By Kate James
Have you ever noticed that some of the most clever, creative women are the ones we don’t see enough of?
In business, they often hold themselves back from self-promotion and they’re too humble to tell you how good they are for fear of overstating it. They’re the same women who are brilliant at what they do but they have a tendency to be super hard on themselves.
If you’re someone who holds herself back, you’re probably also aware that at the heart of the issue is self-judgement. We judge ourselves harshly because we don’t want to appear full of ourselves and we definitely don’t want to come across as too pushy.
Reign in your self-criticism and build your confidence by working through the following six steps.
1. Tune in to your self-talk
This takes a bit of practise so it often helps to start by writing down your thoughts. Over the next few days, try doing this for fifteen minutes when you first wake up or just before you go to bed. Your thoughts are likely to go something like this: “There are so many great designers / coaches / makers out there. How am I ever going to stand out from the crowd?” “Other women are so confident. I wish I could be as articulate as them.” “I wish I was prettier/ taller /thinner /smarter /funnier/ more interesting.”
2. Make peace with your flaws
Don’t feel that you need to force those negative thoughts away – it’s almost impossible anyway – but rather, adopt an open, curious mindset as you observe them.
Start to be interested in the validity of different thoughts. Some of your self-criticisms may be accurate but it helps to remove the judgement. For example, it would be true for me to say to myself, “I’m overly sensitive at times.” I know this is part of who I am. But instead of making this a harsh judgement, said in a tone of criticism, I can choose to say, “I’m a sensitive person” in a kinder way. Then I can start to think about how I want to manage that sensitivity in practical ways.
If we use this technique with any of our flaws, we create an enormous amount of compassion for ourselves. What if it were true that you are not as witty or as confident as others? What if it’s true that you’re ageing and carrying a few extra kilos? All of us are imperfect, but those imperfections won’t stop us from getting out in the world and doing what we love.
3. Balance the negative self-talk by actively engaging in positive self-talk
For many people, this is difficult. Because the negative bias of the brain, you’ll find yourself drawn back to self-critical thoughts time and again. However, with practise, it gets easier to create some balance. Write a list of positive statements about yourself that feel believable (this is really important so that you’re not going to immediately negate them). If you find it difficult, ask a few friends what they believe are your strengths (or take this strengths test if you’re not comfortable to do that). For example: “I’m a great listener.” “I have a good eye for colour.” “I’m intuitive.”
Set a reminder in your calendar to look at your list. This may sound contrived but remember it’s going to take this kind of repetitive practise to balance the way you think. Repeat at least three of the positive statements during your day.
4. Learn to be your own best friend
Most of us rely on external feedback to boost our self-esteem and to feel good about ourselves, but we need to learn to do this for ourselves. Next time you find yourself in negative self-talk, replace criticism with kindness and instead say whatever you’d say to a good friend who was struggling: “You did ok, even if it wasn’t perfect.” “You might not be your ideal weight but you still look great in that dress.” “You may not be the wittiest person in the room but you’re generous and kind.” Or maybe most importantly, “You’re not perfect and that’s ok.”
5. Take baby steps outside your comfort zone
Changing our thinking is one thing but even more important is that you start to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Remind yourself that there are people out there who need what you have to offer. Your job is to let them know you’re here – and how you can help.
Create a simple plan for self-promotion (regardless of those niggling doubts) and make it happen this week. Submit a guest post to one of your favourite blogs, share a win on social media or reach out to other women who share your audience and talk to them about collaborating.
6. Embrace other women
Take the time to learn from the women who are confident with marketing themselves. Seek out common ground and celebrate their successes so you see them as new friends rather than competitors.
Enjoy being in the presence of amazing women and recognise that you’re one of them, rather than feeling that you don’t belong.
Kate James is an author, coach and mindfulness teacher who helps her clients discover authentic, creative and purposeful lives. Kate draws on 14 years experience with clients in her latest offering, the Life Purpose Programs.
You’ll find Kate’s books, Believe in Yourself & Do What You Love and Be Mindful & Simplify Your Life and info about her services at totalbalance.com.au. Join Kate’s community on Instagram and Facebook or drop her a line on email.