If you sometimes struggle with self-doubt, you’re not alone. In fact, an estimated 70% of the population experiences what’s known as “imposter syndrome” — doubting your accomplishments and fearing being exposed as a fraud — at least once in their lives.
Believing in yourself is at the core of exceptional leadership because we communicate on an energetic subconscious level. According to research by the HeartMath Institute (full disclosure: I’m a certified HeartMath trainer), you project how you feel — like a radio or TV broadcasting tower — and other people can pick up on that energy. You might be wondering, what does energy have to do with good leadership? Everything.
If you don’t trust yourself, how can others trust you?
When you feel self-confident, you project positive energy out into the field, and your team members are more likely to trust your decisions and follow your suggestions. On the other hand, when you doubt yourself or your decisions, you project fear-based energy that can be picked up subconsciously by your team and negatively impact their behaviors and perceptions of you.
Most people don’t understand the power of their subconscious mind. They don’t know that their beliefs — about themselves and others — are habitual thought patterns that are neural patterns in their brain. These beliefs have been reinforced over time through repetitive thoughts of self-doubt (e.g., “I can’t do this,” “I’m not good enough,” etc.). The problem is that those limiting beliefs stimulate unpleasant emotions, such as disappointment, sadness and worry, which can deplete your energy and negatively impact your performance.
When you are focused on limiting or disempowering thoughts, you activate your body’s innate fear response, which releases stress hormones like cortisol. On the other hand, when you choose to focus on supportive and empowering thoughts, research shows that your body releases good-feeling hormones like dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), making you feel confident and relaxed.
Most people try to boost their confidence by taking more courses or developing more strategies or tactics. While those things are important, they likely won’t solve the root problem of not feeling good enough. This is because strategies, tactics, and education support your rational, logical brain — they do not shift the deeper patterns that are driving thoughts of self-doubt in your subconscious mind.
How can you train your brain to be more confident?
Below are three techniques you can use to shift limiting beliefs (we all have them) and refocus your attention on creating the life that you desire.
1. Change Your Thoughts
The next time you feel some self-doubt creeping up, take a moment to ask yourself, “What’s the story that I’m telling myself right now about this?” If it’s a disempowering story that doesn’t feel good, complete the following sentence to identify the underlying belief: “I can’t do this because…” Whatever completes that phrase might be a limiting program in your brain.
Once you’ve identified the belief that may be causing you to doubt yourself, come up with a new, more empowering belief. Ask yourself, “What is a better-feeling thought right now?” Perhaps you can simply add the word “yet.” For example, if your old belief statement is, “I can’t do this because I’m not experienced enough,” shift it to “I’m not experienced enough yet.” This shifts the energy of your belief pattern and allows you to access ideas about how you can achieve your goals.
2. Change Your Emotions
When you notice thoughts of self-doubt, you can shift your emotional state by first labeling your emotions. Ask yourself, “What emotions am I feeling right now?” It is important to acknowledge how you feel.
Then, take a moment to decide how you want to feel. Ask yourself, “What emotion would I like to feel?” Remember a specific time when you felt the way you’d like to feel. Go right back to that moment in your mind. See what you saw, hear what you heard, and re-experience those emotions.
The key is to label your emotions and shift your focus as soon as you notice that you’ve fallen into those old patterns of self-doubt.
3. Change Your Behavior
Ask yourself, “What would it take for me to feel even more confident?” Focus on the one thing that will make the biggest difference, and take action as soon as you can.
For instance, schedule that meeting with a mentor or coach, sign up for that course, read that book or make a list of your strengths or past accomplishments. Every time you take positive action that is aligned with your goals, you will strengthen that new neural pattern in your brain and dissolve those old patterns of self-doubt. And remember to celebrate your efforts, regardless of the outcome.
When you take these actions consistently, you can unlock your authentic power. It can transform the way you lead. You can begin to shift away from those old patterns of self-doubt and disappointment and replace them with more ease and trust.
Are you ready? If so, I challenge you to start now by taking control of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors so that you can focus on feeling more confident as a leader and in any area of your life.