I have a little voice in my head that's capable of creating almost unlimited amounts of self-doubt. Actually it's not so little. It's the voice that shouts “It's not going to work!” when I try something new that's really important to me, “You're going to screw it up!” when I'm playing music for other people, or “She won't want to talk to you!” when I see a woman I find really attractive. And fuck it's been pissing me off lately.
After years of personal development, workshops, counseling courses, life coach training courses, and just plain good old procrastination, I've finally decided to offer one-on-one coaching to other men via Skype. I am way qualified for this by now; most of my life coach friends have far less training and counseling experience than I do, yet they started coaching ages ago. There's no reason why I shouldn't be doing the same.
Well, there is according to my inner critic. No sooner have I hit the “order” button on the business cards calling myself a Confidence Coach than that shitty little voice in my head says: “Nobody's going to pay you to coach them! Call yourself a Confidence Coach? With your track record? You're hardly the world's most confident guy Graham. What do you have to offer anyway?”
Oh, for fuck's sake. At first, it just made me feel depressed. Then it made me feel angry.
“Shut the fuck up, you rotten little cynical mother-fucking c_nt!”, I shouted at that voice in my head.
That left me in a filthy mood, which wasn't quite what I was planning for the new mens group that I turned up to that evening. When I introduced myself to the group, I told them:
“I'm nervous about telling you what I do because I'm worried you'll think I've come here just to recruit you all as clients. I run a web site where I help men become more confident. Just this afternoon I was ordering business cards because I want to start offering personal coaching; and as soon as I had ordered cards a voice in my head started telling me 'Nobody's going to pay you to coach them blah blah blah...'”.
I felt ashamed, fearful at the thought of my latest venture failing and worried what all the other guys in the group, who I didn't even know, were thinking about me. Perhaps they were thinking “Yeah, good point”. Or “You'd make a great coach”, or “Who is this guy?”, or “Will we get home in time to see the footy on the telly?”
I can't remember what the feedback was on what I said, but by the end of the group it was pretty clear that they were keen for me to be a member of the group; most of the feedback I'd given after other guys had shared what was going on in their lives had hit the mark. I'm a great listener, what with all that counseling and coach training.
After the group a few of the guys were left talking about what I wanted to do: “Sounds like a great idea: coaching over Skype. In fact I heard about another guy the other day who was doing the same thing.” So they thought it was a great idea: It's only that voice in my head that protests, and it only does that to preempt the bad feelings that I get when I something I do appears to “fail”. Trouble is, the voice itself creates unpleasant feelings of discouragement and hopelessness when I listen to it. Plus if I follow it's advice I never end up doing anything and wind up so risk-averse that life becomes really boring and I don't end up getting the life I want.
It's all very well to talk about believing in yourself. That's my ultimate goal, but it certainly helps to have other guys around who can believe in me when the self-doubt hits.
So here's what I learned about dealing with that voice in our heads that creates self-doubt:
Tell it to “Shut the fuck up!”.
Reveal what it says to other people who can offer support, lessening it's power.
- Find other guys who believe in you for the times when you don't believe in yourself. (Like a coach, say. Did I mention that I'm available? 😉 )