Monday, March 27th, 2017
“I can’t do it. What have I got to bring? I’m not ready..”
My mind was saying this in a meeting the other day. I was there as a trainer to be part of an exciting new leadership programme for women. I was there because of my experience, my reputation and my knowledge and yet as I heard about the ambition and scale of the project, my mind started it’s usual fear-based dialogue and my body started to shrink.
The voice of self doubt is something that most of us can relate to. It is one of the annoying side effects of wanting to achieve or do a great job.
The questions is, why do we doubt ourselves and how can we stop it from undermining our confidence?
To reassure you, most people I’ve ever worked with do. From award winning actors who feel the angst of any potential failure, to managing directors who quake at the thought of doing a presentation.
Firstly, the reason we have this voice is biological. Neuroscientists explain that it’s simply a hangover from our ancestors who developed a negativity bias in our brain to stop us from taking unnecessary risks and being eaten by tigers!
In my personal experience, it is also an aspect of being ambitious. We may feel confident in familiar situations, but the more we dare to play a bigger game, the more our self-doubt can show up. (The more our brain sees potential danger).
The frustrating about it is that it can feel like an invisible cloak that blocks us from expressing our truth or being our full selves.
“You’re not ready, good enough, smart enough…” or “You’re lazy, you should have got further than you have, you just about got away with that ..”
The same negativity bias in the brain also stops us from appreciating our achievements or ourselves.
I’ve known people to rush from one success to the next challenge, without a moment of satisfaction. The achievement that once felt so important to reach is disregarded for the next summit. There’s no time to fully appreciate the fact that you are really quite brilliant.
So – what do we do quieten this voice down?
Meditate, do affirmations, practice yoga?
Well – these strategies can all help. It’s good to have ways to manage the affects of the little voice, but I believe it’s actually better to stop and listen to the critical voice.
The thing is, it’s not the critical voice that’s the problem. We all have one. As I said, it’s part of our brain’s nature to warn us about danger.
It’s the relationship we have with our inner critic that leads us to sleepless nights, down the panic alleyway or potentially towards a deeper feeling of confidence.
If we’re not listening, we can simply feel undermined and anxious. If we do listen, then we actually have a chance of shifting it’s hold on us.
The reality is, If you do observe the voice in your head, you may find that it’s a shadow of a past hurt. A time at school when you were being told off, or when your dad lost his rag.
Mine is the panicky feeling of not finishing my homework. I remember the first time I was interviewed on radio, I felt as if I was gabbling in a high-pitched voice as if I had sucked a helium balloon!
So – after testing every strategy in the personal development book, my belief is that the best route to inner peace is to strike up a relationship with your little critic. Have a chat, an inner cup of tea and give it the reassurance it needs!
Here is what I say to mine:
“Hello self-doubt – nice to see you!”
My self-doubt relaxes. The grip loosens.
“What are you worried is going to happen?”
I listen to my self-doubt with empathy. I give it space to feel safe to talk. I give it a hug!
My self-doubt normally reveals its familiar pattern.
“I’m worried that you’re going to look stupid in front of all those people. I’m worried they’ll find out that you are not very good.”
I acknowledge this childlike fear and say:
“Well thank you for trying to protect me from danger. I really appreciate that you’re worried.”
Then I work with my self-doubt to find some practical solutions.
“If I prepare well and practice a few minutes each day, I should be ready. I’ve done this before, so I know I’ll be fine. Remember how well the last workshop went? Is there anything else you think would help?”
By this time, my little voice of self-doubt has calmed down. Knowing it has been listened to without judgment can be a powerful way to help it feel more confident again.
Put simply, our self-doubt is often a younger part of ourselves that was never listened to or understood.
If we treat our self-doubt as a younger version of ourselves that lives in our mind, then we start to build our own confidence.
If we ignore it, make it wrong or squash it down, then it will most likely run away from problems or behave like a child.
You are an adult of course and learning to be kind to yourself is what will help you unleash more of your huge potential in life. Befriend that inner critic and set your confidence free.
Here is a few steps to befriending your voice of self doubt:
“Hello self-doubt – nice to see you!”
“What are you worried is going to happen?”
Acknowledge any of the fears it has. Thank it for bringing them to your attention.
Remind this part of you of some recent successes.
Come up with ways to prepare or feel confident.
“What about we do …. or … to prepare ourselves?”
Over to you:
When you get a moment of self doubt – what helps you?
Wednesday, March 8th, 2017
“Let things happen as they’re supposed to.”
I have been a ‘pusher’ all of my life. Now when I say ‘pusher’, I don’t mean the drugs use type 😉 – I mean the work-focused type. Pushing myself to work harder, learn new things to increase my skillset, pushing myself to exercise, to dance regularly, to do interesting cultural things.
But then, on Monday, I met a vicar who shifted my world view. Rick works at a hospice I was visiting in Cheshire. There to see a close family member, I was struggling emotionally. He had a twinkle in his eye and a calm, patient demeanour. We sat together in the hospice chapel – a simple space with a stained-glass window and a few seats.
His eyes had a soft gaze. As he looked towards me, I felt that there was nothing in life he’d not experienced and it had all been fascinating.
As I described my struggles and came up with possible solutions, he offered me the insight that pushing is going against the natural course in life. Life is about embracing the now, accepting what happens and engaging with everything with an openness. We should be in touch with our instincts in life; to be guided by its natural order. When we push, we may miss what’s meant for us.
I sat and listened and a deep question unraveled in me – what are we all pushing ourselves for?
It’s a philosophy that many of us stand by in western life. We have pride in our ability to push beyond our comfort zones. Motivational speeches encourage us to try harder, persevere and become the person we can be through our efforts. Empowerment is the religion for those who want to achieve in life – to become a person who is admired by others.
Do we do it to prove something? And to whom?
Through my pushing I make myself go to the gym, keep a steady weight and run my own business with a keen determination. It’s worked. I have inspired people through the work I do, but here I was facing the prospect that there something I still had to learn, despite all the wisdom I had gathered in my time as a coach.
As I face the truth, the cost of all this pushing can mean that I feel worn out, depleted. My love life can get knocked to the bottom of the pile. When I do feel an instinct that I should stop and relax – another part of me feels I need to carry on – to keep going.
As I sit there and question my pushing addiction – I ask myself – what happens if I stop pushing? Who will I become and what will change?
So I decide to experiment – I decide to go along with what I feel like doing. No strategy – just my instincts.
And it led me here. I woke up and wrote a story about the vicar. I felt the ‘push’ to do a blog and decided to go with first thoughts. Talk about Rick, a kinder philosophy for ambitious types like me. A view of life that can ease up the need to keep pushing harder and trust the moment a bit more.
So here it is – piece of writing in a few minutes. No attachment on whether it’s good, bad or if it will please anyone.
I even lost half of what I’d written because my computer decided to malfunction. Normally my push mode would get all fired up, angry and try to fix the problem. My new mode embraced the blip and I just wrote it again.
It’s making me realise that life can be a journey of ease – not pushing but relaxing into what feels good can help us enjoy our expression so much more. Creativity feels good when we let go and ease into the moment.
What about you? Are you an addicted pusher? 😉 Perhaps we should start a recovery club. Do share your thoughts below!
Wednesday, March 1st, 2017
“You weren’t successful this time…”
You know you shouldn’t, but you curl up in bed and hope that you’ll feel better in an hour. Rejection feels hard. It hits you in the gut.
As you lie there, you realise that you’re not just feeling wounded by this setback. All the failures from your life seem to line up in your mind. You begin to think that perhaps the world is right. You should just stop trying to be a creative, you should pursue something easier. You’re too sensitive to deal with a life of knock-backs. You’re not tough enough for this game.
We’ve all been there – and we will all have to deal with this feeling sometimes. Rejection is just much more likely if you’re a freelance creative who is daring to put yourself out there.
I’m going to remind you that the most important part of this is that you are brave enough to put your work out into the world – you dared to show up, where so many people hide. You took a chance – and that is something to celebrate.
Walt Disney was fired from Kansas City Star because he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’. He was also refused 300 times by banks who thought the idea of Mickey Mouse was absurd.
Oprah Winfrey was an evening reporter and got fired because she couldn’t keep her emotions at bay.
Jerry Seinfeld was fired after a poor performance on his very minor role on the sitcom Benson (although no one told him he had been fired and he only discovered this when he showed up for a read-through to find his part was missing from the script).
Howard Stern was fired by NBC when he was working as a DJ. He founded XM and the rest is history.
Van Gogh hardly received any acclaim for his work. He only sold one of his paintings while he was alive. Despite this, he continued working throughout his life. Now his paintings are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Stephen King’s first book, Carrie, was rejected thirty times. Apparently King decided to throw the book away, but his wife retrieved it from the bin and convinced him to re-submit it.
When Claude Monet was alive, his work was mocked and rejected by the artistic elite, the Paris Salon.
Rudyard Kipling was fired from his role as contributor to the San Francisco Examiner in 1889 because he was told by an editor, “I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.”
Famously, Thomas Edison made one thousand attempts before he was finally able to successfully invent the light bulb.
Emily Dickinson had just 12 poems published during her lifetime out of the one thousand eight hundred she sent to publishers.
So – there you have it!
What matters is that you get up each morning, dust yourself off and keep going. Sharing your work and getting feedback will either give you useful insights to tweak your work, or it will build your stamina and belief that your work is worth something.
Either way, treat it as a gift because it is to keep going.
You are far braver than the majority of people in life who sit behind their laptops and act as the critics.
Your job is to persevere – to keep going and to allow the setbacks to be part of the journey of improving your voice, your style and your impact.
Don’t give up – just tweak, learn your creative voice and keep being brave. The world is full of people following the flock – and we need more bright, brave souls just like you!