Written by: Lauren Cartigny, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Growing up, I was shy and had low confidence. I was ok at science and good at sports, but spelling and maths weren’t my thing. Having been accepted to join a college where I would study science in the morning and sports in the afternoon, I had to wait a year for a space. At 15, I left my family in France to live with my beloved grandparents in England to wait that year out, improving my English by doing my first year of GCSEs.
It turned out to be the best thing I ever did. I ended up staying for two years to complete my GCSEs. I went from an average grade of a D in English Literature to an A grade in my final GCSE exams. This huge improvement was reflected in all my grades.
This article aims to help you understand what stopped me from accessing my confidence so you can learn about how your Ego could be getting in your way. Read on as I reflect on this experience today as a leadership coach.
“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big.” Denzel Washington
The gift behind growing up with low prospects is that while I didn’t have any dreams and just hoped to merely get by, I wasn’t bothered by failure as I had low expectations of myself. I felt I had nothing to lose from trying new things. Then something happened between the age of 15 and 17 where I unlocked my confidence, and the sky became the limit.
Until now, I never understood why. After reviewing my own life story of continuous transformation and seeing patterns in my coaching clients over the last 5 years, I can now explain how I unlocked my confidence and how you can learn from this in 4 ways.
1. Our ego runs outdated logic-based programs which are mostly no longer relevant in adulthood
We are born with no expectations, no opinions, no information, no biases. Our personality forms between the age of 3 and 7 years old.
In that time, we deduce things from our experiences to try to make sense of the world. We start liking and disliking things, we learn, we copy behaviour around us. It is in that time that our Ego emerges. The role of the Ego is to protect us from danger. Our ego, in simple terms, is a set of beliefs which are used to check if something is safe or unsafe.
So, when we feel hurt then our Ego will make a note of cause and effect and remember this to avoid pain in the future. This is logical. In the primitive days where our physical safety wasn’t guaranteed, this was useful, and still today this helps us from avoiding dangerous situations, like looking right and left before crossing the road to not get run over.
In times, where our physical safety is less of a concern, our Ego needs to keep busy to survive, so it looks for threats where there may not be any. Instead of physical danger, it focuses more on emotional pain: “whatever made me feel bad, I will avoid in the future because pain is dangerous, and danger can cause death.”
Parental and schooling reinforcement of certain behaviour will contribute to this programming. For example, if you grow up with parents who focus mainly on you “doing well” at school, then when you don’t feel competent you may feel bad. This may drive perfectionism and controlling tendencies. Again, these are character traits, but when extreme can become unhelpful.
2. Our Ego only seeks familiar and “safe” situations
As children what drives our behaviour is being accepted and loved by our caregivers because we have no other way to survive.
In my case, I grew up with people-pleasing tendencies, needing to be nice to be praised. Being angry wasn’t so accepted so I internalised a lot of my frustrations. Speaking up became an emotional trigger as it felt unsafe. So when asked to present or share opinions, I would withdraw and want to hide.
Because I struggled at school, this wasn’t pleasing as such, and I fell into the negative side of being compassionate. Self-doubt and anxiety were a common state for me to be in, and I got so used to it that I thought it was normal. So, my programming was telling me that it’s familiar therefore “safe” to feel anxiety and self-doubt, so anything like feeling powerful and confidence was alien to me and therefore my Ego perceived it as “unsafe.” Staying behind the scenes, being quiet, not taking up too much space, were a product of this program as these were deemed “safe.” This did not serve me when competing for grades to secure places in top schools as I learnt to play small.
On the positive side, based on my Ego’s learnt logic, starting a new school where everything was unfamiliar wasn’t such an issue for me, as I was used to being anxious. Being anxious was familiar and, therefore “safe.” It was just another day. I had to wear a school uniform for the first time, and learn a language I understood but didn’t speak well. I was quiet, I observed, listened and consciously adapted and people pleased to fit in. This worked well and I made nice friends quickly. My self-belief started to grow.
This is an example of how my Ego’s logic served me to not be scared and adapt to change. This also shows how our Ego can make us perceive things in a very distorted way, because someone who grew up without high anxiety would find starting a new school, away from their parents, in a different language hard and scary and that would be an adjusted response. Our minds are far from logical!
3. Our Ego is made up of emotional triggers
Understanding our subconscious patterns is key to unlocking our potential when we feel stuck because illogical, heightened and reactive responses are rooted in our legacy learnt Ego programing.
If we don’t know what these are, we can’t change them. This is what the coaching industry calls “limiting beliefs”: literally beliefs we made up which served us in one situation by then can limit us. These sit behind our emotional triggers.
Emotional triggers are unprocessed emotions which weren’t felt in real-time when they occurred. They become stuck in our bodies, and every time we have an experience which makes us feel the same way they cumulate into an emotional load.
For me, the emotional trigger was being asked to stand in front of the class and present, to speak in front of large groups, to lead, to shine. The limiting belief behind this was: “it is safe to play small. Anxiety is familiar, and I know how to handle that.” Leading and being confident, that I didn’t know and therefore it was unfamiliar so my Ego was programed to avoid this at all costs. Because this went on for the first 15 years of my life the emotional load behind this trigger was huge and would have been very hard to change consciously without a coach. So how did I do it?
4. Our Ego’s patterns are predictable with science
When we feel stuck in life, it’s usually because there is a subconscious program running which no longer makes sense, which goes against what we are trying to achieve.
The field of psychology has researched this in great depth and many personality types have been recognised. Our personality type is effectively a regrouping of common limiting beliefs, values and emotional triggers stemming from our upbringing, parenting, schooling, and life experiences.
When we better understand our personality type then we can more easily infer our limiting beliefs and what may hold us back. This is worth investing in because we are only limited by the way we perceive ourselves. Transformation comes from changing how we perceive ourselves. Transformation comes from being able to see beyond our ego with self-awareness so we can override legacy programming which is no longer helpful to us.
About The Process Communication Model
I have chosen to work with the Process Communication Model developed by the American Psychologist Taibi Kahler, Ph. D in the 1970s. Dr. Taibi Kahler’s work was rewarded the Eric Berne Memorial Scientific Award. His personality profiling research was initially aimed to help therapists reduce the time treating patients by having a common framework to diagnose the real issues behind patient’s problems. His research was funded by NASA to predict the behaviour of astronaut crews under stress as part of the recruitment process. Today over 1.5 million people globally have taken their Process Communication Model Personality Pattern Inventory (PPI) and it is used for Leadership Coaching and Training by the largest companies in the world.
I took my PCM Profile during my International Coaching Federation coaching certification. It is then that I understood that my personality type had a name, and the anxiety and self-doubt I experienced as a child was a product of a long-lasting phasing distress behaviour. This model explained how I became more confident and shifted personality when I moved to England. Instead of being anxious and doubting myself, which was no longer compatible with my new environment, something happened and I started to develop familiarity with becoming more confident. I learnt to be more comfortable expressing frustration and anger. This allowed me to step into a more assertive version of myself.
Studying Self-Science is a way to build confidence
As a Process Communication Model Trainer and Coach, I can share a lot more about this. However, I feel this is enough to make the following point. It is only when we seek to understand ourselves that we can start to see what is holding us back. We can only change what we can see, so this empowers us to make different conscious choices aligned with our goals.
This is why you hear me speak of Self-Science a lot. The studying of oneself is the only way to unlock new self-awareness and change how we perceive ourselves to become the person we want to be to make our dreams a reality.
What self-transformation are you seeking and how do you feel stuck at work or at home?
What limiting belief do you think is holding you back?
If this article resonates, and you are looking to make a change, discover The Process Communication and try my free online course Build Confidence In 30 Days to take a small step now in unlocking awareness.
Lauren Cartigny, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Lauren Cartigny is a Business and Life Professional Coach for Executives and Conscious Leadership Trainer. Following a successful international corporate career in Sales for leading Tech firms, Lauren faced an unexpected burnout. After re-learning how to perform from a place of well-being as opposed to delivering results from a place of suffering, Lauren has created transformative coaching and training programs for high achieving Leaders seeking to empower themselves with self-knowledge to improve their well-being, their relationships, and their results. Lauren is the Founder of The Self-Science Lab a personal development training company for professionals seeking to find Peace, Power and Purpose.