Although I’m a woman’s leadership coach who helps women overcome barriers to self-confidence, there was once a time where I very much struggled with my own feelings of inadequacy and lack of confidence. My biggest fear: saying the wrong thing. I was afraid that I would speak my opinion or express myself in some way, and it would be the wrong thing to say, and people would laugh in my face at how stupid I was. As I write the last sentence, I’m struck at the absurdity of this fear. But let me assure you, at the time, it was a very real, visceral fear. Every time it came time for me to open my mouth, be it at a meeting, during a presentation or in any group situation, this fear would take over my entire body. It would paralyze me, literally leaving me speechless. And then, the internal berating would begin. “Why don’t you open your mouth and say something?” or “People will think you have nothing to say, say something!” and on and on. Needless to say, it was a real problem.
And it was a problem not only because it kept me from speaking up, but it also prohibited me from contributing my ideas and brilliance. Standing in front of a group of people scared the bejeezus out of me, and as I stepped into my leadership, having to give presentations or trainings would literally make me sick. The thought was so terrifying that I would come down with a horrible flu of some kind, forcing me to cancel the workshop or presentation. This went on for years until I was finally fed up and decided to face my fear and do it any way.
One day I had a pretty important training to run, and as usual I came down with a nasty cold a few days prior. I almost cancelled the session but this time I had too much at stake – my reputation was on the line. So instead of cancelling, I showed up, sick as a dog and delivered the session. At the end, after facing my biggest fear, I felt SUCH a sense of relief and accomplishment. Nothing terrible happened! Nobody laughed in my face! In actuality, the opposite happened. People gave me positive feedback, they enjoyed the training very much and I could see that I had made a real impact on them with my teachings. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway helped me beat the plaguing whisper in my head that was constantly telling me I wasn’t good enough. It was the first step in building up my confidence.
Today, about five years later, I am about to give one of my biggest presentations yet – in front of 300 people! Am I nervous? Of course I am, but I’m excited at the opportunity to face my fear and do it anyway. I know it will stretch me and help me grow in many ways. I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, or maybe say the wrong thing, but that doesn’t terrify me as much anymore. I know that as long as I am myself, my brilliance will shine through. Authenticity is a great foe to feelings of inadequacy. When we dare to be ourselves, we have nothing to lose! It’s only when we try to be someone we are not, that we are at risk of failing.
Here are my top three tips on how to conquer YOUR fears:
- Feel the fear and do it anyway: The best way to conquer our fears is quickly and swiftly through the 1-2 punch of well, facing your fear and taking action. The longer we stay inactive towards our goals and dreams, the firmer the grip of our fears. They end up becoming the ‘norm’ and eventually we give up or settle for something less. Think about it this way – fear is a fixation of our imagination. It only exists if we give it attention. Once you take that first step towards your goal, the next steps after that become much easier.
- Be authentic: The biggest enemy of our sabotaging thoughts is giving us the permission to just be ourselves. It’s about being OK with your uniqueness; no matter how quirky or odd you think it is. The best part is that there is no way you can fail at being you! That’s when our courage kicks in and we can begin to dare more greatly. One of my favorite quotes says, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” Letting go of the need to be like the next person gives us the opportunity to bring our gifts to the table and let go of our inhibitions.
- Tap into your Inner Mentor: The good news is although all of us have an Inner Critic (the voice that puts us down and keeps us stuck), we also have an Inner Mentor. Your Mentor is your inner cheerleader, that part of yourself who knows you’ve got this! The trick is to turn the volume up on your Inner mentor’s voice, and turn the volume WAY down on your Inner Critic. Write down positive statements your Inner Mentor would say to you in times of self-doubt or fear, and remind yourself of those words when you feel insecure. Doing this can be a great first step in turning up the volume on what gets you saying YES!
When have you ever felt moments of inadequacy or lack of self-confidence? What did you do to combat those fears? Share you experience below in the comments.