Let’s be clear. As human beings, we all have insecurities. They wiggle their way into our lives, and sometimes pop their ugly little heads up when we least expect them. They’re called saboteurs, gremlins, obstacles, and they really get in the way of living a life that is wholehearted and authentic. So if you are feeling insecure about something, even something important in your life, something that you think you should NOT be feeling insecure about – you are not alone. My life coaching clients often come to me with insecurities about things like:
- What other people think of them, their work or their opinions
- Their physical appearance
- Feeling like a fraud
- Their weight
- Their relationships
- Doing enough
- Being enough
…. and many more.
Insecurities like these often cause us to go out of our way to avoid situations that make us feel fragile. Brené Brown’s seminal research into the topic shows that when people feel insecure, they hunker down, “armor up,” and protect themselves. Her data show this can take many forms:
- Numbing out
- Disrupting joyful moments by imagining all the ways that things could go wrong
Do any of these sound familiar?
Overriding Insecurity Through Life Coaching: Case Studies
On a recent client call, a coachee confided that she was a anxious about an upcoming meeting with her new boss. We talked about her insecurities, then worked on her confidence together for about 10 minutes using the appropriate tools from my tried and true coaching toolbox. By the end of this process and the call, I could hear the relief in her voice. She said as much.
“Karen, I will do the things you suggested. I will review my strengths and remember to focus on those strengths when meeting with my boss. He knows I am talented and loyal.”
The following day she sent me a beautiful email thanking me for helping her turn around her negative thinking.
A few years back, my coaching services were bought as a gift for a young woman in her junior year at a big University. Her mother hired me to help her daughter Julia* get through some rough times. Namely, declaring her major.
During the first month of coaching with me, Julia’s perspective began to shift. Within two months, Julia no longer wavered on the fence of indecision. She was able to follow her heart, and declared a major field of study that was hers, and hers alone. She even found a mentor, an expert in this field, to help guide her and plot her path into her new field of study.
One of the coaching questions I focused on with both of these clients was:
“Whose business are you in?”
Identifying and focusing on staying in their own business helps my life coaching clients make decisions from within, instead of worrying about other people’s judgements and desires for them.
Is There a Gene for Confidence?
But don’t some people just seem to have been born more confident than others? Have you ever met someone with no fear of public speaking, who can just strike up conversations with complete strangers at will? A person who never worries about what other people think? This type of person seems to have been born with a gene for confidence.
In the book The Confidence Code, a pair of journalists aim to set the record straight about where confidence comes from. Is it neurological – are we born with it? – or does it stem from something else?
While confidence is surely influenced by genetics, research has shown it is not a fixed psychological state. But you can’t discover confidence simply by thinking positive thoughts, or telling yourself (or your children) that you are perfect as you are.
Building Confidence Through Two Simple Practices
What can we do, then? We can choose to become more confident by:
- taking bold action, and
- courting risk.
Think about it:
- If you never took action, you’d never receive feedback, either positive or negative.
- If you never took risks, any risk would feel overwhelming.
- You wouldn’t know what to do with the trembly, shaky, nervous feelings that result from risk-taking, and you might always avoid it.
Research into risky behavior has shown that taking a risk, even a small one, actually changes our brain chemistry.
- We become more awake, engaged, aware and willing to move forward.
- By taking action and courting risk, we quickly learn how to cope with insecure feelings.
- On the flip side, being slow to act or afraid to fail adversely impacts our confidence, leadership abilities, success, and fulfillment in life.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ‘till you make it.” In some cases, as when faking laughter, positive emotions or happiness, “faking it” can actually help wake up your brain and make you feel happier or more positive.
But faking confidence is something entirely different.
If you are skilled at something and are known for or receive lots of positive feedback about it, you should absolutely go ahead! Own it. Be confident about it. As long as you maintain an attitude of humility, curiosity and life-long learning about your area of expertise, your confidence won’t be misplaced.
But fake confidence about something outside your area of expertise hearkens back to the children’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes. At some point, someone in the crowd is going to point out that you’re completely naked.
So when in the process of learning, try something new. Be open to feedback. Don’t fake confidence – earn it through careful, considered risk-taking with trusted advisors. Don’t put your faith in yes-men, who only ever tell you you’re perfect or your clothes look beautiful. Seek out people who can give you honest feedback – and don’t run, hide or cry in a corner when you get some constructive criticism. Pull yourself together, go back and use this feedback to make your offering better. At the end of this cycle, you will have an unshakable confidence that comes from truly knowing yourself and your abilities.
Life Coach Tip: How to Overcome Obstacles
Even as a Life Coach, confident in my ability to help my clients completely reinvent themselves into happier, more productive and more fulfilled people, it dawned on me that I had been feeling insecure about posting this very blog. Sure, I’ve been writing – one of my very favorite creative outlets is my writing – but I had been writing in a vacuum, rarely making my writing available to an audience – people who were actually lining up, asking me for my help and advice as a life coach!
Then, my Marketing Technologist Amanda gave me a compliment on my writing.
It dawned on me that my insecurities were holding myself back from the core of my work – helping others – and I realized I had to start blogging again, right away. Not only would putting my writing “out there” be fulfilling to me creatively, it would help me achieve my mission as a life coach – to help others. Making my writing publicly available on this blog will also help me get valuable feedback from you, dear reader. (Yes, I value your feedback!) This feedback will improve my life coaching practice and help so many people – including you.
So instead of “insecurities”, let’s call them “obstacles.” This way instead of internalizing the problem, we’re seeing it as something external, something keeping us from our mission and our goals – but something we have the power to surmount. When we see our obstacles for what they are (good, bad or indifferent), we can set these obstacles aside while we work our way forward toward our goals.
That small piece of positive feedback I got from Amanda, someone whose opinion I trust, helped me become more confident about sharing my work and insights. Instead of hearing “she has no clothes!” I was hearing that the clothes I was wearing were well-made, beautiful, and worthy of being worn to the parade.
Taking action – writing – and courting risk – sharing my work, if only with her – gave me the validation I needed. (After all, Amanda works with Life Coaches all around the country!) Instead of working in a vacuum on my writing, I was able to get some well-founded feedback, and override my insecurity through collaboration.
To Override Your Insecurities, You Need Feedback
My clients’ lives have changed because they sought out constructive criticism from a neutral third party, an expert in life transformation. My professional, life and retirement coaching business Revitalize Coaching in Minneapolis, MN has been dedicated to supporting individuals in creating better clarity since 2001. I work on issues together with my clients so they can make decisions for themselves, on their own terms, and with the guidance of coaching. I am certified through the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) of San Rafael, CA, hold a Master’s Degree in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas and graduated with a B.A. in Women’s Studies and English from the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts.
If you’d like to get started getting the feedback you need, contact me for a complimentary Life Coaching consult. Our work together will give you the concrete strategies you need build self-confidence, override your insecurities and keep you on track toward achieving your goals. Many of my clients say that through feedback and collaboration with a trusted ally – me as their life coach – they’ve tapped into their most deeply-held values. I have helped clients start new careers, businesses and projects based on the things they are most passionate about. Contact me today to schedule your complimentary 30-minute intro session. We can begin to chart a course into a fresh start together.
*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality