Unshattering Your Confidence

Unshattering Your Confidence

About a year ago a close friend had a car accident. She was driving in a parking lot at a large shopping mall, stopped at a stop sign, then pulled out to cross an esplanade (2 lanes each way with bushes planted in a divider). Just past the divider she got hit on the right side behind the front passenger seat by a big, black Suburban. It was in the left-hand lane hidden by the bushes. My friend's car was totaled, but she and her front seat passenger walked away with minor injuries.

Still, she was unnerved. She replayed the scene over and over in her mind, trying to find something she could've done differently, but couldn't. The problem was that the accident was the result of wrong thinking.

When she pulled up to the stop sign, she really thought it was a four-way stop. But it wasn't; cars on the esplanade had no stop sign. She kept thinking that if the Suburban had been in the other lane, the one to the right, it would've hit the front car door squarely and killed her friend.

Her conclusion was that when your thinking is wrong, there's nothing you can do differently, so that makes you dangerous. Her confidence was shattered. The only option she felt she had was to not drive ever again.

In our SWYS parenting blog entry, Learning from Childhood Accidents, I explain how to help get children back on track after an accident. The process is much the same for ourselves.

Like children, when we feel helpless in the face of an accident, we automatically start to reclaim our power. Sometimes we start with blame as the grown-up version of hiding, but we eventually start searching for what we could do differently next time.

The step we don't often remember is to look for what we did right.

Enter SAY WHAT YOU SEE®. In my friend's case, I was there to do that for her. Starting from where she was and pointing out what she did right sounded like this:

"You were sure it was a four-way stop, so you pulled across the esplanade expecting other cars to stop. That's unnerving because you have to count on what you think to decide what to do. Your worst fear is that because you were wrong, you could've killed your friend.


But there are three things you might not realize that tell me that car-totaled-but-everyone-walking-away was the worst case scenario already. Here's why.


I know that parking lot. All the other stop signs are four-way stops, so in the parking lot you were patterned to expect that. That tells me the only place you would make that kind of mistake would be a parking lot where cars aren't driving very fast anyway.


Another thing is that you depend on more than thinking to decide what to do. You take visual cues from other cars to confirm your thoughts. In this case there were no other cars visible. If there had been, you would not have pulled out regardless of your thinking.


But the third and most important thing is that it wasn't just luck that your friend was not killed. The car that hit you was the worst case scenario. It was going as fast as any car in the parking lot would and was the biggest car it could be. If it had been in the right lane instead of the left, you would have seen it sooner and stopped. The only possible way you could have been hit was the way it happened with the car in the left lane, behind the bushes until the last second, and you more than half-way across the esplanade."

Once she saw the accident from the perspective of what she did right, her confidence began to return. She's been driving accident-free ever since.

You don't have a friend to do this for you, because you can SAY WHAT YOU SEE to yourself. The important thing is to first validate how you feel and what you think. Then when you are ready, look for what you did right. That one simple step can unshatter your confidence and get you back on track.


  1. Angelika |

    What an excellent suggestion! Never thought to use it on my self (or adults). Hope I won’t have to, but if I do I will remember to look for what we did right!

    Thanks Sandy!

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes, no car accidents please, and it’s great for other situations, too. Let me know how it goes.

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