How to Stop Your Insecurities from Hijacking Your Aspirations
Editor’s note: guest post by Scott L. Sind
Ever feel like your professional life is a constant roller coaster ride?
Some days you experience huge wins, but others leave you languishing in emotional despair, questioning your competence and wondering if you’re on the verge of being outed as an utter fraud.
Sound familiar? I’m willing to bet that most of you have felt this way at one time or another. I certainly have, and I still do when something doesn’t go quite as expected.
Even worse than suffering these moments of insecurity is that it’s far too easy for negative thoughts to become etched in your psyche as limiting beliefs. Once that happens, your reality is then defined by those beliefs—you now have a view of the world as unfriendly, uncaring, and rife with barriers.
Inevitably you settle into a state of inertia. It’s comfortable there, where you aren’t exposed to the notion of failure.
But what about your dreams? Your lifelong desire to do great things? Sadly, many of us have created mental models that abundance is for the lucky and achievement is reserved for others who are better, smarter or more deserving than we are.
The good news is that you don’t have to accept this as truth.
Your Own Worst Enemy?
Not long ago I faced the difficult decision of quitting my lucrative corporate job to start a new career as a writer and success coach.
I was a senior manager for a Fortune 500 company, and my potential with this firm was huge. But something wasn’t quite right—I wasn’t happy. I felt the pull of earlier dreams that I’d let slip away. There were so many amazing things I’d wanted to accomplish, but I let the necessities of life—or what I believed were the necessities—compel me to make decisions that weren’t in my best interests.
I wanted to leave, but I was confronted every day by limiting beliefs that I wouldn’t be successful if I derailed my corporate career and started down a different path. I convinced myself that I’d never be able to do—or be—anything else.
Our perception of the world is based on our experiences of it—how things work and how various elements are interconnected. Our perceptions then shape how we act and how we make decisions. For example, a very common mental model of success is that you get good grades, get a good job, work hard, rise up the company ladder, and retire comfortably.
This is only one viable model of success, but it was the one that defined my life and directed me down many a path.
Up to this point I’d never given it a second thought. But faced with the monumental decision to leave the safety of the corporate world, my limiting beliefs based on that mental model of success kept me rooted in fear.
My own thoughts and perceptions were my own worst enemy. I had to find a way to rebuild my mental models, overcome those limiting beliefs and knock down those barriers.
Silence The Loudest Voices First
The chatter in our heads can be a distracting, paralyzing force, especially when the voices are screaming that we’re “not good enough” or we “don’t deserve success.” The deeper our mental models are, the louder those voices get and the more likely we are to listen.
In the weeks leading up to my resignation, the one message I heard over and over again was that I’d be letting everyone down if I left my well-paying, stable job to pursue a dream. It certainly wasn’t my only limiting belief—I also suffered the dreaded imposter syndrome (“Who am I to think I’m a writer?”). But it was the loudest voice, and it hammered me with doubt and prevented me from taking any action.
At first I tried to conquer all of my doubts at once—I am an overachiever, after all—but quickly became overwhelmed and riddled with even more uncertainty. Approaching limiting beliefs this way was like playing psychological whack-a-mole. Just when I thought I’d gotten one under control, another popped up. Then another.
Don’t let this happen!
Instead, focus on the loudest voice, the one that keeps you up at night.
Once I identified my strongest limiting belief, I put all of my energy there. I ignored the rest of the voices for the time being and started to rebuild my mental model of success.
Neutralize Your Beliefs
If our mental models are based on our own perceptions and cumulative life experiences, then in order to build new mental models we have to challenge our perceptions and create new experiences that align with our desires.
How can you accomplish this?
First, acknowledge that it’s possible. So many people I’ve worked with are stuck with the notion that they’re unable to change, that the lessons they’ve learned since childhood are permanent and inflexible. This is far from reality. It may be difficult, but it certainly isn’t impossible to reframe the way you see the world.
I began to reframe my beliefs around success by asking, “how do others define success?” I studied high achievers in a variety of fields and quickly recognized that their pathways to success looked very different than mine. Over time, the commonalities I saw began to erode my “truths” about success, and soon those limiting beliefs held increasingly less power over me.
I had effectively neutralized them by studying what worked for other people and then mapping out specific actions that I could take to build a new framework of success.
You can neutralize your limiting beliefs by asking the right questions. If your loudest limiting belief is that you’re inadequate, or if you’re suffering severe imposter syndrome as I did, ask yourself what it would look like if you were “good enough” or “deserving enough.” What if that belief was no longer a truth? What specifically would you need to accomplish to enable you to put away those thoughts and break free from indecision?
Create an actionable plan to build a new framework for your limiting beliefs, and you can render them irrelevant.
Lead With Action—Don’t Wait For Confidence
A common theme among my clients is that they wait until their confidence grows before they take action. This is an easy mindset to settle into. Who doesn’t want to feel confident that they’re making the right choice, or doing things the right way?
When conquering limiting beliefs, however, it’s best to lead with action.
Taking action nudges you out of inertia, and once you start gaining momentum you’ll experience small wins that snowball into larger victories. The more small wins you have, the faster your confidence grows.
And lack of confidence is at the heart of all limiting beliefs.
We built these mental models because we experienced failure or disappointment in the past, and our paths forward have thus been shaped by the resulting self-doubt. Achieving wins—no matter how small—restores that lost confidence and allows you to grow and shed your limiting beliefs.
I’m living proof that this works. Once I started to reframe my limiting beliefs and build a new model of success that aligned with my ultimate goal of becoming a writer and coach, my confidence grew. Each action I took reinforced my new mental model, and instilled a belief that success wasn’t only possible, it was inevitable.
I left my job with strength and conviction rather than with fear and uncertainty. For me, that was the most important step. Yes, there are moments where my confidence wavers, or when those voices seem to linger a bit longer than usual, but I now have the tools to withstand those moments of doubt.
You Can Be Unstoppable
Overcoming limiting beliefs and rebuilding your harmful mental models is simple, but not easy. It requires that you not only acknowledge that you have these beliefs, but also that you purposefully and deliberately take steps to change them.
You may still experience feelings of self-doubt along the way, and that’s okay. But with a plan in place and a commitment to action, you can keep your momentum going, notch up those small wins, and ultimately step off the roller coaster of insecurity.
As your confidence grows, so does your achievement. And when you finally see your dreams becoming reality, you can truly become unstoppable.
So stop waiting for external forces to move you forward. Take action now. Own your future and dare to be great.
It’s time for you to build a mental model of abundance, success, and achievement.
You deserve it.
Scott L. Sind is on a mission to help emerging leaders and aspiring changemakers create and cultivate purpose in their work and in their lives. He writes about leadership, creativity, success and personal growth on his blog ActivateThought.