How to overcome adversity

In conversation with Soo Balbi, Executive Coach and Trainer at The Coaching Room, we explore the concept of adversity and how to stay confident.

Unlike the common types of coaching that are primarily based on performance that leads to achieving a particular goal, the ‘Developmental Coaching’ that Soo advocates, analyses the personality of the client in a non-judgemental environment. This process, according to her, is a very effective way of breaking through obstacles and frustrations and facilitating access to the individual’s personal power, resulting in new possibilities and solutions that apply to his/her reality.

How to tackle adversity with confidence

Let’s first understand what ‘adversity’ is. Adversity is the meaning we construct in our minds about the event that is happening out there in reality. Hence, there is no adversity in reality – adversity exists only in the mind.

When we hit difficult times, be it emotional, financial or health-related, it’s very easy to recreate the entire world inside our heads. We spend a lot of time wandering around the world that we’ve created by day-dreaming, playing out scenarios and so forth. There’s no problem with that, unless we’re recreating this imaginary world to avoid seeing or experiencing the real world.

We end up looking at reality as a whole through a very small fragment, and we analyse and judge that reality on many levels. In order for there to be adversity, you have to relate it in some identifiable way to yourself. There has to be an identity with a particularly preferred outcome that’s going to be different from what’s appearing out there in reality, and that identity with the preferred outcome is the problem.

To make it easier to understand here is an example

Imagine yourself day-dreaming, playing out a particular scenario in your life and how that would work out. For example, you want your relationship with your partner to be a certain way, but your partner decides the way it should be, and you want out. But, the picture in your head does not fit with the reality of your situation. You’ve identified yourself with that particular outcome in your mind, but it doesn’t work out like that, and that’s where the problem lies. There is a quote by American author Byron Katie who says, “When I argue with reality, I lose but only 100% of the time.”

Let me draw your attention to a Russian scholar Alfred Korzybski who wrote a book called Science and Sanity in the 1930s. He was really the first social psychologist to identify that we human beings abstract and re-present reality in our mind. He coined the phrase ‘the map is not the territory’. Which means, the map that we create in our minds with the preferred outcome we’re looking for exists only in our minds and is completely different from the reality of the situation.

So whatever you think, if it isn’t real, it’s not true. It’s just a perspective of the truth. It’s the movie that you play in your mind about what’s going on. It’s a construction of purely ‘subjective reality’ that serves as a map of the ‘objective reality’.

How to ‘confidently’ handle reality when it strikes

Let me make a relevant distinction between confidence and esteem. Confidence is all about skill. The basis lies in what you can do and how you can do things effectively. It’s about learning and building your capacity to be skilful at something. You can have high, medium or low confidence in relation to the level of your skills.

Self-esteem is all about how we value ourselves. The difference between the two is that esteem is either conditional or unconditional, unlike confidence which is on a scale of high to low. Conditional self-esteem can refer to any condition you place on yourself to gauge your esteem.

This is where you get into trouble. You mix up confidence and esteem and you end up trying to esteem yourself based purely on your skills. Unconditional esteem is feeling that your values are a given, and you don’t need to prove it in any way, shape or form to anyone.

Take for example a new-born baby, it’s got no skills, no abilities and no capacities. It can’t do anything of value, but it’s still so valuable. Through our conditioning, we’ve learnt to value ourselves only if we live up to certain conditions.

But the key to confidence, is to have unconditional self-esteem. You shouldn’t have to be good or excel at something to feel valuable. Unconditional self-esteem frees us up to learn, to explore, and to be able to deal with whatever occurs out there in reality.

For example, if you put your mind to learning something, but your skill level is very low, you should not allow yourself to feel worthless. You should give yourself the freedom to learn more, to get feedback, to test and to emulate others. Only then can you respond to reality in an optimal way, given your level of skill. Low self-esteem makes you believe that if you get it wrong, that means you’re no good and there’s something wrong with you.

Focus more on the process than the outcome

We are an unfolding process. We are not static beings, we are constantly unfolding and giving ourselves the freedom with unconditional self-esteem, and valuing ourselves in that process, is critical.

You need to get into a position where you have that level of esteem to feel confident to take on any adversity

Our mindset creates our reality. You can own a mind or it can own you. In short, a mindset is what you think about when you encounter reality and what you think about that reality. It relates to all the associations that you’ve got linked with it.

For example, if you have linked public speaking with criticism or embarrassment, then you will have a particular mindset about that. Mindsets are like sets of clothes that you’re given when you’re really young. You’re gifted your mind-sets from people around you and if you don’t update yourself as you grow up they’ll not fit so well. So, it’s like continuing to wear your kiddy clothes till you realise how confining they are. The conditional esteem versus unconditional esteem is a great example of that. If you’re still walking around with conditional self-esteem then there’s no room for you to explore and find new things because your value is connected to how you perform.

A big part of my role as a coach is to be able to hold a mirror up to my client to point out their behaviours and their thinking, enabling them to see things in a different way. I help them see what’s outside of their awareness so that they will know when they are being conditional about their own esteem.

When I saw for myself that I was being conditional, it was an extraordinary revelation. It allowed me to really engage and learn at a much faster rate. One of my old patterns was being a perfectionist and there was just so little room for me to try new things. Once I conditioned myself to be fallible, the whole world opened up to me.

You need someone to hold up that mirror for you

The difficult part is actually getting to see the conditions you impose on yourself. That’s why a coach is very important. There’s so much stuff outside our awareness we don’t know. And once I saw what I was doing, once that was put in front of me, I thought to myself, “That’s a no-brainer; why would I do that to myself? Why would I continue with a child’s thinking now that I’m a full-grown adult? That just doesn’t add up!”

I realised that my brain was running me. It was outside of my awareness, a patterned way of thinking and behaving. I was just on autopilot. I really did need someone to hold that mirror up in front of me. And after realisation struck, it was quite easy to put aside.

Social media and competitiveness has an impact on self-esteem and how people deal with their own confidence

Social media makes you feel pressured to do things to be valued. If the world thinks you’re doing great, then you’re a better person. It’s a trap you can fall into. If you relate to yourself in terms of what you do and what you have, it’s a recipe for feeling really bad about yourself.

You need to question the conditioning and see if it’s working. It’s important to give yourself that space and the opportunity, to sit yourself down and ask those questions, to think about it or discuss it with somebody. The pace of life has us running like the proverbial mouse on the wheel. It’s important to take the time and reflect on where you’re headed, what is important to you and is what was important to you 10 years ago still important to you now. Have you grown? Do your actions reflect yourself right now? These are questions that need to be asked to break down conditioning on many levels.

For more information

At the Coaching Room, we offer a range of programmes from NLP through to leadership programs in corporate and personal lives. They can visit our website thecoachingroom.com.au, which has details on the range of courses that we offer, the kind of coaching we prescribe.

It’s my job here at Evalesco to work with my clients to maximise the likelihood that they achieve what is important to them in their life.