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How to manage the dastardly duo of fear and self doubt?
I’ve learned a lot from interviewing successful women. But there’s one lesson, in particular, that’s impacted me most—how to manage the dastardly duo of fear and self doubt.
Historically, boys have been groomed to be successful adults. We, typically, have not. Going against years of conditioning can send us into an emotional tailspin.
Almost every High Earner I’ve interviewed made the same generalization. In the workplace, men assume they’re competent and everyone knows it. Women assume they’re inadequate, and everyone sees it. Thus men feel entitled, willing to take big risks. Women feel apprehensive and tend to hold back.
Many women reported—especially in the early stages of success—feeling guilt (Do I really have a right to this? Is it OK to earn this much?), doubt (Can I handle it? Am I on the right path?), and fear (Am I doing it right? Will I fail?).
As one woman told me, “What holds women back is what kept me back for so long—a mindset of inadequacy.”
So how did they do it? How did so many, as this CEO put it, bounce “from massive self doubt to damn-the-torpedo confidence?”
I attribute their triumphs to the Rule of Right Thinking, otherwise known as Mental Discipline. This rule is an integral part of Sacred Success. ®
One especially high-earner explained it like this: “You have to be disciplined about the way you think, which means paying attention to every word that goes in your mind and out your mouth.” Just like when she quit biting her nails, she said, “Every time I caught myself with a negative thought, I just stopped.”
Admittedly, the Rule of Right Thinking can be a tough one to follow. But I noticed the women, albeit unconsciously, relied on various techniques to keep them on track. Here are four of my favorites (believe me, they work!):
1. Positive Self Talk. Sure, these women lapsed into self-depreciation and negative thinking. But the moment they realized it, they’d immediately shift gears, giving themselves pep talks or repeating positive affirmations. As a long time mega earner explained to me, “You have to remind yourself: I’m OK. I have strengths. It’s hard. But you have to!”
2. Toughening Up. By nature, we women tend to be pleasers. High earners were no different. Most confessed to a “little girl inside me who wants to be liked.” But in order to make difficult decisions, often with negative consequences for others, they knew they had to toughen up.
Toughening up, however, didn’t mean hardening their hearts, but adjusting their attitude. The adjustment sounded like this: ‘I’d rather be respected than liked.’
“I tried to be nice rather than stand by my convictions,” an entrepreneur recalled. “But I learned, you can’t always be liked, but you can definitely be respected.”
3. Situational Re-framing. What the world might call ‘problems,’ these women perceived as opportunities. To them, obstacles were nothing more than forms of guidance, sources of information, or an opening for personal growth.
“I can’t see a challenge or a problem,” said one very successful woman. “They don’t exist for me. Everything is a chance to make it work.”
And another: “My success has come from problems, which I prefer to call my Growth Opportunities.”
4. Strategic Thinking. Men are much savvier at strategic thinking. Women, in their eagerness to give birth to their dreams, often neglect this critical step. Strategic thinking means consistently keeping one eye on the big picture without taking the other off the bottom line.
“Connect everything with the numbers,” a CEO explained. “To be a successful business woman, you have to all the time on how to make the numbers work.”
Strategic thinking did not come easily to many of these women.
“This is not my nature,” said a former journalist. “I’m a writer. It was something I had to learn. No matter how passionate you are, you have to have business savvy.”
Applying these techniques requires constant practice. But over time you’ll begin to notice—what started as a discipline eventually becomes a habit.