If you have ever quietly said this to yourself, you are not alone.
And dare I say it, even I have had these thoughts from time to time… Writing a book (Soft Skills for Strong Leaders) and asking for honest feedback is really scary! What if people don't like it? What if they actually sit down and read it and think it's rubbish? Thankfully no-one has said this directly to me, and I have had some wonderful feedback, but some might not like it, and I have to accept that they are entitled to an opinion.
'One day they will find me out…' is a phrase I often hear from managers and leaders, particularly those who have recently moved into a new role. They are good at putting on a brave face and portraying an air of self-confidence to the outside world, when secretly they have doubts whether they really do have the skills to deliver on their promises.
So, where do these doubts come from? And what happened to the confidence that they started out with?
Self-confidence levels fluctuate daily, by the hour and even by the minute. Self-confidence is the measure of how much trust and faith you have in yourself and your abilities, and how you project yourself to the outside world.
I meet many people who can act confidently when needed, but confess to not truly feeling it on the inside. You know the saying ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, which simply means pretending you are confident until it becomes a habit. But in my experience, it’s better to tackle confidence issues from the inside, working on developing your self-esteem and controlling your inner dialogue.
Your thoughts have a powerful effect on how you feel, how you act, and how you come across to those around you. If you keep telling yourself ‘I’m rubbish at this’, or ‘I’ve really messed up now, what will they think?’, or ‘She is so much better at presenting than me…’ is it any wonder you start to feel anxious?
When you tell yourself ‘one day they will find me out…’ the underlying assumption is that you don’t have the skills you need, you will be exposed and you will be humiliated! This isn’t going to bolster your self-confidence at all.
Here are a few ideas to increase your self-confidence, should it start to dip….
1. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself. Self-talk is constant, and if you are feeling uncertain about a situation, or what you are about to do or say, notice what you are thinking about. The odds are that you are expecting the worst to happen, either in how you will act or how others will think/respond.
Decide what thoughts would be more empowering, and choose to focus on something positive about the situation.
2. Avoid over dramatising when things do go wrong. That’s life! Ask yourself some productive questions, such as
· What’s the worst that can happen – and can I handle it?
· How important will this be in a few months time?
· What resources do I have to resolve this situation?
3. Notice when you are generalising. As confidence levels drop, we tend to using phrases such as ‘no-one ever listens to my ideas’ or ‘I always make the wrong decision’. Notice when you use these generalisations, such as no-one, never, everything, always, and challenge yourself as to whether this is absolutely true. Focus on the times when things have gone well in the past.
4. Avoid mind-reading. How often do you have a conversation in your head, running through a difficult conversation you need to have, and mind-read how the other person will react? We assume the worst and so decide not to say what needs to be said, based on what we imagine might happen!
If I spent my time assuming that no-one likes my book, how could I possibly have the confidence to stand up and promote it? Instead, I focus on all the wonderful comments from new managers and even senior leaders, telling me how they "continually go back to it as a reference" and "its currently doing the rounds with my leadership team", and I am motivated to get on the phone and find more speaking opportunities!
So, the key is, notice your thoughts, and if you want to feel and act differently, and with confidence, then choose thoughts that make you feel better about yourself. Try it and see!