It’s nearly impossible to read the labels of the jars we’re in.
Self-doubt is distorting; it’s like looking at our own lives and achievements in the fun-house mirror and getting back a really weird, unsettling picture. Which is why it’s critically important to let other people help you reshape that truth.
This is the time to be relentlessly, ruthlessly picky about who gets to be part of what I call your Committee of Champions. (This is not the time to just let anyone’s opinion in. )
You want to sit down and write down a few names of people that you really and truly trust to give you a kind, compassionate and strengths-focused view of yourself. It doesn’t have to be dozens. Even a handful will do.
For me it was a couple of former bosses, a trusted industry colleague, and two of my closest friends.
I asked a very straightforward question:
“What do you think my greatest strengths are, especially the ones you don’t think I see in myself?”
I got some pretty incredible answers like:
“One of the best business and brand storytellers in the B2B industry, bar none”
“Pure, unadulterated courage to come back swinging after every setback”
“Absolutely gifted when it comes to writing. It’s easy for you so you assume it’s not really valuable. And you’re so wrong.”
“The kind of presence and energy that captures and holds a room effortlessly.”
You’ll note especially that they’re not all about achievements, but rather how the people around me perceive what I’m good at based on what they value, and the lens through which they see me. Author and colleague Sally Hogshead calls these things the elements that make you fascinating, sort of your unique combination of strengths and gifts.
I’m giving you my answers not to boast, but to illustrate that I never would have said any single one of these things about myself.
One thing that popped out clearly from this exercise when I did it is in that third one. Things you think are easy and simple might just be your superpowers.
Writing and speaking come naturally to me, and because of that, I’ve long believed they didn’t have much value. I often discounted them or dismissed them as things that anyone could do, or certainly that anyone could do better than I could.
Partly, that’s because we often confuse effort with value, so we think that the things that are easy for us must not be really useful or important in the world. Not sure what yours are? You can sometimes find them in the things that give you that tingle and rush of energy, that spark inside that catches your breath and surges your adrenaline when you do it.
It’s sort of like the good version of Harry Potter’s scar; when you’re near the things that invigorate you, you’re close to the things that are right in the center of your power.
As it turns out, not everyone feels the same way about writing and speaking, and they ARE valuable. They’ve become strengths I can leverage, and things I can do with confidence because they’re right in my wheelhouse.
You have them too, but imposter syndrome talks over them all the time. So get some help from your Committee of Champions to shut that self-defeating voice up for a while so you can hear the truths about what you’re capable of.
Oh, one more thing before I go.
We demonize needing validation all the time as some kind of weakness, a move that only insecure people do to seek attention or feed their ego.
But for heaven’s sake. Validation is a human need, just like belonging. It can be lifeline in the moments when you can’t see the forest for the trees, and a gift we can give to others when they’re struggling to see their own value and worth. Being seen is empowering. Strengthening. It helps us do our best work. And it’s really energizing when it’s done in community.
That’s why it’s critical that your committee be people who will approach this exercise with compassion, honesty, and the desire to lift you up while also keenly avoiding blowing sunshine up your skirt (or pants, or shorts, or whatever bottom-half clothing you prefer) with false strokes.
This is not the place for “constructive criticism”. We get enough of that in our lives every day from friends, colleagues and complete strangers.
It’s not hard to find someone to tell us what we’re doing wrong, but we need to be brave enough sometimes to ask people to indulge us so we can know what we’re doing right. And that knowledge is a critical weapon in the war against distorting the self-images we hold.
Do you know who’s on your Committee? Your homework this week is to find them and ask them this question. And if you’re feeling brave, I’d love to hear what they say.
Next week, I’ll save you $150 and share an exercise I learned in a therapy session that has truly and completely changed my life.