How much do you believe in yourself? For most of the answer is: not enough. Instead of looking proudly at our accomplishments, we focus on the things we haven't yet done, and on the mistakes we've made. No wonder we find it hard to pitch big clients and investors, sell ourselves as the best, or demand the pay we deserve.
The problem is that many of us take an unrealistically negative view of ourselves and our work, says executive coach and bestselling author Wendy Capland. "We teeter between thinking 'I'm not enough,' and 'I'm not even ready to be enough,'" she says.
But we don't have to stay there. There are simple things we all can do to get a more clear-eyed--and positive--view of ourselves and our accomplishments. And then, Capland says, "We can step into who we already are."
Here are some simple techniques that work well for Capland's clients, and for Capland herself. Try them next time you need to increase your own confidence:
1. Vent to someone who knows you well.
"One thing I do for myself is I whine to people who know me about how something isn't working or I'm not getting the clients I want, or not taking big strides toward my next goal," Capland says. "And then they remind me of what I bring to the table, and my gifts and talents, and look how much I've done."
Chances are, there are people in your own life who know how much you've accomplished and can remind you what those accomplishments are when you're feeling frustrated or helpless. Talking to these people is one of the best things you can do to give yourself the confidence you need.
2. Make an already-done list.
Many of us live by to-do lists. (Mine has 14 items on it right now and growing.) But what about an already-done list that takes a look at the tasks you've complete and all the projects at work and elements of your life that are working really well for you? I'm willing to bet there are a lot of things in your life that you're very proud of, and most of them wouldn't be there without your hard work, dedication, and love.
So make your list, and check it twice. Just writing down the things you're proud of, and that are already working well for you, will give you some perspective on where you are and what you still have to do.
3. Interview 10 people.
Find 10 people who know you and have worked with you or who have interacted with you in other ways, such as at your children's school. Look for people who are familiar with your leadership style and how you do things. Ask if you can have a few minutes of their time as part of a self-assessment exercise, and if they agree, interview them and either record the conversation, or take notes of what they say.
"Ask them, 'What do you see as my strengths? What am I good at?'" Capland says. Most people will respond with something like, "Are you freaking kidding me?" she says. And then they'll tell you many things you're good at, some of which you may not even be aware of. "The truth is, everybody sees us better than we can see ourselves," she says.
Meditation is good for your stress levels, your decision-making powers, and even your brain function. And it's an effective way to get beyond your overly negative view of yourself as well, Capland says. "It helps me to quiet myself down from all the craziness and my schedule and the circular conversation I have with myself about how I suck," she says.
Meditation needn't be a formal part of your day (although it is for Capland). A few minutes at a time, or even a few momentary meditation breaks throughout your day can make a difference and even change your outlook.
5. Try coaching.
"Meditation does quiet me down and that helps, but it's not quite enough," Capland says. So when she needs to silence the naysayers in her own head, she turns to a coach of her own. As an executive coach herself, this is a natural option. That said, coaching can be extremely effective for anyone, as I know from my own experience.
When I interviewed Capland for a column earlier this year, we hit it off. We decided as a follow-up that she would coach me and I would write about it. I'm not as confident as I'd like to be, but our coaching sessions are a huge push in the right direction.
"Having a coach has made a huge difference for me and I'm hoping for the people I coach as well," she says. "I am a regular reminder of how capable you are, how masterful you are, and how you're already fine just as you are--you're just taking yourself to the next stage in your journey."
Or to put it another way, she says, "I am a relentless cheerleader." And isn't that something all of us can use?