Belief is the engine behind every successful endeavour. No matter how daunting the obstacles, if you want to succeed you have to believe that you can. I truly believe the conversation you have with yourself is the pivotal factor in whether you will find success, and it’s far more important than the conversation you have with anyone else. That said, at times we all have to wrestle with our doubting inner voices.
When I was appointed head of sales at FedEx Canada, my inner voice taunted me so loudly I was sure it had a megaphone. The sales force I’d just been promoted to lead was almost exclusively male, they all had years of sales experience, and they all knew I’d never closed a deal. The reverb from my self-doubt was deafening. But I was determined not to let my doubting inner voice win.
I decided there was absolutely no benefit in worrying what my team thought of me. So what if I didn’t have sales experience? I’d made vice-president in 11 years. I had to be doing something right. Besides, my boss was convinced I had the ability. Until I mustered the confidence in myself, I’d have to rely on his in me. In the meantime, I’d focus on the unique skills I could bring to the job: I was a good listener. I had empathy. I wasn’t afraid to admit what I didn’t know. Once I started focusing on my strengths, I realized I had a lot more going for me than I realized.
Significantly, what I didn’t do — and if I were texting this next part I’d put it in caps — was demand perfection of myself. Trying to live up to some impossible ideal of perfection is a rabbit hole down which I’ve seen a lot of women fall. But in my opinion, demanding perfection of yourself is just another way to ensure that you’ll fail.
I can’t tell you how many women I know who talk themselves out of pursuing a career dream by waiting until the stars are perfectly aligned and allowing their doubts and fears that things aren’t perfect to short-circuit their ambitions. I can’t tell you how often I hear them make statements such as: There isn’t enough time in the day as it is. I’m not qualified to go for that promotion. I don’t have the experience to strike out on my own. I want to have a baby so I’ll stay in a job I know I can do. I could never be a CEO. CEOs are a breed apart.
Sound familiar? If you insist on perfection, you won’t just fail to accomplish anything. You’ll set yourself up for failure. I’m raising four kids and running a company. If I insisted on perfection every day I’d lose my mind.
Life is messy. We all have doubts and fears. The only way I’ve ever found to manage mine is by tuning them out and trying to live up to the best version of myself every day. Some days I crush it. Some days I fall short. When I fall short of my expectations, I try to understand why and then forgive myself. Tomorrow’s another day.