Updated: Aug 1, 2020
Every pilot, no matter where you are at in your flying career, has faced a situation that has shot your confidence in your abilities. Whether it be during a training event, before a flight with a new crew, or during "under-pressure" situations, walking away from that aircraft never felt so ugly. WE (crew) HAVE ALL BEEN THERE! We're not perfect flyers and we never will be! Getting stuck in a low self-confidence rut can be hard to get out of, ESPECIALLY in training or (heaven forbid) after an incident. If you stay there in that low head-space, it will take you even longer to bounce back.
Story time: I failed 1 check ride in my life. Instruments. Yep. Most difficult training course I have ever been through. If you get through your IFR rating, EVERYTHING else is pure fun. Commercial, Multi, and every type-rating thereafter is truly just awesome to train for. Anyway, my left-handedness messed up a simple "pencil method" on how to enter a hold and I botched it. I was so pissed not only that I was more than ready for the checkride , already trained extra, and had zero funding left for mess-ups. I heard those gosh-awful words; "I cannot issue your certificate at this time". UGH! I threw that yoke and said "I'm done, take me home". I wanted to quit then and there and change my major. First (and only) time I truly wanted to walk away from flying. Obviously there's more to the build up of that moment, but if you're in aviation, you could probably imagine it for yourself without me telling you.
What a shit-show. I was angry, I felt conquered, unworthy, hopeless and untrainable. and worst of all, (yes, I'm going to pull the "girl" card), I felt unsupported in my male-dominated aviation community. After a much needed pep-talk from my own mother, and some space away from flight school, I reverted to some very helpful steps to get myself back in the game.
IMPROVE YOUR MINDSET
Easier said than done right? This goes so much deeper than your daily thoughts. My favorite quote by Author Joyce Meyer; "where the mind goes, the man follows." So freaking true!! If you dwell and wallow in your pity, you will undoubtedly stay there.
Your attitude and your perspectives are part conscious and part unconscious and can be learned, unlearned, programmed and reprogrammed in a variety of different ways. A simple change of mind can help you become your best self. Mindsets affect your life expectancy, daily decision-making, relationships... the list goes on. Start with something simple as a personal mantra. Mine in college was "Let go, Let God". My mantra today, albeit simple sounding has a much deeper meaning personally but it's "keep the shiny side up." Start right when you wake up. don't touch your phone (because blue light effects your brain-waves), don't check social media (because its too early in the morning to implement subliminal life-comparison), and don't hit snooze (because starting the day late already sets you up for defeat). Instead, use those 5 extra minutes to read a quick uplifting message and trigger the brain to immediately start positive thinking. (Check out the Mile High Book Club for some reading suggestions). Or meditate right there on your pillow, about how your day is going to look in all of its glory. Practice gratitude, a grateful heart is a thankful heart. Reflect on 3 positive things that happened the day before. All of these exercises cognitively program your brain to IMPROVE YOUR MINDSET. And its scientifically proven that the more you do them, the easier it is to stay positive.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR VALUE
Identifying and understanding your self-worth is a HUGE confidence booster. We are all our own worst critic, but the way we typically talk to ourselves is SO MEAN! Would you say the things you think about yourself to your best friend? Probably not. Identify the things you currently DO like about yourself, give those traits the credit they absolutely deserve. Maybe you're an awesome listener on a personal level, and you nail the 1,000 foot markers on EVERY landing on a professional skill level. CELEBRATE THESE ACCOMPLISHMENTS! They are learned, acquired and accomplished value points that YOU have conquered. ACKNOWLEDGE THEM. And be kind to yourself will you?
TAKE PART IN YOUR SELF-IMPROVEMENT
Just as you attend and study in ground school to fly a plane, should you study and learn on how you can improve yourself. For me, I love reading articles (like this one!), and encouraging self-help books. Maybe you really get a runners-high after you work out and feel those endorphins kick in. Perhaps your heart bursts with joy when you learn a new song on the guitar. Whatever it may be (other than flying), invest in what fulfills you and pushes you to be a better version of yourself. These tiny improvements will mentally leak into every other part of your life! Relationships, training, health, etc.
DRESS UP AND SHOW UP
Well, I hope you're wearing clothes in general when you're off to the flight line, but take pride in your appearance. I don't mean you have to be dressed to the nines, but putting in a little more elbow grease to feel the part, always helps your self confidence. Think about how you feel on a random good hair day, or when you get to wear your new favorite shirt. Have a good hair day everyday! And for heaven sakes, SHOW UP! I mean it more than just a physical manner; my mantra is "five minutes early is on time and on time is late". If you give yourself time to mentally prepare, your brain will show up and be less stressed about whatever situation you're about to face, when you face it.
BE A GOAL SETTER
The tiniest goals are still goals. I am always a huge advocate of big audacious dreams, but tiny goals are even more important. Think as small as "I'm going to make my bed everyday for a week" or "I'm going to read that entire book in one month". Setting small goals, and accomplishing them, rewires your brain to be more driven to work towards the bigger goals in life. My dad use to say "Take care of your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves". These goals will also leak onto each other and create some really awesome habits in your personal life which will ABSOLUTELY reflect into your professional life.
To sum it up, lifes' too short for shitty coffee, so why would you allow yourself to live a daily life of low self-confidence? Take care of yourself FIRST, and everywhere else in your life will improve. Most of all, give yourself grace!!! You are human, you are going to make mistakes. You also have the free will on how you will handle yourself after those mistakes; you can sit and wallow in your sadness, or you can DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.