Why it’s time to stop ignoring your lack of confidence – and its impact on your life

When I met Sarah* she was to the outside world a confident, successful woman, a great job, a beautiful home, even the perfect dog. What could Sarah ever want for?

Sarah wanted to work with me to consider setting up her own business. Years in the corporate world had been lucrative and fun but now she wanted to be her own boss, only work when she wanted to and most importantly ditch the many hours on the commute to work.

The plan had been pretty clear; help her do what I’d done for thousands before her - to analyse and assess the best business model and strategy to ensure it was a success. Except that’s not what we ended up discussing.

As our time together and the second coffee was enjoyed, Sarah admitted she felt like a fake. She felt like everything she was, was just a lie. They had a happy grown-up son who was now happily travelling the world, financial drains were down, time on her hands, and instead of feeling free and ready to embrace life, Sarah felt trapped in a version of her that didn’t seem right.

Being Corporate Sarah, Mum Sarah and Wife Sarah had been her 'go to' for so many years. With those roles less prominent now, what would it look like to be Boss Sarah?

Could she do that?

When confronted with someone’s limited beliefs in a coaching session it’s easy to help the client explore the gap they have between truth and feelings and emotions that are inaccurate and damaging what is possible.

On this occasion that didn’t work. I asked her this question. Whenever you get stuck in life, whenever you find yourself questioning your skills ask yourself:

“What evidence do you have that this will fail?”

A great follow up question is “What evidence do you have that you can do this?”

When we face something new, an inbuilt comfort zone or challenge, it’s important to know how you view yourself. 

Challenging the inaccuracies that are stopping you from feeling confident and capable.

For Sarah it was a realisation that she had been so securely entrenched in the same comfort zone, doing the same tasks and actions, choosing the same holidays and the same restaurants that there was rarely anything new other than training at work and even that fit the remit of the company!

It made her hyperventilate to consider what 'different' could look like. Many of us jump to a negative outcome when we consider the future or something new. It’s our brains' natural way of keeping us safe. And it’s often no good talking to friends or family since they want you to be safe and happy, not scared or nervous trying something new.

So, what can you do when your confidence has taken a nosedive?

(In next month’s article we will look at how to set up, launch and love a new business/side business).

  1. Don’t fight who you are.

We often look around and realise that we’ve flowed along for years with everyone else’s needs and now are a version of ourselves that is not serving us well. I had a client who said their partner had banned them from wearing short skirts “Because you don’t wear short skirts after 40”. When challenged on this they became aware that they’d fallen in love over her great legs, so why should she stop showing them due to a date on a calendar?

Honouring who you are means you learn what your values are in life and honour them. If you’ve read my books Fight the Fear of Taking Control of Your Mind you will have a good understanding of how values impact on every aspect of your life. You don’t need to have the confidence (yet) to honour them, but you do need to know them.

  1. Don’t listen to the BS.

Women in particular are subconsciously conditioned to expect certain things. Women expect to take a salary cut when they have children. They expect to be unsafe walking home late at night. They expect to be judged if they want (or don’t want) children or a partner. Think about all the times in your life you’ve been judged. 

  • Ask yourself did you fight that imposed belief or did you accept it? 

  • Did you let life dictate who you were? 

  • Did you believe that you can’t do things as you get older? 

  • That your bones will ache? 

  • That women over 50 disappear?

  • Think about all the BS we are told as women and ask how do you fight it? 

If you look at the media’s attitude to women, you’d think women didn’t exist and especially women over a certain age. Interestingly women in Eastern cultures are revered for their age and wisdom, whereas it’s been proven that a woman’s’ earning potential decreases from 40! No wonder so many women in later life decide to quit the corporate grind to set up their own empire!

Watch the adverts on TV and in magazines and notice how few women exist that don’t fit the remit of what is acceptable. The tide is turning on this with more companies appreciating the buying power of women, however it’s a slow juggernaut so don’t wait for the media or marketeers to make you feel good about yourself.

  1. Never stop learning – In a study of 42,000 people it was found that those that keep improving their emotional intelligence scored higher on annual salaries too. It equated to an extra $29,000 a year! On average this was an increase of $1,300 for every point increase in emotional intelligence.

Add the emotional wellbeing, physical wellbeing and even dementia risk reduction and you can see why emotional intelligence becomes more important as you age. Perhaps with the support of Elysium’s editor I will write a whole article on Emotional Intelligence – what is it, why you need to know and how to improve yours. However, for now EI (Emotional Intelligence is the ability to notice, honour, understand and process the way you feel so that you can reduce stress (and the impacts it has on health/productivity/happiness etc) communicate with power and manage difficulties with greater resilience in life. 

Some will tell you you’ve got to do certain things to improve EI however I’d say look for the things that help you feel calm and fulfilled – and no I don’t mean cake or gin!

Just a picture of my Conversations mug I received from ActiveCampaign for working on the Android app. Also featured is my Kindle and phone.

Photo by Cody Engel / Unsplash

Don’t put off difficult conversations – learn how to handle them eloquently – hey editor, that’s another great topic I can look at!

Learn how to love all emotions. Yes, all emotions. In the western world we are encouraged to be permanently happy like a laughing lunatic. It’s unnatural. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sad, or mad. The issue is if you can’t revert to calm. Processing the way, you feel is critically important to your confidence levels and EI.

Learn how to get calm in an instant. I was taught breathing techniques (now the trendy fashionable word is Breathe work) 33 years ago to help with A levels nerves. I have become so good at it over the years that I can feel calm just thinking about the process I use. Again, many will tell you that you need to do this or that, but as I like to say “You don’t need to sit cross legged on a mountain saying “Om” to feel calm.” I use these;

  1. Imagine your favourite place. Feel the sand under feet, the sea breeze etc. Then get yourself comfortable in that location and notice your breathing. Where are you breathing from? Now rest your hands on your stomach and notice if your hands move. If they do your breathing is deep, if they don’t aim to breath deeper out (not in). Breathing deeper out will naturally make you breathe deeper in. Do this for any amount of time but a minimum of 5 minutes and if you say you’ve not got time I will tell you, you are wrong!

  2. This one is used by the SAS and called the Box breathing technique. It’s an instant calmer for high stress situations or for when you feel out of control. Check out my article here that shares a fast calm strategy for high stress and anxiety and read Step 2 to learn the full box breathing technique here.

These 3 strategies were where I started with Sarah. She didn’t have to believe she could be herself without back lash from colleagues, family and friends, but she had to see the BS in the world and learn to stay calm no matter what she faced. (These all had a positive impact on her experience of the perimenopause too!

Then we turned to confidence. Some will tell you to just go for it, however studies and my extensive experience have showed me this is a bad idea.

Say for instance you go for it and start to communicate how you feel but haven’t built internal confidence? You could quickly reduce your confidence levels even further.

I’ve hundreds of strategies to build confidence fast, here are my top 5 favourites;

  1. Write a “Why I’m awesome” Document. A4 paper, 2 sides. List all your achievements. If you get stuck ask the right people, which leads me onto…

  2. Have the right team around you. Yes, friends and family love you and want the best for you (most of the time) however their agenda is likely to be different to yours. Find a tribe that match you. My mastermind group are as empowering and enlightening to me as I am to them. 

  3. Fight the negative voice in your head I’ve a voice changer on my website that’s a strategy that takes a little longer (3 weeks maximum), but it will help you to hear, understand and alter that voice in your head that loves to tear you down. You can find that here.

  4. Dream big. It’s been proven that those that can get creative, and daydream usually have the ability to experience higher success because they visualise crazy innovative things happening. So, as you go to sleep at night, dream big. See yourself in new scenarios. Even crazy ones – imagine yourself a comedienne with 50,000 hanging on your every word. Imagine yourself the next JK Rowling. Imagine yourself the next Opra Winfrey, handing out free cars to audiences. Positive daydreaming can be inspiring!

  5. Do something nice. It doesn’t need to be big, however we have a habit of cracking on and ignoring our needs. That’s a fast way to feeling unwanted and worthless. Buy that overpriced candle, take a full hour for lunch and buy the premium sandwich. It doesn’t have to be grand, but it does have to make you smile. If you read the S.T.A.C.K strategy you will know the power a shift in feel good chemicals can have. Get them on board for the new confident you!

*Not her real name.