Most people who know me, especially my work colleagues, consider me to be a confident person. But that’s because I’ve become so good at putting on a front. Inside though, I’m always feeling like I’m never good enough and that I’m about to get ‘found out’ at any moment. It makes me anxious and this seems to hold me back from achieving the things I really want to. If I do something remotely well, then a voice in my head tells me I don’t deserve it and that others will probably think so too. The result: I never quite achieve anything of any note. How can I change things?
This is a feeling that is very common and one that so many people identify with. You feel you are not living up to your potential, because when it actually looks like you might achieve something you want, you sabotage yourself. That means there is a gulf between the person you think you could be and the person you believe you are: someone not worthy of success.
This might be because at some point in the past, your limitations have been emphasised by a parent or teacher as opposed to your strengths and this has become the overriding message every time you get close to really showing the world what you’re truly capable of. Maybe you outperformed a sibling and your parents compensated by muting your success or maybe at some point you were made to feel embarrassed by outshining others. Whatever the reason, you don’t have to keep repeating this negative pattern.
You say that others perceive you as confident. This is a strong starting point. You obviously have the ability to create a successful persona for yourself and the depth of self-awareness to understand your predicament. All you need is the final piece of the jigsaw. This will happen when you learn to identify the times when these negative feelings begin to strike, feel them, understand them for what they are, and then carry on to achieve what you set out to do.
Sometimes in life, we have to stand and face our fears in order to move on. But start small and build up to the big things. This way you can strengthen your ‘stand and fight’ attitude, as opposed to backing off when the going gets tough.
Set yourself some personal goals that make you feel a little nervous, but are ultimately well within your capabilities. You could start outside of the work arena, until you feel your inner confidence ready to take on that particular challenge.
Once you’ve experienced the joy of feeling successful, it’s my guess you’ll want to keep going, because the feeling will outweigh the fear.