“What could we accomplish if we knew we could not fail?” —Eleanor Roosevelt
You’ve done it! You’ve landed that great job, got that promotion, brought in that amazing contract. Or perhaps your jubilation has come from a different aspect of your life — you’ve become a mother, you’ve found yourself in an incredible relationship, you’ve signed up for a marathon.
With any incredible opportunity, first comes the excitement, and then comes the reality of getting on and living it.
And then suddenly, there they are: the voices in your head. First, there is the gentle prodding, “Are you sure you can do this?” And when you leave the door ajar, they creep in further. Before long, those voices are screaming, “Run! Hide from this! You absolutely cannot do it!”
This is a crisis in confidence. It happens to us all at some point, no matter what our profession is, where we are on the career ladder, our age, or our relationship or family status. Sometimes, especially when life takes us down a new path, we lose all faith in ourselves.
And, although you can’t imagine it right now, you can get through this crisis. Here’s how:
#1 Acknowledge it, accept it, allow it.
Acknowledging what this is is the most powerful thing you can do right now. By saying, “This is where I am now, and I am deep in a crisis of confidence,” you are taking ownership of the situation and beginning to get back on the right track.
#2 Take a break from your thoughts.
This crisis is mentally exhausting. Your mind is running around in circles. Do whatever you can to take a break from thinking about your situation for a while — something enjoyable that keeps your mind and body busy, but doesn’t demand too much concentration.
It might be physical: running, swimming, walking. It might be drawing, or knitting,or baking bread. When you begin to hear those voices of self-doubt, focus back on your stride, or your breathing, or your hands for as long as you possibly can. You get the idea.
It might seem self-indulgent or counterproductive to take a break, but you absolutely need it. Just as when you work your body hard, you need to lie down, when your mind is working overtime, you need to do the same. Take a step back and let it do something easy for a while.
With your mind rested, even just a little, you can move on to the next steps. Feel free to come back to step #2 at any point, however, if it gets too much again.
#3 Connect with those who do believe in you, especially when you don’t believe in yourself.
Reach out, right now. When you’re in the midst of a crisis of confidence, you certainly aren’t seeing things clearly.
There are people out there, however, who are: maybe a friend, a family member, a colleague. Call them. Put aside worries about looking vulnerable. Vulnerability is absolutely human, and accepting your own is actually a great strength.
Ask them why they think you are strong enough for this challenge. Often they’ll see all sorts of qualities in you that you never realised you had. They’ll have anecdotes of when you overcame challenges before.
Now, write these answers down before you forget and turn back to them when you need to.
#4 Get clear on why you’re here.
All this fear and doubt will have confused matters, but chances are you took some conscious steps to get to this situation in the first place. At this point, you need to remember why.
Say, for instance, your confidence crisis has been brought about by agreeing to write an article for a magazine. Why did you chase the opportunity? Perhaps you were motivated by wanting to see your name in print, perhaps it would gain you more your recognition in your field, perhaps the money looked great. Write all of these down somewhere, every single one, and as honestly as you can.
When you question yourself in this way, it can really help to clarify who you are. This is crucial right now.
Grab on to what you have learned about yourself. This is your fuel, it is what lights your fire, and it will get you through this.
#5 Make a game plan.
When a situation seems overwhelming, and you can’t see the wood for the trees, you need a plan — a list of baby steps that will begin to get you to the finish.
A good way of beginning is to divide your list into something like Today, Tomorrow, Next Week.
Say, for instance, you don’t know how you’re going to run those 26.2 miles at the marathon in a few months. Begin with something like, “Right, this weekend I’ll look at training plans and pick one out. I’ll make sure I do a grocery shop for great, nutritious food, plus I’ll run a couple of K. I’ll build up to 10K by the end of the month.”
Nothing overwhelming. You don’t need to have every step of the way mapped out in every detail yet. You just need to know that the next few steps are going to help. Again, write these down. As you go along, keep updating the next small steps.
Finally, remember that with any challenge comes the fear of failure, whether it is large or small. They are part and parcel. What you are going through is completely normal.
It is what we do with this fear that is key, and by acknowledging this crisis and following the steps, you will have learned a lot about yourself in a short space of time. Keep the lists you wrote and your plan handy. Turn to them whenever you need to.
Self -awareness is the key to self development, so now go turn this experience into something incredible.