Are you paralysed by ‘What if I’m not good enough’ thoughts?
by Jacquie Wise
A conversation with a client led me to the thoughts I want to share with you today.
Sara (not her real name) is very frustrated at her work. Her managers are not proactive. She can see what needs to be done to solve problems, and her solutions are approved, but then nothing happens.
So Sara puts forward detailed action plans. Still—there’s a lot of talk, but nobody seems able to make a decision.
What Sara can’t acknowledge is that she’s a natural leader. She’s able to see both the big picture and the steps needed to make plans work successfully. She can motivate and enthuse people. But she has no authority.
The only thing stopping her from considering a future in management is her lack of confidence. Sara likes the idea, but is convinced she hasn’t got what it takes.
We all are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar to varying degrees. Sometimes, we put up barriers to opportunities to keep ourselves safe. We get caught up in fears that something may go wrong, so we decide not to take the risk.
‘What if…’ thoughts can be especially inhibiting:
Like Sara, you’ve probably caught yourself thinking:
‘What if I’m not good enough?’
‘What if I fail?’
‘What if I make a total fool of myself?’
Thoughts like these can drain your energy and motivation. If they just get repeated in your mind, over and over again, they’re like waves crashing on a shore, eroding the rocks. So you get paralyzed into doing nothing, convinced that things can never change.
So opportunities pass you by.
If you recognize this pattern in yourself, it’s time to value those ‘What if’’ questions and find answers to them.
Trying to argue against negative thoughts doesn’t always work. A better strategy is to accept that there is some reality in the negative thought. It’s possible that the worst may happen. Instead of letting the thought paralyze you into inaction, focus instead on how you could protect yourself and your plans.
Let’s look at some examples.
‘What if I’m not good enough?’ Realistically, there is the possibility that you may not be good enough. If we unpack that, we see that not being ‘good enough’ means not having enough experience or knowledge.
The solution is to learn as much as you can, through courses or reading or from your mentors, before you undertake your next challenge.
Once you’re on the path, have some people around you to whom you could turn to if you get stuck. This is why it’s so important to have a mentor or two and to develop your network. A quick phone call to an acquaintance can give just the lead you need, or an introduction to another person who could advise you.
In other words, don’t expect yourself to know everything. Just know where to find out.
Be prepared to make mistakes. You may not be good enough, initially. So? How are you ever going to learn unless you give yourself the chance to gain experience? Like everyone else, you’ll get better as you go along. Give yourself permission to be a beginner.
‘What if I fail?’
Put every single thing you’re worried about as a ‘What if’ question.
‘What if I run out of money?’ can lead you to develop a better budget.
‘What if I run out of time?’ can make you plan for contingencies and set deadlines that enable you to under promise and over deliver.
‘What if they don’t agree?’ Great! Prepare your answers to any potential conflicting opinion. You’ll enter into discussions with much more confidence and conviction.
Repeat to yourself: ‘I can deal with this.’
‘What if I make a fool of myself?’ This last example is a bit harder to deal with than the others. Why? Because there are no facts to deal with, as with the other examples. This one is just part of your belief system.
Initially, you take the same approach with this one. That is to accept the possibility that it may happen.
As I said before, it doesn’t help one bit to try convincing yourself that everything will be fine.
It’s more constructive to tell yourself that if you make a fool of yourself in spite of all your preparations, you’ll be able to deal with it.
Two considerations may help:
First: people are less interested in your mistake than in your recovery. Focus on what you can salvage and your mistake will be forgotten more quickly.
Second: remember that most people will admire you for being willing to rise to the challenge, even if you didn’t make it. The more nervous you appear, the more they will admire you for trying.
So next time you’re plagued with ‘What if ‘ negative thinking, try valuing the questions as just the thinking you need to help you find solutions that are more likely to lead to your success than any other strategy.
Would you like to learn some new ways to get past your What if? statements? If so, contact me directly to arrange a convenient appointment time.
I’d love to know what you think of what I’ve said here. You can give me your feedback, ask a question by email or post a comment below.
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