take action. Practice makes perfect. Authentic confidence comes from mastery of a skill. If you commit to action, you won’t languish in fear. You can’t wait for the feeling of confidence to come before you act. By facing your fears and taking action, you can transform your relationship with fear and use it as a performance tool. If you identify negative thoughts as unhelpful, you can begin the process of neutralizing them. Acceptance of yourself is paramount. Knowing what matters most to you and what you value gives you powerful choices. Fully engage in life; live in the moment and enjoy the journey.

The book is definitely worth the price of admission.

DIRECT QUOTES, For Your Illumination

Here are a few nuggets from The Confidence Gap that have helped me regain my focus:

“We may be weeks, months, or years from completing our goals, but we can live by our values every step of the way, and find ongoing fulfillment in doing so” (pp 17).

Fear is normal. “[T]he more there is at stake, the more we tend to have feelings of fear and anxiety, and thoughts about what might possibly go wrong” (p. 21).

Confidence is trusting yourself to take action, no matter how afraid you are (p. 23).

“If we want to do anything with confidence--speak, paint, make love, play tennis, or socialize--then we have to do the work. We have to practice the necessary skills over and over, until they come naturally. If we don’t have adequate skills to do the things we want to do, we can’t expect to feel confident. And if we don’t continually practice these skills, they either get rusty or unreliable or they never reach a state where we can fluidly and naturally rely on them. Each time you practice these skills, it is an action of confidence: an act of relying on yourself” (p 25).

Five reasons people lack self-confidence: excessive expectations, harsh self-judgment, preoccupation with fear, lack of experience, lack of skill (p 26).

The confidence cycle: practice the skills, apply them effectively, assess the results, modify as needed (p. 29).

“Only through committed action--stepping out of our comfort zones and doing what truly matters deep in our hearts--will we experience authentic confidence” (p 32).

If you hold onto the mantra that you must feel confident before you do what matters most to you, then “you’ll spend a lot of time, effort, and energy trying to control your feelings” (p 34).

Fear results from the primitive “fight or flight” instinct. “[F]ear is a powerful fuel. Once we know how to handle it, we can use it to our advantage; we can harness its energy to help us get where we want to go. But while we’re looking at fear as something bad, we’ll waste a lot of precious energy trying to avoid or get rid of it” (p 38).

Hugh Jackman says: “I’ve always felt if you back down from fear, the ghost of that fear never goes away. It diminishes people. So I’ve always said yes to the thing I’m most scared about” (p 42).

“[T]here’s no way to expand your comfort zone without stepping out of it--and the moment you take that step, fear is going to show up” (p 44).

“It’s not fear that holds people back--it is their attitude toward it that keeps them stuck” (p 45).

“Genuine confidence is not the absence of fear; it is a transformed relationship with fear” (p 46).

“[Y]our mind has a tendency to be negative. . . . The human mind is quick to judge, criticize, compare, point out what’s not good enough, and tell us what needs to be improved” (p 51). This comes from a primitive survival instinct.

“[W]hen we fuse with our thoughts, they have a huge impact on and influence over us. But when we defuse . . . our thoughts--when we separate from them and realize that they are nothing more nor less than words and pictures--then they have little or no effect on us (even if they happen to be true)” (p 60).

“Recognizing a thought or belief as unhelpful often helps to reduce its influence over us; it makes us less likely to act on it. . . . [T]he question we’re interested in is simply this: ‘If I let this thought dictate my actions, will it help me to lead the life I want?’” (p 70).

“[I]n a state of defusion, our thoughts are nothing more nor less than words. . . . Once we can defuse from our thoughts--that is separate from them and see them for what they are--we have many more options in life. No longer are we at the mercy of our minds, pushed around by ingrained patterns of unhelpful automatic thinking. Instead we can choose to pursue what truly matters to us, even when our minds make it hard with all that reason-giving” ( p 74).

“The purpose of defusion is to be present and take effective action” (76).

Defusion calls for you to: “notice it, name it, neutralize it” (p 82).

“Self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-motivation are all far more important than self-esteem” (p 92).

“[J]udging ourselves does not help us in any way; it does not work to make our life richer and fuller” ( p 84).

“What matters most in life is what you do, what you stand for, the way you behave. This is far more important than the stories you believe about yourself” (p 95).

“If we want to get the most out of life, we need to be fully present: aware, attentive, and engaged in what is happening. This involves a mindfulness skill ‘engagement’: connecting with the world through noticing what we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell” (p 100).

“If you’re caught up in your thoughts, you won’t find it a satisfying experience--especially if your mind is giving a running commentary on how you’re performing. If you want to enjoy the experience, you need to be engaged in what you’re doing” (p 101).

“When we say that someone looks confident, we have no idea what they are thinking or feeling. But we can observe what they are doing, how they are behaving. And one thing you’ll always notice about confident people: they are very engaged in whatever they are doing” (p 102).


  1. Candy! I need this book.

    “Recognizing a thought or belief as unhelpful often helps to reduce its influence over us; it makes us less likely to act on it. . . . [T]he question we’re interested in is simply this: ‘If I let this thought dictate my actions, will it help me to lead the life I want?’” (p 70).

    I just ordered this book! Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

    AND I'm so happy you're getting your mojo back!!!!

  2. Yes, it's one of those books you can work your way through to absorb so much that might apply. I know we've had conversations recently about some of these issues. So it should be helpful on many levels. ;0) Hope you enjoy it. And, yes, learning to defuse my unhelpful thoughts may take a bit of work, but I think in the long run it could be just what the doctor ordered!

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  4. This book does look great! I definitely want to read it. Thanks for sharing this.

    I think we all suffer from self-doubt. I read something recently about your thoughts not being you - that you are separate from your thoughts and you don't have to let them define you or to act upon them. This sounds like a clearer explanation of that same idea.

    Glad you got your mojo back. :) Since writing is such a lonely pursuit, that's one thing that writers can do for each other - encourage each other when our confidence starts to flag.

  5. I received a lot of training on this during my time in Mary Kay - and came away with one more nugget of wisdom to add to your list: "Working will where wishing won't" - it tells me that my perspective will change when I choose to act instead of dwell in emotions. I'm not always good at it, but I get the idea!

    We so often get hung up on thinking and we are so often way too good at trashing ourselves. It's nice to have a guide to fall back on to help us get out of the low-mojo quagmire!

  6. I had my mojo harshly ripped away back in June. I have been coming to the conclusion the blame was on both me AND the person who made me feel bad about myself. Believe me.....I will be buying this book. Thanks Candy!

  7. Thank you, Candy, especially for the Hugh Jackman quotation.

    Dennis Palumbo's Writing from the Inside Out would make a good companion for this, and he addresses the fears of us creatives particularly.

  8. Glad you got your mojo back, Candy! And thanks for telling us it was your writing mojo. Cause I can't imagine you losing your sex appeal, lady!

    All joking aside, I'm sincerely glad you got your mojo back. Really, when you think about it, it's one of the main tools in a writer's kit. We need it. Writing is a long, frustrating haul. Thanks for helping us get our mojo back, Candy.

  9. Jane ~ Thanks. I'll find Writing From the Inside Out. Sounds like a great book to add to my arsenal.

    Nicole ~ You're right confidence is key to our writing life. We're alone so much of the time that we really need to work to not allow those negative thoughts and emotions determine our course or keep us from living the lives we want to live.

    Debra ~ I'm sorry that happened to you. Yes, we can be our own worst enemies, however, others do often help us down a certain path, don't they? Hope you can defuse those unhelpful thoughts and move ahead. ;0) Good luck!

    Keely ~ Who knew Mary Kay was so progressive? LOL. Yes, lots of this thinking is business leadership or adds to the success of those in business or leadership roles. Never a bad thing for us to learn a new skill that helps us get ahead in life. :0)

    Lisa ~ You're right. But we internalize and begin to believe that we are what we think we are and we can become fatalistic. Not allowing unhelpful or negative emotions to rule our lives is one key to success. Asking "Does this help me reach my goal?" is a good question.