Sometimes the only thing holding us back is ourselves.
There are so many moments in life when self-doubt can creep in. Whether you’re applying for the dream job you’ve always hoped for, sitting an exam that you think will make or break your future, or you’re stepping up to the starting line of a marathon. No matter how much you prepare or practice, you wish you had time to do more.
But it isn’t just in those big moments where we can start to sit and think ‘they’re going to realise I’m not good enough’, it can happen on the most mundane of days. It’s ironic that the times where we start to feel it the most are when we are starting to succeed, and funnily enough, those who exude confidence are often the ones who battle with these thoughts more regularly than you think.
I’ve been lucky enough to feel very well rounded and balanced throughout many aspects of my life, but there have definitely been moments where I’ve had a few wobbles. In fact, I recently started to feel like things were slipping and my performance at work was dropping – something I had felt before. However, this time round the outcome was different. I used my previous experiences to recognise where this self-doubt was coming from to put myself in the right mindset to work out how to get myself back to feeling that I deserve to be where I am today.
A few years ago I had, what felt like, a massive blow to my career. Every day it felt like I was trying to claw my way up a mountain of work. No matter how many hours I worked, how much I ticked off my list, it never seemed to be good enough. My confidence in my abilities took an overwhelming knock, despite the fact that I had always tried to give 100% to everything I did.
More recently, I began to doubt my abilities again. A few months ago I was promoted at my current work, which I had worked hard to achieve, and at the time it felt like it was a step I deserved. However, despite my accomplishments, as I started to take a step up I put more responsibility on myself, and I started to notice that I was doubting myself once again.
When that seed of doubt starts to grow it’s easy to let it spiral out of control, but I was determined to not let that happen. I didn’t want to beat myself up over mistakes (it happens, we’re all human), or feel like I wasn’t getting through my list at the end of each week. There wasn’t one moment in particular that made me start to question myself, it was the overall feeling that I wasn’t capable of giving everything I was working on my all, and as a person, that’s not me.
I looked back at where it had all gone wrong before and I took note of what I needed to do to start believing in myself again to get my performance back to where I wanted it to be. You don’t always need to overhaul your life to get back on track, sometimes there are just a few simple steps to give yourself a bit of breathing room so you can get yourself in the right headspace to get back to the level where you were and so you can begin to set yourself new goals.
Step 1: ask for support
Talking to your line manager about needing help doesn’t mean that you’re failing. It means you don’t have the capacity to give your colleagues 100%, which isn’t helpful to anyone, especially yourself. Pinpoint what it is your struggling with, whether that’s too many meetings and not enough time to action the work, or perhaps you’re on too many projects and need a little bit of extra support across a couple of those. Perhaps you need to hand a project over completely. Once you identify what the issue is, speak to your manager to help work out a solution.
Step 2: block time out
My most stressful times tend to be when I have back-to-back meetings for most of the week. Not only does this impact the amount of time I have to complete tasks, but especially with hybrid working ‘zoom’ fatigue hits and it is easy to stop taking in information and zone out. It also means that you are more likely to multi-task during calls, working on emails in the background and not contributing to calls. By blocking out 2-3 hours of your day as ‘focus’ time, whether that is in one go, or in 30-minute chunks, you can regroup, gather your thoughts and tick things off your list. A productive day all round.
Step 3: take a break
This is easier said than done, and I was lucky enough to have already booked off nearly 3 weeks from work for a long trip where I could completely switch off. But you don’t need to have a long time off to get away from work. At the end of the working day or week, write out your to-do list for the day ahead so your mind is clear and really do shut that laptop down, put it out of sight and mind. I’ve always been a nightmare at having to be ‘always on’, checking to see if any emails come through late at night even if I won’t be able to respond until the next day, but that has meant that work has always stayed at the fore front of my mind, something I’m working hard to step away from moving forward.
The truth is, none of these tips are particularly ground-breaking, I know. But these are not only the things that often slip as imposter syndrome begins to rear its head, they are simple actions that are feasible to put into place as soon as you start to feel as though things are slipping away. As I open my emails and Teams tomorrow after some time away, I’m going to hold myself accountable to making these changes, acknowledging that I need to enforce breaks, time away, etc to really be at my best.