Recognizing the impact of insecurities at home and in the office
By Pepperpolooza (redpepper’s annual growth retreat) last year I had been with the company for about three months. I had no idea what to expect — I’d heard the stories from years past and I was equal parts terrified and thrilled. It didn’t disappoint. But more than anything, one thing in particular really stuck out to me: the brain exercise hosted by our CEO and all around inspirational leader, Tim McMullen. With both green and red sharpies on each table we were given a stress ball in the shape of a brain and asked to write one thing we wanted to let go of and one thing we wanted to do better moving forward. It was an easy exercise for me. And straightforward.
“Pride” went down in red, be less driven by ego. “Confidence” was written in green. But I was immediately struck by their juxtaposition. How could I be both more confident and less prideful. Weren’t they similar to each other? Different sides of the same coin? The more I thought about it, the more they seemed caused by one another.
What I eventually realized was that if I was more confident I would be less prideful, less defensive of myself and my ideas and quicker to apologize when I mess up.
I’ve always been a defensive person. My pride is easily wounded and self-confidence has historically been a struggle for me. Hey, I’m working on it. But I’m not alone. We are currently facing a crisis of confidence in our country (and beyond) and the implications are far reaching. It affects our work, our relationships, and even our ability to see the world clearly.
The Crisis of Confidence
Eating disorders are on the rise, anxiety, and depression follow closely behind. We’ve seen a host of marketing campaigns targeted towards “real women”: “Healthy is the new skinny,” “natural is beautiful” and the “#AerieReal” campaign have done their part to break down the stereotypes, but they have only scratched the surface. Stereotypes about what we should look, feel and act like start at a young age and embed themselves into the DNA of our culture.
The result of this lack of confidence is that 2/10 teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood.
What begins as body image issues grows into a general lack of confidence that turns into the belief that one isn’t enough. Not capable enough to be a leader in the workplace. Not talented enough to land the job of your dreams. Not good enough at your job to ask for a competitive salary. Eventually the general dissatisfaction that comes from living a life outside of one’s own power sets in. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors and speakers, said in an article about the importance of confidence: “a growing body of evidence shows just how devastating [a] lack of confidence can be. Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence.”
And if competence is as important as confidence then the stats are truly alarming. 6/10 women find it hard to see themselves as leaders and 8/10 lack the confidence to ask for access to senior leadership roles.
And it’s not just women either. Experts say that both men and women with low self-esteem engage in subconscious behaviors, like negativity and self deprecating talk that undermine their success — making them less likely to ask for or get promotions, raises and even jobs.
WHY IT MATTERS
When we feel confident, we are outgoing, cheerful, skillful, intelligent, relaxed, spontaneous and expressive. We have respect for ourselves and others, we have a strong sense of our personal power, we take on new challenges and enjoy physical activity and good food.
But we can, and do more often than not, experience a crisis of confidence, and it impacts our interpersonal and work lives in myriad ways. A lack of confidence can cause depression, worrying about the opinions of others, feeling controlled and a fear of being alone. Overcompensation for this lack of confidence makes us judgmental, workaholics, victims of the imposter syndrome — afraid of being “found out,” demanding, resentful and unpredictable.
Our work is better when we can be less defensive of our own ideas and more open to feedback. We can be better bosses when we are less demanding and more empathetic and vulnerable. We can be better employees when we are less fearful that our power is going to be taken away, we can ask for the leadership roles we desire, we can give our best effort. We can be better co-workers when we are cheerful, relaxed and open to new challenges. We can be truly innovative thinkers only when we let go of a fear of failure, and the only way to let go of a fear of failure is to check our ego at the door and embrace our innate confidence.
The Buddha is quoted as saying: “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
I know this sounds like a crazy way to build confidence, but hear me out. Belief is a powerful tool, and the more we say something the more we believe it. Stop talking to yourself like you’re the worst person in the room (world?). Speak kindly to yourself and to others. You’ve heard it before, “Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your best friend.” Be honest but encouraging. When negative thoughts appear, stop them in their tracks, acknowledge them, examine their origin and then think about something you like about yourself and move on.
Gratitude is scientifically proven to make you happier and healthier, which will in turn increase your general confidence in life. Focusing on how much you have, as opposed to how much you lack, will remind you what a powerful, magical and amazing person you really are. Gratitude journaling is great, practical way to deepen this practice. It can be as simple as writing down 5 things you’re grateful for every morning.
Mindfulness is all the rage right now…because it works. Become aware of the way you talk to and about yourself. Tune in to your patterns, notice them and begin to take control of them. It all starts with the simple act of awareness. You can read another article I wrote on the subject here.
Confidence allows us to trust our gut intuition, accept feedback and grow in the direction of our best and highest selves. It’s a subject I am interested in because it’s a subject I struggle with. I read a book recently, aptly titled “You Are A Badass,” by Jen Sincero and one paragraph in particular stood out to me:
“You are perfect. To think anything less is as pointless as a river thinking that it’s got too many curves or that it moves too slowly or that its rapids are too rapid. Says who? You’re on a journey with no defined beginning, middle or end. There are no wrong twists and turns. There is just being. And your job is to be as you as you can be. This is why you’re here. To shy away from who you truly are would leave the world you-less. You are the only you there is and ever will be. I repeat, you are the only you there is and ever will be. Do not deny the world its one and only chance to bask in your brilliance.”
Confidence, or a lack thereof, is the root of nearly everything. It colors the way we see and perceive ourselves, our loved ones and the world around us. May you always know the depth of your value.
The light in me acknowledges and appreciates the light inside each and every one of you.