It takes a certain amount of courage to be a leader. If you read this blog regularly or attend one of my workshops, you’ve heard me say leaders must take risks and move out of their comfort zone. That leads me to my question – do you doubt you have the kind of courage necessary?
For some of you, the idea of taking a risk is paralyzing. It’s natural to want to keep your head down and continue doing what is working. You may have some good reasons for not taking a chance. Librarian positions have been drastically cut not only in this country but worldwide and those that remain are frequently overloaded. You may be covering more schools and lost any staff you had. There is no time to add anything to your schedule.
So the doubt creeps in.
If you take a risk and get it wrong, you could be putting your job on the line. At least that’s the story you tell yourself. Seeing this in print may remind you of a blog I did in 2015, The Stories We Tell Ourselves or the one I did last February, More Stories. Since we all have a tendency to fall back into old habits, it bears repeating.
The self-doubt is tied to Imposter Syndrome which I have discussed in Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Option. Imposter Syndrome is the voice inside your head that says you can’t do it. You don’t know enough. You will fail. It may even be there when you succeed, telling you this was a onetime thing. There are probably a number of other negative things this voice is telling you and when you listen, it’s keeping you from taking that risk, from moving out of your comfort zone.
This week I have two articles which I think offer some great ways to move through self-doubt. I’ve added my comments and connections to our work for each one. First, Jeff Barton suggests four ways to help you get past self-doubt in Why Self-Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Begin to Overcome It:
- Self-Reflection – Make an honest self-reflection of your strengths and weaknesses. You do have strengths – quite a few, in fact. You might want to work on the weaknesses, but for that first step past self-doubt try a project or take on a task (run for an office, do a presentation) that focuses on and uses your strengths.
- Avoid Perfectionism –You will never get it all right. Any author can tell you they proof-read many times. So does their editor. Then the book (or the blog) comes out, they immediately see an error. Nothing I have ever done has been perfect. Reach for excellence and for improving on what you’ve done before.
- Comparison to Others – We always see what others do better than us. This is related to focusing on our weaknesses. We don’t look at the corollary—what we do better than others. Our assumption is, if we do it well, others must also be doing it well. We can’t really know if that’s true. In addition, you can’t know another person’s struggle or process. Comparing yourself is a waste of time and attention.
- Self-Compassion – Treat yourself as you treat others. You are kinder, gentler with others than you are to yourself. We would never say to a friend or loved one many of the things we say to ourselves.
Petrea Hansen-Adamidis gives 5 Steps to Deal with Self-Doubt and Trust Yourself Again. Some of you may never have trusted yourself, but this is a big factor in dealing with self-doubt.
- Ground Yourself – The thought of taking risk is likely to have your brain whirling with the many negative comments you are saying about yourself making it hard to go beyond thinking of the potential risk. Notice the noise. Then focus by writing down the pros and cons of a project. And ask yourself that classic question, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”
- Balance the Negative – Find more ways to answer the negative self-talk with kindness. Keep a journal/log of your successes. Include any positive comments you get from students, teachers, parents, administrators. Read through them before tackling something new.
- Take a Break – Step away from the problem/issue. Do something else. I walk. By the time I get back, I have come up with several ways to deal with it. You may want to knit, listen to a podcast, color, bake. Get creative – and fun – with the ways you choose to step away from the challenge.
- Nurture Yourself – This is like self-compassion, but it can also mean healthy eating and getting enough sleep as I recommend last week in Positive Self-Care. When you aren’t tired and filled with junk food, you are in a better frame of mind which will mute much of the self-doubts. It’s also a way of acknowledging your own importance to yourself and others.
- Connect with Others – Who are your cheerleaders? We all have people in our lives who believe in us. Talk to them. Let them give you a pep talk. After all, you would do it for them.
Bestselling author Brené Brown, whose work on shame, self-doubt, and leadership is truly inspiring writes, “You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you can’t have both.” Give it a little thought. What’s your choice?