When I was in my twenties, I had a performance review at work. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The final comment on the review was from the country manager. It said: 'If Melissa just believed in herself as much as we do, she could do amazing things.'
That was the first time I realised that I didn't believe in myself. I thought it was normal to feel like a complete fraud, to have that constant niggling fear that I'd be found out or that people would think I wasn't good at what I did.
My lack of self belief pushed me to under promise and over deliver. It actually made me really good at what I did. It even made me win awards. But the thing about not believing in yourself, is that it doesn't matter how many awards you win or how much positive feedback you get, you still feel like you're not quite good enough.
For some people, that means they push themselves harder and harder, getting ever greater success but no greater happiness. For me, it's probably stopped me from earning as much as I should or taking the next big step or feeling that I've not achieved much at all.
Why am I sharing this?
Because while I was on holiday recently, I was browsing Facebook and I noticed just how crappy it made me feel. It wasn't seeing pictures of my friends having fabulous holidays that made me feel down. It was the stream of Facebook adverts and posts on business groups from people talking about their successes that did it. 'How to earn 6 figures' type headlines. You know the ones I mean. I felt like a failure in contrast. The voice inside my head immediately started saying: 'You shouldn't be on holiday, you should be doing what they're doing. You're never going to be a success.'
I shared these thoughts in one of the Facebook groups I belong to and was given a huge amount of support. It seems I'm not alone in feeling this way. In fact the founder of the group summarised all the useful advice in this blog post, which looks at how social media can cause overwhelm.
But for me this goes beyond the issue of social media. It's about a lack of self belief. And I KNOW that so many solopreneurs and small business owners battle with this. We are thrust into a world where we have to do everything ourselves and so it's easy to feel like you're not good enough. Because no-one can be good at everything.
I can read my the testimonials I get from clients and know that I do a good job, but that doesn't stop me doubting myself all over again or battling with feelings of not being enough.
I don't think you can suddenly gain self belief if you've spent a lifetime not believing in yourself or grappling with low self-esteem, but there are some things which you can do that have helped me. I am going to caveat this advice by saying that I am not a psychologist, coach or expert in this area. This is based purely on my experience.
1. Recognise that you have this problem
2. Understand what caused this problem
Now I don't think this is a must have. And frankly, spending a lot of time trying to figure out where this all started may just turn into a delaying tactic. But for me, I wanted to try and pinpoint where this all stemmed from. No-one is born with low self-esteem. I wanted to get to the bottom of why I felt this way. I think I have now. And as one of my very lovely clients advised me, you need to go back that child or person you were and give them love and empathy. Forgive anyone who may have been involved in this process - perhaps a teacher, a parent, a friend, a sibling, an event. Realise that its not you. It's life experiences that shaped you. Now you know that, you can take back control.
3. Reprogram your brain
I got this from Marisa Peer, named as Britain's best therapist by Tatler magazine. There is a simple line you can tell yourself. And then keep telling yourself. Daily. Every time the negative voice in your head pops up. Every time you feel that anxiety or fear or worry about the fact that you might not be good enough. Simply say:
I A M E N O U G H.
It sounds so simple. And it's a line you see all over social media, to the point where it can seem meaningless. But it's not. Say it out loud: I am enough. And try to believe it. Even if you don't right now, keep saying it. Make it visible.
See that picture at the top of this blog post? I sent that as a postcard to myself. Feel free to write I am enough on the walls of every room in your house, on a post-it on your PC, on your bathroom mirror.
I imagine it as a stop sign or banner that I mentally put up every time I start to doubt myself - whether that's looking at my less than perfect reflection in the mirror as I do my down dog in yoga class or sending a proposal to a client.
I am enough. I am enough. I am enough.
And you know what? I'm starting to believe it.
So go ahead and say it to yourself. You may just start believing it too.
Thank you for reading this and for letting me get this cathartic post out. I'll be back writing about business soon! If you want to share your own story about this subject, leave me a comment or come over to my Campfire on Facebook and share it there.