The work fairy has been kind to me. Over the years, I’ve held some pretty good positions and was involved in many impactful projects—the types that attract lots of attention from the guys upstairs. I’ve been mentored by a CEO and have worked closely with all kinds of C-execs. Pretty lucky, wouldn’t you say?
How have I done it? –Easy. It was enough to mention I wasn’t challenged enough and work flew my way, growing in complexity and responsibilities. Things are looking up, I thought. Soon, I’ll be pretty high on the ladder. But instead, I was stuck in a rut. I was seen as the dependable “Doer” but never “the Change-maker” or “the Influencer.” And after some intense self-analysis, it was very clear why.
Despite all the opportunities I’ve been given to move up, I somehow fell short of having sufficient self-assurance—the silent requisite for success, which often helps write our great life stories of struggle, perseverance, and “making it in the end.”
I started thinking about confidence and how lucky the people to whom all this comes effortlessly must be. They probably don’t even have to think about how they appear to others, because they are simply great individuals, emitting calm assertiveness in their own worth.
But more importantly, why did I lack the feeling of self-confidence? I believed I had the brains, skills, knowledge, abilities, no less than the people around me who were steadily moving up. There was no apparent reason for me not to have equally positive self-beliefs and the opportunities that came with this. And yet, I was stuck.
Here are 3 reasons why you are not succeeding in life as you wish you were:
This is a big one. Although, at first thought, motivation and confidence may not be likely candidates for friendship, they are closely aligned, especially in work settings. If what we do for a living isn’t what we truly want, if it’s not our forte or calling, it will be quite challenging to convince ourselves that it’s worth putting our whole hearts, efforts, energy and skills into it.
It’s kind of hard to be our biggest fan too and to respect ourselves, when we are stagnated personally or professionally. If we are not driven enough, we won’t push ourselves to grow, to achieve more, to learn new things. Such attitude is an outright confidence killer.
We just save ourselves the torment and go after what really sparks us. But if moving on is not a possibility, we still have some options up our sleeves. We can try to improve our motivation to spike our confidence. The point is that self-appreciation comes from knowing that we are doing something meaningful, something that matters. Otherwise, why waste our time?
“Where there is a will, there is a way. If there is a chance in a million that you can do something, anything, to keep what you want from ending, do it. Pry the door open or, if need be, wedge your foot in that door and keep it open.” – Pauline Kael
People-pleasing is easily one of the main obstacles to self-assurance. It’s a well-known fallacy that people with low confidence often have an obsessive desire to be liked by everyone. It’s a dangerous trap as we can become an easier target for manipulation. More importantly, we tend to turn our backs on who we are and what we want, for the sake of others.
Congratulations, you have successfully become a wallflower! People-pleasing is not the way to feel better about ourselves. Social acceptance is important, of course, but it should be based on mutual appreciation. If we don’t know how to value and respect ourselves first, how can we expect others to do so?
And yet, many of us do it—to varying degrees, on various occasions, in both our personal and professional lives but, it’s a bad strategy all-around. An ill-ambition to be accepted by all usually has an unhappy ending— we are liked by no one, not even by ourselves.
3. Fear of Failure
The dread of defeat and low self-assurance have somewhat of a complicated affair—fear undermines our self-esteem. Low confidence, in turn, makes us more sensitive to failure. Our sense of worth becomes directly tied to all-or-nothing outcomes. Victories will make us feel over the top and downturns will cause a further dip in our self-esteem. It’s a vicious loop.
An unhealthy sense of perfectionism also often completes the above recipe. We must be faultless all the time, we tell ourselves, as we believe that failing will cost us not only others’ respect, but ultimately our careers too.
Being driven to do or give our best is, of course, a good thing, but there is always a line, which, after being crossed, things quickly spiral downward. We can’t slow down or become less meticulous, though—we believe that all eyes are fixed on us, and that we’ll be judged for every mishap.
Guess what? People are too centered on their own selves and lives to have the time to focus much on others. We are usually the ones who cause ourselves all the stress and grief. Psychologists call this the “spotlight” effect—and it’s a well-known bias.
So, give yourself permission to fail, to not be perfect all the time, to have a bad hair day, to take responsibility for your missteps. Fear is natural, everyone has it, and everyone fails. But as Confucius said many years ago: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” – Henry Ford
Finally, to reach a state of unconditional self-approval, we must not tie our worth, personal and professional, to externalities. We shouldn’t seek for validation or approval from the world. Rather, focus on finding your own path and pace. That’s the only way to become, not flawless in everything, but perfectly happy and fulfilled with the person looking back at us in the mirror.
Is your motivation, people pleasing, or the fear of failure holding you back from where you should be? Let us know so we can all help one another!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com
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