Have you ever doubted everything you're doing?
If you've ever had a crisis of confidence about your work, and/or your worthiness to put things out into the world, then these words are for you (and if you've not, please tell me your secret?!).
First thing's first: have you heard people saying that a breakdown often leads to a breakthrough? I have very much found this to be true, whether large or small, and I think that the same can be said for those periods where we lose faith in ourselves.
As a business owner, I am pretty prone to crises of confidence (yep, multiple). But I have found, and I hope that this is true for everyone, that a crisis of confidence can lead to greater clarity around what you want to achieve and how to get there.
The thing is, whether you're trying something new or starting / growing a business, you're putting yourself out there, and that can feel really scary. You're making yourself vulnerable. You're sharing something important to you that you have nurtured, something that you feel is of value, and you have to wait to see if the world agrees. It's for these reasons that even the most experienced and successful people suffer from anxiety and 'vulnerability hangovers' when they launch something new into the world!
Back in the autumn of 2018, I went through a bit of a crisis of confidence and as I worked through it, I shared what I had learned with the subscribers of my fortnightly letters. I tend to share more personal, vulnerable experiences with that community, and you can sign up at the bottom of this page (or hear!). But so many of us go through periods of losing faith in what we’re working on, so I thought it might help to share more widely.
Working through a crisis of confidence
Whenever my confidence in what I am doing takes a hit, my productivity is inevitably impacted. So I've done some work to establish three habits and routines that keep such moments at bay, or help me to move through them.
1. Remember what you're trying to achieve
Why are you pursuing this goal? Who are you trying to serve? What is your purpose?
These are just a few of the questions that should help you to refocus on why everything you've been working towards is worthwhile. When you're clear on your goals, you feel more confident about what you're trying to do and say. Your self-belief increases, and you're more willing to put yourself out there because you feel strongly that you're doing something worthwhile. You might still feel a bit scared, but you recognise it as the kind of fear that it is worth pushing through.
If you can, build something into your morning routine that reminds you of your goals, purpose and beliefs every day. Re-read your values, ask yourself some key questions, or remind yourself how you want to feel each day. Take some time to work out what strengthens your self-confidence (while fitting it into the time you have available each day of course).
2. Lean on your cheerleaders
Consider who you talk to about your ideas, goals, plans and worries. Friends and family can be incredibly supportive, but sometimes they don't quite understand the world you're operating in (for example, if you're quitting the relative safety of corporate life and starting a creative business... that can seem incredibly foreign to some people!). Without knowing the fear that lingers beneath the courage required to try something new, they might unintentionally say things in passing that send you into a spiral of worry.
A couple of my crises of confidence while growing businesses have happened as a result of the comments of people who don't really understand what I am trying to do. Friends who move in very different circles or have different values like what I am doing, but say things like "oh but I would never do that..." or "if it was me I'd do it differently...". Throwaway comments, but they can make me totally question myself and what I am trying to build.
So I seek out conversations with two kinds of people:
Those who have a more open mind, who might have have learned about the world in which I am operating, and can listen and encourage no matter what.
(At the risk of embarrassing myself, my Mum is this person for me!)
Peers; those who are working towards similar things or within the same industry. I have found this community on Instagram to an extent, but most notably the support has been provided by my coach. Yep... coaches often have a coach themselves! Mine is an invaluable cheerleader.
3. Give yourself some [white] space
Finally, if you can, step back or take some time out. I love the concept of 'white space', which some creatives try to build in to every day.
In the design world, literal “white space” is negative space which balances the rest of a design by throwing what is on the page into relief. The white space helps focus your visual attention.
Within the creative or working world, white space is time where you don't have anything scheduled, and you step away from your computer and phone. Maybe it's an opportunity to take a walk, meditate, or just time to read and relax. I've started completing free-flowing (automatic) writing each morning, to just see what flows. If nothing else, it clears my mind.
You're unlikely to come out of these periods of white space with a brain wave or a sudden change in mood, but I would be surprised if you didn't feel better or have more clarity within a few days. By giving yourself this time and space regularly, you'll not only be better able to work through a crisis, but hopefully reduce or avoid them altogether.
Come home to yourself
When we have a crisis of confidence, or similar, such events reveal things about ourselves and our fears. It may not feel great in the moment, but we are able to learn and grow from these experiences.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned is that ultimately it is all down to me. And your life is all down to you... You are in charge. You can define your own work, goals and purpose. You can direct your attention as you wish, and create your own happiness. So own that, and enjoy it! Pursue the things that matter to you.
And remember, what feels bad today, might lead to something amazing.