Surprising Confidence Insights From A Three-Year-Old
Click below to hear this episode!
- Have you noticed how freely expressive and dynamic little kids are?
- How little they care what others think of them?
Join Dr. Aziz in this heartfelt and inspiring episode as he shares three key insights about confidence that he learned from interactions with his three-year-old son, Zaim.
These stories will make you smile, and help you realize how to let go and just relax into being who you really are around others.
Hey, welcome to today’s episode of the show. I’m excited to be with you today. If you’re enjoying this show, then I highly recommend going to my site, http://socialconfidencecenter.com, where you can get my e-book. If you haven’t already got that, you should. It’s free and it’s awesome: Five Steps to Unleash Your Inner Confidence. You can also go over to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialConfidence/.
In this episode, I want to share something that’s near and dear to my heart which is confidence, but also confidence that I’ve learned from my son, Zaim. It’s really interesting because you might not think that you would learn confidence from your son, he’s three years old, but I do. I learn a ton from him and from my other son Arman, who is a year old, and they teach me a lot about myself, about human nature, and about people in a lot of fascinating ways. I want to share three key insights I’ve learned about confidence and about this work that I’m doing, that you’re doing on yourself, to develop yourself and become more of who you are, more bold, more powerful, more authentic, more expressive, and more free. I’m always thinking about that stuff. About how I can be that way, how you can be that way, and how all of us can be that way. When I’m hanging out with my kids, I see all kinds of really interesting elements around this. So, I want to share this with you, and I know that they can help you in your life just like they’ve helped me, and we can all thank Zaim after this. So, here we go.
Here’s the first one: It’s okay. The first confidence lesson is: It’s okay. Let me share what I mean. He’s a little kid and starting when he was two or a little older, he would want to grab things and move things around and try to pour things himself. So, if we’re pouring hemp milk out of a little box, he wants to grab the hemp milk and pour it. If you’re grabbing a handful of raisins out of a jar, he wants to grab a handful of raisins. You’re scooping some protein powder, he wants to scoop the protein powder. So, as we’re doing this, I let him do a lot of stuff because it’s part of his natural development to want to use the tools and the things that your parents use and the things you see around you. So I want to encourage him to do that. So he’s doing it and I’m monitoring and helping hold the box or helping make sure that things don’t just spill everywhere. And sure enough, occasionally, he’ll do something like pouring the hemp milk all over the counter and it pours onto the ground.
I remember when he did this one time. I was trying to help him and he messed it up and he did this little thing where he took a big inhale and shook his little hands back and forth like he was surprised or scared or not sure what to do. And I said, “It’s okay. It’s okay, buddy. It’s just milk. We’ll just clean it up.” Then we cleaned it up. Just the other morning (this is the first lesson I learned from them) I’m doing something over by the sink and he’s at the table, and I’m not even seeing what he’s doing, and the next thing I hear is, “Uh-oh.” I look over, he spilled a glass and there was this liquid– we give him coconut water mixed with water, so it’s like a coconut water water mixture. It was all over the table, his chair, the floor, and that stuff’s sticky too, man. I look at it and my reaction was, “Aaaargh!” He looks up at me and he goes, “It’s okay, daddy.”
Before that, I was feeling frustrated, I was feeling angry, I don’t have time for this, I don’t want to clean this shit up, whatever is going through my mind. When he said that, it pierced through all of my resistance in that moment. I paused for a second and I was like, “You’re right. It’s okay. It’s no big deal. Let’s just clean it up.” And it brought me back to that state of being relaxed about things, about life, and about that it’s not that big of a deal when something happens. It’s just a little bit of thing to clean up.
That is a powerful lesson. It was a lesson because he reminded me of it. I’ve done it enough with him that that’s his reaction when he spills something. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” What would your life be like if that were your reaction to mistakes, to setbacks, to failures? You forget to do something, forget to turn something in, forget to reply to someone or you don’t know how to do something. Or sometimes we make mistakes and we don’t even know why it’s a mistake. You try to get a connection with someone, have a conversation with someone or have a date and it didn’t go well. It was tense, or it was awkward, or they didn’t like you, or you didn’t like them, or whatever. It just didn’t work out perfectly and you’re feeling upset about it and upset at yourself, “Oh, I messed that up. Oh, what’s wrong with me? Oh, I should’ve…” What if your default response was, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
How could you bring that more into your life? How could you make that your default response? What would it take? Could you start with something small? Like when you spill a bunch of stuff, or drop something, or crack an egg and it spilled somewhere. Little things like that. You hit a red light when you’re trying to run through an intersection and you’re late. In those little moments, could you pause and actually say that phrase, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”? And what if you start to bring that more and more into your daily life? To where, “Oh, I need this thing done!” “It’s okay.” It’s soothing and calming.
A great way to think about it is: I don’t know what the story is with your parents and if they were loving or patient or attentive or maybe not in some ways, and regardless, isn’t that how you’d want to parent your own kid? They make an innocent mistake, they just drop something, and you say, “It’s okay.” Instead of being like, “What the… shit! God damn it!” No parent enjoys being that way. Sure, it happens to the best of us, but no parent wants to be that way. So why would we want to parent ourselves that way? Why would you want to talk to yourself that way? No one wants to hang out with that parent. No one wants to be with that person. But you’re trapped, you’re stuck with that person, it’s you. So see if you can bring that more in, “It’s okay.” Bring that in to your life.
So, the next lesson that I learned from Zaim was a really interesting one because it revealed something to me about myself. It increased my own sense of self-awareness because I didn’t even know I was doing this.
Basically, we were sitting around the breakfast table one morning and Zaim said, “Grown-ups don’t cry.” He said that spontaneously. We were just sitting there eating eggs and kale and he said, “Grown-ups don’t cry. My wife said, “What do you mean, Zaim?” And he said, “Grown-ups don’t cry. Daddy doesn’t cry.” I thought about that, “That’s probably true. He’s probably, rarely, if ever, seen me cry.” Then I thought, “Well, to him, crying might mean something different. Because with him, when a kid cries, it’s loud, it’s intense, they’re sobbing, or yelling, or bawling. When an adult cries, we’ve conditioned ourselves, at least especially in the United States and other western cultures, to be very restrained. In some cultures like in Africa and in the Middle East, when people grieve, they cry, they wail, they moan, they yell and they bang on the walls of the building. I think that’s actually incredibly healthy. It’s very expressive. But growing up in a western culture, it’s very repressed in a lot of ways. If he’s seen me cry, it’s been like some trickles down my cheeks, “A strong man cry. Just a few tears slip out.” But even that, he’s probably not even seen that much.
So it got me thinking. I was like, “Yeah. I don’t really cry that much, and I’m pretty SNAG– sensitive new age guy.” So, I’m definitely not a super shut down ‘Nam vet or something that’s like, “I don’t feel with my feelings.” And yet, there’s a high level of repression in me to suppress my tears and my emotions, especially crying. And so I thought, “Man, I don’t want that to be true, that I don’t cry.” And maybe some people do. You know a lot of men are like, “Yeah, damn right. Damn right men don’t cry.” But of course, we’re not going to probably guess from the kind of person I am, I’m not going to tell my three year old son, “Men don’t cry. Boys don’t cry.” I don’t think that’s in the top tier of parenting in my book. I want him to be free to express himself and to have his feelings.
I realized, “Man, maybe I need to start doing that too.” So I thought, “Okay, Operation: Cry More.” How does that work? I don’t know about you. I don’t know if you are a big crier and it just comes easily, or you’re like a lot of men who are just really clamped down about it, and you want to sometimes but you just can’t. That was my experience. It wasn’t like I was actively stopping myself from crying. I just didn’t do it even if I felt really sad. It was because I’d conditioned myself. I got the message, “Boys don’t cry,” directly or indirectly from family and from kids.
I remember crying in the soccer field when I was six or seven, and I was already feeling ashamed about that at that age. I’d already learned that was bad. So I learned how to suppress that. I started to study that and it was really interesting because I would notice that there are these different physiological ways that we suppress tears. When there is a wave of sadness coming, for me I would notice a clenching in my throat. There’s a squeezing in my throat that keeps emotion and energy stuck. It prevents it from fully coming up into your face. There’s also some squeezing and tension around the eyes too, I would notice. So, I thought, “Okay, let me see If I can cry more.” And I know that one of the best ways for me is actually through music. So I did this little thing, a little experiment. I didn’t know how long I was going to do it, I just did it one morning and I ended up doing it six or seven days in a row, because it felt so damn good.
What I did is I put on some music, and for me it’s usually some sort of chanting or pretty/beautiful spiritual music, or maybe something like, I don’t know, folky, kind of indie, alternative, singer-songwriter kind of stuff. One of those. If I slow down and just listen and just feel, I can start to cry. So I did that one morning. I just said, “Let me just feel more and see if I can actually cry.” And I did. Man it felt good. I did it here in my office/studio, which is soundproof, so no one could hear it. It’s near our house but not part of the house. I had the lights off in there and was feeling and listening and meditating and then I started crying. It felt really good. So I went and did it the next morning, and the next morning. I would feel lighter and more refreshed and more connected and more loving and more alive and more open and just more human.
Since that morning conversation, Zaim has seen me cry several times. We’d be playing music in our house and I would cry. I realized that just those four or five days in a row of doing it and the intention to not hold it back has allowed more. Just the other day, we watched a movie. My wife and I don’t watch a whole lot of movies these days because our schedules are so crazy with the kids and early morning workouts and whatnot, but we, “Stayed up late to like nine o’clock, whoa!” We watched a movie called Water for Elephants, which if you haven’t seen, is a fantastic movie. It stars Edward from the Twilight movies (not that I’ve seen those) and Reese Witherspoon. And the guy, I don’t know his name, but he’s the villain in Inglorious Basterds– the Tarantino movie. He’s the creepy SS agent in that movie. Anyway, he’s a bad guy in this movie and plays this crazed dictatorial circus owner from the 1920s or 1930s or when it is. Anyway, fantastic movie, sad in moments, beautiful and sweet in moments, and I noticed myself bawling during that as well. Just letting it come and it feels so good.
So, I would encourage you as well to look at your own relationship with crying. How do you hold it back? Where do you suppress it? Is there a way that you could invite more of it? Can you learn this lesson just like I did, from a little kid who has not learned yet that it’s not okay, that it’s bad or that it’s wrong? And what if that were the case for you too? What if you let yourself cry?
That would be the second thing that I learned from Zaim and the second thing that I would encourage you to look at in your own life. We’re going to take one more break here and we’re going to get into the third lesson, which happens to be the most fun one, in just a moment.
Okay, so the third lesson about confidence that I learned from my son Zaim is how to play. How to be a lot more playful in life. Adults, if we use the word play, what we mean is: “I’m going to go play a sport. Play tennis, play whatever, soccer.” And if you look at what an adult is doing when they play, whether it’s a video game, or a sport, or chess, or a board game, or something; usually play is super focused, it’s goal oriented, and often times, people are not even smiling when they do it and usually not laughing either– maybe certain kinds of play. That’s basically how we use the word, and it’s very different than the way kids play.
Kids, when they play, it is often undirected, uncontrolled, spontaneous, crazy, creative, ridiculous, and there is tons of laughing. Tons of screaming and laughing and just wackiness. I would consider myself a playful person and I have a good sense of humor. I would make people laugh and I like to laugh. But when I started hanging out with Zaim, when he got to the age where he actually played, I realized I kind of suck at this. I would sit there like a lot of adults, “I’m a little boring, you come up with the fun stuff, kid. I’ll just sit here and respond to it like an uncreative sponge.” I realized that I wanted to get better at it. So, I read a book, and that’s what I do. Every time I want to get better at something, I just find a book and learn from it. It was great. I found a book called, Playful Parenting. I forget the name of the author right now, I’ll see if I can find it a little later. Playful Parenting. It’s a psychologist guy that does a lot of play therapy with kids. It’s a great book and super approachable. There’s an audio version which is always a bonus and I decided to listen to it. I learned a ton and was encouraged a ton by him, to really just get in there.
I started doing that more and more and I realized that you have to be wacky and say stuff, be ridiculous, absurd and spontaneous. So, we’re sitting there with Zaim and at this age he’s obsessed with dinosaurs because what little boy isn’t? Especially T-Rexes. He understands that they’re all extinct, but he also likes to pretend that they’re coming into the house and attacking us. So, one time we were sitting there and he’s like, “They’re coming in!” I was like, “I’m going to put a magic spell around the house!” That was the first time he heard the concept of the magic spell. He was like, “What is that?” I was like, “Oh, we’re going to put a purple bubble around the whole house.” I’m waving my arms and making this shit up.
The reason it’s awesome is because you get this instant reinforcement if you’re doing it well. This little kid is wide-eyed like: “Whoa! You’re blowing my mind, man!” And he wants to do all these spells. You can get really creative. He’s like blocking the door and I need to get through the door. So instead of just like, “Zaim, young man, move away from the door.” Right? Or just kind of picking him up and roughly moving him, I grab him by his ankles and start pulling him, sliding him across the kitchen and dining room floor, shuffling my feet backwards. And I say, “Backwards choo-choo train! Woo! Woo! Chuga-chuga-chuga.” Again, his face lights up and he’s like, “Whoa, this is amazing!” Then he’s laughing and then I’m laughing and there’s this crazy spontaneous expressive element to it.
I never would have accessed that part of myself if it weren’t for him. And I’m learning from him and sort of modeling that. You can get into his world. If you have kids and you do this, you know what I’m talking about. But the reason this is a confidence lesson and not a how-to-play-with-your-kids lesson, is because that is exactly what we need to bring into our lives, into our contact with other humans. Because everyone is fucking bored and life is repetitive and monotonous and people are so damn serious. Not to say that when you’re in a meeting or before a meeting when there’s chit-chat or at a meet and greet, or in a date, you’re going to grab their arm and go, “Choo-Choo train! Woo! Woo!” Although that’s a great image. No, but you can bring that level of spontaneity, of energy, of doing something unexpected, of making a silly voice, or a strange face, or physical posture humor, or any of those things. You can still do those, and in fact, people will appreciate them. You can bring that spontaneity into your conversations in the way they twist or turn, or you just say something that you think of as it comes to your mind. You can bring that energy in and people will love it, and you will love it, and you will have a hell of a lot more fun, as will everyone around you.
Those are the key core lessons. If you can remind yourself, in a moment of challenge or setback or frustration, “Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay.” And imagine that you’re saying that to a two and a half year old kid who just spilled his juice, “It’s okay.” And what if you said that to yourself? That is a discipline of self-compassion. That’s one of the core foundations of confidence in all areas of life.
Grown-ups don’t cry. Letting yourself cry. Letting yourself have your feelings. Even if it’s a totally private space, that’s fine. You don’t have to be able and willing to run around crying in front of everyone, but start by yourself. If you can’t do it when you’re alone then there’s something to work on there, something to free yourself, liberate yourself. I think you’ll be amazed at all the different ways it can impact your life in terms of bringing more energy, more freedom, more expressiveness.
And of course, being more playful, more humorous, more spontaneous. Letting way more of that energy out. People will love it. And that brings us to your action step.
Your action step for today is to pick one of these three lessons and commit to applying it in your life this week. Just pick one. Is it the first one, “It’s okay,” the second one about crying and letting yourself cry, or the third one about being more playful, more silly, more foolish in a way, letting ourselves be a little foolish and not taking ourselves so damn seriously? Would it be one, two, or three?
You might say, “Those are all great. I want to do all three.” Well, all kinds of information about habits and how we change informs us that picking one and then doing it for the week will be much more successful than picking three because you will forget them, they’ll be too much to manage, might be enthused for a day. But if you just pick one and integrate it slowly, you can always stack the next one, next week, and the next one, the week after. Pick one now and use it in your life.
Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome. I’ll talk to you soon.