Are you really lacking in self-confidence, or is it a case of …

I don’t know whether you recollect those scenes in the Superman films where the baddie of the film would be able to waive a piece of Kryptonite near to Superman and all of his super-powers would weaken.

Kryptonite had an overpowering effect on the superhero and just being in its presence would render Superman a bundle of wibbly-wabbly jelly.

It’s interesting to compare how there’s a similar effect in play when people around us waive words around, like a bar of Kryptonite, and take away our powers too.

Take for example the following situation:


It’s Friday afternoon in the office where you work and you’ve arranged with some of the girls you work with to pop out for a drink after work, something that you all arranged a couple of weeks earlier and you’re all looking forward to this event as you’ve got a lot to catch up on – you’ve all been planning your evening together on Facebook and it’s going to be fun.

All seems good, clock ticking down to the final whistle, then your boss comes out of their office, or sends you a message, to say that in effect, ‘something’s cropped up / there’s an emergency, etc’, and therefore you’ll have to work late this Friday until the matter’s resolved.

End of.

Not up for discussion.

So … what do you do?

If you’re like some of my clients you’ll fume silently inside your brain, think of what you’d want to say to your boss, but capitulate and agree to work late (as you’ve always done).

And then – the kicker – you tell yourself you’re lacking in self confidence, since ‘obviously’ someone else would have somehow worked out a way to resolve this and still made it to be with their friends that night.

Freeze that frame

WOAH! Let’s wind the scene back a bit!

Perhaps there’s a few other ways to look at this scenario, ones which those words, acting like Kryptonite, have meant you’ve been unable to see.

Do you remember when you were learning to drive, how your instructor would say that as you become more experienced as a driver you’ll need to learn to anticipate what the other road users might do, so you can prepare for it and react accordingly?

Come off the accelerator and cover the brake for example, to give more time to react.

So let’s take a look at your boss. Is this the first time they’d dropped the ‘gotta work late’ grenade on your lap? Are they someone who’s prone to having their emergency become someone else’s too?

If that’s the case, then I’m curious; let’s imagine that you now know this could happen again, say next Friday too, what could you do in advance to position yourself as not being available after your working day ends, when they drop the ‘gotta work late’ grenade on you lap on that day?

Options, options …

When I’ve discussed this with clients they’ve often surprised themselves by coming up with a list of ten or more ways to deal with this. Options such as

* Just saying I can’t do it.
* Saying I’ll stay for 30 minutes
* Saying I’ll come in late to make up for the overtime

and so on.

And when you begin to move out from worker / boss to one of equal footing, to be able to say something akin to “If I do this for you, I just need to know that you’ll be able to help me too when I ask.”

Yes, the reality is that some work positions do require us to work extra time as and when required, however, it can sometimes be the case that the person who’s expressing that ‘urgent need’ has their own personality issues and therefore it’s up to us to defend ourselves from their verbal Kryptonite.

So where does this leave you on the Friday night girl’s night out that you seem to have to miss?

Well, first off, before we ‘blame’ your lack of self-confidence, had you expected this?

If not, let’s just be honest and say that you’ve been ‘spooked’ by it, rather like a rabbit in the headlights of the oncoming car.  But now you can plan for it, so when you get the message you can decide how to act.

The blame game

There are some other issues this scenario brings up, ones I’ll touch upon in a subsequent post, but for now just recognise that we often blame how we feel on our lack of self-confidence when perhaps we had simply not expected something to happen in the way it did.

“OK. So now you’ve calling me naive or stupid, rather than lacking in self-confidence? Is that what you’re saying?”

Perhaps I am, but not in the way your emotional response may be suggesting. All I’m saying is, by not thinking through what might happen on the forthcoming Friday you’ll once again put yourself in a position where you have little time to react to your boss’s emotional manipulation. In that context, yes, you are being naive.

And that could be well worth looking into if we were discussing this in an appointment, or perhaps it would be something for you to explore prior to our next meeting.

So don’t beat yourself up over low self-confidence, that might not be the issue – ever.