public health

3 Steps to Move from Self-Doubt to Confidence

Photo via    Pixabay

Photo via Pixabay

I had a great conversation with Daisy Ozim, founder of Resilient Wellness, a nonprofit that builds community-based solutions to address intergenerational trauma. 

We talked about how people who don’t fit traditional straight, white, cis-male templates for leadership often have to build the kind of resilience that allows us to transcend the limiting cultural messages we get about who we are.

Keep reading for 3 tips on becoming resilient in the face of self-doubt, inspired by this week’s episode of the Dialogue Lab podcast

3 Steps to Move from Self-Doubt to Confidence 

Daisy talked about being excluded and bullied at a young age, and how ultimately, she didn’t let any of that stop her from doing her thing. 

When I asked her where she found that strength, she said she didn’t have role models or a supportive home environment. What she did have was this:

“I think my ancestors are really strong. I feel protected. I think that there's always been an energy around me that has been able to guide me and lead me different places and keep me out of certain troubles. I think that's what I was able to rely on.”

As leaders, we often face self-doubt. And some of us (myself included) also deal with imposter syndrome -- particularly those of us who have a marginalized identity. 

Imposter syndrome is just what it sounds like: a persistent inner narrative that can sound something like this:

“I don’t really belong here. Everyone else here is so on top of it. I’m just skating by until someone figures out I don’t know what I’m doing, and that I haven’t earned my spot here the way everyone else has. I’m on borrowed time.” 

And if you haven’t had a lot of role models that look like you, and you can relate to, you are even more likely to develop a case of imposter syndrome. 

And it can hobble us as leaders. 

The good news is that there are ways we can develop an emotional immune system that helps us bounce back when self-doubt strikes. 

Here a few steps to take to do that:

>> LESSON 1: Recognize how self-doubt shows up for you <<

Take stock using the following questions as a guide. It’s normal to not be sure how to answer all of these. If that’s the case, just start where you are, and reflect on these questions over the next few days. 

1. What emotions do I feel when I doubt myself? Anxious? Sad? Angry? Detached? Frustrated? 

2. How does self-doubt feel in my body?

For instance, I’ve noticed that when I’m doubting myself, I feel small, and I get very still, like I’m hoping no one notices me. 

I had one client describe it as feeling contracted and tight. Another said she felt edgy (like she was ready to run out the door). Another compared it to walking a tightrope. These are just examples, and it might feel totally different for you. 

3. What am I telling myself, about myself, when I feel self-doubt? 

For instance, in those times when I feel small, if I listen to my internal dialogue, I might notice that I’m comparing myself (unfavorably, of course) to people that I admire and envy. 

I’ve had clients find that they’ve been dismissing their dreams as naive. Another who dismissed her concerns as too petty to bring up. All of these are examples of common ways that our internal dialogue can fuel a sense of being small, insignificant, and not good enough. 

>> LESSON 2: Practice "catching yourself in the moment" of self-doubt <<

You might start by journaling for 10 minutes every night for a few days, to reflect back on your day and see when it came up. Over time, you will start noticing it more quickly, until eventually, you will be saying, “oh look! I’m experiencing self-doubt right now.” 

And that kind of in-the-moment, mindful self-awareness is pure, unadulterated power. 

Here’s the difference it makes. 

When you don’t realize you are experiencing self-doubt, all those thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come up with it just feel like reality.

For example, when I feel self-doubt, it really, truly does feel like I am small and insignificant, that my ideas are dumb, and my best move is to go hide under my bed. It feels real because my anxiety tells me it’s real. 

This is akin to watching a scary movie. The sounds and images are so overpowering that we really feel like we're being chased by a dinosaur. We get lost in the experience of the movie, which on a certain level, convinces our nervous system that we are in danger. 

And when you catch yourself experiencing self-doubt, it’s like saying, “oh! I’m watching a movie!” Which then gives you a moment to take a deep breath, step back, and take a fresh and more compassionate perspective on yourself.

>> LESSON 3: Reframe self-doubt towards connection rather than isolation, and reach out for support <<

In our interview, Daisy talks about how her healing journey began when she took a psychology class. The class rang a bell of recognition within her, and helped her to understand her experiences within a larger context. 

I had a very similar experience, and I know others who have as well. 

One of the reasons I’ve always felt drawn to studying human development and systems of marginalization is that everytime I learn something new, it helps me put my own struggles within the context of a larger human experience. 

And so it has been with my sense of not being good enough. It’s not just about me. It’s an experience that so many others share, and I feel connected to them through that. 

And whatever particular form your self-doubt takes, I can guarantee that you are not the only person out here feeling that way, and saying those things to yourself. 

Self-doubt is just human. It is an experience of vulnerability that we all share. 

But we forget that when we feel it. When you are in the middle of it, it really can feel like you are the only one who feels that particular, broken way. 

And that is often what is most difficult about self-doubt. It’s isolating. It makes us feel like we are the only one. 

So turn it around. For instance:

1. Reach out to a trusted friend and share what you are going through, and ask them for what you want. 

Maybe you just want them to lend an ear. Or you might ask them if they’ve ever felt this way. Or (as I’ve done on more than one occasion) you can even ask them for a pep talk.

2. Don't fall into the trap of assuming everyone else has it together. Instead, take a moment to wonder about the unique ways other people struggle, and connect with a sense of empathy for them, and all people like them. 

Because the truth is that we all feel this way at times, and it helps to remember that because it connects us to others. 

We are not broken. We’re just human. And as Daisy shows us, wonderful things happen when we refuse to let self-doubt stop us.

What would help you feel more confident in your work for social impact? 

My clients are incredible people whose biggest challenge is often that they don't realize how awesome they are. I talk about imposter syndrome because I have seen how it pops up in social impact spaces. And I've struggled with it myself. 

If you can relate and would like to talk, I'd be happy to lend an ear and perhaps offer you a fresh perspective. Just shoot me an email and we'll set up a free consult.

Thank you for all you do,

Humility in Leadership Lifts Up Everyone

Photo via    Pixabay.

Photo via Pixabay.

Before I get to this issue of Lessons from the Lab -- A lot of us have on our minds those children being ripped from their parents' arms, by our government, on our borders. 

And I want to say two things about that. 

One is that whatever you are doing in your work for social change, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for doing whatever you are doing, to build a world where we care about children, and the world they grow up in.

Your work matters. And in the midst of these crimes and atrocities, I remember Fred Rogers' advice: To look for the helpers. 

And you are one of those helpers. Thank you for everything you do.

The second thing I want to say is that there are many organizations doing crucial work to address this crisis on our borders. Act Blue has a page where you can donate to 12 of these groups, with just a few clicks. Please consider doing that, here.

And now here is this week's Lessons from the Lab:

Episode 6 of the Dialogue Lab podcast features a conversation on how nurses can transform healthcare by adopting a coaching, anti-racist, and social justice mindset.

Click here to listen, or keep reading for 3 social impact lessons from this conversation with Nikki Akparewa, the founder of Transform Nursing.

About Nikki Akparewa

Nikki is a nurse, a nurse educator, and a coach, and the founder of Transform Nursing. She has been bringing a coaching and social justice framework to nursing, to improve the health of patients as well as nurses, and to support nurses as leaders, so they can become a force for systems and policy change.

3 Lessons from the Lab

One of the things I took away from my conversation with Nikki was a reminder that great social impact leadership is about doing what lifts up everyone. And that takes both courage and humility.

>> LESSON 1: Believe in your people. <<

One of the things I appreciate most about Nikki is her enthusiasm and respect for nurses.

Because while she is clear that she has her concerns about nursing as it is currently practiced; she also champions nurses for their skill, the role they play in society, and for their potential as powerful voices for health policy change.

It’s something that feels familiar to me as a coach. I know my clients are amazing, and I never stop believing in them, even -- especially, actually -- when they struggle.

And my clients find that powerful. But I'm not doing anything magical. If I’m honest, it’s just because most of us are not used to being seen that way.

And this is so crucial in social impact leadership. Because in our work, we are often struggling against all kinds of odds. And as leaders, if all we see when we look around is the struggle, then that’s what we’ll reflect back to our colleagues and our communities.

So, especially in times as hard as the one we’re in, we’ve got to choose to believe in our people. To see that we are all more than the struggle we are in.

We’ve got to choose to encourage our people, especially when the going gets tough. And to mirror back to them our collective greatness.

>> LESSON 2: Embrace a process of learning from others <<

Most of us have it hard-wired into us that leaders are supposed to have all the answers. And if we don’t, we at least better look like we have the answers.

And there are two big places where that starts to break down.

One is that social impact is not simple. It’s complex and unpredictable.

Imagine you run a social impact factory. If things were simple, it’d be like flipping a switch, and boom, your (social impact) light comes on.

But in our factory, there are many switches, being operated by many people, who do not all agree on what the factory is for. We don’t even own this factory. It has, like, millions of owners.

And the switches themselves keep changing and relocating. And when we flip a switch, we don’t always know whether, where, or how the lights will turn on, and what they will illuminate when they do.

And when our work involves so many moving parts, we need strong, collaborative relationships with our colleagues, so they can help us better understand the lay of the land and the impact of our actions.

And what I’ve found is that when a client defines their leadership around having the answers, they are less open to learning from others, and are therefore a lot less likely to be getting that kind of information from their community.

The second breakdown is that leadership is also not simple.

At its core, leadership is about relationships. With humans. And humans are also complex, and unpredictable.

Nikki spoke to this powerfully in our interview, when she spoke about how leadership is usually defined in medicine:

“This is hard work for us because people come to us for answers. They come to us because we have expertise. And we have to do the work ... to learn that, yes, competency comes in understanding the pathophysiology of someone, the biology of someone. But we cannot be competent on someone's emotions, the way that they can. We cannot be competent onwhat people want out of their lives. We cannot be competent on exactly where that person is coming from. For that, we must accept humility.”

And what I’ve found again and again is that my clients who really get that they don’t have all the answers are better at partnering with their colleagues to find what focuses and motivates them, what holds them accountable, and what keeps them moving for the long haul.

>> LESSON 3: Humility is not about playing small <<

For me, humility is about tending to my emotional self-care, so that my ego doesn’t get in the way of my ability to see the bigger picture.

- It’s not about telling myself that I don’t matter, or that my actions don’t matter.

- It’s not about being overly self-critical, nor is it sacrificing my well-being to please others.

- And it’s not hiding out where I’m most comfortable, for fear of being too visible.

Nikki addresses this beautifully here:

“I was just taken aback that nursing wasn't doing more in nursing schools and curriculum. It [race] is just not addressed.

“It’s addressed in a very surface way. We’re very comfortable using expressions such as ‘health equity,’ using expression such as ‘social justice’

“...However what I have found in general is that people just aren't really ready to use the word ‘race.’ To really say that word out loud. Or ‘racism.’ Afraid to say that word to put a name on it. Or ‘class’ and ‘classism.’

“You know we're not comfortable using those types of expressions in professional spaces…. In professional spaces where people's lives actually depend on our ability to not only have these conversations -- and stop playing small about it -- but really depend on our ability to impact people in global ways.”

So those are my takeaways from my interview with Nikki Akparewa.

If you found any of this helpful and would like to learn more about how I help my clients build dialogue, collaborate and innovate for social impact, I'd love to hear from you.