Over the years, I have talked to many women who constantly doubt themselves and their ability to do what it is they dream of doing. Three things paralyze them more than any other. First they think doubting is a result of them being inferior–not a cause of their problem, and they assume successful people are not plagued by this demon. Second, they see successful people’s confidence and assume it is something they would need degree or certificate training or years of experience in order to achieve that level of confidence. And the last thing that feeds doubt is women’s belief they need to have expertise in all areas. Let’s look at each of these things and how they might be holding you back.
Doubts happen to everyone–Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Bob Proctor, you, and me. I use to beat myself up because I could not stay 100% confident in myself. There are only a very few people who do not experience doubt and they are usually narcissists, or have some hereditary problem that prevents their full mental and emotional functioning. Or they are lying and do have doubts they refuse to let others know they have. Doubts are normal.
In fact, I contend if you are not a little frightened and don’t have some nagging doubts about your goal, then you have set your sights too low! When you don’t know how you will achieve something, it is normal to have low swings that play on your emotions and leave you doubting your sanity for thinking you could reach so high. The key is to not give the doubt more voice or time at your internal microphone than it had before you noticed yourself doing it. Stop the dialogue as soon as you notice it. You can read something inspirational for a few minutes, send a note of encouragement to someone else, or get up and jump around to move your energy. Do what works for you, but don’t call someone and start going down the road of feeding the doubt.
Let’s look at the feeling of “I can” verses doubting you can. The biggest gift I received from attending Harvard Business School was not the knowledge I learned but the confidence I gained to BELIEVE I CAN! When I say “I know I can” –which enables me to stay out of doubt– you need to understand it is not a statement of superior ability.
My statement of confidence is not like someone who lifts weights professionally looking at me and saying, “Here is the 250 pound weight and I know I can and you cannot lift it.” It that case that person would be right, I cannot lift 250 pounds. Furthermore, as a woman in her 50’s I might never be able to gain the muscle strength to lift it, even if I trained.
However, the confidence you admire in me is actually more like riding a bike than lifting weights. Any adult can ride a bike, even if they have never tried– assuming they have legs, arms and reasonable balance skills still intact. Yet if I have ridden bikes and you have not, if we are traveling together and are looking at renting bikes to ride into town, I will say immediately “Yes that will be fun.” You might wonder if you will be able to do it, or if you might embarrass yourself, or worse might hurt yourself.
But if I convince you to try and we take a minute to get you comfortable with the bike… in a few minutes you will be peddling next to me on the way to town. I won’t be better at it than you from that moment on. So the minute of hesitancy was totally because you did not KNOW you could, not because you couldn’t.
That is the same thing with making millions of dollars or taking on big projects or financial risk. I have ridden the bike and know I can. And just like the bike example, assuming you try..you soon will know you can, too.
Lastly, there actually are skills I have that enable me to do things you might not yet possess. And that intimidates people. However, you may never need those skills to succeed…so who cares. And if you do need them, you can:
- Hire someone who has the skill, or
- Learn them yourself.
When I come up to a situation that requires specific skill sets that I do not possess, I never see myself as inferior to someone with those skills. I know I have a lot of skills other people do not have and I do not expect to be an expert at everything. Whether running a company or a marketing department, I have had to depend on other people with skills I did not have routinely. I am OK with that. Plus, I am totally confident that if I choose to do it myself, I can learn it.
You, too, have skills people have depended on you for. You can learn things, if you need to. You are much more capable than you give yourself credit. And, you will need a team in the long run, so you pick your partners, investors, advisors and employees to bring other skills to your team that you lack.
Sometimes people, especially women, hold back because they do not have a degree or a certificate or… Just think about Bob with 2 months high school and where he is, and that he started making millions without ever getting any of those skills most people hold back for lack of.
Your biggest stumbling block is not what you do not know or experience you do not have. Your biggest stumbling block to success is your trust you have skills that are valuable, you can learn what you need to, and you will create a team of people to support you achieving your goal that bring the perfect skill set together. It gets back to a willingness to trust YOU CAN. Because, honestly, you can.