A Coaching Power Tool Created by Elise Holmes
(Life Coach, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
In my experience, one of the most common things that gets in the way of clients achieving their goals is a lack of confidence that they can. If I could shift the thinking of these clients is one way it would be to have confidence in themselves that indeed they can.
This power tool is designed to shift thinking from a lack of self-confidence “why me?”. So frequently, people are held back from achieving their goals by a disempowering perspective of not feeling good enough nor deserving. This power tool supports the challenge of that perspective and replacing it with more empowering beliefs, feelings and visions that indeed “it can be me!”
There are various definitions of self-confidence, for example, a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgement. Self-belief can be described as confidence in your own abilities or judgment. The term self-belief is often used interchangeably with self-confidence. Similar to these is self-esteem, which is subtly different and can be described as how you feel about yourself. In this power tool, I touch upon aspects of all of these, and have chosen to use the term ‘self-confidence’ as this is slightly more specific, and most closely resonates with my experience with clients. Based on this experience, I have chosen to consider ‘self-confidence’ herein around three themes of trust in one’s abilities, trust in one’s deservedness, and the relativity of these to our perception of other people’s abilities and/or deservedness.
A frequently cited question is whether the person that gets the promotion is the most qualified or the best at selling themselves. Typically, people respond that it is the latter. So, what does this tell us? To question our ability, or our self-confidence?
So often we set goals, dreams and aspirations, then get in our own way of reaching them or even striving towards them by questioning and doubting ourselves. This may come in the form of:
“Why do I think I can do that? / I can’t do that”,
“Why do I think I am deserving of that? / I don’t deserve that”,
“Why me over someone else? / There must be other people who can do that better”.
What follows is an exploration of some of the factors that may be at work driving this disempowering perspective.
We may not feel capable, in other words not have the ability to do what it is we are aiming for. This may be measured in different ways from formal qualifications to a sense of competence through built up experience. Ability isn’t necessarily all or nothing, but more likely there may be a scale where we perceive the level of ability that is required or we want to be at, and see ourselves as below this. We may comparatively put others above ourselves on this scale. This could be modesty, and we may be not recognising, or be underrating our abilities, skills and experience.
We may find ourselves putting others ahead of ourselves in line in our minds as more deserving. This is our judgement of our own abilities, needs, wants etc. against our judgement of theirs.
We may feel a need to stand out from others in order to achieve our goal and therefore if we only see ourselves as equal to others on the scale of ability, we may not feel special nor unique, and this can stand in our way. We can be put off by the belief that others people have already done it, or can do it better, and therefore why me?
We can find ourselves awaiting an invitation, and that by someone else offering the opportunity they are endorsing our ability to do it, or our deservedness. However, this can take considerable time or indeed may not come. For example, awaiting a promotion at work.
There could be potential embarrassment in admitting our dreams, or in putting ourselves out there as wanting to achieve them. We could be pre-empting other people’s judgements of our goals and questioning ourselves such as “what if people don’t think I can do it?, what if they think me undeserving?”.
Dr. Brené Brown talks about ‘foreboding joy’ which I interpret here as limiting our ability to experience positive emotions through fear losing the things that bring them about. Therefore, applying that to the ‘why me?’ perspective, we may hold ourselves back from striving for our goals for fear of not achieving them. We may also fear that we will receive negative feedback, rejection or disappointment. Indeed, questioning our ability or deservedness may be an excuse to limit our disappointment.
We may have a sense that something else is needed first, such as needing to lose weight, or find a partner, which create blocks. By allowing these blocks to exist and perpetuate, they can become excuses for us that feed the negative belief that we can’t achieve our goal.
There may have been events that have eroded self-confidence in the past and fueled our beliefs that we are not good enough, or not deserving.
There may be many other underlying beliefs driving a lack of self-confidence and doubt in our potential to meet our goals that can be explored through coaching.
It Can Be Me
The empowering perspective is that we are able, and deserve to achieve this goal for ourselves. Whilst this is easily said, it helps for there to be something behind the words, such as beliefs, visions, structures, support and experience. What follows is an exploration of this perspective and what some of these could be.
Having a feeling of ability and competence. This may be gained through obtaining a formal qualification, which is a form of external recognition of our ability, that in turn allows us to have confidence in ourselves. However, we may not feel a need for this, and indeed it may not be appropriate. Other forms of external endorsement may be positive feedback from friends, family, peers, clients etc. Our feeling of competence may also come through our track record and experience of either having done the same thing in the past, repeatedly, or something similar which can be applied to the current goal. Recognising our achievements of the past and appreciating the value of our knowledge and skills are hugely powerful in feeding our feeling of competence.
It is not only important to appreciate what we know and can do right now, but to have a sense of our capacity to learn. Appreciating what we do not know and the limits of our ability is important so as not to act improperly, but it can also guide us in what is there to be learnt in the future. We can draw on
past experiences to fuel our confidence in our ability to acquire new skills and knowledge. Having a detailed and robust plan based around our knowledge/ skill gaps can support the belief that the goal is attainable.
Feeling deserving of our goals. This may be a sense that the effort we have put in, our ability, and our desire, as a few examples, are such that the achievement of the goal is in line with these. Also, a sense of value for ourselves and our goals that they are important.
Feeling comparable with others, that our abilities, needs and wants are as great, or even greater than others’. With this perspective, we can see a space for ourselves and our goal. “If others can I can, I can be as good or better”. Having a realistic perception of other’s abilities and deservedness is vital here, rather than over-estimating it so that it erodes our self-confidence as we have explored, nor undervaluing it so that we do not appreciate the competition (if applicable) and are ultimately unsuccessful.
Dream it and find a way. It can help to start with the goal and work backwards from there to make it happen. In his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen Covey talks about starting with the end in mind. By defining the goal, adding detail and bringing it to life, the steps to get there can become clearer. With this clarity, you become goal-orientated, and can be fueled by belief, assurance, confidence and drive. We have the inertia to start, and not await an invitation. This inputs the energy to challenge the obstacles in your path and remove the blocks. Obstacles and blocks are not seen as such, but instead as steps that must be taken to get to the goal.
Effective structures to support us in our goals are very important, and with an ‘it can be me’ perspective we are more likely to know what these are and implement them, such as people, resources, money, time, qualifications and infrastructure. These may support our belief in achieving the goal as well as the achievement of the goal itself.
Having belief in a successful outcome is ideal. In some situations, we may not have any way of being sure of a successful outcome, but we can consider that we may as well apply a positive attitude, and that at the very least the outcome won’t be actively worse for this, and will most likely be better. Essentially, what’s to lose for being positive?
I want to be an astronaut!
Consider this statement and what comes to mind?
It may be that there are relatively few people that become astronauts, there are relatively few jobs, much competition, limited geographies to pursue this, high level of physical and mental abilities, education required, money, etc. All of this may lead you to conclude that the chances are small, others may be better placed, and ultimately that this is not possible.
On the other hand, some people become astronauts, you have to be ‘in it to win it’, you can at least try, you can get hold of the information, understand the size of the challenge, start somewhere, build the skills required, seek support. When you consider following these steps, how likely does the outcome seem now?
Now consider the outcomes of following these two paths.
By concluding this is not possible, you most likely release the goal quite quickly and will never become an astronaut. By following the ‘it can be me’ mindset, there is more of a range of possibilities. Maybe, just maybe, it works out and you become an astronaut. If not, then what’s the worst that can have happened. There may have been time and money invested and possible disappointment. But also, perhaps you’ve learnt something about yourself on the way, developed your knowledge and skills, met people, traveled, or even discovered a truer goal.
The two opposing perspectives described above could be explored and challenged through use of these suggested tools and techniques.
Appreciation of your ability. List your abilities, skills, knowledge and experience. In what way are these special or unique? How can they be applied to your current goal? What can you do to gain the knowledge/ skills/ experience you need?
Consider yourself, or invite your client to share the worst possible outcomes, and then consider what the best possible outcomes could be. For example:
Visualisation may be used in a variety of ways here. For example, visualise your goal and yourself achieving it, add detail and bring it to life. If disempowering potential outcomes are coming to mind such as those listed above, practice replacing them with more empowering potential outcomes in the vision. What do these look and feel like? It may take a few times to switch between these feelings taking time to explore one set, and then the other. Ensure that the empowering outcomes are the last set to be explored in the visualisation exercise in order to try to anchor these feelings.
You may also like to visualise if it was someone else setting out to achieve the same goal, what would your perception of their likelihood to succeed be? This may help to explore any warping of our perceptions of others’ ability and deservedness.
Use of a role model. Visualise someone who has, or you believe could achieve your goal. How do you perceive their ability and deservedness? What do you believe their mindset is/was?
‘Fake it until you make it’. What does it feel like to pretend that you can do it? What can you start doing now that is in line with achieving your goal?
Support – what support do you need to achieve your goal? What can you do to seek this?
Dr. Brené Brown, On Joy, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKV0BWSPfOw
Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People