When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable… Perfect and bulletproof are seductive… But they don’t exist in the human experience.Brene BrownDaring Greatly
Most of us encounter periods of self-doubt. At a meeting, for example, we may hold back and not express an opinion or suggestion for fear that we might be wrong. Yet we may well find that others voice that very same view.
Or we debate with ourselves whether to discuss a problem with our supervisor. The inner critical dialogue starts and we stay silent. Another missed opportunity.
Even if we suspect that others have similar doubts, it does not take long to convince ourselves that our own insecurities are greater. Our self-censoring machine is now operating at full speed.
So far, there is nothing very surprising about this behaviour. Most of us encounter this phenomenon at one time or another.
Yet, in my facilitation work, personal development (Full Circle) participants have explored the possibility that they have a tendency to under-sell themselves. I proposed to the group that in fact: “We are better than we think we are.” Almost unanimously, they felt that this was true for themselves. In fact, some managers not only embraced this idea but went on to use it in their work with their teams.
Admittedly, this is a hard idea to sustain. The critical messages within us have a long history and it is only a matter of time before the old doubts take over. There is a strong pull to conclude: “If I keep quiet, at least I won’t make a fool of myself.” It is at times like this that we need a PLAN B
Plan B – Fake It Until You Make It
These are the moments when we need to rely on blind faith. This usually takes the form of: “I am good enough even if I do not believe it at this moment.” This will require some courage and even a willingness to sometimes get it wrong.
After many years of coaching and personal development work, I have come to the conclusion that people can get in touch with their strengths and discover how good enough they really are, if they try.
Several managers who participated in the Full Circle workshops reported that they were having difficulty in getting support from their supervisors. At times, they couldn’t get opportunities to meet with them. And when they finally did get to meet, they were asked: “What would you do to fix the problem?” And that is where the conversation ended. In fact what they needed was the intervention and assistance of their bosses – instead, they kept their views and questions inside and remained silent. The ‘not good enough’ mind-set was too strong.
There are those who will challenge the ideas proposed in this article. “Surely there are people who don’t have these self-doubts and are confident and trust themselves enough to say what they think when the situation arises.” Or, there are those who actually think they are better than they are, even if the reality indicates otherwise.
It is certainly true that there are many individuals who have a balanced and accurate idea of their strengths and limitations. Nevertheless, the ideas proposed above can still be of use.
By knowing that there are members of the team who are not confident in expressing themselves, we can encourage and be empathetic to those team members to bring out the best from within.
As for those who think they are better than they really are, that will require a separate article!