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  • Elaine Sanders

How to Build Your Confidence

Confidence is a hot topic in the horse world, isn’t it? And rightfully so. Horses need us to be confident.

But what happens if we aren’t confident?

What if we are a naturally shy or timid person?

What if we had an accident and we have more fear than confidence now?

What if we are new and we just don’t know enough to be confident?

What then? Are we SOL with horses?

What tends to happen for folks with low confidence - wherever that low confidence originates from- is one of three things.

1. They get walked on. These people secretly hope that like-ability replaces confidence and so they set out to get their horse to like them. They appease their horse and they try not to disturb their horse in any way. The hope is that if their horse likes them enough, he’ll do what they ask and it’ll cancel out the need for true confidence. But that is just not the case. The horse tends to use these people like a doormat/food-dispenser/scratching post. He doesn’t listen to the person’s leadership, because frankly, there is none there.

2. They fake it. When it is clear that being walked on by the horse does not work out, horse people try to fake confidence. They confuse confidence with aggression, and they try being tougher, stronger, harder, and a bit of a bully to their horse. It often feels fake and uncomfortable to the person, like trying on someone else’s jacket that does’t fit, but at least their horse does’t walk on them anymore. Some people convince themselves that this is true confidence but they’re mistaken. The result is that the horse doesn't connect to the person, because the person is being fake and there’s no one there for the horse to really connect to.

3. They fluctuate. These people swing between being walked on and being aggressive. They slide on the spectrum somewhere between doormat and bully. They are doormats in order to get the horse to like them, and then they become a bully when the horse was getting too pushy. Then they swing back the other way when their horse runs avoids them. The problem is that the horse cannot possibly connect. He cannot trust these people because they flip-flop without warning.

I think we can all agree that the above three options aren’t true confidence. Confidence is not found by being a doormat, it’s not found by being a bully, and it’s not found by being anything in between a doormat and a bully.

Confidence is something else entirely.

Confidence isn’t about being a doormat, or a bully, or something that you’re not. It’s about being more fully who you are.

Confidence is about radical self-acceptance.

Are you shy? Cool. Accept it. It’s not something you have to fix or change in order to be confident.

Do you have fear? Great. Accept it. You don’t have to eliminate fear in order to be confident.

Do you have doubts and concerns, questions and uncertainties? It’s fine. Accept them. You don’t need all the answers in order to be confident.

Radical self-acceptance is unconditional. Radical self-acceptance is ok with the the mess, the lack, the weaknesses. Radical self-acceptance is being in the present moment with yourself in a calm, open-hearted inner stance that says, “This is me.”

Try it. Right here, right now. Accept yourself, all of yourself, “This is me.”

There is something very moving about this radical self-acceptance, isn’t there? Something deep, true, and real is strengthened inside you. You’re open-hearted, present, unconditional, and truly yourself.

That is confidence. Self-acceptance is self-confidence.

The result? Your horse finally sees YOU. You’re not hiding aspects of yourself. And you’re not exaggerating other aspects of yourself. You are YOU. And when your horse sees YOU, he’ll take notice. He’ll feel this self-acceptance and confidence rolling off of you in waves that feel so good to him. He’ll want to be with you. He’ll listen to your requests because they’re clear and concise and unattached. He’ll want to connect to you and follow your lead.

When you fully accept what is, it can grow into what it is meant to become. When you fully accept yourself, you can grow into who God made you to be. Your shyness will subside all on its own, your fear will ease all on its own, your doubts and uncertainties will vanish all on their own. The key is not to fight them, but to accept them.

This is me.

This week, play with this radical self-acceptance with your horse. Try feeling it before you interact with your horse and see the changes for yourself. Try out radical self-acceptance at work, at home, or at play.

What would be different for you if you stopped fighting yourself and started accepting yourself?

Here’s to You and Your Horse


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