Last week, I was invited to talk about my career and share my thoughts on how being authentic and building self-esteem can unlock our potential. It was an opportunity that allowed me to reflect on my own path and I recognised two questions which I have used to help me to overcome barriers in the direction of my goals.
What would you do if you were unconcerned with what others think?
For many years I was afflicted by that pesky self-impostor syndrome. I recall sitting in management team meetings, ten years ago, thinking ‘I don’t belong here. Someone is going to find me out.’ When I was younger I often felt I had to assume the behaviours of others I admired and respected to be successful. In fact, I used to say there were two versions of me: work me, and me me – the latter being the one who was just herself.
It took me a while to realise that actually I am – like all people – more effective when I am just being myself. When I am not adopting a façade that I believe is commensurate with my role. I am more solution focused, more effective, more creative, and my wellbeing and satisfaction is supported.
And one of the barriers that often stops us being ourselves, and pursuing the goals to which we aspire is a concern about what others might think. Often we are held back by perceptions: our perceptions – mostly erroneous – of how we might be viewed if we are just our whole selves, if we pursue our ambitions. So, a question that I often find useful – including in coaching – when those barriers arise, is this: what would you do if you were unconcerned with what others think? Because it is often those perceived perceptions that create an impediment to us following that to which we aspire.
What else can I do?
This is another question that I have and continue to use, and one which allows us to use the things that we have done previously as a springboard. At the heart of this question is stopping and recognising our achievements and successes – which too often we forget to do. But in pausing and taking notice of the things that we do – even those actions we discount as every day and ordinary – we realise just what we are capable of. And in doing so, build our self-belief in our own potential and ability. For some people, this can be done just through simple reflection. Personally, I find it useful to keep a diary of good things, a written collective of achievements that I can return to.
My use of this question began over five years ago when I became a parent, the single most daunting role I have ever assumed. If I could do that, I thought, I wonder what else I can do? And so it was that query which became – and continues to be – my catalyst.
It is a question too which we may find useful in the months and years ahead. As I write, the pandemic continues to rage and setting and achieving goals may be well down our priority list as we weave our way through this bitterest of winters. And yet, it is right now, at this time of crisis, that we are doing extraordinary things: whether in our roles, in our communities, in our families, or just for ourselves. Including in the everyday: getting up, showing up, doing our jobs, home-schooling.
After this extremely challenging time, when our resilience has been so tested, our adaptability demonstrated, may we find that the answer to the question: ‘What else can I do?’ is always ‘Anything.’