Reading my newsletters, you probably wouldn't guess that this year I've had one of the toughest years ever professionally.
It's not something I mention very much. I guess I've felt the pressure to have it all together if I want to be a good role model for others.
But, I had a couple of realisations recently;
One was that in real life things aren't perfect all the time, and thats ok. I certainly don't always get it right and I have to constantly remind myself to follow my own advice. I trip up and fail much more than I'd like to admit.
The second thing I realised was that it's actually ok to share that with you. Perhaps if you know how much I struggle with things, you might be able to learn something useful about how I deal with those struggles or that failure. I'm sure you can also teach me some things as I continue to learn right alongside you!
So here it is, my confession... This year has been incredibly challenging and full of self-doubt.
In lots of ways this has been an amazing year. We've had a new baby (cue incredible joy!) and enjoyed lots of socialising, new friends and making the most of Australia. But for me on a work front, having moved overseas and left all of my clients, supporters and mentors behind I've felt incredibly isolated. I've had more insecurity than ever before.
I didn't realise how hard I would find it only interacting with people from the other side of a computer screen or quite how much I would miss the person to person connection I had previously training clients and running events.
I still have the desire to inspire people to boost their health and happiness, hence why I've continued writing to you all this year. But it's been really hard not seeing the results in people's lives, hearing the enthusiasm in people's voices and seeing that spark in their eyes as they share their success with me. I've missed receiving the same level of feedback that really sustains me and lets me know that what I'm doing is actually making a difference for someone.
The emails that some of you have sent from time to time letting me know what an impact my work has had on your life have been absolute lifelines and have lifted me up. There are several instances where I've been moved to tears to hear the success you've found and to know that I may have had some small part to play in that. (You will know who you are of course because I have always replied immediately with a gushy email of thanks.)
But with these being few and far between, on a day to day basis, this year has been really challenging.
So... just what does the wellbeing specialist do when she gets down?
I share my answers to that question with you here in the hope that they might help you if you have ever felt the same way.
I certainly haven't got it all figured out but the following five steps are what I know help me.
Before I get into these practical strategies however, I just want to say that if you are reading this and like me you have some good days, but also some days where you feel down, where you doubt yourself. If you have days where you wonder if what you're doing really is making a difference (for your family, community, workplace or in any other context) please hear me when I say that you are totally ok.
You are amazing just the way you are.
You are exactly who God designed you to be and you are perfectly ok, even in your imperfection.
That is the most important thing to understand at a deep level and to remind yourself of daily.
It flows straight into the first of my five tips on truly overcoming self-doubt;
1. Remind yourself that you are totally ok just the way you are. Imagine how you would live each day, each moment, if you felt you were enough, just the way you are. How would you carry yourself? How would you treat with your family, your boss, the person at the grocery store?
Knowing that you are totally ok, is the best mindset to go out into the world with.
If the words 'you are ok', 'you are worthy', 'you are amazing', or 'you are enough' impact you then you might like to print them out in large font (changing the "you are" to "I am" and put them up where you will see them often. Positive words like this feed our subconscious and are incredibly powerful for change, you can find out more about that here.
Personally, the big ones for me, (which I have to remind myself of), are that I am ok and I am important.
2. Focus on the positive attributes and skills that you have. Identify and dwell on all of the wonderful things you do well.
Make a list.
Actually sit down with pen and paper and make a list of all of the things that you truly like about yourself. (You may find this hard at first but I do encourage you to have a go.) They could be personality traits like being loyal, kind, professional or genuine, or something you like about yourself physically, your cheek bones, your eyes, your ankles etc.
So often we focus on the blemishes and parts of ourselves we dislike (which no one else notices by the way). Remember that when you stand at the mirror looking for a problem you're going to find one.
Choose to focus instead on the things about yourself that you actually quite like! We get more of what we focus on. When you focus on noticing the positives, you naturally feel more positive!
I have to remember to celebrate that I'm an encourager and that people sometimes tell me I inspire them, and that even though I sometimes fail and miss the mark, I do some good in the world.
I'm sure that you do good in your world too!
3. Be gentle with yourself but firm your inner critic. Quieten that negative voice in your head and tell it that you won't listen to its lies anymore. My inner critic sometimes tells me I'm not good enough, not popular enough, not funny enough, not tall enough, not toned enough, not blond enough...the list goes on (and so does the hair dye!)
What I do know, and what I have to remind myself is that the people that love me the most in the world don't think those things and that I shouldn't think them about myself either.
Who am I to compare myself with others (the comparison game never ends well). How about I just make the most of what I've got. That is all any of us can do right? Please join me and keep that in mind. See yourself as though you were looking at yourself from the eyes of someone who completely and utterly loves you and speak to yourself with that voice.
You only ever deserve positive praise and constructive criticism. Mentally beating yourself up is neither of those things.
4. Let go of worrying about what others think. I know, this one is a biggie!
It is definitely much, much more easily said than done. I struggle with this a lot as I want everyone to be happy and ultimately I want to be liked. (This is me just being very real and open here).
This year, I've discovered just how scary writing really is. I now understand how having an opinion means that you're going to get criticism and people that don't agree with you. (gasp!) I could let it scare me so much that I don't ever write again, (the thought is mighty tempting), but then someone somewhere might miss out on getting one little glimmer of useful advice some day that just manages to help them, and that would be a shame.
So I write, I comment, I live, I breathe and I remind myself that ultimately it's not my concern what others think. Again I invite you to join me.
If something someone says or does could offend you or simply be nothing at all, choose to let go of that worried voice that jumps to the worst conclusions all the time. Give people the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming the worst. Let go of the worry.
5. Focus on the positive feedback loops. Before having children I once heard that new mothers often feel a loss of recognition once they take maternity leave as they no longer get the acknowledgement associated with their job. While mothers fulfill an incredibly important role, their child, (whose very life they are shaping!) isn't able to say well done mum and thank you for everything that you do, you are just awesome!
I'm going through this phase myself and have definitely noticed the void left by the lack of positive feedback.
Fortunately a few years ago someone taught me the importance of intentionally setting up positive feedback loops and it's something I've shared with many clients and it's transformed how they feel.
For me on days when I feel like I'm not making a difference, or like I'll never realise my dreams, I can read comments from clients in online surveys and or look at emails of gratitude that I've received in the past. These encourage me enormously and remind me that what I'm doing does work and does make a difference. Rather than reading them once and deleting them, I can save them in a folder for future reference for those times when I need a boost.
You will be able to find ways to set up positive feedback loops for yourself. Sometimes it just starts with asking for the feedback, whether it's from children, partners, bosses or clients. We need more encouragement in the world!
You will also find that by giving out more encouragement to those around you, more will come back to you. Imagine if we could all speak positive encouraging words to someone in our lives every day how that would positively change the world. It could be a complete stranger (there are always opportunities to make someone's day!) or someone you love very much. (Sometimes it's our closest loved ones that we forget to thank and acknowledge.)
So there you have it. For me, the strategies above are the starting point to overcoming self-doubt and worry.
I recommend tackling them one at a time (in any order). Remind yourself you are ok. Make your list. Practise being firm with your inner critic. Let go of worry. Set up the positive feedback loops.
The great thing is that they reinforce each other and tend to have a domino effect. Once you start addressing one, others will improve in turn.
I want to encourage you that things change. While I still struggle with these things at times, I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I used to be. Day to day I worry very little. I remember to let go and to focus on the positives and to give myself a reality check.
I hope that this knowledge encourages you to do the same.
I wish you all the best on your journey to finding a place of humble confidence in yourself!
Most of all, whatever you do, always remember that you are truly amazing.
In this follow on article I share the practical day to day strategies I use to stay positive up beat and feeling on top of the world! Enjoy it!
Feel free to comment below. What tips can you share about overcoming self-doubt?