No matter how successful we become, for some of us there is a whisper we hear that never quite goes away.
Call it imposter syndrome or just self-doubt, but it’s there if we allow it. I have learned that we can silence this intruder to our success. But it takes effort and consistency.
How we see ourselves is directly related to how we portray ourselves to the outside world. We will either limit ourselves in what we are able to accomplish or may desire to prove what we can accomplish, but those successes do not bring peace and fulfillment. I like the picture of a small kitten who looks at its reflection in the mirror and sees a mighty lion. If we feel small with not much to offer, we won’t invest in ourselves and will limit what we can accomplish. On the other hand, if we see ourselves as strong and capable, the possibilities are unlimited.
Why do so many people fail to grow and reach their potential, or accomplish many things and be unable to experience joy and satisfaction from it? I’ve concluded that one of the main reasons is a low self-image. When we have a low self-image, we feel poorly about ourselves, and tend to make the situation worse through negative thoughts and critical self-talk. If we don’t feel worth the effort, the image we have of ourselves will remain low without the chance to improve.
Unfortunately, negative, critical self-talk can be ingrained in us from childhood. In their book The Answer, businessmen-authors John Assaraf and Murray Smith speak to the negative messages children receive growing up. “By the time you’re seventeen years old, you’ve heard ‘No, you can’t,’ an average of 150,000 times. You’ve heard ‘Yes, you can,’ about 5,000 times. That’s 30 no’s for every yes. That makes for a powerful belief of ‘I can’t.’”
You can choose to silence your inner critic. For some of us it is easier to let go of this lens we view ourselves through, for others it feels like a constant battle with our inner critic. It takes time and work to change this perception that has been reinforced for years. The good news is by choosing to have positive thoughts about yourself, you can begin the process to change and improve your self-image. Here are a couple of ways I have found to be helpful in silencing our inner critic:
Guard Your Self-Talk
One way to build your self-image is by guarding your self-talk. If you think about it, you will realize you talk to yourself many times a day. Is that self-talk positive or negative? Are you being kind to yourself or critical? When faced with a problem do you tell yourself, “I’ve got this. I will figure it out” or instead say, “I’ve messed up again – I never get it right.” It can be helpful to log your thoughts to determine how you are doing.
Take time to be kind to yourself. You can be kind to yourself with the intention of being more kind to others, but it starts with you.
When you realize your own special value, you will see yourself as strong and capable. You will believe you are worth investing in. The result will be growth and development and living up to your full potential.
Focus on Your Strengths
Change your focus to all the things you excel at. What are your strengths and how can you choose to use them to make life better for yourself and others? Turn around the negatives and focus on your positive attributes. Anytime you struggle with feelings of inadequacy, take the time to stop, take a breath, and reassess why you are having these feelings. Often, we overlook our greatest assets, so by intentionally examining ourselves in the mirror to find our inner lions we can choose who we see.
If you want to formalize the process take a strengths self-assessment like Birkman. Spend time with the results. Live with them and remind yourself often about your unique gifts and talents. I found this particular assessment so helpful that we took our entire management team through it, and I am now certified to conduct the assessment for others.
Another way is to ask your friends and colleagues what they see in you. You might be surprised at how others view you. It is a great exercise, and a very encouraging one. Again, live with the positives you glean from it.
You are a Lion
If you are reading this, you are a lion. You have ascended to leadership or started a business or are just getting started on a life of accomplishment, but there is so much more to do. Silence the whisper that holds so many people back. Be proactive about reminding yourself often that you are more than capable. You are strong and you have proven it over and over again.
Janelle Bruland is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, and high-performance coach who inspires others to live impactful and successful lives. She is Founder and CEO of Management Services Northwest, a company she started in her living room in 1995 and has grown into an industry leading company, named one of the Fastest Growing Private Companies by Inc. magazine. The CPO of Microsoft, Mike Simms, describes her as a true pioneer in her field. Janelle is also the Co-Founder of Legacy Leader, a leadership development company that teaches business professionals how to build a legacy, transform their leadership, and love their life. She is the author of The Success Lie: 5 Simple Truths to Overcome Overwhelm and Achieve Peace of Mind.
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