How many of these do you have?
- Decent GCSEs, A levels, BA, BSc, LLB, PhD, MA, MSc, FCMA, ACCA, FCA, FRS or any other academic qualification.
- Certificates for swimming a length, winning the U15 school tennis tournament or something similar; trophies, medals, of any sort; any coloured belt in karate, judo, kick-boxing or any martial art.
- Brownie, scout or guide badges.
- Awards, certificates and prizes for professional or academic success and achievement.
- Great feedback and testimonials; peer respect.
- Loyal clients; repeat business.
I’ll bet you can say yes to at least one thing on every line in that list. Well done, you! Just bask in the glow for a minute and enjoy the feeling of being proud, of having achieved so much. Great stuff!
What are you thinking now? I’ll bet it’s along the lines of: it was nothing; anybody could have done it; it’s no big deal. Or even: I was lucky; I was in the right place at the right time; it’s just because I knew someone.
How are you feeling now? I bet it’s deflated.
One of the things that infuriate and puzzle me is when people come into my office and say things like, “I’ve never done anything. I don’t know why I’ve been promoted. I know I’m good, I can see the certificates but I can’t believe it’s me. It doesn’t feel like me. I’m not very good at anything and one day I’ll get found out.” And it’s all complete and utter rubbish. Because they’re great. Anyone can see it, except themselves.
Somehow, in their minds, everything they’ve achieved counts for nothing. It feels like a different person, somebody completely distinct from them. Yet they did it. They worked hard, made sacrifices, put in the hours, pushed themselves and did a lot of things they should be very, very proud of. Yet very soon afterwards they decide all that effort, talent and application is meaningless. Why? It makes no logical sense.
And when we do this, we’re damaging our own confidence. Why? Because self-belief is fundamental to that confidence. If you think you can do something, you’re probably right; if you think you can’t, you’re probably right as well. If you go through life thinking you’re not as good as other people, your degree wasn’t quite up to scratch, or you’re just not up to the mark, then you’re putting yourself down every single day. And there’s absolutely no need for it.
One of the first things I get clients to do is to write their life story. I get them to include every single thing they’ve done that they’re proud of. It often takes two or three attempts because we’re just not used to thinking about our successes. And we certainly never celebrate them publicly.
I get them to talk me through it all, in detail. I ask them questions and congratulate them. They squirm a bit, but I don’t let them off the hook. We definitely don’t like talking about achievements and successes. But why not? They’re great and should be celebrated. It doesn’t make you arrogant or boastful to have a quiet satisfaction in your accomplishments, to enjoy them and gain strength from them.
So to boost your self-belief, try it yourself. List the things you’re most proud of having done. Where you worked really hard, pushed yourself, maybe even had to make some sacrifices. Remember how it felt, how tough it was to go through it, but how fantastic it was when you got over the line.
When you start trolling yourself with the ‘it’s nothing, everyone’s got a [whatever], you’re nowhere near as good as [X]’, tell the inner voice to stop. Think about something you’ve achieved. Focus on the effort you put in, the hard work and the pleasure you felt when you got over the line. The self-trolling will stop.
Whenever you need a quick confidence booster, just think about your favourite achievement for a few seconds. It doesn’t matter what it was, or when it happened. Mine is passing the 11+ forty something years ago and going from an inner city primary to the best grammar school in the city. I was the only kid in my year to get in, my dad ran out of the house and told everyone he saw and the sense of pride and achievement I felt that day still makes me smile. Relish that feeling and get on with your day.