By: Yuliya LaRoe, Founder & CEO, Confident Entrepreneur Business & Leadership Coaching & Training (www.ConfidentEntrepreneur.com)
A few days ago at a networking event I was asked to share one thing that most people wouldn’t know about me.
That somewhat caught me off guard.
So I quickly run through a mental list of interesting or unusual things about me, trying to pick the best one:
“Should I share about my month-long backpacking trip around India? Or that I have two law degrees – one from Russia and one from the US? Or maybe that I completed a yoga certification course? Or …”
What I ended up sharing was that in 2011, following my decision to leave the world of legal practice, I completed a 10-day silent meditation retreat (Vipassana), where I spent 10 long days in complete silence, meditating for 11.5 hours a day (I actually wrote about my experience here).
And I got the usual reaction:
“WHAAAAT?! In silence?! For 10 days?! I could never do that!”
I must admit it felt pretty good…
But as I was driving back to my office, a thought popped into my head –
“Sure that was a cool experience, but THAT is NOT what I should’ve shared… There actually is one thing that most people really do not know about me that is MUCH, MUCH MORE important and relevant than surviving a meditation retreat, albeit in complete silence. It is my dirty little secret…”
And so here it goes…
What most people don’t know about me is that since I was a kid I’ve struggled with self-confidence.
I’d doubt myself all the time, questioning my abilities and worrying about what other people would say… At times the feeling was so powerful that it would completely paralyze me. I would say no to opportunities because I didn’t believe I could handle it. I would stress out, obsess and worry about not being able to do something, only to find – after I’d done it – that it was quite easy for me. I would often feel the pressure to do more so that I could see myself as capable and worthy, making it about “doing” and not “being”…
So do you see the irony here? Me, the founder of CONFIDENT entrepreneur.com, struggling with self-confidence? I certainly do…
Now, the people who know me today would hardly describe me as shy, insecure, or timid. In fact, most people tell me that I come across as confident, driven and ambitious.
Truth be told, I know I’ve come a long way. And to this day I continue to work on it daily in my personal but especially in my professional and business lives.
Because your feelings of self-confidence and self-worth, coupled with the state of your mindset (or your attitude about life), are the most important aspects when it comes to achieving success.
It’s actually a combination of things: believing that the world supports you in your pursuit of success (whatever that means to you) and having a deep internal conviction that you are worth it and can have it.
And yet it’s your self-confidence – that internal belief that you are in fact worthy, that you got what it takes, that you have an intrinsic value that does not get changed or diminished no matter what happens in your life (your perceived successes or failures) – that determines whether you remain successful.
Otherwise, no matter what you achieve, how much money you make, what professional heights you reach, it won’t last and you’ll just find a way to self-sabotage it.
How can you tell if you struggle with self-confidence?
Chances are you do, if any of these resonate with you:
- Being a people-pleaser or not setting personal boundaries with other people
- Avoiding speaking in public or speaking in a quiet low voice
- Shying away from expressing your opinions
- Being afraid of trying new things or taking on challenges
- Hesitating to ask for what you want or need
- Doubting your capabilities
- Dwelling on the past and holding on to negative emotions
- Beating yourself up and engaging in negative self-talk
- Being indecisive and not trusting your own judgment
- Feeling jealous or resentful towards successful people
- Purposefully self-sabotaging your success
- Demanding constant external validation and fearing rejection
- Being overly focused on physical appearance and physical flaws
So what can you do to boost your self-confidence?
Here are 3 things to get you started:
1. Tell those negative, doubting, questioning thoughts to “lock it up”
The average person has around 60,000 thoughts every day and 80 percent of them are negative. This translates into almost 50,000 negative thoughts a day that need constant filtering. Entrepreneurs are undoubtedly plagued by thoughts like these on a daily basis: “Is this going to work?” “What am I doing???” “Do I really have what it takes?”
The truth is these thoughts have a purpose. They are typically fear-driven but they are designed to keep us safe, so they’ll just keep popping up any time your mind perceives you approaching danger (whether it’s real danger or imagined).
So here is the trick: realize that you may not be able to stop negative thoughts from entering your mind but you CAN decide which thoughts you choose to believe. Practice self-awareness. Ask yourself some probing questions: “What makes me think that?” “What’s my proof?” “What if that were to happen, what would be the absolute worst thing about that?”
Fear thrives in the unknown. Take the time to paint the picture and make that scary future more concrete. In this case, if these challenges are real and not imagined, then you’ll be able to come up with real solutions.
2. Practice your risk-taking skills
Wikipedia says that the comfort zone otherwise known as “Corley Syndrome” is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.
The really messed up part about your comfort zone is this: it never stays the same. It’s either expanding or shrinking. So if you stay within your comfort zone, it will start to shrink and become smaller. In essence, you will start feeling less and less confident, even about things that you used to feel confidence about. But if you step outside your comfort zone on a regular basis, it will expand.
Avoid getting trapped inside a shrinking comfort zone by doing things that scare you. Risk-taking is a skill that must be practiced. Do it methodically and with a purpose. Jumping off a building might feel like the ultimate risk-taking exercise, yet there might be less dramatic options to expand your comfort zone, like speaking up in public.
3. Step outside of yourself
A few years ago, one of my mentors told me something that I really did not want to hear. She said,
“You know, it’s really not always all about you.”
I was going on and on about a situation I was dealing with at the time, seeking her support and confirmation that I was right. I was so taken aback by her response and, frankly, really pissed off.
Sometime later I realized that, of course, she was right. It’s not always all about us. But it sure feels that way, doesn’t it? We focus so much on our own perceptions, forgetting that they are really just our interpretations of what we believe to be true, and not the actual objective reality. As a result, we focus on our failed expectations, on what we don’t have, what’s lacking, and what’s not working, thereby becoming even more self-conscious.
One of my favorite exercises that gets me out of the pity party is the 10 Things I’m Grateful For. Here is how to play:
Start each day realizing that the majority of the people on this planet do not have the opportunities you do. Then list out 10 things that you are feeling grateful for in that moment. They can be grand or abstract things, like sunshine or the air we breathe, or those small or random things that only you can appreciate, like the way your favorite sweater feels against your skin.
“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.”
– Michael O’Brien
This will help you be less focused on your own flaws or failures, because it will be about something or someone else besides you. This will also boost your self-confidence and help you to contribute to creating happiness around you.
So go on with your Confident Self and conquer the world!
To your success
(Originally published here at: www.ConfidentEntrepreneur.com)
Yuliya LaRoe is the founder of ConfidentEntrepreneur.com where she helps entrepreneurs, business owners, CEOs and professionals in service-based industries grow their businesses and advance in their careers by focusing on 3 critical areas: (1) Networking and Client Attraction, (2) Increasing Personal and Organizational Productivity and Efficiency, and (3) Developing Leadership, Communication, and Confidence Skills for Individuals and Teams. You can reach Yuliya by sending her an email at Yuliya@ConfidentEntrepreneur.com.