Our success is as much determined by our ability to control our fears as by our actual competence. My proof is the many people out there with modest talent but oodles of self-confidence that earn a lot more money than we do (of course there are also some incredibly talented, self-confident people earning loads of money but that doesn’t grate on me quite as much). Honestly, I’m jealous of people who are self-confident. What I have to keep reminding myself is that I don’t really know how they’re feeling, just how they act.
Seth Godin talks about the “lizard brain” – that instinctive, animalistic part of us that responds to fear and keeps us from taking risks. Once upon a time it was the lizard brain that kept us alive by anticipating dangerous situations. It makes sure we see the risk in everything so we don’t do anything stupid.
We’re all walking around with this insidious naysayer firmly lodged between our ears constantly telling us we shouldn’t be (or worse still, aren’t capable of) doing what we want to do. So we get butterflies before a big presentation. We nervously procrastinate when networking or prospecting. We’re timid with our bold ideas in front of our peers. We don’t go for that big job because we’re afraid we might fail.
Although they haunt us, our self-doubts and self-criticism are completely invisible to the world around us except when we let them modify our behavior. Imagine how people would react if they knew every time you were unsure of yourself – but instead they just carry on giving you important work and counting on you to deliver (which, despite your fears, you somehow manage to do!). They can’t see inside you. You would likely be surprised at how put-together you appear to others even when you’re plagued by self-doubt. Your self-doubts are your private burden to conquer.
Many of the things we must do to achieve success in business can be downright scary and our fear limits us. So, every morning, take a look in the mirror and see yourself through the eyes of others as the strong, competent person you actually are. You’ll be more successful when you’re confident that your lack of self-confidence is . . . confidential. In other words, trust me, you really do look smarter than you are!