Are con­stant com­par­isons crip­pling your ca­reer? Stop the self-doubt and take con­r­tol of your work life

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - SEPTEMBER CONTENTS - mc

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.

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