We all have a perception about how we look, how we come across, what we are good at, what we are bad at. Those will often inform how we feel about ourselves. Perhaps we feel we have put on that extra pound or two, perhaps we feel we’re too quiet, or too loud, in social situations, we will think are good at some things and awful at others (internal dialogue). It will all amount to a basic perception of yourself which will be broadly positive or negative which, in turn, will fluctuate depending on what is going on in your life.
This is all driven by your own internal dialogue, that voice in your head that informs opinions about yourself, other people and situations. The trouble with internal dialogue is that when it’s in your head, it’s a fact, even though it’s not a fact, it’s an opinion. Let me give you an example, you might think to yourself “I’ve got a big nose“. That is not a fact, it’s an opinion. Even if someone says to you that you have a big nose, it’s still not a fact, it’s just their opinion (although admittedly a pretty rude one!). We have thousands of these bits of internal dialogue floating around, not just about ourselves but also judging ourselves against others, “she’s better than me“, “I could never do what that guy does” etc.
All this stuff swimming around in our head can stop us from being the best version of us. We tend to focus on the bits of us that we don’t like or feel we aren’t good at, and reject the stuff that we actually do like about ourselves or are good at. I know it sounds crazy but it’s true.
Let’s take a potential work example, perhaps you don’t like making presentations. There is a presentation coming up, you’re dreading it but of course you do it. It goes well, your internal dialogue will be saying something like, “Well, you’re no good at presentations but thankfully you got away with that one!“. Your boss comes up to you and says “Well done, great presentation“. Instead of saying thank you and taking it as a compliment, that little voice in your head says “He didn’t really mean it, he was just saying it to be nice“.
This can carry forward into reviews, we dismiss the praise and concentrate on the areas we are told we need to improve. Surely, it would be better to have people doing things they have an aptitude for and actively want to do, rather than stuff they hate? We can be led to believe that work has to be endured and not loved, but why shouldn’t we love it?
A while ago, I read a very interesting interview with Brian O’Driscoll, for those of you who don’t know, he is one of the greatest rugby players of all time. He was asked, what the secret of his success was. His answer was interesting; he said that when he started in rugby, in training, he would try and improve the weaknesses in his game but he found that the qualities that got him into the side in the first place were suffering. So he changed tack, he concentrated on his natural talents in training instead and became a world-class rugby player.
This is all very well, you may ask, but how do I apply this to my life? Well, start with one very small step. Just write down as many things as you can that you like about yourself, don’t worry if it seems boastful, it’s only you that’s reading them! Then cut each one out and put them all into a jar. Every morning pick one out and read it, then put it back. If you think of more, add them in.
Don’t be restrained by the stuff you don’t enjoy, revel in the best stuff about you and make the most of that. The best version of you is waiting to get out, don’t make it wait any longer.