Keeping the Promises You Make to Yourself

Sarah McMahon
4 min readSep 11, 2023

[Listen to an audio version of this blog here.]

“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today I’m writing about confidence, the polar opposite of desperation and wise older sibling to cockiness. If you close your eyes right now, I’m sure you can picture someone you know who is cocky and doesn’t that just irk you? Confidence is something to be earned while cockiness is a symptom. One is showy, the other is self-assured. One is overstated and inauthentic and the other is poised.

I believe that the best way to increase confidence is to consistently keep the promises you make to yourself. You can’t grow self-assured about anything until you have proven your own competency to yourself, and you can’t grow competent until you show up.

I’ve known many people who make promises they never keep. Whether it’s a friend making a plan they never intend to follow through on, a business not returning your phone call, or a workplace not fulfilling their end of a compensation plan, we all know what it’s like to encounter flakey, inconsistent people. You probably don’t like or respect them very much, right? It’s hard to trust someone who doesn’t show that they’re trustworthy, which is why confidence comes from trusting yourself. When I was in school, I got straight A’s, and not because I was that smart. I studied hard and told myself that I would do the absolute best that I could. Once I understood that I could achieve straight A’s, that was the standard I held myself to. Once I knew what I was capable of, anything less was unacceptable. It’s important to point out that nobody else would have been disappointed with a B. Nobody can ever be as disappointed with me as I can be because nobody else cares as much. If you let other people dictate what success means, you’ll always end up disappointed.

When I’m training for a race (my next race is the Kodiak 100, in Big Bear, CA), I have to put in a lot of miles and a fair amount of time in the gym. Some mornings, the last thing I want to do is wake up and go for a run, and hit the snooze button more than once. Some days, I don’t feel the least bit inspired to train, but I do anyway. I don’t know much but I do know that putting in consistent work is one of the best ways…

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