Are constant comparisons crippling your career? Stop the self-doubt and take conrtol of your work life
How to stop the self-doubt and take control of your career
the feeling of being overwhelmed, overscheduled and out of control is all too familiar for modern workers. But fixing it takes more than simply booking a tropical holiday. According to leading business and life strategist Shannah Kennedy, there is a monumental confidence problem affecting this generation, caused by the relentless pace of change. The high-flying executive coach and author has been the wingwoman for many successful CEOs, and says the volume of self-doubt problems that women – and men – are experiencing in the workplace is reaching epidemic levels.
‘To put it bluntly, people just can’t cope with the pace of life any more,’ she explains. ‘They think they are coping, but if you scratch the surface you get an entirely different picture. So many of our clients are taking medication just to function, from sleeping tablets and stress-related medicines to alcohol and cocaine – you name it. They may appear to be completely in control, but the vast amount have no power over their lives – their finances are spiralling out of control, and they have no career path; they’re merely existing on the treadmill of life. This is a shift from what I was seeing 10 to 15 years ago,’ she says. ‘People are disconnected from themselves and unhappy, but frozen with fear and indecision about what path to take.’
How can they back themselves for a promotion or a major work decision, or to make a career change when they have lost who they are and what they want from life? Shannah says the key is to get back to basics and learn to be resilient in the face of this unprecedented change. Start owning your confidence by practising some of these basic building blocks.
Get back control of technology
Shannah says we have inadvertently ‘opened the door to crazy’ by having no boundaries when it comes to technology. ‘Technology rules our lives,’ she says. ‘We think the only way to cope is to try to stay on top of things, so now we sleep with our phones and reach for them first thing in the morning to check emails and social media. Our cortisol levels are soaring before we even get out of bed and this sets the tone for the day. But it doesn’t have to be like this.’
The first piece of advice is to remove all devices from the bedroom. This is non-negotiable. You will initially feel like you are missing an arm, but you’ll soon find more positive ways to start the day. You can then decide the best time to start reading work emails, but make it your choice, with a mind-set of making room for things in your life that fuel your system. So maybe you should only read emails after you’ve had your morning coffee, or successfully got the kids off to school without a screaming match (or whatever it is that fuels your spirit). ‘No-one seems to forget to charge their phone every night,’ Shannah says. ‘But we have forgotten how to recharge our own batteries.’
Shut down the negative self-talk
Writer Sarah Hagi sent out a tweet in 2015 that resonated with women everywhere. Titled ‘Daily prayer to combat impostor syndrome’, it read: ‘God, give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude’. Her words surmised the fact that typically men – of any level of talent – put forward their ideas (and themselves) with unbridled energy, while women hold the brakes on their own ideas courtesy of a barrage of selfdoubts. In her famous TEDx Talk (bluntly titled ‘How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over’) motivational speaker Mel Robbins referred to listening to the voices in your head as ‘being behind enemy lines’. ‘If we broadcast what you say to yourself, we would institutionalise you,’ she said.
When you find yourself lamenting your ‘dire’ future, or self-flagellating over a tiny mistake, it’s time to shut it down. The best advice? First ask yourself
what words of compassion you would say to a friend in a similar situation. Then look for the first mediocre male in your company who is in a better position than you, and tell your inner critic to shut up.
Train the perfectionist monster
Shannah says if there is one debilitating difference between the sexes it’s that women tend to be perfectionists. The pressure to be perfect has never been greater, as thanks to social media, we are in a constant world of comparison (which does affect women more than men). One skill set we can focus on to try to remind ourselves that we are ‘enough’ – and that we don’t have to be ‘the best’ – is to practise gratitude. ‘When we find time to connect and truly feel gratitude for what we have in our lives, we feel incredibly lucky,’ Shannah says. ‘When we consistently practise gratitude it has the potential to override the harsh inner critic many of us tend to listen to, or our natural inclination to seek out the negative. Do your best to remember that perfection kills progression.’
Change your (mind) habits
There are patterns that govern our everyday thoughts, and they can take over when we are on autopilot. Shannah says that more than 80% of our day is made up of habitual behaviour, and if we don’t modify the habits that are draining our confidence, we can’t expect anything to change. But this isn’t about cultivating habits like clearing out your inbox, or taking a break from the keyboard every hour; rather, these habits are about developing a positive frame of mind to change from a ‘fixed mind-set’ to a ‘growth mind-set’ (see table below) in order to ditch destructive trains of thought. The first thing to do is ask yourself if the way you’re thinking right now is working for you. If the answer is that it’s not, try these:
about work and find where the joy in your life lies: whether this is through creating the time to find new hobbies, or cultivating old ones. This will give you a sense of balance.
This is a Buddhist belief that means taking delight in the good fortune of those around you. If you struggle with jealousy, replace feelings of envy by trying to rejoice in the success of others.
causes you to stress and then analyse how you respond to it. If you find you are overcommitted, start setting boundaries for yourself to follow. Avoid using common excuses such as having no control of the demands that are placed on you, because you do. Start by saying no to things.