Tag Archives: confidence

Ask Mabel: How to motivate yourself to change (even when you are scared)?

Dear Mabel: My goal has always been to go to grad school but now that it is time to study for the GRE I can’t get myself motivated. Grad school is a huge time and money investment and I am afraid. What if I don’t succeed after graduation? What if I end up right back where I am now? Then what was the point? What if I end up in a dead-end job living with my parents? I am getting really discouraged. How can I get myself motivated?

Signed, Frank from Minnesota 

Mabel: Hi Frank, this sounds like a classic case of overthinking. Your brain is constantly evaluating the risk of taking this leap, so of course, it sounds like a bad idea. You are convincing yourself every day based on your fears. The truth is, yes there are risks. And, yes the worst case scenario is you will end up back at square one. But, what happens if you don’t take the chance? I like to look at things systematically. If you don’t take the GRE, if you don’t take the leap and try for grad school, then you have a 100 percent chance of being at square one. At least by taking this leap, you are giving yourself a fighting chance. Turn your thinking around. Instead of focusing on what can go wrong if you do go to grad school, think about what can happen if you don’t. What is the risk of not going? 

No change happens without taking a chance on ourselves. You can choose to stay stagnant, right where you are currently, based on fears. Or, you can choose to fight for a change. You can give yourself opportunities, you can open doors for your future, but you have to try. So often we let fears get in the way. Your motivation is inside you, you just have to change your perspective on the situation as a whole. If you fail and you end up back at square one, at least you will know you tried. And, who knows maybe the experience will lead to other open doors. But, first, you have to try. 

How to be More Decisive

Are you someone who has a hard time making decisions? Maybe it takes you forever to figure out what you want to do, where you want to go, what job to take, what to wear, who to call, etc.

You over analyze every decision and drive yourself, and your other half, crazy.

There are a few reasons why you could be having trouble making decisions. The first could be the perfectionist inside you. Indecisiveness is a common struggle for the closeted perfectionist.

You have a desire to find the best solution and you want to find certainty in situations or elements you have no control over. You are constantly battling with the “what if”. Should we do this thing on this day or the following week — what if it rains? What if it is too hot? What if no one can make it? What if people are bored? Or don’t like the food? Or think our house is too small? It can go on and on and on…

When clients come to me with this concern, I am always curious as to where they learned these indecisive tendencies — maybe they have regrets from a decision they previously made, or maybe they learned it from a family member when they were growing up.

Perfectionism

Did you have a family member who was overly-critical of you or your decisions when you were a child? Or was there someone in your life who was always over-analyzing? Was there someone you felt like you could never please? If this was the case then you first have to accept that you cannot please everyone. Every aspect of yourself cannot be perfect. No one is going to love every single thing about you. That is what makes us humans, not robots. Accept yourself and find confidence in your decisions.

Therapy can help you let those overly-critical people go and set yourself free.

If you made a decision in the past you are not proud of and it has left you fearful of making a mistake again, let go. Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, but that does not mean that we can’t learn from past decisions and trust ourselves to make better choices next time. Mistakes are opportunities to learn, to figure out what works, and what doesn’t.

Therapy can help you forgive yourself and regain your confidence.

Not Etched In Stone

Not every decision is etched in stone. In fact, very few decisions are. You can always pivot, and make changes. For example, you decide to get a tattoo and you have grown to regret it, you can always change it, add to it, or pay to get it removed. Or, maybe you took a job that is requiring more travel than you intended, you can always find a new opportunity to switch positions.

You can evaluate your situation and adjust accordingly. The big mistakes happen when we let our unconscious selves make smaller mistakes. Rather than avoiding decisions or being fearful of making mistakes, evaluate briefly and let yourself take the step that seems right at the time.

Big decisions are made up of lots of small ones.

We are all on paths through life composed of thousands of mini-decisions. There will be good and there will be bad, there will be regrets, and there will be triumphs. They all lead us where we are meant to be. They help us to grow as people, to learn, to become wiser adults.

Self-Esteem: Men vs. Women

Self-esteem is a tricky thing. It plays an important role in our lives. It influences how we act around others, the decisions we make, how motivated we are in our career, and how we feel in our own skin. It is at our very core as people. And, while it is a crucial factor for both men and women, the way the different genders find that self-esteem, determine their self-worth, is very different. 

Men find self-esteem internally. It is based on their personal accomplishments, things they are proud of. Maybe it is fixing a car, repairing a household appliance, achieving a career goal, or tackling a level in a video game. Regardless it is not about someone else telling them they did a good job, it is about that internal celebration and belief in themselves. That is not to say that it doesn’t help to have praise, but men don’t need it to find their self-esteem. 

Women, on the other hand, tend to find their self-esteem externally. They rely more on external validation — be it praise, a “good job,” a smile, hug, laugh, whatever it may be. Women, while they might know deep inside that they have done a good job, still need to hear it from others. They have a harder time trusting in themselves and a harder time feeling good about their achievements without receiving some type of external validation. This is also why women tend to spend a lot more time worrying about their outward appearance — be it the cleanliness or look of their home, or their personal appearance. 

You don’t see a lot of men worrying about the look of their wallet, and a lot more men are inclined to go out in sweats and not care what others think of them. Whereas a lot of women won’t leave the house without makeup or their hair done. 

It is these differences that can make it harder for women to have high self-esteem. Women worry much more about what others are thinking of them than men do. I frequently encourage women to look deep inside and find those good qualities about themselves and to let go of what others may think. What is inside is what really counts, and how we talk to ourselves can make a big difference. 

This word makes you more passive

As I have gained more roles in my life—mother, wife, daughter, and business owner—I have had to take more charge of my time. I have become more direct and less passive in the way I communicate. I am setting stronger, healthier boundaries. But, it took some time and some changes in the language I was using to really be successful with those boundaries. 

I used to say “Because of xyz, I am unable to..” The use of the word “unable” made myself seem small. It came off as I am not the one making decisions for my own life. Instead, I now say “xyz happens, therefore I will not…” Such as “I spend time with family on Friday nights, so I will not be attending your event” or “I have my money in somewhere, I will not loan it out now.” 

Forget the word “unable”

Forget the word “unable.” Remove it from your vocabulary. You are not small. You are the decision-maker in your life. You make your own rules. Don’t let other people think they can have control over your plans, your money, your life. You are the master of your world. Take charge in the language you use, so you don’t come off as passive.

I hear from clients all the time that they feel stretched too thin, they are afraid to disappoint people by standing up for themselves. This is why we tend to use the more passive language, but that can have a counterproductive effect. By not being direct in our language it can be perceived that the boundary we are setting is not really important. That it can easily be changed. Using direct language makes it more concrete. It is setting a rule and showing people you won’t budge, and you know what everything will be fine. You will feel more in control and more relaxed and people will grow to respect those boundaries you have set.