Talented and thoughtful, she was a successful non-profit executive. She was well-known throughout the region for her philanthropic endeavors. She had founded three businesses in separate niche industries.
To the outsider, my client was a skilled entrepreneur, a connector between the business and arts communities. She was a self-made woman. When she spoke, others listened — and followed.
Now in a transitional phase, her confidence had plummeted. Self-doubt wracked her. She discredited her previous successes, attributing them to fortuitous circumstances. I listened as she belittled herself in a contemptuous tone.
“Matt, I don’t know why anybody would hire me. I am too old; I can’t learn new technology. Employers must know that,” she complained, a hint of bitterness creasing her voice.
Here was a worldly executive riddled with disabling doubt. The self-limiting language, not her skillset, was the real obstacle.
“Let’s challenge those defeating statements. Look at your career. You have been a catalyst for change. How many people have founded a successful boutique in Los Angeles and then, switching industries, established a thriving non-profit in a different part of the country? Look at your personal relationships. How many people value your opinion?” I gently admonished.
She paused, startled to hear such lavish praise.
“Well, I guess I have never thought about it that way, “ she conceded.
Her self-confidence shattered, my client dismissed with a disdainful shrug her multitude of accomplishments.
I pressed forward. “Look at the self-defeating language. You define yourself before you even start. How many times do you say ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t?’ Those words are self-fulfilling prophecies. Let’s change the negative language.”
Bracing for her backlash, instead the line was silent. In the silence, she understood: self-limiting language sabotages. Her destructive language, not her abilities, undercut her career aspirations. Her limiting beliefs fueled her paralyzing self-doubt.
If we inject truth serum, we acknowledge how self-doubt derails us from achieving our goals. When faced with relationship or job uncertainty, how many of us endlessly question whether we are capable? Am I smart enough? Am I skilled enough? Am I likable enough? The questions pummel us into cowering self-doubt.
Challenge the thoughts. If a bully constantly mocked you, castigating you as a failure or fraud, you would respond. These cognitive distortions cheat you out of a rich, fulfilling life. So why are you permitting your bullying brain to disparage you? Respond with a measured, accurate response. I am capable; I can achieve; I am deserving. Your default response: I can.
Achieving self-acceptance requires diligence and determination. Whenever a negative thought pollutes my mind, I challenge it. My unwanted, intrusive thoughts, like my client’s, center on my own self-competence. Like that fearsome seventh grade bully, the mind feeds off fear and loathing. When you challenge the bully, the towering giant crumbles. The taunting mind, like the seventh grade bully, is more imposter than imposing.
As you put the self in self-care, remember that inferiority is only a complex. The only limitations are the ones we create.