I was 28.
My workday was winding down, and I was almost ready to unplug and go on vacation. I had communicated with all my clients and lined up back-up plans for colleagues to keep things going in case of “emergencies” that couldn’t wait five days (two of those being Saturday and Sunday). I had written out a detailed project plan for one of the company’s partners – which I did every week, because she didn’t like to attend meetings and bobbed her way through any project timeline. You could count on her to attend the project kickoff (usually) and then reappear 24 hours before any deliverables were promised (always).
Before I shut down my computer, that partner sent me a horrifying email. It was a full page long and was packed with punches. It questioned every update I sent, wondering why the project was going in the direction I noted. I was so frazzled, my heart felt like it might pop out of my chest.
I thought I was killing it. I was managing a dozen moving pieces and parts. We were humming as a team and doing excellent work. The client was happy.
I took a deep breath and called her.
“I want to hear more about where you’re coming from on this email you sent,” I said.
“I don’t think you know what you’re doing,” she replied.
I don’t think you know what you’re doing.
Those eight words triggered a downward spiral that sapped me of my confidence and filled me with self-doubt. It put a dark cloud over my vacation. It caused me to start second-guessing my gut instincts. I will be honest: This interaction took longer for me to recover from than I’d like to admit. I wish I knew then what I know now.
If self-doubt has called and you’re trying to recoup your confidence, here’s how.
- Consider the source.
Sure, our teammates have a right to share feedback, whether they’re our bosses, colleagues or even spouses. It’s how we all improve. But consider the source when weighing the importance of such feedback. The more respect you have for the person, the more seriously you should consider the feedback.
- Don’t fuse with the negative feedback.
While listening to and even seeking feedback is important, avoid taking it personally. I fused with the eight words and considered the statement of that partner to be fact. Today, I would be able to hear the words and understand her concern for the business without making her opinion part of my identity.
- Call upon your track record.
You likely have an archive of success stories in your portfolio. (And if you’re smart, you have a folder of positive feedback for gloomy days.) If your confidence has been rattled, call upon your track record of success. Reliving those moments will help settle your nerves and feel the confidence you’ve rightfully earned.
- You do you.
Don’t worry about making everyone happy all of the time (a lesson I didn’t master until recently). Once you accept that you’ll never be able to anticipate what other people will or will not approve of 100 percent of the time, it gets easier to manage their disappointment and not take things so personally. Do your work honestly, with integrity and good intention. Don’t allow others to disrupt your confidence level. Show up for yourself, day in and day out.
As for 28-year-old me, she suffered a blow, to be sure. Thankfully, the other partner involved in the project was floored by the email I had received and told me it was way out of bounds. In the end, we delivered—and the client was thrilled.
It took a long time for my confidence to catch up, but it did. And the next time I suffered a blow—because we all do and all will continue to—I knew how to face it, knock it to the ground and carry on.
Struggling with self-doubt and want to share your personal story? Contact me here.