Written by: Jeanette Eriksson, 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.
Over the past couple of years, I have noticed an increasing challenge for my clients. More and more people complicate matters unnecessarily and far too often. There is a lack of calm focus and individual confidence in the workplace. An example of this is that professionals have started to use words and expressions they do not understand.
As a coach and consultant, I am there to listen, watch and learn. I occasionally question some of these terminologies, as I genuinely do not understand them. Fancy words and unnecessary abbreviations, often to do with digitalization and other IT processes, are banded about without the giver themselves understanding them. I have asked in my direct Swedish way, “What do you ACTUALLY mean?” And if I had thought they could not explain, I would never ask, as my role is never to make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Surprisingly, many managers at all levels cannot fully illuminate me. They do not really know themselves. Most likely, they felt that the chosen expressions sounded great and oh so professional. This begs the question, "why do otherwise clever and intelligent people feel they need to do that?"
Many people are not aware, nor feel, that they are good enough, just the way they are (cue Bridget Jones’s Mark Darcy). Instead, these very capable individuals resort to ‘faking it’ in various ways to feel like they are ‘better’ and so that others can perceive them as ‘good enough.’
The problem is that, increasingly, we are now in a situation where a smaller workforce is expected to achieve more, with a faster turnaround, whilst producing better ‘quality’ and at a lower cost than ever before. This stressful phenomenon has been going on for quite a while now. In addition, these overworked people feel that they do not have time to reflect on their day and what they have learned and achieved. This results in their non-reflected learning not getting brain-registered at all. Instead, everything learned barely shifts in the brain from an unconscious-unknowledge to an unconscious knowledge, without passing through our consciousness.
Human beings cannot avoid learning new things. We learn every single day and plenty of it. Some things we master consciously and even more stuff unconsciously. I often try to remind my clients to take the time to reflect on what they have absorbed, e.g., “Today, I have learned this, today, I managed that, today, I handled this in such a way...” If you do not reflect on your competence and bring it into your consciousness, you will then learn plenty of things without being aware. This results in you being very capable and knowledgeable, but you do not know that.
I meet lots of people nowadays who have such an unfairly low feeling of self-confidence and self-belief. As a result, they end up holding back completely unjustifiably. Because you know what?
“You know SO much more than you know that you know.”
The consequence of what I am describing is that you will end up in a situation where you know more than you know that you know, but the risk is that you only know what you know (perhaps re-read that slowly to grasp it).
And without self-reflection, you will continue to be unaware of how much you know without knowing it. This sounds like one of these ‘word plays,’ but it is far from it. Think about it this way, the awareness of your own knowledge or skills most likely comes from an academic qualification you have, or from a problem you solved before, or perhaps from situations when others have praised you for that skill or knowledge. In short, you are most likely conscious of things you have ‘managed’ and managed well. This is what we call ‘self-confidence.’
“I have confidence in knowing what I am aware of knowing.”
Unfortunately, in today’s speedy-change-of-pace-world, self-confidence is a quality which is still important, but less than before, as what we really need to practice is the trust in ourselves. Trust your capabilities! Trust your skills and knowledge! Trust your competence to manage things you do not yet know how to manage!
Recently, in this topsy-turvy world, most of us have ended up in more and more new situations, which often can be scary or at least uncomfortable. However, imagine if you are attitude-filled with total self-trust and the knowledge that ‘I have managed far worse situations than this’ by using a self-reflecting process? Suddenly, the situation will not appear so scary anymore, and instead, you could find yourself enjoying the challenge and feeling really empowered.
Stress is also the curse of the twenty-first century (excluding positive stress or eustress, which we need to enjoy challenges and help with problem-solving). I like to explain negative stress as an imbalance between demand and ability – or rather, perceived demand and perceived ability. Trust me. You will be very aware of the increased expectation of yourself. The people or world around you will make sure that you know about the faster tempo, more complex situations, more technology needed, and so on. However, if you do not increase your conscious ability, then your perceived demands will be much higher than your perceived ability, which will end up completely uneven in your mind and will be extremely stressful as the mental scale will tip over. This is incredibly unfair, as you simply don’t know that your ability is higher than what you perceive it to be.
I have had many one-to-one sessions with people at all levels who are all affected by this. And I am yet to meet someone where we could not identify that the perceived demands are higher than they actually are and where their own perceived skills and abilities are lower than their true ones. We all have so much more ‘inside’ than we really know. In other words, the pressure you put on yourself is always higher than the expectation, and you can manage much more than you perceive yourself being able to achieve. Because you know more than you, yourself, know that you know.
Not being aware of one’s own capabilities can also lead to the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’ as your brain uses your conscious and unconscious knowledge, whereas you recognize the former. You really have to focus on what this means, where other people will see you as more competent and more capable from the outside than how you see yourself from the inside. These ‘other people’ will have higher expectations of you in terms of capability, pace, skills, etc., than what you feel that they should have. This feeling comes from all the doubts you have about yourself, the feeling that you are not as good or capable as they think. You carry your doubts with you, including memories of any mistakes you have ever made along the way. The people on the outside do not see that. They only see this capable, high-performing, clever person, and if that does not match your own view, then the imposter feeling will kick in. The worry of getting ‘caught out’ will start, which is so very unnecessary. Because you know what?
You will not get ‘caught out,’ as the outsiders know that you have ‘it’ in you.
You need to set it free and trust yourself. Simples. Well, with practice, it can be.
So, what to do if you do not feel competent and maybe like an imposter? Here are a couple of life-changing tips for you:
1. Sit down and do an experience ‘stock-take.’
Look at what has happened in your life, since you were a child until now. Define the skills and abilities you need to have to have managed whatever you have managed in your life. During your education, in your personal and social situations, work-related situations etc. Simply set up two columns on a piece of paper and do not worry about it being in a chronological order: A life event column on the left and a ‘skills and abilities needed’ column on the right – and start jotting down all the pretty amazing things you have experienced and handled. Pretty quickly, you will see plenty of skills and abilities which you have never realized you had, or maybe simply forgotten. Keep that list, read it often and add to it as often as you have something to add, which I suspect will be daily.
2. Improve your confidence and self-trust by doing a conscious 4 x 2-minute daily analysis.
This is a tool that can really help you and only takes up 8 minutes in your day.
Wake up (2 mins): When you wake up in the morning, as soon as you open your eyes and before getting up, spend two minutes choosing to think positively, acknowledge and appreciate everything good in your life. Think about what you DO have (not what you do NOT have).
Arrive at work (2 mins): When you get to work (or start working from home), choose to think about what is good about your work, what do you enjoy, and what your profession provides you with.
Return home from work (2 mins): When you get home (or finish working from home), consciously select all the thoughts on what is good with you and your life situation. Consider things that could (or do) annoy you and appreciate them instead (tip: think about how life would be if those kids’ shoes were not scattered in the hallway or if your partner was not there to annoy you occasionally).
Before sleep (2 mins): When you are back in bed and before you go to sleep, reflect on what you have learned that day and decide on the best thing that has happened that day. Keep a notepad next to the bed and write it down if that works better for you, or at least by entering it into your consciousness, you will mentally note it on your incredibly important self-trust list.
If you do this daily, your conscious awareness will flourish, you will feel more confident and positive – and you will be more aware of yourself, your skills, and your abilities. As Ralph Waldo Emmerson once wrote, “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
Jeanette Eriksson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Jeanette Eriksson created Nordicly out of her passion for making people and systems work, achieve and feel better. Being Swedish, having lived in London for more than half her life, Jeanette uses innovative Scandinavian thinking in her coaching and consulting approach when working with individuals wanting to achieve personal goals and business leaders, who want to improve their own leadership skills, the happiness and productivity of their staff and the performance of their company. Having led large teams for many years, whilst gaining national sports success, both as a captain and player, and also at the national team coaching level, Jeanette has learned all the tricks of the ‘personal and business development’ trade. Jeanette is also a best-selling author in UK, US, Canada and Mexico, by contributing to the ' 1 Habit to Thrive in a Post-Covid world' book. Whether you need help to improve yourself and pivot in our new, ever-changing world, or build your people and help them achieve clarity and progress in life and/or perform at a higher level at work, Jeanette is your Nordic(ly) solution.