Having your confidence challenged by a manager or supervisor at work is a very unpleasant experience and it can be quite damaging not only to how confident one feels, but also to one’s mental health. First off, if this is happening to you right now, I am sorry for the stress and anguish it is causing you, but we are going to give you options to minimize it’s impact and perhaps even come out of it stronger. The harsh reality is that how someone treats or speaks to us affects everyone; however having said that, you do have control over a few crucial elements in these situations that will give you what I call ‘resilient confidence’. This is exactly what we will be discussing here: how to protect, preserve, and strengthen your confidence when a manager, leader or work environment is having a negative impact on you.
I cannot tell you how many people came to me over the past few years with this exact situation or where there was an element of this involved in why they were seeking coaching. This means that you are not alone as it is, unfortunately, more common that it should be and there are many reasons for why it happens. Despite any self destructive thinking that may be occurring for you right now, where you may be blaming yourself or feeling as if you are a target at target practice, one of the most important first steps to take is a perspective shift of looking at this from an objective lens rather than a personal one. The reason this is so important is because the other person or people involved are at least equal contributors to the situation and if they are your superior, they actually have a greater responsibility to develop, support, and lead you.
Let’s first take a look at how we can protect our confidence when a difficult situation at work begins to chip away at how we feel about ourselves. A work environment that is repetitively negative or having multiple critical interactions with another person, especially a superior, can absolutely make someone begin to question themselves which could lead to the erosion of confidence. So, how do we protect ourselves and our hard earned, fragile, and essential for work and wellbeing, confident self?
If you prefer video, here’s a video on the 4 steps to increasing and building confidence:
Internal Validation is Crucial to Having Strong Self Confidence
I am going to share a story with you here to demonstrate this, but I first want to highlight how our whole life we have been ‘trained’, or should I say conditioned to seek external validation. It started with our parents, then our school system, society, and now especially with a social media world of likes and virality. This is a system that pretty much has us putting our self confidence and esteem in the hands of others as if we have handed it over to them and placed it in their hands to tell us who we are and what our value is based on achievement, likes, and the worst of all, personal opinions. External validation is the most unstable, vulnerable source of self confidence; until we shift this, who we think we are and our worth, will always be in the hands of strangers and other people.
There is a psychological reason external validation drives us beyond being conditioned this way and it is because we all desire to belong or be accepted. Belonging is actually a psychological need in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. However, I believe we can belong and be accepted by others and still hold our confidence as a sovereign individual where we do not unconsciously give anyone more power over how we feel about ourselves than we do from ourself. We need to have our confidence be driven from an internal source; in essence, a wellspring from within us.
Internal validation means you are gaining your self worth based on your own opinions of yourself. Well, there is a radical idea. It is a shift that will move you from unconsciously conditioned to conscious, aware, and an active participant in your own confidence. Now that is really easy to write and say, but I understand greatly how hard this is to implement in real life and especially when someone is challenging who we are in a negative and possibly cruel way.
Now to the story I wanted to share and one of the reason’s why I am writing this, which should have been written long ago due to how many people have gone through this in one form or another. A few weeks back, two gentlemen came to me in the same week both having a challenge with a manager above them where it was affecting their confidence.
If you ever assumed that confidence challenges were only for the young, women, or not for men, it is important for all of us to know that anyone can have their confidence impacted by another person or situation; it has no bias to age, gender, race, position, or even privilege. One of the individuals was in a new job, did not receive appropriate training and was now being scrutinized for not doing things they were not trained on and being told they were not up to par with the team. Keep in mind all of this was being relayed in the first 3 months of them starting a new position.
Do you see anything wrong with the leadership and expectations in this situation?
Full empathy that many companies and leaders are experiencing lack of time to adequately train people and yet if this is the case, should there not also be empathy for the new people learning on their own as they go?
There are multiple factors that challenge one’s confidence here and they are:
- Being new or doing something new will always challenge everyone’s confidence
- Being criticized, repetitive criticism or having it done in an unproductive way can harm confidence
- Being compared to others or told you are not on par with a team affects belonging and acceptance
- Unrealistic expectations where it is unfair and someone is not set up for success affects confidence
- The first 3 months at a job and up to a year is a learning zone where criticism should never be
Do you know what one of the key coaching themes was that we discussed together?
Before, I answer that, let me ask you this: “Do you think that this leader was going to provide any source of confidence for this new employee having the information provided here?”
No. That leader was not going to be a source of confidence or validation for this new employee.
Yes! One of the key coaching themes we discussed was when an external voice, leader, or situation is negatively impacting our confidence, we need to focus on and strengthen our confidence from within and implement the practice of internal validation.
Internal validation is the strongest, most secure, powerful confidence source anyone can have. It is the main source we need to nurture, strengthen, and practice daily.
If we are to rise to or above a negative situation, we are going to have to raise our internal mindset and voice to be louder than any external source in order to preserve our self confidence. After taking an objective assessment of the situation to see the facts as they were, we then resourced this individual to increase their confidence from internal validation.
You now have two building blocks to protect, preserve, and strengthen your confidence and to recap they are:
- Take an objective perspective rather than making it only personal because there are always multiple factors that need to be considered including the other person, their leadership, and the context of the situation.
- Never let your entire confidence be in the hands of external sources. The strongest, most powerful, and not to mention also the healthiest, happiest and freest source of confidence, is when it is from internal validation; this is what you think about you and being confident from within.
But let’s not stop with those two points, I want to give you one or two more building blocks to recover, rebuild, and dare I say, to be rock solid with your confidence no matter what experiences you may be facing at the hands of others or in a specific situation.
How to Strengthen and Have Resilient Confidence
The neuroscience behind confidence which I have learned being an American Confidence Certified Confidence Coach is that confidence is not a feeling; it actually originates from a thought or more so how we think. This brings me to a third building block for you in your path to increasing your confidence which is to focus on what you are in control of and that is what and how you think about any situation. You see, we perceive things based on our past experiences, knowledge, beliefs, and the lens upon which we view both ourselves and the world. Unfortunately, if the lens or glasses we view ourselves from has only ever been informed or heavily relied upon from others or if we have a critical, self-defeating, perfectionist lens, our automatic thought patterns may produce negative thoughts and perceptions about ourself.
Yet, you have control over what and how you think about any situation and about yourself. Another brain science fact that contributes to why these negative situations can be so difficult is that our brain will begin to unconsciously create a story about an event that has happened to help us make sense of it. If this is happening unconsciously and a story is being created, what is the story we are telling ourselves?
In addition, suffering happens when we give something meaning or specifically a meaning that negatively affects us. An example of this is say when a leader says we are not performing well or criticizes our performance and then we attach meaning to it that may sound like, “I am not cut out for this’, or ‘I am not good enough’ or ‘I am a failure’.
However, if confidence originates with a thought or is how we think and we are in control of what we think, then you can change what and how you think about this negative situation at work. This could mean that rather than thinking you are not good enough or it is a personal attack on you, you could have a shift of perspective and think new thoughts such as:
- ‘I can see this leader is stressed and needs me to be proficient with everything without receiving training as they do not have time to train me. This is where their source of stress and anguish is coming from, not from me and I am capable and competent with the appropriate training.’
- ‘This has nothing to do with my capability of being able to do this or be a success at it and everything to do with lack of time, leadership, communication and training.’
- ‘I am capable, competent, and confident and have just not been set up for success in this situation.’
As one of my favorite mentors Wayne Dyer has said,
“When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” Wayne Dyer
Resilient confidence begins with internal validation and then when it is challenged it requires objectivity and depersonalizing a situation where you look at the facts. We then have to assess how and what we will think about this situation and ourselves and possibly challenge the negative thoughts we may be having so we can choose a confident growth mindset around it. Then, there is one last final element to building your confidence in these situations, a fourth step that may just be the simplest, but most effective one.
Self Compassion to have Self Confidence
Self-compassion is a critical step to building, preserving, and strengthening our confidence especially when it is being challenged in a difficult situation or with a leader who is negatively impacting us. If there was a shield or armor we could wear to protect and increase our confidence and that could be an antidote to either external or self inflicted criticism, it would be self compassion. Self compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
How can self-compassion lead to strengthening self confidence?
Confidence is eroded and harmed in a critical environment. Unfortunately, sometimes that environment of criticism is of our own doing with a strong inner critic. Self-compassion, on the other hand, is a way of thinking, an action, and a practice in being that creates an environment where our self confidence can thrive. What I have seen recently is that when someone else is being critical in a negative way to us, it can ignite our own inner critic or doubter. Knowing this, you can now stand guard at your brain and thoughts and instead of letting your inner critic spiral out of control wreaking havoc, replace it with a practice in being self-compassionate.
In the above situation this is how self-compassion would sound:
“I am brand new with little to no training and I am doing the best I can considering I have not been set up for success here.”
“I know I can do this and my mistakes are not due to lack of intelligence or skill. This is a hard, unpleasant situation to be in and it is making me question myself which is natural, but I see there is more to it.”
“This leadership style and the criticism from my leader is really negative and it is affecting me as it would anyone. It is okay to feel what I am, that is normal, but I am not going to let it impact my confidence. I can do this given the right training, time, and leadership. I will be okay and I will figure this out.”
At the core of self-compassion is understanding especially in hard, challenging times and this leads to shared experiences and the humanity of difficulties we all face which brings us back to belonging and acceptance. We all struggle, we all feel, we all face hard people, hard times, and even failure. Self-compassion is the whisper that says, ‘It’s okay, you are human. It is hard and you will be okay, but today you are doing the best you can in a difficult situation.’
The other day someone I was working with who had a strong inner critic that was affecting how they felt and performed decided to adopt a daily ritual of being self-compassionate because they knew this would shift their mindset and mental wellbeing.
There you have four steps to build and be confident when you are facing a manager or leader who is negatively impacting your confidence. They all work together, but you can focus on one and it will absolutely support you and in fact, to get started, I would suggest you begin with one of these and then build one element upon the other. It is a daily practice that needs to be implemented and taken action on to see the results, so where will you start?
If you have questions about building or being confident or how to have resilient confidence in these situations, reach out to me by email or in the comments here. You may also want to be coached through this challenge as it can be extraordinarily helpful to process, brainstorm, and receive confidence coaching. If you are challenged with changing your thoughts or thinking when it comes to confidence and yourself or a specific situation, one of the tools that has been really successful is Cognitive Behavioral Coaching which I combine with the confidence coaching. To learn more about how we can work together or find out more about confidence coaching, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, stay tuned as I will be offering confidence training, courses, and coaching programs soon!
What is your takeaway and what will you focus on to strengthen your confidence?
Lead it. Live it. Love it!
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