This past week I’ve read a number of articles on the topic of Impostor Syndrome, self-criticism, and negative thinking.
The authors’ advice is sound– stop comparisons, speak to yourself as you would speak to a friend, don’t try to be perfect, reveal your vulnerability. Wise advice for everybody, but especially procrastinators.
We procrastinators think we are doomed to fail. All of our good intentions to do it differently this time are littering the road to the hell we create with our delays, disappointments, and missed opportunities.
In many cases we doubt that we can ever change.
Of course we can, but we need to rebuild our trust in ourselves. Here’s how to do that.
1) Choose the right goal – something you really care about
Consider this example:
Charlie wants to be a person who plans magical celebrations for his beloved wife. He couldn’t care less about special events himself but his wife does a great job of arranging birthday outings and romantic weekends with all the details exactly right. Charlie wants to reciprocate but never gets around to it. He deeply cares about his wife, but not about event-planning.
Aiming to create occasions as special as his wife does– someone who loves doing it– is too far to reach. He’s trying to be an entirely different person.
Finding a way to show his love, in his own style, is a more reasonable goal. Maybe he writes a poem, cooks a meal, builds a potting shed, etc. Planning is HER talent. What is Charlie’s?
2) Change your label – I’m a person who _______________.
How do you describe yourself? “ I’m a person who is always late.” “I’m a person who never finishes a project.” We think about our ourselves as though these traits are something outside of us and beyond our control. The label we use prohibits any improvement.
Many years ago I was in a training and the leader asked everyone, “Who thinks you’re a bad dancer.” I raised my hand. We bad dancers then demonstrated just how true that was. I wish I could remember exactly what he said next but the gist was, “Okay, now you’re all good dancers.” When we believed that we actually danced better. I could feel it and it was visible, instantaneously.
Of course we were not competition-ready– a label doesn’t take the place of practice, but it can make a definite improvement in your success.
So review the descriptions you apply to yourself and try out some new ones. “I’m a person who takes care of issues when they first arise.” I’m a person who knows and does what’s best for me.” I’m a person who estimates accurately how long something is going to take and builds enough time into my schedule.”
3) Piano Piano – Take it Easy
I’m trying to learn Italian. Sometimes I try to express an idea and realize halfway through a sentence that I have no idea how to get where I’m going. I stop like a deer in the headlight and look around frantically for someone to save me. The Italians I’m speaking to say, “Piano piano.” I know they mean slow down, you’re fine, do it at your own pace.
But I hear it so often that sometimes I want to slug them.
I want this beginner phase to be over. But learning a new skill takes practice– trial and error.
Nobody likes errors. Maybe we can think of them as experiments where each step, even failures, gives you information that moves you forward.
Rebuilding our trust in ourselves takes time. Begin with a reasonable goal, one that you care about and is true to who you are. Speak to yourself with forgiveness and an affirmative tone, and build on small successes.
The articles that inspired me are well worth reading in the original, not just my digested version.
I am my own worst enemy – Paul Jarvis
That Nagging Feeling – Mattie Quinn