When we’re stuck in the throes of self-doubt, it’s sometimes hard to believe that there is a way out. You might believe that you’re just not cut out for this, that the voice in your head is never going to quiet down and that this is simply never going to go away.
I know you’ll keep going. You’ll continue to perform, prove or please your way out of this. You keep thinking that if you can just keep pushing your boundaries, there will be a day that the inner critic who is giving an ongoing commentary on your life will just quiet down. You just need to do or be more and it will stop. The more time goes by, the more you worry that maybe there’s just something fundamentally wrong with you. Surely, one day, people will find out that you’re just a fraud.
But then, it never ends does it?
Because you can’t out “do” your inner critic.
There’s no magical day that comes up that says “right, now you’re done, now you’ve proven that you are good enough”. And that’s exactly the problem, you’re trying to “solve” your feelings of self-doubt by working even harder. Or for others, the answer to self-doubt is just not trying at all or just to keep postponing, because you know, one day you’ll be ready.
The point is that either you’re just working up to exhaustion or you’ve given up on your dreams because you’re too scared to fail. Neither scenario is good, because truly:
You deserve to feel good.
You deserve to do the things that you desire.
You deserve to feel at peace with who you are.
I get it. I hear you.
I was you.
When I left my last job years ago at an all-time low, I had lost the confidence I had and frankly, it was already in low supply to begin with. You see, I had spent a big chunk of my life trying to fit in and belong, to feel like I was good enough. My way of trying to do so was by proving myself, trying to be “perfect” and people pleasing. The price I paid was depression and anxiety, and ultimately, becoming removed from myself and my dreams, hopes and desires for life. I had done whatever I needed to do to be “good enough” and belong. So when one day the thing happened that I was most scared of, someone thinking that I was “not good enough”, my world came crumbling down.
But what was a difficult chapter in my life, turned out to be one of the most important ones as I set ought to answer this question:
How do I find my way back to confidence?
Honestly, in the beginning I wasn’t even sure whether it was possible. It seemed like the internet was rife with quotes like these:
“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started. ”
Well, that’s just great isn’t it? Defeated before I’ve even started.
But I soon learned that confidence, just like anything else, can be learned – or rather like I like to say: reclaimed.
I spent considerable time learning about what was necessary to really feel more confident in who I am, what I was capable of and perhaps most importantly, what a life on my terms looked like. Little did I know when I started coaching that the journey I was on personally would actually be the journey that informed my work the most:
The journey from self-doubt to inner confidence.
While I will be the first to put my hand up and say there are still days when my self-doubt shows up, I can honestly say that those are far and few between. Moreover, the self-doubt I experience doesn’t stop me from doing the things that I want to do. My experience of life has become so much more peaceful and joyful. The relationship that I have with myself (and others) is so much better than before and I feel that I’m living my life versus how I thought I should be living. I continue to uncover more and more layers of who I am and what I desire for my life – and I love the sense of novelty and adventure that comes with that.
Is it all roses?
Of course not, just like everyone else, there are challenging days and moments, but the big difference is that I can move through those moments more quickly. Ultimately, I feel like I can handle whatever comes my way: I feel safe with myself and I enjoy my own company. I listen to what I need and I take care of myself. And if challenges do arise, as they inevitably do, I know that I will find a way to tackle those. In short:
I’ve come home to myself and found a deep sense of belonging within myself.
The road to inner confidence isn’t a straight line from A to Z, it’s layered and complex but so incredibly valuable. It’s a deeply personal journey that is different for everyone, but below are some of the steps that I believe are important elements in each of our journeys:
- Building self-awareness and a deeper connection to yourself
I believe we all came into this world confident and bursting at the seams with potential. We didn’t run around as small children asking:
Who do I need to be to belong? Am I getting this right? Am I good enough?
We just simply were. Period. Nothing we needed to be do or do until the messaging about who we thought we needed to be from our parents, communities and societies started to be layered on top.
The better you become at adapting yourself to others, the more you can get removed from who you are. As such, it becomes incredibly important to get to know yourself again and really build a sense of self again:
What do I like?
What do I think?
What do I feel?
What do I want?
Developing this stronger set of self is key. If we don’t truly know ourselves, then how we can design a life that is authentically ours?
The work then isn’t really to do anything different, but rather to connect more deeply to your being: to understand who you are, what you stand for and what matters most to you.
The work is to be so deeply rooted in yourself that no matter what the winds of change bring, there is a core of stability within you and you are guided by your own inner voice. The better you know yourself, the easier it becomes to make decisions that are aligned with who you are and how you want to show up in this world.
- Healing the wounds within
A critical piece of the work is to understand what prevents you from feeling like you’re good enough to begin with – and to bring healing to some of those stories. This is deep work, but an essential part of reclaiming your confidence. If you don’t heal the wounds that lead you to believe that you aren’t good enough to begin with, no mindset work, goal-setting and action planning is going to cut it in the long-run. It’s like putting on a band-aid, but you never really heal the wounds underneath.
This doesn’t have to mean years of psycho-analysis and digging at all, but having an understanding of why we behave in the way that we do offers a pathway of change:
only when you can see your behavioural patterns and why you engage in this way, then can you truly making lasting transformations.
- Self-care and self-compassion practices
Another important element of making the journey to inner confidence is to understand how you can treat yourself with more compassion and care so that you can flourish.
Just like a plant, the more you water yourself with love and compassion, the firmer the roots will take hold and the stronger you will grow.
This work is really about prioritising the relationship you have with yourself and putting yourself at the centre of your life. This is also generally what many of the clients I work with struggle the most, because they’ve taught themselves that to do so is selfish.
One of the most important mindset shifts you can make is to understand that you are deserving of the same love and care you give to others AND that your self-care serves others. You can’t support others if you are running on empty.
To prioritise the relationship you have with yourself means to live from the inside out, i.e. making conscious choices of how you want to show up to the world and what you need for you to be the best version of yourself. Being kind and caring towards yourself essentially means that you create a space of safety and security for your authentic self to show up with more courage so that you can move into action, learning and growth – confidence’s kryptonite.
- Learning to redirect your thoughts into a mindset of growth and courage
Confidence just like anything else can be learned and is a consequence of our courage and the competence we build over time. The more we step out of our comfort zone and the more often we practice our skills, the more confident we become.
What is critical then is the mindset that you cultivate that allows you to show up with more courage and with an openness to learn new skills.
Do you believe that you can learn whatever you set your mind to and do you see effort and failure as essential parts of your learning process? Or rather as indicators of your own inadequacies?
What I’m describing above is essentially Carol Dweck’s important work on the so-called growth versus fixed mindset. By learning to adopt a more growth-oriented mindset, i.e. by focusing on the process of learning rather than on the outcome, you will learn to tackle challenges and build new skills, all important elements in building your confidence.
- Managing fear and taking action
Ultimately, action is what builds confidence – there is no other way. The feelings of confidence come after the actions of confidence.
That means that there will always be a time when we experience a certain level of self-doubt and we must show up courageously. What matters is how we manage that fear and the type of relationship we have with fear.
The end game isn’t about being fearless, there is no such thing, but rather about developing a different relationship with fear and perhaps even learning to welcome it. Fear can be a powerful compass that helps guide you. I’ve come to learn that whenever fear shows up, it means that I’m actually heading into the right direction. Because I know that whenever you choose to grow, fear will accompany you. It’s your choice how you interpret that fear, how you relate to it and how you let fear determine your actions or not.
These are what I believe are some of the critical pieces in the journey from self-doubt to inner confidence. Exactly what that journey looks like for you will be slightly different but my hope is that this is an adventure that you will start. Because you see, you deserve to feel good and to be at peace, to live your life in the way that you want to, to pursue your passions and be happy. Self-doubt can truly stand in the way of these things, but it doesn’t have to. You can become the confident person that you deserve and long to be.
My hope is that my journey can help inform yours – and if I can support you in any way, please do feel free to reach out.