Accept the whole picture rather than being defined by circumstances
Our confidence levels need to be determined by who we are, and the decisions we make rather than allowing ourselves to be defined by circumstances and events that we have little control over.
Frequently we all allow ourselves to be defined by circumstances and what has happened to us. We incorporate that into our being and persona, rather than view it as an event or experience which is now over. If it’s positive we tend to gloss over it. We have an MBA – we don’t go around telling people how smart we are. We win our club tennis tournament – we don’t claim instant super star success. The reason for this is that we frame our own situation in a more general context. We accept that there are a million holders of an MBA in the world and thousands of tennis players who are better than we are. We recognize it for what it is; a personal achievement and success. We celebrate it, but we are not defined by it.
However, on the negative side it is a completely different story. When we struggle to find a job – we are pathetic and unemployable. If we gain a few pounds – we are weak-willed and fat. Should we receive poor feedback from a boss – we become corporate losers.
We are not defined by circumstances
Behavior or circumstances should not define who we are. That person inside us does. Circumstances are random and controlling them is difficult. It is being able to cope with uncertainty and navigate ambiguity that is challenging. If we are defined by circumstances then that leaves us trapped by a specific thought pattern and limits our options.
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In order to build confidence we have to separate who we are and how we see ourselves from what happens. Talented, competent people get fired. Good tennis players lose competitions. It happens. Josie was a fitness instructor, who took excellent care of herself her whole life. She contracted lung cancer. She had never smoked one cigarette in her life, not even as a teenager to experiment. People have handicaps or other difficulties but they don’t let themselves be classified by them. This is what happens to successful women who become defined by their gender. They are female CEOs not CEOs.
To stay objective we have to take a step backwards and look on the situation as if we were a friend. How would an outsider see your position?
If a friend lost her job you wouldn’t say “you’re pathetic and unemployable” would you? A good friend would sympathize, commiserate and come up with “I’m really sorry. That’s a bummer. You have many special skills so you will easily find a job. I will ask in my network.”
When you go up a dress size your BFF won’t way “Wow thunder thighs, we will need to grease your hips to get you through the door if you carry on as you are.” She would offer to share a salad or walk to work.
How to stop being defined by circumstances
1. Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend
You are unlikely to bitch at a friend in the same way you do yourself. Getting rid of these phrases would be a good starting point:
- You should/could have
- Why didn’t you … enough/more
- You always/never
Watch your language. I don’t mean don’t swear – that can be situation appropriate. I suggest you pay attention to the negative tape and internal name calling: loser/jerk/fatty/etc.
2. Focus on the positives
Looking at your life through one lens is never a good idea. Even Shakespeare said “we are the sum of many parts.” If you have an ongoing career strategy, you will have a thorough understanding of your strengths and ongoing development needs. You will have mapped out your options and created a plan. If you struggle with this hire a coach.
3. Get feedback
Re-framing situations and putting them into context is important. Understanding how to accept feedback and how to view situations in the way others see them, and your role in them, can be invaluable. We are less likely to be broad sided by the unexpected when we know the perceptions of friends or colleagues. This doesn’t mean that we are defined by those views – just that they are part of a picture that makes up who were are.
We shouldn’t be defined by circumstances but by our decisions and actions.