Each month, Girl Tribe Gang leverages our collective voice and empowers our members to upskill each other by exchanging their knowledge in a series of blogs, FB Lives and Instagram TV.
June 2019 is our #KnowledgeExchange Confidence & Mindset month. In this guest blog, Ladina Rees, an organisational performance coach and consultant, co-founder of Sabre Tooth Panda and member of ourMaidenhead & Windsor Tribe, explains how to overcome the should and shadows of business that sap our confidence and limit our creativity.
How often do you feel you’re not ready to do something? That you just don’t quite have the confidence to pull it off.
In a purely technical sense confidence might be a measure of certainty. How confident you are about something simply expresses the data at hand.
Am I confident that I know where my keys are? Yes. Am I confident that I know what my electricity bill will be next month? No.
But that’s not really what we’re talking about when we say we don’t have confidence. For most of us it means we have a feeling and a story in our minds that warns us that something bad might happen if…
And like everything else in a healthy, functioning, person this self talk exists for a reason. Your brain doesn’t want you to get hurt and as far as your brain is concerned any kind of harm is bad.
Physical harm used to be the main concern but these days we mostly hear that warning voice to do with social or emotional harm. Your brain is on your side.
When you hear a warning voice insisting “Danger! Danger!” you shouldn’t feel bad. It’s there to help you. It’s there to keep you safe.
But, as the saying goes, ships are safest in the harbour but that’s not what ships are made for. We don’t want to always be safe. We want to be great.
So it’s necessary to build a more nuanced relationship with that warning voice and come to understand what might be making it speak so loudly and how we can better understand what it’s actually telling us.
Are you being you?
This might seem an odd question, but stay with me.
At Sabre Tooth Panda we like to say that your job in life is to try every day to be you but even more so. This would be a redundant thing to say if it wasn’t for the fact that so many of us spend so much of our time vaguely attempting to be someone we are not.
We have concepts in our minds about how we should run meetings, how we should write emails, how we should speak, dress, walk. And, when you stop and think about it, it’s blindingly obvious that if you’re trying to be someone you aren’t you’re bound to feel insecure.
At some level you know you’re faking it. And by trying to be someone other than yourself you’re implicitly stating that who you are isn’t good enough.
So when you hear that voice crying “Danger! Danger!” it might be a good idea to stop and ask yourself “Am I being me right now?”
And if the answer is no you can ask yourself another strange question: “What would I do in this moment?” Then do that.
As you do this try to notice how things feel different. How things begin to flow more easily.
Of course what’s true for one person is also true for teams and organisations with thousands of people. A team trying to be something it isn’t, with members trying to fill roles that they don’t fit, is just like a person trying to be someone else.
Confusion and uncertainty quickly bubble to the surface.
And, yes, a business that’s confused about who it is, that has grown inauthentically, is just as likely to struggle to move forward. As you work on being more you, don’t forget to also work on ensuring that your business is authentic too.
That it isn’t built out of Shoulds and Shadows.
What are the Shoulds and Shadows of business?
Shoulds, as we’ve discussed, are statements about what we imagine others want us to be. They’re an assumption.
Shadows, similarly, constrain our thinking. We design our processes and systems, the shape of our business, often not realising that we’re too focused on how others run their business and what exists elsewhere. We live in the shadow of other people’s work and don’t look at what will work best for us.
Shoulds and Shadows follow us all the time. They infiltrate our thinking, limit our possibilities, and keep us trapped within the known.
Be careful. The Shoulds and Shadows are sneaky. How many have crept into your business?
Is it ok to struggle and fail?
Of course another element that makes this warning voice so loud and effective is that it warns us of danger in a general and unspecific way. Our emotional guidance system doesn’t deal too much with specifics: danger is danger is danger.
But what if danger wasn’t danger?
Again, an odd question, but how we think about struggling and failing is important. In fact those of us who frame challenges in a positive way, as exciting rather than frightening, tend to respond better under pressure.
All the same things happen in their bodies. All the stress hormones and the quickened heart rate. But they don’t feel bad about it. In fact they feel pumped.
So what if danger wasn’t danger?
What if you could prove to yourself that struggling and failing weren’t bad at all but, given the right conditions, a sign that you’re growing and enthusiastically pushing beyond your perceived limits?
If you could do that then maybe that warning voice that cries “Danger! Danger!” might being to sound more nuanced. Maybe alongside the alarm bells you might hear a faint drumbeat calling you to adventure.
Life, fortunately, offers us many opportunities to fail in productive ways, to struggle on the path to something greater.
Look out for those opportunities.
Take up a hobby that scares you and realise that the danger you feared wasn’t dangerous at all.
Set yourself a challenge that you know you can fail without consequences and notice that failure itself isn’t so bad.
And do this openly, not hidden away in shame. You may come to see that your struggles are inspirational, and that accepting help is a strength, not a weakness. The desire to hide – to try to maintain an image free from imperfections – isn’t authentic. It’s another attempt to be someone other than who you are.
And who you are is great.
On the path to becoming your best self failure isn’t just an option, it’s an absolute necessity.
What if there was always another way?
Finally, a subject close to our hearts at Sabre Tooth Panda; creativity. I could go on a deep dive here about what creativity is and how it works. But instead I’ll offer you a promise; the promise of creativity: There is always another way.
You think you’ve exhausted all your options? You haven’t. Because what we’ve learned as a species is that anytime someone says something can’t be done they’re rapidly contradicted by someone actually doing it.
So what’s the difference between those two people?
The first believed that the options were limited by what she could see, what she knew.
But the second realised that if she remained curious, open to the overwhelming scope of possibility, and delighted in finding out exactly how much she didn’t already know, that along the way new opportunities would be found. She believed in the promise of creativity. She believed there is always another way.
Failure is always temporary.
You have within you the heritage of a thousand generations who overcame challenges previously considered insurmountable. Look at the world and be awed by what we can do. What you can do. And then tell me that you’re all out of ideas.
Begin, begin, and begin again
This has been a very brief exploration of confidence. Ten times these words wouldn’t exhaust this topic.
So let’s not waste time with too many more. Instead I want to urge you to begin.
Begin asking yourself if you are really being you.
Begin challenging yourself to struggle and even fail and experience that without judgement.
Begin believing in the promise of creativity and the endless potential that you have no idea of. And when you fall short, when you struggle, begin again.
Life isn’t one long journey. We may look back and imagine an arrow pointing to where we are now but in reality life is messy and progress is always lumpy.
So begin, begin, and begin again.
Connect with Ladina
“I love big, messy problems, and making them neat and tidy. And I love creativity. After years of working in process change, facilitating massive workshops and shepherding global re-organisations I’m used to making messy things look easy.”
Ladina Rees is an organisational performance coach and consultant, and co-founder of Sabre Tooth Panda. Ladina has over a decade of experience running large scale organisational change programmes and brings that hard won insight, along with her personal passion for creativity and change, in which she holds a Masters Degree, to her work with Sabre Tooth Panda.
Sabre Tooth Panda approaches performance from two perspectives; the interpersonal, human perspective, and the perspective of the structures and the systems designed to enable those humans to do great work.
Sabre Tooth Panda provides workshops, training, events, and organisational performance consultancy for clients like TCS, Invesco, and TBA21 Academy. We also run the No Wrong Answers Quiz – an opportunity to get reacquainted with the creative genius within.
Girl Tribe Gang’s #KnowledgeExchange has been designed to recognise that ALL of our members have knowledge to share and that we’re ALL experts in the stuff that we know. Each month, we leverage our collective voice and empower our members to upskill each other by exchanging their knowledge.