Nicola: What’s the client challenge of the week, then?
Judith: I think you’re going to like this one, Nicola. I think there’s rather a lot of meat to get our teeth into here. Self-doubt.
Nicola: Uh oh…
Judith: It’s a big one, isn’t it. I had a flurry of clients this week, two or three who posted in our Facebook group that they were having feelings of self-doubt. You know, “Who am I to be teaching people about X?” You remember our colleague Margaret Collins from the Money Gym. One of her expertises is Impostor Syndrome, which is where you don’t really have a realistic grip of what you’re good at and in what high regard you’re held, so you have a separation between your public persona and the little girl inside, and she says it’s more prevalent amongst women than men. I must say I don’t suffer from this very much. It probably would be good for me if I suffered a bit more from it.
So, I asked this morning, what’s it all about? The answers that I got included comparing ourselves with other people and finding ourselves to be wanting, negativity and fear, not doing something because it becomes safer than doing it because you can’t fail and you can’t be ticked off by other people. Teachers and other people we respected when we were younger, all those in authority who said we weren’t good enough. or allowed us to believe by what they said or did that we weren’t good enough. I came up with some marvellous quotes. Somebody, actually Nick Williams, do you know lovely Nick Williams? He’s written lots of books about the work you were born to do, and inspired leadership and everything. He’s got a nice quote on Facebook today. You know how Facebook has that thing that if you’re thinking about something or talking about something, suddenly your timeline is full of relevant material?
Nicola: Yeah, absolutely.
Judith: His quote is, “Imagine this. You woke this morning and your inner critic was gone. You only had an inner champion. What now?”
Nicola: Yeah so I’m like you, I have grandiose ideas of my own…
Judith: I know, tragic isn’t it?
The other quote was from Winston Churchill, which I think we probably can relate to, actually, which is, “You’ll never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
Nicola: Good grief.
Judith: That’s quite a good one. You know the dogs that bark are all the people that are trying to stop you doing what you want to do. If you stop on your journey and have a go at them, or pay any attention to them at all, you’ll slow yourself down.
So, my job often is to help clients feel more confident by appreciating them and reminding them of the good stuff I see and that they take for granted about themselves, but really the answer to this, whenever there’s any self-doubt, is to feel the fear and do it anyway, isn’t it? We’ve just got to push on through. You can’t sit on this side of it and feel good about it. You have to do it, see that you were better than you had thought or that you’ve got some improvements to make and have another go, and it’s the other side that the elf-doubt is evaporated, isn’t it?
Nicola: It’s like the dogs are imaginary. I don’t know about you, Judith, but I very rarely get anyone directly criticising me to my face. I don’t know if anyone would have the nerve to do it. Either that or I just completely don’t notice them. Are these dogs imaginary or are they ghost-dogs from the past?
Judith: I think they’re both. I think they are ghost-dogs from the past. I think they are imaginary, but actually they are quite real if you look at things like trolling. Is that how you say it? There’s a fear of internet trolls, isn’t there?
Nicola: Yes, yes.
Judith: We’ve both seen people in the past, I’m thinking of holistic Dr Alison, who on her first post on LinkedIn was attacked by the establishment about her alternative views. There is a fear of coming out. You always taught us, actually this is a good one, we only need to be one page ahead in the manual of the people we teach. We don’t need to be perfect, we don’t need to be a guru. A guru isn’t even particularly attractive, actually, because they’re too far distant.
Judith: I think it goes, you and I are lucky perhaps that we are, I don’t know, overconfident or bluff or well-practiced at this, but it is very real amongst people at all stages of business, but I think you just have to plough on through. You have to find some way to plough on through. My job is to shore them up and remind them of the things that they’re good about so that they feel resourced enough to emerge.
Nicola: I don’t want anyone listening to this to think that we’ve always been this ballsy. I know that you had, well i certainly had a massive crisis of confidence when we closed The Money Gym because we were both suddenly back on our own again. We were trying to start something new from scratch. We had just come out of a situation that, okay, the world had done it to us, but one can argue that you’re always responsible for what happens to you in some way, shape, or form. There were things I could have done that I hadn’t done, and suddenly I was thrown into a very hostile world where I didn’t trust my own judgement anymore. I didn’t have any confidence. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to do that would work.
Nicola: I don’t want anyone to think that we haven’t been there and we don’t know what it feels like, but there was never any question to me that if I just kept taking action, I would find my way back into the confident zone again. I just knew that I had to keep action and I do know that there are people who are so crippled by self-doubt and fear of other people thinking badly of them that they just are incapable of taking action at all.
Judith: I know and I think that’s really sad. We’ve got to encourage them somehow to take a baby step, I think. I do remember you saying in the acknowledgements of your first book that your English teachers had despaired of you and you’d got grade 97 in CSE or something, but you’d done it anyway. One of our mutual colleagues this morning said the same thing, that “My teacher said this, and my family say this, but I just do it anyway.” Her secret was to keep her mission and all the people she knows she’s helping through her writing.
Nicola: Yes, that’s right, because if you can realise that you’re serving people and that they need you, who are you to hide your light, as good old Marianne Williamson says.
Judith: I was going to say, even the story about the starfish, if you just make a difference to that one by doing your thing.
Judith: We’re not trying to be world leaders here – we’re just trying to help 50 people.
Nicola: Yeah. I saw something yesterday, funny you should say about Facebook. Jen at Preneur, Jenny Amato, who I spent some lovely time with on the cruise, she adopts dogs in between homes, where they’re going perhaps from a shelter to a home.
Nicola: And she says, you know, “I know I can’t save them all but if I just make a difference in one dog’s life…” There’s a quote on Facebook yesterday, something along the lines of, “You can’t save them all and it’s not going to change your life very much, fostering a dog, but my God it makes a difference to that dog’s life.”
Judith: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Nicola: Which is nice.
Judith: Actually there’s a good thing, there’s a good antidote for self-doubt actually the unwavering loyal love of a pet. I know we’re just a can opener on legs, but a dog loves their human just exactly as they are. It doesn’t see you as somebody riddled with all of this stuff, most of which we make up, as you say. It isn’t all hallucinated, it’s hallucinated out of something that happened to us. I mean one of the saddest things that I’ve seen in my life, you know I love to sing, is at school, there were often these quite brutal things where you all had to line up in the first year at music class and sing. You know, one, two, three, four, and the teacher would say, “Yes, no, yes, no,” and some people’s ability to sing, or entitlement to sing, was shut down in the one word no. No you can’t sing. No you’re not good enough to be in the choir. I mean that is just an awful thing to do to another human being, because music and dance and the way people… You see it on the television all the time. Every single culture expresses themselves through that except pretty much us because we’ve been told we’re not allowed to do that because we’re not good enough.
Nicola: There’s a meme that goes around on Facebook that says something along the lines of, “When people really annoy me, or ask me stupid questions, I tell them I’ll answer in interpretive dance.”
Judith: Interpretive dance, yes, I love that one.
I do see people about doing things that I think, “Oh God, you’re brave, I wouldn’t do that.” Sort of the opposite of that. I think the scale, I’m on the self-doubt scale somewhere, I’m just higher up than those that I seek to help, I think.
Nicola: I think there’s a difference between self-doubt and bravery. It is a kind of bravery to put yourself out there, but it takes a different kind of bravery to write a blog post and publish it than it does to get in a little cardboard airplane and bounce around the skies.
Judith: Yes, or take your clothes off on a beach on a Caribbean island.
Nicola: Well I didn’t take all of them off.
Judith: I didn’t mean you. I didn’t mean you. But on my Caribbean island, there’s a lot of people who take their clothes off, and I think, “If I were you I’d keep those on.” That’s not the point.
After this, my word of the week is about bravery. It isn’t bravery, but it’s about bravery. How interesting that you should bring that up in this section. Any more thoughts on the cure for self-doubt?
Nicola: How to help people with self-doubt? I think it’s just a constant reassurance, isn’t it? A constant reassurance. Perhaps people have to reach a point of pain and their back’s against the wall before they start taking action, despite their self-doubt. We know the hardest thing about becoming a successful entrepreneur is to realise that nobody gives a – mm-mm-mm – it’s got to be you; and if you’re not going to be able to push through this then you might as well go and get a job. That’s the brutal truth of it because –
Judith: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know that it’s just about entrepreneurship, I think it happens in every area of life. I think perhaps fail little and often and build up a resilience. Paul McKenna’s book that I told you about last week is about building resilience, becoming a bouncy ball. The more you bounce back the better you get at it and the faster you get at it.
Nicola: Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.
Judith: How appropriate for thee and me.
What I’m thinking of as well is that the high-achievers at my school who went to Oxford, they never failed in anything as children. And so when they went to Oxford that got very competitive and they weren’t as good as the rest for the first time ever it was quite hard for them to learn to fail at the age of 18 whereas the rest of us had a lot of practice at it, being mediocre through the previous 18 years. Fail sooner I think. Fail sooner, fail small, fail sooner, get up and have another go. You’ve got to come through it by doing. You can’t hover. It’s like hovering on the edge of a pool. You can’t learn to swim unless you dive in.
Nicola: Have coping strategies as well. I like the fail little, fail often thing. Have coping strategies. What makes you feel better about yourself? Chris Barrow always talks about his helium folder, doesn’t he? Where he saves every nice thing that anyone ever emails to him so that when he’s having a self-doubt day he can go back in and realise that he’s making a difference and that people do care.
Judith: Yes. I think it’s that we don’t have a very accurate assessment of ourselves, and we’re always focused on what’s wrong; or what we perceive to be wrong.
Nicola: We’re on the opposite side of the scale, we think we’re brilliant. It’s a challenge to help people, but it’s something that has to be done, really, because they can only take action with encouragement, can’t they? The stick doesn’t work. The carrot often works better.
Judith: The stick doesn’t work very well, you’re right. It might work for some, I don’t know, teenagers maybe.
Nicola: No, never works for them. Take it from an experienced teenage mum.