We are all vulnerable to the voice in our heads that tells us we aren’t good enough, that we aren’t prepared, that we are imposters, or that others are better than us. These moments of self-doubt often occur when we have an exciting opportunity – when we are prepping for a big moment such as an interview or a meeting with someone who can advance our career.
Those insecure thoughts – let’s call them your inner negator – become “self-limiting beliefs.” Like a mean coach, this voice tends to get louder as we get closer to our goals – with thoughts such as: “I’m going to screw up any minute. Everyone will realize what a failure I am. I should just quit before it’s too late.” We adopt this limiting belief before we realize the thought is not true. That nasty voice can sabotage your performance and your success.
Here are five of the top insecure thoughts and what you can do about them.
I’m not as good as… (a colleague, my sister, etc.) You are comparing yourself to others, considering yourself unqualified for a task, project, opportunity. You have decided that you can’t measure up to the standards of others.
What to do: Give your inner negator a name. Make it a “thing” that you can have a dialogue with. Answer back to your internal voice attacks, expressing your real point of view. You can write down rational and realistic statements about how you really are. Respond to your attacks the way you would to a friend who was saying these things about him or herself – with compassion and kindness.
I’m too… (fat, plain-looking, ugly, etc.) You are caught up with your appearance and imperfections that are internal and external.
What to do: Ask yourself what may be causing this self-perception. Ask what led to this belief and then identify ways in which you might become more positive and realistic about yourself. Is there a more compassionate or understanding way to view yourself? Deliberately focus on others so you can combat intense self-focus. Put on your observer hat and notice what other people seem to be feeling and doing.
I just can’t… (handle that project or job, take on something new, I don’t know what I’m doing, etc.). You have decided you might fail and are fearful of taking a risk.
What to do: Try to evaluate yourself based on how much effort you put in, which is controllable, rather than on the outcome, which is dependent on external factors. Recall your past successes and accomplishments. Talk back to your inner negator. Remind yourself of all the reasons that you can be reliable, capable, smart, and prepared.
I don’t fit in… (because no one supports me, appreciates me, I’m not one of them, no one sees me as a fit, etc.) You are assuming others won’t accept you.
What to do: Remind yourself of all the reasons that you can be exciting, helpful to other colleagues, and a team player. Prepare for opportunities in advance. Think of some things you can talk about with others to create mutual satisfaction in your connection — current events, interests, hobbies, your past experiences on the job, or your family. Deciding that you aren’t a fit can cause you to avoid social situations. Engage with others and find commonalities.
This happened to me before, and I just can’t handle the pain again… (because of death, abuse, I was fired, etc.) There has been a tragic occurrence or circumstance in your past, and you worry that you will fall victim to a potential reoccurrence.
What to do: Give yourself time to heal and adapt to the way things are in the moment. Ask yourself if these feelings are really true now. Get out and engage with others you trust, and follow your interests and curiosity. Persevere and keep moving towards your goals. Seeking help from a therapist may help you leave the past in the past. Be willing to try a different more self-empowering strategy.