How I became less self-critical at work
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
I get it, accepting you are good at anything is pretty tough for most people. There are obviously those who consider themselves good at almost everything, (and they don’t really need any encouragement), but for us other mere-modest-beings, believing we are good at our jobs can be one of the hardest things to accept.
Why the lack of self-belief?
When it comes to our lives at work, no-matter what occupation we hold, we are guaranteed to come into contact with people and situations that make us feel rather useless. These situations, perhaps in time, naturally culminate into a fear or an anxiety, no matter how irrational this is, that we are actually incapable of doing our job and are a) going to get fired imminently or b) going to be better off finding a new occupation in life where we might be better suited. I, myself have had these thoughts many, many times, usually around 3am in the pitch black of my bedroom, accompanied by chest pains and a racing heartbeat.
I remember once hearing from an ex-colleague that a member of our team had made a flippant comment about me “not having a firm grasp of the English language”, which as a Senior Copywriter for a luxury brand, was not really ideal. I can’t really express how much this affected me. I prided myself on my work and before this had always thought of myself as pretty good at what I did. I couldn’t get it off my mind for weeks, months, years. It still makes me feel blue thinking about what he said. It definitely made me question my role, my ability to perform and what my other fellow colleagues were thinking about me too. If only I could see that colleague again now as an older, stronger me. Well, who knows what I might do!
Believing in your accomplishments
When our confidence is low, we need to give it a boost, and often we can’t rely on others to do this for us. Therefore, we need to take matters into our own hands.
We all have a CV saved away somewhere on our desktop, however, aside from the long list of roles you have rattled through on your way to today, have you ever considered compiling a list of special moments that have made you feel truly valued and proud? If not, now is the time my friend. They can be small things i.e. the look on a customer’s face when you served their cappuccino with a perfect replica of their French bulldog on the froth, or big things, i.e. winning your very first new client at the agency after a kick-ass pitch involving a month's worth of research. Archive these accomplishments in an online document, add them as part of your CV or just scribble them down on a notepad next to your bed. These are your most intimate personal achievements and are guaranteed to create an instant pang of self-pride. You can revert back to this list every time you are self-doubting again. And, keep adding to the list as and when new things are achieved.
Assess the other members of your team
In your moments of doubt, when you feel like the one letting the team down, just spend a few minutes thinking about this: who in the team is excelling? Within a team there are naturally a lot of different characters, each bringing something unique to the mix. If there is someone who particularly shines then think about how and why they do so? Are there qualities they possess that you could work on to improve your career too? You might actually assess each member of the team and find that in fact you are one of the strongest and that people are coming to you for ideas and suggestions. This in turn should give you some further motivation and self-belief.
Never self-doubt yourself in public
Worse that self-doubting in private, is self-doubting in public. It is okay to have the odd one-off freakout to a colleague when you have genuinely made an awful schoolgirl error or accidentally blurted out something totally embarrassing in front of your top client. However, constantly spread ambiguity about whether or not you are fit to carry out your role to a high standard will not bode well for the future.
Imagine if someone is constantly saying to you ‘I don’t think I am good enough. I am totally rubbish at my job’. If they say it to you so many times, then after a while, you will genuinely begin to believe that they might not be good at their jobs. There's no doubt that within an office environment, this word will spread and soon you will become a scape-goat for anything that goes wrong in the team. Believe me I have seen this happen to nice people in my office, and they never last long after that.
· Reality check yourself - chances are you are not a total genius, but you are very capable of carrying out your role pretty well.
· Give yourself a big-up. Assess your successes, no matter how small and give yourself a pat on the back.
· Compare your performance to others. How do you compare. If good, well done. If not, copy some of their attributes.
· Don’t self-doubt in public. If you act confident and give your ideas with certainty, people will believe them – if you don’t, they won’t.