Last week I told the story of Kathryn, a woman who enrolled in my summer class because she was afraid to speak in public. As she made progress and was able to engage the class, she refused to believe the positive feedback. Kathryn clung to the belief that she wasn’t any good.
While I’ve not discovered a “secret” formula for overcoming fear, I have learned that fear is fueled by clinging to a lie – a lie that seems so true that to deny it seems to be a lie in itself.
How can a person stop believing a crippling lie? Here’s some of what I wrote in an email to Kathryn.
“We only grow by building on our strengths. In order to build on those strengths, we have to know what they are AND we have to know why we have those strengths. If we don’t understand what we’re good at, then we can’t grow.
“Oftentimes people resist taking a hard look at their strengths because it’s more comfortable believing that we suck at something. Being helpless can be consoling in an odd sort of way. I think, Kathryn, that you’re so used to beating up on yourself that it just seems ‘natural.’ I think you have a hard time accepting compliments because you don’t see much point in dwelling on what you do well.
“Well, no one ever becomes great at something by focusing solely and intently on mistakes. It doesn’t work that way.
“You gave a presentation, without being glued to notes, in a way that connected with an international audience. You made people laugh. That’s a significant accomplishment. If you choose to downplay the importance of what you did, then you’re sabotaging yourself.
“You need to understand what you do well, what you don’t, and why. I think you only want to understand what doesn’t work and you want to ignore what does work.
“You have to believe you’re worthy of people’s attention. If you don’t believe you have anything worthwhile to say then that will come across and people will tune you out.
“It’s really up to you: are you going to own your strengths and work on your weaknesses OR are you going to continue to dismiss any progress you’ve made and focus solely on your belief that you will always be a lousy speaker?
“Only you, Kathryn, can choose your attitude!”
Kathryn is not an isolated case of someone refusing to acknowledge progress towards a goal. Odd as it sounds, it takes courage to recognize growth. True confidence means owning one’s strengths and acknowledging one’s weaknesses – and using both to reach a goal.
What about you – what comfortable lie are you clinging to?!
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