You are ready to apply for a new job, or perhaps you hear that a new round of promotions is coming up in the company you work for; maybe you have a great business idea that could finally put you on the road of successful entrepreneurship, or you are about to start the application process for the Masters studies that you have been dreaming about for so long.
Then doubt hits you: “I am not good enough for this” or “I don’t have enough money” or “my boss doesn’t really like me and he will not support me.” Does this ring a bell?
It happens to all of us. We are determined to achieve a certain objective, but when we begin to move in the right direction, we lose confidence and start wondering if we can really make it. This part of our mind—the one that generates a lot of self-doubt—has been given many names: the saboteur, the gremlin, your inner critic, the little demon, a goblin, etc.
How can you build up your confidence and make sure that you do what’s actually best for you? I have included below a few suggestions based on my experience and from well-known experts in the field. This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list of possibilities or actions available to you, but it will give you some ideas about the paths you can take in order to feel more confident with your actions.
- The first and most important step is to be aware of what’s going on. The fact that you realize that your goblin is, or wants to be, in action, already gives you a great advantage. It is up to you to listen to it, or not. The goblin is part of you, but it’s not you. You must be conscious to the fact that there is a constant struggle between your goblin and your “entrepreneur you” to take the high ground.
- Once your self-awareness is raised, then comes the commitment to sort the situation out. It is up to you of course, to take the decision to fight your negative thoughts in order to go ahead and succeed with your plans and dreams.
- Once the decision is taken, how are you going to do this? What kind of tools can you use? We tend to undermine ourselves and forget that we are very good at a number of things. Think about it, what are you very good at? For example: “I am a fast learner, I am good at languages, I am very good at managing projects, I am very disciplined with my work, I am an excellent organizer, etc.”
Make a list of your strengths and you can use them as tools to work on your plans and make them a reality.
- I suggest that before you go into the next challenging situation (a hard day ahead, an interview, a sales meeting, a difficult conversation…), do a little exercise that will help you build up your confidence: When you are alone, and preferably in front of a mirror, take two or three deep breaths and say aloud a few things you are very good at, from the list you just created: e.g. “I am actually a great engineer,” “I generate very good ideas for my company,” “I really help people every day,” “I know that I am the right person for the job” and so on.
Speaking these positive affirmations will build up your energy and self-assurance.
Confidence building, decision making and vulnerability, are nicely covered by Brené Brown in her “Seven Super Tips” video. Dr. Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston—well known by her books on courage and vulnerability—states the following (I am summarizing): When something hard happens and we are captured by something difficult, our emotions get the first crack at making sense of things. When you let your emotions drive, you end up saying to yourself things like “I am not supposed to be here, I am not good enough, I said something wrong, I didn’t do something right, and so on.” When that’s the case, the first step for rising strong is recognize that you have been snagged by emotion and ask yourself: what am I feeling? What do I need to know more about? Stop and ask yourself: What do I know for sure? What are the real facts? The rest of the story, well…you are making it up.
Allow thought and behavior take over and exercise a “power of veto” over negative emotions.
- Learn to accept praise. When someone comes to you and say that you did a good job, or that you look great today, or that the presentation was terrific, accept it! Say thanks! Don’t diminish yourself with unnecessary modesty.
Accept praise, it is a strong motivator and it’s very valuable, particularly if it is honest feedback.
- Mr. Shirzad Chamine, former CEO of the Coaches Training Institute (CTI), has done extensive research on the topic of Positive Intelligence. One of his suggestions for when you are facing some self-doubt is to “shift your attention to one physical sensation for ten seconds a few times every hour. For example, taste that bite of your crunchy apple, really see the hundred shades of color in your friend’s eyes, or hug your loved one so attentively that you feel their heart beat.”
Do not allow your goblin to rob you of your potential. Always bring the “entrepreneur you,” the “I-trust-myself you” to the forefront and make your goals and your dreams a reality.
However, don’t remove your goblin completely, given that it also acts as a warning system.
There are occasions in which it becomes not an obstacle but an experienced advisor. You must be able to decide whether it is giving you a valid cautionary notice or if it is weakening your confidence. Always under your control; not the other way around.
I will finish with some words from Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0:
“When you let your emotions overtake your ability to think clearly, it’s easy to lose your resolve. You have to keep your emotions in check. Negative emotions will challenge your grit every step of the way. While it’s impossible not to feel your emotions, it’s completely under your power to manage them effectively and to keep yourself in a position of control.”