Confidence Snatchers!


When clients say

“I don’t feel very confident”

I’m usually inclined to go down the road of gremlins and filing cabinets! There will be one of 3 culprits, what I like to call “the confidence snatchers”

Negative self talk

Lets just clarify what I mean by negative self-talk. Sometimes described as your inner voice. Lets be clear, your not alone we ALL have that voice.

Many years ago my coach [yes, coaches need a coach!] described it as,  My Gremlin.

Decades later, my gremlin and I are very good friends, we have an honest relationship whare I tell him to “shut the …. up” if he’s ferreting on and undermining me. “You can’t do that Sian, you can’t say that Sian, any minute now that person is going to know you’re a complete fraud Sian, what on earth are you doing walking out onto that stage to speak in public? You have nothing important enough to say, people will judge you and think your stupid” Sound familiar? 

What I’m doing is acknowledging that at times I’m not feeling confident. Listening on some level to my gremlin, but ultimately learning to quieten the voice and CHOSE to be confident.

My suggestion is to literally draw a picture of what you believe he/she looks like. My Gremlin is male, green, and sits on a wall. Then I ask my clients to write down everything they know about their gremlin. Where he/she came from/ personality/ when they pop into your head/ how they make you feel/ what are they criticising exactly and more importantly, is it true?

I respond to my gremlin by saying (sometimes literally out loud) Yes well that was X years ago when that happened and since then I have done some kickass jobs and lived a rich and full life full of many challenges. I’m still married and my kids aren’t in prison. Today now, I back myself, I know who I am and I’m not afraid of being ME! 

It’s taken a bit of time, months even years, to perfect the narrative and understand that we ALL have a dark side. The ‘us’ we don’t like, or are afraid of, the ‘us’ when we feel a little week or unsure. That’s when your gremlin is waiting in the wings.

We all have some story’s and beliefs about yourself that rear their ugly little heads when you start questioning your ability’s in all areas of your life. That negative self talk is a manifestation of old beliefs your choosing to hold onto, the negative stuff about yourself. Observe the narrative from your gremlin, take notes and reflect what’s said, when, and is there a pattern, and most importantly IS IT TRUE?

I’m reminded of a client who was given a major promotion in one of those lofty ivory towers in the financial world in New York.

She called me one day crying, “I’ve lost all my confidence, I cant do this job! My new boss thinks I’m an idiot. What on earth was I thinking when I accepted the position.” I was listening to self destructive talk. I asked her to take her full hour lunch break and pop into a store and buy a packet of crayons and cheep and cheerful notebook. 

Later that day I received a photo of her gremlin.

She cut him out, laminated him and stuck him on the front of her computer. Her journey of discovering her negative beliefs started that day - we worked together spring cleaning the “I’m not good enough cupboard” Two weeks later she asked for a meeting with her new boss, framed as a quick catch up to check in and see if I’m on the right track. We had prepared a list of the big and small things she thought she had done well and her learning about herself/the company followed by a list of things she needed to focus on. These were specific skills, further in depth learning, and how she planned to address these issues.  She called me from the carpark after the meeting. “he said he had been impressed with my work so far and had received good feedback from other directors. He then said If all the people I worked with had my ability to self evaluate themselves with such clarity and confidence, the whole business would run better and my life as a senior partner would be so much easier indeed”

I couldn’t resist, I asked quietly… “still think you don’t have any confidence?” said with love.  XS 

Where to find the confidence when you need it most.

REAL confidence is like a filing cabinet. You open it up when needed and relate whatever you need confidence for to a life experience that helped prepare you for this moment.

Most of us, simply forget what we have achieved and more importantly the beliefs about ourselves those achievements formulated. Women are particularly challenged in this area of filling their confidence filing cabinet with the stuff they have done, done well and are proud of (but that’s for another blog.) 

This cabinet doesn’t need to all be major huge events and could be as simple as solving an argument by mediating between siblings or friends or pulling rabbits out of hats when a problem arose that needed some creative thinking.

One client was really worried about an interview and kept saying she wasn’t at all confident. I asked what the absolute core of this role was - in one sentence what are you being asked to do? “Crisis manage and find solutions immediately for the continued service delivery whole IT system, worldwide (this is my interpretation of what she said, the tech language she used was mind boggling.)

“They want me to prove I can think outside the box under pressure.”

I took her on a completely different path of thinking. When had she had reason to panic because she needed to pull a rabbit out of a hat in her personal life.

There had been a Christmas day from hell some years before. When her sister had arrived on her door step at 6 am with 3 kids in tow. Single, unattached and with a hangover. she was informed that their dad was in hospital with a suspected appendicitis and she needed to look after the kids and give then some kind of Christmas. She described it as the worst moment of her life - she had no idea what to do with them, let alone if making them happy on Christmas Day when their dad was in hospital was even achievable.

By 9am they were at the serpentine in Hyde Park watching the Peter Pan swimming race, open top bus rides, fast food, ice-creams and a visit to Ripleys to see the weird and the wonderful. Job done - a Christmas day the kids have never forgotten. This was 10 years ago and to this day her nephews refer to it as the best Christmas EVER.

“If I achieved that with no prep time, I can do anything” Indeed, you can Hillary.

We reviewed what had been achieved.

  • Managing people.
  • Emotions
  • Expectations
  • Found solutions
  • New inventive options
  • Took on responsibility with no lad in time.
  • Don’t need to prepare for everything all the time.
  • Have amazing resources at hand, and didn’t even know.

All you need to do is start cataloging your life achievements and file them in the confidence cabinet.

The more you fill the cabinet and review your learning the more confidence you can find - even at short notice!

PS… she told that story at the interview - and got the job!

Fear of making mistakes.

There really is no way of doing everything right or perfectly all day everyday. And if we were honest the people we work with who actually believe they are a part of this elite tribe are a pain in the ass to be around mainly, because of their lack of self-awareness.

Every mistake I have made in my life both personally and professionally have been gifts.

I was once advised by a very wise woman to ask myself a question when I believed I had made a catastrophic mistake. She told me to ask myself  “what did I learn”

Most peoples working environment involve some sort of team/group collaboration. To be a team player with integrity, you have to be able to acknowledge when you make a mistake. It’s a skill that will open doors to promotion and very possibly leadership roles. 

People are drawn to professionally honest workmates. Their core values tend to burn bright and create a sense of possibility to try new things and be brave when challenging projects and tasks. It takes away the fear of failure when people can be comfortable about what, with hindsight, they would do differently.

Making mistakes makes you human, learning how to acknowledge your failings without being a martyr or seeking forgiveness is a sure sign of emotional intelligence.

A few years ago, a client was very worried abut a taxi fare (for a LOT of money) that he had paid for on his work credit card after a boozy lunch with some important clients. Nothing about his decision making was in line with company policy. It didn’t sit well with his values and he was feeling guilty and concerned that someone would call him out about bad decision making and the cost to the company. I used my coaching board room technique.

Turn this scenario upside down… you’re the CEO and sitting at the top of the boardroom table. In comes a manager who has asked for 5 mins of your time to discuss an issue that is concerning him. This member of staff tells your story, and adds his preferred solution. My client was quiet for a few moments; this is what he said:

He’s learned a huge lesson about alcohol and working lunches, also about his own professional values. He offered a solution of paying for the Taxi fare out of his own pocket and at the next full staff meeting share both his mistake and learning. I suggested that possibly the public confession wasn’t necessary unless his boss asked for it.

It’s an interesting example, it reflects the importance of our values and ability to confidently do what you believe is the right thing. True confidence is when someone can be brave enough to be themselves, even when they know they have make daft decisions. I do have to also add, that people who confidently apologise, identify their learning and then repeat the behavior…mmmmm. More con than confidence, me thinks.

Everyone wants to "get it right" in their careers, but you shouldn't let the fear of getting it wrong stand in your way of trying something new. A project may not turn out as planned, and you may make mistakes. But as long as you learn from those experiences, you haven't truly failed.

Lerner said "Some of the greatest 'failures' have led to innovation. Our research reflected this – respondents said that they got more confidence from learning from their mistakes and moving on."

Accept your flaws.

Everyone has imperfections, and can feel like a failure at times. Acceptance therapy has shown that recognizing your issues can reduce the distress caused by them.

Think about what is about yourself that bothers you. Then acknowledge that these are things that make you special and more relatable to others. It is easy to find common ground with others who share your insecurities.