Do You Realize The Power Of The “Defining Moments” In Your Life?
In my work as an executive life coach, I encounter most positions on this spectrum of either lacking self confidence or being overly confident, including both extremes. Hence I’d like to share some of the insights this has allowed me to experience and also leverage in my work.
If we go back to our adolescent years where we were testing out “who we are” in relation to others around us both in terms of the “social pecking order” as well as in the degree by which we were “liked” or “accepted” or “rejected”, even ostracized by others, we may recall certain “defining moments”, don’t we? In some of them we perceived to have been humiliated or deeply hurt or ostracized, or were embarrassed and in others where we felt really good about ourselves and the recognition of that “position”, right?
Are you aware how much power these “moments” often exerted in the development of our self confidence, our self esteem and our beliefs?
Nancy Kline describes it beautifully in her book “Time to Think”, where observing some such adolescent interactions we can actually see how ahead of such a young individual responding to a question or a situation, they first look for the vibes they are picking up from the others around them whether they “think” their intended response is going to be “cool” or accepted or rejected. Their perceived position in the “social pecking order” will play a part as will their own beliefs and their self confidence. I found this to be a great example of “the Committee of They” in action.
The Power We Grant “The Committee Of They”
In my experience, what I am talking about is our perceived granting of power over us to an anonymous, assumed “group of others”; one that we seem to seek permission or acknowledgement of to justify our view of ourselves or a position we are about to take. If this is true for you in such situations, we can seem to be overly concerned with their approval, can’t we?
In my coaching work, addressing such “defining moments” has frequently played an important part in helping clients recognize and overcome certain (personal) obstacles from their conditioning and such above-mentioned experiences, which have been allowed to form into unsupportive self-belief and potentially undermine their self confidence. These beliefs influence our outlook and usually play out at an unconscious level, where our thinking can influence our decision making and our behaviour and our outcomes without us being consciously aware of them and their impact on us.
This can go so far as to create “sabotaging” behaviour patterns that we play out in our unconscious mind without any awareness that we are doing so, as I described in last weeks blog post.
And if you are reading this and thinking that this “only happens to others” and couldn’t possibly be true for you because you are “a leader”, please understand how powerfully this plays out at an unconscious level, usually leaving us blissfully unaware of its presence and its influence over our views and our behaviour.
Overly Prevalent Self Confidence
Those at the extreme of being overly confident are the ones that would probably be blissfully unaware of such a “Committee of They”. Bordering on arrogant or even aggressive such overly high choleric or dominant personalities are usually so self-assured that there is often not much room in their views for other positions anyway, or what others might think of them. (You can read more about these personality differences in Personality Plus).
Such strong behaviour can make working with these players difficult, tiring and sometimes quite challenging, particularly if they are your leader. Coaches often need to help these players “tone it down” so that they become more aware of their sometimes intimidating behaviour and the alienating effect this can have on their clients and on those they lead. Unfortunately these personality types also often lack empathy for other positions, which doesn’t help, does it?
Overly lacking self confidence
At the other end of the spectrum we have the more introverted and sometimes more “timid” or “humble” souls that find it more difficult to assert themselves and that will more often be at risk of allowing the “committee of they” to influence their decision making.
While this has nothing to do with their intellectual capability nor their skills and competence, they often need to be drawn out to make their points and share their experiences, because they might not feel confident enough to volunteer it by themselves. Why? Because they might be worried what others might think of them if they “get it wrong”? (You are aware how prevalent “fear of being found out” is, aren’t you? It is one of the universal fears we are all naturally afflicted with.) Of course this “drawing out” needs to be done carefully and diplomatically so they don’t feel “put on the spot”.
Let me share an example with you. If in a group or meeting, I like to do so by first stating or acknowledging something they are very good at or something they have successfully carried out in order to build their credibility (more for them than for the others) before asking them their view. Like: “Jack, you’ve recently had a great win in this area when you developed the xyz, haven’t you? What do you think we might be missing here?”.
The behaviour of people depicted in this extreme position of lacking self confidence is one area where coaches can add tremendous value to help the incumbents recognize such patterns and then help them develop relevant strategies to overcome them.
Those were the extremes – what if I’m “in the middle”?
Of course most of us don’t actually fit those extreme points. However, there are times or situations when we do struggle with our self confidence and where we may well slip into the risk of inadvertently granting such power to a “Committee of They”.
I like to reframe that and help people in such situations to look for other perspectives on them. We learn to differentiate between admitting to a lack of self confidence (in that situation) and “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. We might think of someone who we consider “full bottle” on what we might be wrestling with and wonder how they might tackle the situation and gain some useful new insights from that perspective. Or we might look for similar situations we ourselves have successfully mastered in the past and get encouraged by them as well as have them trigger new perspectives we can apply to this one.
Reality is that we always find something useful the client can apply successfully. What it takes is what I wrote about in Using The Gap to reframe Yourself.
This is not only important in terms of remedying such situations for our own confidence but also if we are in a mentoring or leadership role and witness the impacts of such self-deprecating behaviour patterns in our charges or subordinates. I feel these are important situations for us to recognize, to test for and then tactfully and diplomatically to help the incumbent to address.
So what if you are leading staff that fit into this category or if you might feel that you personally struggle with it? How much unnecessary “angst” and pain or loss of opportunity might this have cost you (and them) in the past? How much longer will you permit such losses or pain to continue? When will the pain of staying the same become greater than the perceived pain required for the change?
When will it be time for you to seek the engagement of a good coach to help you or the incumbent to recognize the impact such behaviour patterns are having on your or their self-worth and self confidence and on their or your performance and allow them to help overcome it. How? By establishing the possible origins or the causes (often from identifying certain “defining moments”) and then developing a range of approaches that can lead to them or you Letting Go of them and replacing them with more relevant beliefs which, supported through carefully selected affirmations can help build great personal self confidence and self-esteem.
What if you could?