Dear Bintel Brief,
When I was growing up, and throughout college, I would characterize myself as a pretty confident person. I felt excited by the world, and all the possibilities in it; almost nothing seemed impossible. But a couple of years out of school, and into the working world, my faith in my own abilities has diminished. During meetings at work, for example, I’m often silent — having convinced myself that whatever question I ask or statement I make will sound silly to my colleagues. Where I used to see possibilities, I now see limitations, and that’s holding me back. What should I do to become a confident person (and therefore, a happy person) once again?
YEARNING FOR MY OLD SELF
Dear YFMOS, Despite the fact that neither of us Epstein sisters has ever been much for athletics, we are about to throw a few sports metaphors and a pep talk your way, so let’s get ready to rally! Okay, the first thing we need to remind you of is that even though you’re older now, anything is still possible. Likely you’re capable of making more things happen now than when you were just a little pisher, so don’t let your puppy dog sense of self trump the adult that you’ve become. Remember, you’re living in the Land of the Second Act, which is where all the good stuff happens anyway. And if you’re a former celebrity you get at least two more acts beyond that and a trashy reality show documenting your fall and recovery. But the true reality is, the only thing that changed between the salad days when you believed you could accomplish anything and today is your perspective (and okay, maybe a pants size or two.) Don’t misunderstand, we know that feeling like you have limitations can be crippling, but what’s actually holding you back is the feeling itself, not your abilities. So here’s where we encourage you to “get your game face on.” Confidence — and the sense of self-esteem you project to others — is what people like your co-workers will respond to. They’ll respect views and comments that are spoken with authority. You may feel like it’s not the greatest idea or the best proposal, but guess what? Simply by stating it with confidence will make it sound sexy. Self-doubt gives off a stink and everyone in the room can smell it. That’s why it’s critical to believe in yourself and if you can’t do that, then make like a porn star and fake it. When athletes face teams with better records, they don’t just throw in the towel and ride the bench till the time runs out. They get themselves into a mind set where they believe they can win then they go out and give it their all. Those athletes, like porn stars, fake it till they make it, too. In case you were wondering, yes, there’s definitely a Tiger Woods reference in here somewhere… But the same holds true for everyone. Self-defeatism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy so just by conning yourself into the belief that you can achieve things, believing in the value of your ideas and contributions, that’s how you start to make things happen again. Now sometimes we forget how to be our own cheerleaders, and sometimes we can’t even remember which race we want to run. We find ourselves running on the treadmill we hopped on years ago because it was there in front of us, not necessarily because it was a road we would have taken if all paths seemed open to us. Maybe the reason you’ve lost confidence is because you haven’t fully committed to the career in which you find yourself. So here’s your assignment: Go buy a journal. Start out on your first page detailing the interview Oprah will have with you when you’ve achieved your goal. Figure out what the accomplishment is that you’d be most proud to tell her about, and then write it down as if it’s already happened. Explain in detail how you got to your goal, and what you will do with your success now that you’ve achieved it. Have fun with the assignment and you will see that as you let the words flow, you will begin to refine your dream and your path to get there until it is achievable. Continue writing entries to refine the steps you will take, and write them down as you check them off until you get to your goal. One more thing: Don’t be embarrassed. Brag! This is your private space to express your dreams in a no judgment zone. Once you know what you want to do and have a roadmap of how to get there, you will find that your joy will return. And perhaps needless to say, that’s something we state with confidence. Go you! Amy and Robin
Amy Feldman and Robin Epstein are the authors of the new book “So Sue Me Jackass! Avoiding Legal Pitfalls That Can Come Back to Bite You at Work, at Home, and at Play” (Plume).
If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions selected for publication will be printed anonymously.