You had a bad meeting. You lost your cool on a conference call. You had an employee quit.
When your day has gone from bad to worse, it's nearly impossible not to beat yourself up over what you should've, could've, would've. For any leader, this is a very slippery slope. The more challenging issues they face, the easier it is to get trapped down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and uncertainty.
To make matters worse, you're the person in charge, which means you have a wear a brave face and get it together (when really all you want to do is hide under your desk). It doesn't take long before leaders start questioning their abilities. Maybe you're not cut out for the job after all. Should you resign? Will you be fired?
When I was a new leader, I struggled with self-doubt. One day I felt calm and confident, and the next I would sink in a pool of second-guessing. From stumbling my words in a presentation to networking with high-profile clients, I would analyze every minute detail, replaying my performance over and over (and over) again.
It took time before I could recognize how these types of thought patterns were a form of self-sabotage. That's when you have to stop them in their tracks. It's important to learn from our mistakes, as it's how we grow as individuals and professionals. However, there's a big difference between wallowing and developing.
If you can't empower yourself, then you won't be able to empower the people that work for you. So the next time you're experiencing a set-back and start to downgrade your capabilities, practice the following five strategies:
1. You have 24 hours. Then get over it.
Things went wrong and you're losing your confidence. Okay, fine, it happens to everyone. But let's set a deadline on self-deprication.
I always found it comforting to remind myself that I'm not alone. Everyone, no matter how much experience, money, or power they have, experiences self-doubt. You can't change the past, so accept the outcome and move forward. Twenty-four hours is more than enough time to beat yourself up.
2. No one cares as much as you think they do.
Did you lose your train of thought on an important conference call? Stumble over your words during a staff meeting?
Guess what, no one cares. In fact, they probably didn't even notice. And if they did, you can bet they're not thinking about how you flubbed your PowerPoint three hours after the meeting is over. So neither should you.
3. Role play yourself, to yourself.
There are a few ways to do this (and no one has to know about it!). The first is to pretend you're a friend, listening to your own fears and insecurities. You can either record yourself speaking and play it back, or write down all of your insecurities and read them out loud.
Do your best to step outside of the situation and really pay attention. If this was your friend telling you these issues, would you think he or she was overreacting? Assessing your negative thoughts from a different perspective may shine light on reality.
Call your mom, your partner, or your sibling and let it all out. You'll be amazed how good it feels to release any pent-up anxiety that's been building up inside of you.
Just make sure you choose someone who has a track record of support and encouragement. The last thing you need is to be kicked when you're down.
5. Look for distractions.
There's some serious truth behind the old saying, "ignorance is bliss". Leaders can sabotage their performance if they're trapped in a self-doubt spiral, so when you can't seem to shake those anxious feelings, look for distractions.
Go see a movie, read a book, head to the gym, or curl up and channel surf. For me, it's turning the phone off and spending quality time with my kids. Whatever it is that will distract your mind from beating yourself up further, do it.
If you've already seen where your missteps are and have a plan to fix or prevent the same mistake from happening again, it's time to put self-doubt behind you.