The Two Greatest Confidence Killers

“Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself.”
Marcia Wieder, author

How are you living your life? There are only two ways you can do it. You can live a life of condemnation or confidence.

Peter Maughan was living a life of condemnation but learned how to turn it into confidence. As an employee of one of the greatest insurance companies in this country, he wrote to tell me, “I have been a very quiet person my entire life and have never had the drive to speak or carry on a conversation to save my life. It had not been a real problem until about 4 years ago. I have worked as a Technical Analyst in some capacity with most of that time spent working on hardware or software which did not require me to have conversations as most equipment did not talk back.”

Peter continued, “Then about 4 years ago, my boss decided to start moving the duties around in the area where I worked. I had to meet with various business areas and people. As you could imagine, I did not do well in this type of environment. After several months of this, my boss called me in and told me that I was not performing up to standard. I was being put on notice for this and could be fired if I did not improve.”

“My first reaction was to blame my boss for all of my problems. After a couple of weeks of feeling sorry for my self, I decided that I would have to change or look for a new job. I went into my boss’ office and asked for suggestions on how I could improve. My boss suggested I join a Toastmaster club. I did, and what a difference that made.”

“At first, I was very uncomfortable giving presentations. I would start sweating, get dizzy and lose focus. I don’t even remember what my first speech was about. All I remember was my knocking knees, sweaty palms, and trying not to pass out. As I went through the process of giving speeches, it got easier each time. After 2 years I was able to reach my goal of becoming a Competent Toastmaster and have set new goals to continue giving speeches.”

“I am now part of conversations and not sitting on the sidelines. I lead several technical teams on several different efforts. I am no longer afraid to talk to people and can carry on a conversation. I still have a long way to go, but my wife is totally amazed at the change that I have made. She claims that I am not the same person that she married.”

Peter learned how to move from condemnation to confidence. Have you? Let me suggest five steps you might want to take.

=> 1. Understand the two killers of confidence.

The first one is UNRESOLVED GUILT. If you’ve done some things you’re not proud of … or if you’ve failed to tackle some of the opportunities that have come your way … you may have feelings of guilt about that. And if you keep it inside, you’re going to feel miserable and be powerless.

I was reminded of that when I saw a sign in an auto repair shop. It said, “A clean engine produces more power.” Well that’s true. But it’s also true for human beings.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of all the Sherlock Holmes stories, played a prank one day to see how guilt can influence people. He sent a note to 12 prominent Englishmen … the same note … that simply said, “All is found out. Flee at once.” And within 24 hours, 8 of those men left the country. They were dealing with some unresolved guilt.

And the second thing that will kill off your confidence is UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. You might call it perfectionism … the belief that you must be flawless, perfect, please everyone, and feel guilty if you relax.

If this sounds like you, some of your favorite phrases are probably such things as “I must … I have to … and … I ought.” You always feel the need to do more and achieve more.

You see … if you’re a regular person with a To-Do list with five things, at the end of the day you may say, “I finished 3 of those items, made some progress on another item, but didn’t get anywhere on the last item.” But you go home and feel okay about your progress. By contrast, a perfectionist has 29 things on his To-Do list, gets 28 of them done, and goes home feeling like a failure.

So how can you replace condemnation with confidence?

One of my esteemed customers, Bill Pence, has an answer. He’s in the Enterprise Services and Support Skill Center for an insurance company. He says,”I’ve been profoundly impacted by the importance of attitude in successful people, not only in the workplace, but outside of the workplace as well. I believe the most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude.”

I agree. So how do you get that attitude of confidence?

=> 2. Forgive yourself.

Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody!!!

The difference is … champions look at their mistakes, learn from their mistakes, forgive themselves, and move on. As first-lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, when asked how she accomplished so much, ” I never waste time with regrets.”

By contrast, losers stare at their mistakes … and stare and stare and stare. They don’t move on. They’re stuck in self-condemnation.

Well let me tell you … it won’t help you one bit to keep on berating yourself, punishing yourself, or hating yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. In fact, the MORE you put yourself down, the LESS likely it is that you will ever have a happy life or a productive career.

Self-condemnation is like driving your car by looking in the rear-view mirror. You’re going to run into more problems.

As Dr. Bev Smallwood says, “The rear-view mirror is much smaller than the windshield for a good reason. Their size is in proportion to the amount of time the driver should spend looking at them. Yes, you need to glance at the rear view to see what’s coming up behind you. However, the majority of your driving time must be spent looking ahead, keeping your eyes on where you’re headed – not where you’ve been.”

So how do you get past self-condemnation? How can you learn to forgive yourself? Use a confidence-building affirmation. In her book, “This Wasn’t Supposed To Happen To Me,” Smallwood suggests telling yourself, “This day, I release myself from the burden of self-condemnation and destructive guilt. I withdraw from the internal conversations with the voice that reminds me of my shortcomings and past mistakes. I respect myself, even when I’ve lost status or failed to achieve what I thought I should.”

And then …

=> 3. Give yourself encouragement.

Now that might sound strange, but it’s the same thing you probably did with your kids when they were learning to walk. You encouraged them. And you need to encourage yourself.

When my daughter was learning to walk, for example, she would take a step and stumble. She’d get back up; take two steps, then trip and fall. She’d take another step and fall backwards. And so on for the longest time.

Do you think I yelled at her when she stumbled? Of course not. I never said, “What are you doing? … Get back up on your feet, young lady! … How dumb can you be? … Zimmermans don’t stumble. We have more pride and dignity than that! … Get up! … No more of that falling-down stuff! … You can do better!”

I didn’t do that to my kids, and you didn’t either. But the strange thing is … that’s how we often treat ourselves. We give ourselves disrespectful commands rather than encouragement. That’s got to stop.

As a parent, you didn’t wait for your kids to grow up and become successful before you loved them. You loved them every step of the way. Well … it’s time to apply the same lesson to yourself. Encourage yourself.

And then …

=> 4. Eliminate negative self-talk.

There’s an old proverb that says, “Be careful how you think. Your life is shaped by your thoughts.”

True. Your thoughts determine your feelings, and your feelings determine your actions. So you’ve got to control the way you think … or the way you talk to yourself.

And all of us are talking to ourselves all the time. In fact, some researchers estimate that we’re talking to ourselves at the rate of 1300 words per minute, most of it unconscious, and much of it critical. We’re telling ourselves, “These pants are getting so tight … I’ll never have any money … I can’t take any more griping from that customer … and … I won’t get that promotion … etc.”

If you catch yourself doing negative self-talk, tell yourself forcefully, “Stop it. Now just stop it.” And with repetition, you will stop thinking those self-limiting, confidence-destroying negatives.

Don’t be like the young boy who came home from school and said, “Dad, I think I flunked my arithmetic test.”

His Dad replied, “Don’t say that. That’s negative. Be positive.”

The boy answered, “Okay, Dad, I’m positive I flunked my arithmetic test.”

And finally, in your journey to greater confidence …

=> 5. Quit trying to please everyone.

It’s a dangerous way to live … to be too concerned with what other people think about you … because it allows them to control you. And that’s not healthy.

But it’s also a foolish way to live … because you’re going to fail. You’re not going to please everybody … no matter what you do. Even God can’t please everybody, so it’s foolish to think you can do what God can’t.

Besides that, if you spend too much time trying to figure out what other people want you to become, and then try to become that kind of person, you forget who you really are. And there’s no way you can be somebody else and have a healthy, confident self-esteem at the same time.

Helene Johnson commented on that. She’s the Executive Director of Government Training Services and one of my customers for more than twenty years. When I asked for her advice on success, on what it takes to be truly successful, she said, “Be yourself, because everyone else is taken!” How profound.

You can’t please everyone … and you don’t even need to.

You see … there’s a myth going around that says, “I must have the love, respect and appreciation of others to be happy.” Not true. Rejection will NOT ruin your life. Oh sure, it will hurt. It’s not fun. It’s very uncomfortable, but rejection on the job or at home will not ruin your life unless you let it. As Eleanor Roosevelt so often said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Action:  Focus on the area where you need the most improvement this week … using too much negative self-talk or trying to please everyone. Try to go for an hour, then 6 hours, then a half day, and then a full day without falling into that bad habit.