Sometimes a Bad Experience Can Shake Your Confidence

If someone doesn’t have faith in you, you need to have faith in yourself - Issue #96

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I’ve lived long enough to know that everyone is pretty amazing in their own way if you take the time to get to know them. So, you are most likely amazing too.

Does this make me sound like Mr. Rogers?

Maybe. I guess so. Stick with me for a moment.

However, you probably can’t see how amazing you are, unless you’re a narcissist. But, you wouldn't even read this if you were a narcissist.

When you were young, you had spectacular hopes and dreams for your future. You created a plan for your life that was going to be glorious. You were making good progress on the path to your goals.

But, somewhere along the way, something — or someone — caused you to stumble. Obstacles suddenly appeared in your path. Barriers sprang up out of nowhere.

You realized that you had somehow drifted off course, and now your confidence has been shaken. You aren’t even sure that you have what it takes to make it anymore.

You may feel shattered. But, I’ve learned that you become even stronger and more capable when you survive that and come back.

There’s a Japanese art form called “Kintsukuroi.” Instead of carefully repairing and trying to conceal the cracks in broken pottery, it is "fixed" with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. 

The repaired seams become a beautiful work of art that takes the pottery to a new level.

I’m not trying to be cheesy with that reference. People indeed become stronger and better when they have been tested, hurt, and recover.

They acquire depth and balance. They become resilient. They have more compassion for others who are struggling on their own paths.

Losing your confidence hurts. But, you will come back better, and as a better person.

It’s rarely your fault

Even if you were fired from a job, it might not have been your fault.

Maybe you weren’t a fit for the company culture. Perhaps the role was wrong for you. Maybe you couldn’t see things the way your boss did, so you didn’t mesh.

There are many reasons why good people don’t connect well with bad bosses:

  • Sometimes bad bosses think that it is their job to be a hardass and point out all of your weaknesses to improve you.

  • Sometimes they think that praising and supporting you would make them look weak.

  • Sometimes they’re a scheming machiavellian with an agenda you choose not to support.

  • Sometimes bad bosses are simply incompetent and have no clue how to tap into your talents, develop your strengths, and guide you to higher levels of success.

But, your boss may have been okay and was just doing his or her job.

The problem was a mismatch between the role’s requirements and your talents, skills, and personality. Taking you out of the role was doing you a favor, even though it may not feel very good at the time.

Or, you may have landed in a profession that isn’t for you. It’s a lot more common than you think.

There are thousands of potential paths you could have taken. What are the odds that the one you selected when you were young was the ideal profession and role for you?

My point is, none of this means that something is wrong with you. Getting into a bad situation can steal your mojo, but it isn’t your fault.

But, getting out of a bad situation and putting yourself back on the right path is under your control. It is your responsibility. Don’t leave your power and your future in the hands of someone else.

Take back your power

Confidence should ideally come from within, not fueled by the praise of someone else.

Take the time to capture the story of who you are, which helps you gain some perspective on your background and the value you bring to the table. Your current situation is just a blip on the timeline.

Document all of your talents, strengths, knowledge, and experience. I’m not talking about some fuzzy mental exercise of thinking about them.

Literally, write it all down in black and white. The act of writing does make a difference, and who you are will feel more concrete.

Learn what you can from the past negative situations at work, or with a bad boss. Some of the criticism may have been unfounded. You may have lost your job due to circumstances beyond your control.

However, there may be some hidden lessons too.

Are there areas you need to improve? Do you have too much conflict with coworkers? Talk with some trusted friends or colleagues and ask for honest feedback.

Don’t get defensive, or no one will want to share what they are thinking. Just listen and see if there is a grain of truth in what you are hearing.

Some criticism may miss the mark. But, there is often useful advice if you are willing to hear it.

You own your power when you own both your strengths and your weaknesses. Be honest about your areas that need development before someone else is. Face yourself honestly, and know yourself more deeply.

Knowing others is perspective, but knowing one’s own self is enlightened; conquering others shows strength, but conquering one’s self shows true power.” — Lao Tzu

Take the time you need

You can’t just flip a switch and immediately have your confidence back. It doesn’t work that way. Depending on what happened, it may take a few weeks or even months to get your mojo back.

You don’t want to rush right into your job search, either. Things probably won’t go well if you start interviewing as soon as you walk out the door of your last job.

A lot of ambitious people feel eager to jump right back into things. But, you need time to recharge, refresh, and recenter yourself.

You have a golden moment in your job search where you’re operating at peak confidence and energy. You don’t want to use up your best contacts at a time when you’re not there yet.” — source

Also, when was the last time you had a vacation? I’m talking about a real vacation, not a working vacation. Not one of those vacations when you can’t stop worrying about the work that is piling up while you’re away.

Taking some time off between gigs can be just what you need to get clear on what you want to do next. I think that this is always a good idea.

However, it is even more critical if things didn’t end well at your last job.

I often ask my Career Membership folks to assess what is going on in their work and life. They uncover what isn’t going well with their work and career, and why they aren’t feeling satisfied or fulfilled.

Take this time to:

  • Think about your long-term goals. Where do you want to be in your life and career in 10–20 years? Don’t settle for the easy or obvious answer based on your current profession and career path. Set that all aside and ask yourself what you ideally want for your life.

  • Engage in some planning in reverse to get creative about how you might be able to accomplish what you want.

  • Create a list of all of the things you want to avoid in your next career move. Identify red flags to watch out for when you do start interviewing again.

  • Create a list of the things you do want in your next gig. Identify the key factors that are important to you and use them to evaluate new opportunities.

  • Reconnect with your health, fitness, and well-being. We often let our wellness slide when we are ambitious and work hard every day. Now is a good time to reinvest in yourself. If your body and mind aren’t 100%, you can’t give your new career 100%.

Redefine your network

Intentionally develop your support network, if the one around you isn’t lifting you up. If someone is a destructive influence, it’s time to change that relationship or step away from it.

I’ve worked for bad bosses before, and I know how demoralizing and depressing it can be to head into the office and face that every day. When all attempts failed to transform a destructive working relationship, I severed ties and moved on.

I would rather work for someone who values my contribution, believes in me, and invests in me. Life is too short to work for someone who doesn’t support you.

The same goes for family, friends, and acquaintances. They should recognize who you are, value your relationship, and support you, or they don’t deserve to be in your inner circle.

The snarky comments and passive-aggressive behavior will drain the energy you need to put into your future. Some people will support you, help guide you, and celebrate your wins. Believe me.

If you can’t find the network you want in your everyday life, then seek one out online. For example, have you tried Meetup?

There are so many supportive communities now, depending on what you want for your future. Entrepreneurial groupscareer groups, groups for older folks like meremote workers community, groups for minimalistsfitness communities, etc.

Stay centered

When we let others influence our happiness, confidence, and self-worth, we give up our power. 

Never let that happen again.

When I wrote about overcoming Impostor Syndrome, I talked about finding my core truths. Once you identify them, claim them, and base your confidence on them, you are no longer leaving your sense of worth in someone else’s hands.

One thing that supremely confident people have in common is that their sense of identity is centered deep inside and is unshakeable. They have an internal locus of control.

They know who they are, what they're passionate about, what they are good at doing, and they align their life and work to be in harmony with that. External factors must be dealt with, of course. But, they don’t influence that core.

We can all learn to be more like that.

Commit to owning your confidence.

Develop a healthier and more supportive tribe.

Construct your reality where you live an invincible life.

If you want my help or support, let me know.

Do the following Career Tips interest you?

  • How you should prepare to ask for a promotion.

  • Who you should thank at the end of the year.

  • How you can make the best of a good choice.

  • Why you should watch your holiday spending.

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What I’ve been reading and writing

  • I shared my advice for Preparing to Ask for a Raise or Promotion. What I wish I had known earlier in my career is how important it is to treat your career like a business. You can’t just put your head down and work hard within the walls of your company, hoping that a good boss will always recognize your contribution and value and commensurately reward you.

  • In How To Advance Your Career Over The Holidays, the author suggests a few strategies to stay ahead of your peers; revamping your online presence, investing in your network, giving back, and laying the groundwork for the coming year.

  • In Bringing your whole self to work is a bad idea, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic argues that wrapping too much of your identity in your work persona can set you up for disappointment. The idea of finding meaning at work is a relatively modern invention. Tying your identity to your job, profession, or job title is risky, as I’ve said before.