Episode #8 - Building Your Self-Confidence
Merry Christmas, Rebels!! Well, it's not quite Christmas, but we're only just a couple of days away. I LOVE the holiday season. I was born right in the middle of it, the day after Thanksgiving, in fact, so I guess it's in my blood. I'm a big fan of holiday gatherings, the music, the food, and particularly the baked sugar goodies. I especially like showing my appreciation to the people who have been a significant part of my life (whether a new acquaintance or someone who has been in my life for decades). But once Christmas comes and goes, it signals the end of the season and mentally the end of our "holiday spirit." We all seem to collectively "go back to normal" like these magical months never happened.
That's very similar to what we do regarding our self-confidence. It's like it comes in seasons instead of being present all year round. So many of my clients struggle with a lack of self-confidence, of not feeling good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to get what they want. It comes from the narratives we've bought into, that may have originated culturally, within our families, societally, or through other circumstances that we've internalized as the culprit and caused us to create a bias against ourselves and our abilities to do, be, and have what we desire and deserve.
I mean, I get it. For years I had this unconscious narrative rolling around in my brain that said I had to "prove" my worthiness by proving other people's ideas of me wrong. I called it the "I'll show you" syndrome, which fueled my desire for external achievements. Many of the women I work with struggle with this same syndrome and are consumed by the idea of proving other people's thoughts that they're thinking they're having about them wrong.
It shows up in the most interesting ways, like not being invited to a meeting being interpreted as you're not being valued. Being told something vague by your manager, like how much they enjoy your co-worker's contribution, and you're upset because your contribution wasn't mentioned. Not getting the promotion you knew had your name on it and interpreting that to mean your boss is trying to sabotage your career. There may be a desire to prove to your boss that they're wrong in each of these situations. You may spend time telling your friends about the horrible treatment you're receiving at the hands of your manager. But what's most likely going on is that you're questioning your value and self-worth, and these incidents triggered that thought in your mind. So, now you feel a need to prove them wrong, but what you want to do is to prove yourself wrong.
This thought pattern originated somewhere through the course of your life. For me, it came from the story I created about myself when the priest awarded the kid who was 2d in our class a scholarship to high school over me because even though I was 1st in my class, he thought I'd be pregnant and dropout by the time I was16. Or when my high-school guidance counselor tried to steer me into lower-tiered schools even though I ranked #5 in my class, was in the honor society, was on the dean's list, etc.
These incidents, and others, planted a seed of not being "good enough" or worthy, but it got all twisted in my brain to believe that it's not what I think about myself that matters; it's what others believe about me. I had to convince everyone else around me that I was good enough through my achievements or what I accomplished. Once I do that, then I'd feel good enough and worthy.
Now, I'll have to admit, when I was able to uncover that narrative in my brain through coaching and a lot of self-work, I was floored. I didn't want to believe it, but then I could see the reality of this thought pattern in my behaviors. For example, I'd be devastated by a single critique, even in a slew of positive comments or in the way I'd discount my own achievements or successes when I compared them to others.
As strong, proud, successful high-high-achieving women and women of color, this can be a hard to pill to swallow. But denying it doesn't help. It only causes us to grit our teeth, bear down, and white knuckle our way through until we get to the other side. And because we're good at suffering through and grinning and bearing it (and have the battle scars, high blood pressure, migraines, and acute stress and anxiety levels to prove it), we've confused that with self-confidence.
External circumstances, validation, and achievements don't create self-confidence. In fact, it does the opposite. Even if we are validated somehow, we question it and doubt it. We wonder if we truly deserve it because there's this underlying belief that we are not good enough or worthy. That's why people stay in a position for 10+ years complaining about not being valued by the organization. They stay because they don't feel confident enough to leave. They don't believe they can do better, have better, get something better. It's easy to blame the company or what's going on around us because it's much harder to face what's happening inside your brain and the emotions of fear and self-doubt that it brings up.
Most of us have self-confidence backward. We think if "X" happens then, we'll feel confident, but external circumstances don't drive self-confidence. You have to first believe in yourself. It's about being secure in yourself and your abilities. It's about trusting yourself and believing that you're capable of getting or achieving what you want. It's not hoping or limiting yourself by a set of circumstances; it's trusting and believing without leaving any room for self-doubt.
It's our thoughts about ourselves that generate or depletes our self-confidence. That thought or belief is what gives us the feeling of confidence. Our feelings come from our thinking, not the circumstances, people, or events around us. So ultimately, it's the way we think about ourselves that will determine whether or not we feel confident. For example, a self-confident person will think they are good enough, worthy, and capable, whether or not they get the promotion, land the job, or get appreciation from their manager. They'll think they're strong, competent, and capable regardless of what others think, say, or do.
Shifting our thoughts to create a feeling of confidence and then actually believing it is a skill and takes work. Most of our beliefs have been recycled through false narratives that we don't even realize exist (like the narrative I created from my school experiences) or by how much self-doubt and anxiety our negative beliefs have produced. It's hard to break these thought patterns when we've relied on them for 30, 40, or 50 years. It's familiar, comfortable, and predictable.
But getting what you want will often require discomfort, and self-confidence is about your ability to proceed in the discomfort and do it afraid. For years I've told my clients that confidence is a verb. In actuality, confidence is a feeling, but progress increases self-confidence. Even when you're scared and have no idea of the outcome, massive action helps to increase it. But notice I didn't say massive winning, massive achievement, or massive success. It's doing the thing regardless of the outcome AND making it through the challenges and emotions to the other side. Most of us aren't self-confident because we're afraid of feeling our emotions. We don't want to feel any negativity, so we hide and don't take chances. This leaves us scared to do anything that risks our perception of failure.
But achievement is not the goal of self-confidence. Instead, it's believing in your drive, commitment, and determination to do what it is you want or said you would do. It's believing you can do hard things and succeed. Not that you've already done something hard and succeeded, but that you can. And that you have everything it takes to get what you want.
It's believing you're already competent and successful whether you get the promotion or not. It's believing you've already made a significant contribution to your organization, whether your manager acknowledges it or not. Finally, it's knowing that you can get any job you want when you want once you set your mind to it.
Now, of course, there may be times you'll need to augment what you already bring to the table. For example, you can't be a lawyer without going to law school and passing the bar. But the point is you're confident you can achieve what you want.
That's why it can really be helpful to make a list of things you've already achieved or accomplished to start training your brain to focus on what you can do instead of what you can't. It's the 100's list assignment I give to my clients.
But that's just the first step. While it's a great starting place to see what's possible, you want to quickly move beyond what you achieved to focus on what it took to reach it. If you just focus on the achievements, your brain may think that's all you can do. Instead, focus on what you had to get over, how you needed to grow, what fears you had to face, and what doubts you had to eradicate to reach the things on that list.
Now when you're faced with something new, it won't be scary, doubtful, or daunting because you'll know you've done hard, challenging, time-consuming things before and can do them again. You'll begin to see that fear doesn't prevent self-confidence—the unwillingness to feel it and move past it does. Not gritting your teeth and white-knuckling your way through it either, but instead building a foundation and sure-footedness to have and get what we want—trusting yourself to persevere even when things are challenging and difficult.
In the last podcast, I shared that this is my 4th entrepreneurial venture. What makes this one successful and sustainable is the shift in that good enough narrative and my ability to believe there are no limits to what I can do and who I can become inside my business. In my previous attempts, I tried to push my way through the fear, but my thoughts of what if I fail, or I should have started when I was younger, or I can never make more than what I'm making at my job, keep me from achieving what I wanted.
This time around, I knew I had to drop that shitty thinking. I looked at my past achievements of negotiating multi-million contracts, successfully trying sexual harassment and discrimination cases against billion-dollar institutions, and coaching executives on the strategic direction of their organizations, to bolster my self-confidence and belief in what I was capable of. When I look back, I can clearly see that my success grew when I got over the "I'll show you syndrome" and started to believe and trust my ability to figure things out, work through the fear, learn what I don't know, and get it done without the need for validation or approval. When I started believing that I could do hard things and succeed. When I knew that I was worthy and good enough.
It's like that line in Meghan Trainer's song Me Too, where she says, "I thank God every day, that I woke up feeling this way, I can't help loving myself and I don't need nobody else." Meaning I don't need others to validate what I already know to be true about me.
What do you believe about yourself? What do you believe is possible for you? If you don't believe in your brilliance, you won't be able to accept others telling you you're brilliant, particularly if you're consumed with your own lack of confidence. But there's a pathway to the other side. Start by listing out the things you've accomplished and achieved to shift the energy and train your brain to see that you have done the unexpected, the challenging, or the hard thing. Then focus on what it took to get there. What did you need to do, what did you overcome, how did you have to grow, what did you have to learn, and who do you need to become. You've done it before, so guess what, you can overcome and do it again. Then rinse and repeat. You'll see that since you've already developed self-confidence in one season and area of your life, you can now apply it to what you want to do next.
Another tool you can use to help bolster your self-confidence is fine-tuning your image. As a certified image consultant and brand strategist, I use this to help my clients strengthen their confidence through what they wear. Psychologists have proven that what we wear can profoundly alter your mood, stimulate your mind, enhance your self-worth, and make you feel more confident and powerful. Learning to leverage your wardrobe is an easy and effective way to fortify your self-confidence.
Ready to build your self-confidence and get what you want. Join us in the Career Rebel Academy and immediately start this work. The application process is simple, and you can find all the details in the show notes.
That's it for me today, Rebels! Now go out there and level up your self-confidence.
Thanks for tuning in!! Until next time have an amazingly rebellious week.