Many professionals want to step outside of their comfort zones and try different types of professional branding activities such as public speaking, article writing, taking a leadership role on a committee or joining a nonprofit board or starting a blog, but there’s something inside of them that holds them back from doing so.

Here’s what I say to those feelings of self-doubt and negativity (and what you should say too), “Yes you can, and you will!”

It’s not easy to tame our inner critic, but nothing in life that’s worth it ever is, right? We all have tons of self-doubts in our head that wreak havoc on our self-confidence. It’s so important to believe in yourself, in fact, your career depends on it.

A positive mindset goes a long way in determining whether your endeavors fail or succeed. Harsh self-reflections can be very damaging to your psyche and your career. To succeed you must consciously silence these negative thoughts, replace them with proactive thoughts and actions and generally just be kinder to yourself.

I used to be in this category of people who just didn’t believe in themselves and who were overly critical of themselves – let’s just say that I was not the most charismatic public speaker (in fact, I was terrible!) and I beat myself up over it watching videos of myself, critiquing my performance and asking others for feedback where I obsessed over the negative comments.

But I kept at it, I strove to improve what I could, I didn’t give up and I didn’t say no to future speaking engagements just because I had a few so-so experiences. And neither should you.

So what if your speaking engagement is only good not great or if your article just receives a lukewarm reception? You’ll learn from each of these and do better next time. After all, practice really does make perfect. If you work hard for the things you want, they will happen.

The next time you hear that negative voice in your head, I want you to promise to do the following: 

  1. Stop overthinking and driving yourself (and likely others around you) crazy. You aren’t perfect, but guess what, no one is! And that’s ok. As long as you can take constructive feedback, admit when you fail or are wrong, and learn from your mistakes you’re in good shape.
  2. Silence your inner negative voice by being your own best friend. Every time you hear that voice that says “you can’t do this” or “you are a major screw up” instead talk to yourself as you would a good friend. You’d likely reframe that same sentence to your friend as “if you put hard work into this, you can do it” or “okay, so you made a mistake, but it will be okay.” It’s amazing how mean we can be to ourselves, and how easy it is to talk ourselves down from a very negative place.
  3. Remind yourself that you can handle the toughest of situations. Is the worst situation that could arise from putting yourself out there really something that could actually happen? Probably not. So envision it and then move on. What you will often realize is that you are stronger than you think, and your anxiety has no basis in reality.
  4. Accept that not everyone is going to like you or think that you know your stuff and that’s okay. I recently learned a hard lesson – not everyone is going to like you and it’s okay. There are a lot of people out there who will just not get you or who will not think you know your stuff and that’s also okay. Different strokes for different folks or so they say. The important lesson here is to never feel like you have to keep a low profile just because you’re afraid of what some mean girls (or guys) may say about you. Oftentimes they are too chicken to have a public voice like you do and that’s why they are being mean – because you being in the public eye makes them feel bad about themselves that they wish they could do. It is good old-fashioned jealousy rearing its ugly head.My mentor and good friend Wendy once told me that we only have control over our own actions, so take the high road, do good things for people and pay no mind to those who don’t like you. Another wise industry friend Tim told me that if you have people who say negative things about you for no reason, it means you made it in the industry, which is a very positive way of thinking about things! My point here is to never let the fear of others squash your drive and excitement to write, speak and to be yourself – there’s more than enough room for all of us in the professional world. Ignore your haters.
  5. Believe that you can do it. A funny thing happened when I started believing that I could speak publicly and become a published author… I started to public speak and become a published author. Go figure! Here’s the thing – if you believe in yourself, you often will be able to find the confidence to achieve what you want.
  6. Change what you can but accept yourself for you. Recognize those areas in which you can genuinely improve and enhance your skills and do something about them. But sometimes no matter how much we try to improve ourselves there are just certain things that we can’t change. Some of us are self-enlightened enough to know what those things are, and others of us must learn about them the hard way. Either way, you can only twist yourself into a pretzel and change so much. So consciously make the positive enhancements about yourself that you can – and then learn to live with the imperfectly perfect you. Again reference #1 on this list – no one is perfect. I repeat no one, so don’t feel too badly about the fact that your strive toward perfection is not perfect.

Each of us is a work in progress with valuable attributes and skills, and that’s what makes us so complicated, unique and interesting. Sure, we all have areas of improvement and we all wish that we had talents in certain areas that we don’t, but I know if you’re like me, you’re trying every day to be a better version of yourself and that counts for a lot. So, keep up the good work – and don’t forget to be yourself!

For more on this topic, join my Legal Marketing Association webinar this Thursday with Andrew Laver and Roy Sexton, “How to Build Your Personal Brand Using Social Media Tools Before, During and After #LMA19” as we explore personal branding success tips to use before, during and after the 2019 LMA Annual Conference (and beyond!). Learn more about it and register.