This was the thought that kept popping into my mind when I started in sales. I was like a laptop with a virus. And — if I’m being honest — my negative self-talk didn’t even speak that eloquently. It was more like, “You’re going to suck at this.”
It’s amazing what I could identify as “wrong” with this lens through which I saw the world. Even more amazing was the résumé of success I had in other areas, and how all those athletic and academic awards — heck, I even a perfect attendance award in fifth grade — didn’t seem to make a difference when I faced nonstop rejection.
Research shows negative self-talk and mental imagery have a detrimental effect on our confidence levels. But sales is an industry in which confidence is key. Quieting that voice in my head was critical to my success — and it’s critical for yours, too ‒ no matter what career path you choose.
Drowning Out the Negativity
Vanquishing an inner monologue filled with self-doubt requires overcoming a few obstacles, starting with the fear of failure. According to research from Linkagoal, fear of failure outranks fear of spiders and the paranormal. It’s so easy to create a vision of the worst-case scenario. As the popular saying goes, “fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.”
Instead, try another acronym: “Face Everything And Rise.”
Embracing failure is the best way to silence your inner critic and move forward from your mistakes — and studies agree. When you underperform, your self-talk should end with a question mark, not an exclamation point. Thoughts like “You suck. Now everybody knows it!” aren’t productive. Instead, focus on improvement with “Why did that happen? How can I get better?”
Facing repeated rejection can sometimes feel personal — trust me, I know the feeling. And it can be difficult to feel anything but defensive if your self-confidence is already low. But remember that harsh words from authorities or superiors are just that: words. Overly tough criticism says more about the critic than the criticized.
Still feeling unable to quiet your inner critic? Try these strategies to boost your self-confidence and start working toward success:
Doubt Your Doubt
Replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. Argue with the voice in your head that’s saying you can’t do something. The next time it says, “I’m going to suck at this job,” push back. “Oh, yeah? Why do you think that?” “Because I have no experience.” “Nobody has experience when they start. What if it’s actually a good thing not to have experience? You have so many opportunities to learn!” Don’t let your inner critic take you down without a fight.
Focus on Improvement (Not Results)
Focusing on progress in your habits rather than metrics is a well-known dieting tip. Don’t stand on the scale every day counting the pounds dropped. Instead, track your progress toward perfecting the process: Did you work out today? Did you make a good decision at the dinner table?
Do the same thing with your career: Did you meet a daily goal? Did you study new educational materials? Awesome! Take note — on paper, on the computer, on your phone, wherever — and focus on your progress.
Do Something that Scares You
Rejection is everywhere, but I believe everyone has a threshold: Once you experience enough rejection, you’ll learn to let it roll right off your back. Some people’s inner voices keep them from reaching that threshold — but many succeed despite their failures. Your goal should be to get to your threshold as quickly as possible. Raise your hand in class. Give an answer you aren’t certain is right, but do it with total confidence. Put yourself in situations where you’re likely to face rejection, and raise the stakes each time.
Starting a new job comes with a lot of emotional baggage. You’re excited to cut your teeth in a new profession. You’re ready to meet — and hopefully befriend — your new co-workers. And, if the voice in your head is anything like mine, you’re also nervous as hell about succeeding in your new position.
Keep that voice quiet by using these strategies, and let your newfound confidence lead you forward.
Mike Monroe is a Christian, husband, dad, marketer, and wannabe athlete. Mike started working at Vector Marketing in 2000 as a student at Boston College. He wanted to stick out from the crowd and develop himself professionally. Nearly two decades later, that goal hasn’t changed. Learn more at GetSkillsForLife.com.
Also published on Medium.