My frenetic hamster was back on his wheel inside my head.
Spinning his way through my jumbled thoughts, and increasing my anxiety, he had eroded any semblance of confidence I might have had ten minutes prior.
As a result, I was now convinced that I was a complete, incompetent fraud. I was feeling confident 20 minutes ago.What happened?
Well, let’s see.
I was getting dressed for a professional photo shoot. (It was time to upgrade my social media pictures and blog with a headshot that was not one my husband had been cropped out of). I had also decided that I would go ahead and have shots made for the “official” author photo for the book that I have almost completed.
My first book.
As in, no I have never been officially published before.
As in, the 40,000 word “project of my heart” that has consumed me for the last 8 months.
You know, basically my entire life’s dream in a word document, that I was confident that I would publish in 2018. Until the idea of it’s actual reality sent the little hamster in my head into a frenzy of paranoid thoughts.
What if the book was awful? After all, I have never done this before. Who was I to think I could actually pull this off? Maybe I wouldn’t get the head shots done today. Wasn’t this just a waste of time for just a hobby? Maybe I should just cancel the photo shoot completely. Who was I kidding? I was no writer.
I felt naked. Vulnerable. Unsure.
Where was the confident woman who writes about empowering women? Wasn’t I being a complete hypocrite if I couldn’t empower myself through this moment?
You get the picture. I had managed to talk myself into a myriad of negative feelings by allowing that little rodent the freedom to just let loose.
I now felt like a complete imposter.
This is what negative thinking does. It gives power to a thought (whether based in fact or not) which triggers an emotion. The emotion then floods our body with fight or flight neurochemicals which increase our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. We battle an unseen demon that is not really even there. Meant to help protect us from the Saber Toothed Tiger, our biological patterns of thinking can derail us in everyday life. Our confidence pays the price.
How then, do we get our little hamster to reverse course? Is it possible to re-think ourselves back into confidence?
According to psychologist Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges
“Imposterism causes us to second-guess. It makes us fixate on how we think others are judging us (in these fixations,we’re usually wrong), then fixate some more on how those judgments might poison our interactions.” It is a vicious circle we talk ourselves into. If we succeed we were lucky. If we fail we are incompetent.
According to Amy, those that feel failure most are people who have achieved something. These people (you and me) are anything but frauds.
The conundrum is that while we are agonizing over what we imagine people think, we aren’t really paying attention (and listening to) what they really do think. Our effectiveness at responding declines, and our hypervigilance about reinterpreting what we think (people think) stands in the way of being fully present. Of being our true selves.
Exhausting, Isn’t it?
So how do we defeat this way of thinking and coax our little hamsters into submission?
Seems like the answer, according to Amy, lies not in chanting affirmations into the mirror, practicing more, or convincing ourselves unmercifully that we are worthy. It lies, instead, in revisiting and affirming our core values.
Why we do stuff in the first place.
What we value, above all else.
For instance, why did I write this book in the first place?
My answer is simple. I am passionate about growing and developing women. I want to share my experiences, my learnings, and my failures so that others are inspired to be the very best they can be. Period. I’m not looking for a bestseller or Amazon chart buster. I am looking at connecting with other women who want to learn and grow like I do.
This act of self-affirmation and revisiting our core values helps us to clarify our own story. It allows us to trust that who we are will come through naturally. This re-affirmation of self in turn increases our confidence.
Shocking. By revisiting what I hold most valuable to the core, I re-visit my most authentic-self. This in turn reduces my anxiety about social rejection, and increases my openness to others. That, according to Cuddy, allows me to be fully present. And Confident.
Did it work? It actually did. Instead of spinning my wheels worrying about what “they” would think, I tapped into why I was passionate about writing a book in the first place. Good, bad or indifferent, I have something to share and to say. Of that I am confident. So, too can you be.
Just get back to your roots. Most of all, what makes you, you.
And when the little hamster starts spinning his wheels inside your head, you remind him who you really are. Don’t allow him to talk you out of what matters most to you.
Just take the darn picture. I did.
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