Mute Your Inner Critic
I wish I was more confident….. I think my problem is that I'm not confident enough.... Why can't I be as confident as others?..... The sentiment around confidence comes up in many of the coaching and mentoring conversations I have with people. I started asking myself why I was noticing a pattern around this, especially with women.
So, what does it mean to be confident, anyway?
As I dug into this word, it opened a whole world of possibilities, but I have decided that the one that resonated with me was from Wikipedia ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confidence ) which, by the way, I did validate from other sources.
Confidence comes from a Latin word 'fidere' which means "to trust"; therefore, having self-confidence is having trust in one's self.
This feels right…. These conversations I have regarding confidence are largely regarding the courage to speak what they know is true. To be brave enough to share their thoughts and opinions without fearing someone else’s response or reaction.
I can recall my turning point on this topic. I was pretty junior in my career as a specialist in the area of benefits and pension…and I KNEW MY SHIT. More importantly, I KNEW that I knew my shit. And, let’s face it, that is ALL that I did. It was my job to know that world inside out and backwards. So, one day when I was challenged by a very senior member of the leadership team about a pension matter, the little voice in my head told me to go for it and defend my knowledge. Historically, in a situation like this, I would have backed down, gone back to my desk, beat myself up for not standing up for what I knew and then waste time trying to find a creative solution to help him realize the right answer without telling him he was wrong. This time was different! This tiny, little squeaky voice spoke up from the recesses of my brain in that moment and told me, “You know this shit…he doesn’t. Find your voice and defend what you know to be true.” And before I knew it, and what felt like agonizing time passing (and was probably like 30 seconds), I defended what I knew to be true. He asked questions and I knew the answers. He challenged me and I defended the truth, right then and there. Then, eventually, he nodded…thanked me for the information and walked away. WHAT??!!! I DID NOT get fired…I DID NOT get yelled at….I DID NOT get ridiculed. In fact…he THANKED ME??? So, all those crazy fears that were in my head, caused by my inner critic, simply did not come true. I think back on that moment now and I am most certain that he had no idea what a turning point that was for me. After that, I practiced more and more often to listen to that squeaky voice and trust in myself, and mute my inner critic. That inner critic that was feeding me all of those unfounded fears. As time went on, the squeaky voice became louder herself and eventually, I didn’t need it anymore. Eventually, I just believed in myself and spoke my truth and knowledge.
Can I say that every interaction I have had with others ended in an appreciative “Thank You”? Definitely not. Sometimes, there were tough conversations. Sometimes, we had to agree to disagree. Sometimes, it went totally sideways and apologies were necessary. [I will have to write a whole other blog on being open-minded and non-judgmental to deal with that one!!] And, sometimes, I had to make a tough decision to walk away from something or someone. I have learned a lot of tough lessons along the way about the choices we make in conversations, but now I realize that at least having the confidence in myself provides me with the choices on what to say, when to say it and how to say it.
Now, I don’t beat myself up for not speaking my truth and being honest with someone else. I am me…I am authentic and genuine. And if I had to walk away from something or someone, though painful, I am comforted in my knowing that it wasn’t for me or that person was not meant to be part of my tribe.
My challenge to you is this, pay attention to that inner, quiet voice. She is in there somewhere. Listen to her, believe in her. Do not let your inner critic silence that beautiful voice. In fact, it's time to mute the inner critic. Then practice, practice, practice. It will get easier every time you speak your truth.
I would love to hear your ideas on how to build confidence in the comments!!