As a child all the way into my twenties I was the quiet and shy one. Over the years I’ve come out of my shell and morphed into an extremely confident woman. Experience and ambition has fuelled confidence. Age is playing its part bringing a clearer perspective of what to worry about and I’m definitely at that phase where I ‘care less’ about what people think and have a greater resilience to mistakes as I ramble through mid-life.
However, that does not mean I’m immune to self doubt. Although most days I’m the picture of confidence on the outside and can push myself on regardless, on the inside there is often a ball of self-doubt which needs to be managed on a daily basis or it could build to detrimental effect.
Coaching women over the past few years, it has been a welcomed realisation that I am not alone. Many women feel the same. Many very senior competent and confident women are plagued with internal self-doubt and its friend anxiety. Feeding themselves messages of ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I’m going to be found to be less capable than they think I am’ ‘what if I get this wrong?’ “I’m useless at balancing home/ work, career/ motherhood’. Yet being able to function under pressure, when a job needs to get done, a project to be delivered and to carry on with an air of confidence regardless of whether we feel confident, is what we are very good at.
But to what cost?
Self-doubt feeds internal conflict which lowers self-esteem and drives the inner negative chattering monkey into overdrive. It can paralyse us so that we get stuck in a rut, in jobs which we don’t enjoy and with thinking and behaviour patterns which don’t serve us effectively. Coping and looking confident, but feeling anything but confident is unhealthy and it’s overwhelming. It doesn’t make us happy. It’s exhausting.
Coping with the imbalance of outer and inner confident is a habit which needs to be addressed in order to really live and work a fulfilling life. Time is precious and in order to continue to achieve our full potential as we grow older, to actually be as good as we want to be to those that count on us and to get a good night’s sleep so we look after our own wellbeing, we have to learn to manage self doubt.
Here are a few strategies which can help you lead yourself more effectively around self-doubt.
Spot the signs and identify the triggers
When we are busy running around working and juggling life, it’s easy to miss the signs that we are leading ourselves down the wrong path and to do little in the moment to counter the impact of self-doubt. Learn to spot the signs. For me, it’s a feeling of weight in my chest. For one of my clients, she feels a misty dark cloud close over her. When you spot the signs that’s when know you need to be mindful of what path you are leading yourself on and to dig into your toolbox of personal strategies to realign and manage yourself effectively.
See yourself through others eyes
We can get wrapped up in our own world of self-doubt and conflict. Here we focus on the things we lack, we nit-pick at our weaknesses and imperfections. If we take a step back and become more self-aware we remind ourselves of our strengths, values and positive personality traits which can only boost internal confidence. One approach I suggest is to ask yourself why other people like you, pick you, include you and rely on you. Here you will shine a light on true strengths, competencies, successes and overall fabulousness to counter the self-doubt whispers.
Remember you are telling yourself stories
Self-doubt is made up of stories. Things we have created and visualised based on our interpretation and mixed up memories of the past and what we suppose will happen in the future. Stories which can be overdramatic and as far-fetched as you can visualise. Even worse at night! Remember that the self-doubt chatter you are hearing is just a story you are telling yourself rather than fact. This helps you unlock the inner wisdom of your more positive real authentic self to guide and calm you.
Strike a pose.
I grew up in the 80s so Madonna was my female inspiration and I often tap into the words from Vogue – ‘strike a pose’ – when I feel self-doubt creep in. It empowers me and calms the self-doubt anxiety so I can take control of my thoughts. There is something about standing tall and ‘posing’. Amy Cuddy the American psychologist also talks about the ‘Power Pose’ (the wonder woman stance) in her famous TedTalk. The idea we can trick our brain into feeling more confident if we stand up tall, put hands on our hips and create a solid space between our feet. Your body language is your personal tool. Try it and you will reap the benefit.
Avoid comparison at all cost
We can’t live in a bubble and try as we might to avoid other people’s pictures of success we will struggle to miss them. ‘Comparison certainly is a thief of joy and of confidence’. Remind yourself to stay in your own lane and focus on what you have and your achievements. Be inspired by others not threatened by the picture being showcased by those around you. If you have a tendency to compare, create personal rules and boundaries to keep yourself away from your identified triggers and specific individuals.
Learning the ‘mindful minute’ in a coach training course a few years back revolutionised my approach to dealing with self-doubt. The idea is you set a timer for a minute, sit and breathe in and out as you count slowly. When your timer goes off whatever number you got to is your ‘mindful minute’ magic number. Whenever you feel self-doubt and anxiety hit – sit back, shut your eyes and count to your magic number. Become focused on the present, calm yourself and then allow the real perspective on a situation to flow in.
Find your tribe
Talking to yourself will fuel self-doubt, talking to others will ease your inner doubt. Find the people who will hear you out, guide you and boost you. Sharing will always help as it provides not only a release, help you see new perspectives but also bring extra reassurance you are not alone with your ‘crazy’ self-doubt chatter. Colleagues, friends, loved ones and professionals. Mix it up. Have them in all pockets of your life so there is always someone there when you need them.