About six years ago, I took on an assistant. From the start, it seemed to be a great fit.
I thought things were going really well, and they were, but she was struggling.
On the outside, she seemed to be taking on the tasks I gave her with enthusiasm and confidence. On the inside, she felt like an imposter and feared her inadequacy would someday be discovered and cause me to question her value.
She was frustrated by the things she didn’t know. And though she was willing to learn new things, the fact that she had to learn new skills at all created a lot of stress for her.
I would say the issue was that she is a perfectionist, and that would be partially true. But that doesn’t fully explain what was going on.
When we talked about it we discovered that, yes, she has perfectionist expectations of herself, but she was also struggling because she lacked confidence. And she was afraid to reveal her struggle. She was afraid to admit her doubts and weaknesses.
It reminded me a little of the scene in The Wizard of Oz, where the wizard is discovered by Dorothy and the others hiding behind a curtain that was concealing who he really was.
The wizard feared no one would have faith in him if they knew he was just a man. He didn’t think that was enough. So, he created this version of himself he thought others would respect more.
But the truth was that he was able to help them – just by being who he was. The wisdom was there inside of him all along. And he helped them without the bluster and show of presenting himself as the wizard.
My assistant saw her weaknesses as negative. And any weakness she saw in herself made her feel incompetent.
She was hiding that behind a mask of confidence.
But the overwhelm and stress she was feeling over not being able to perform at her own high level of expectations were like a weight dragging her down.
Those negative feelings were also keeping her from feeling the excitement about the things she was learning and how quickly she was catching on.
I saw how quickly she was catching on. All she saw was the weaknesses.
And so it goes with many of us out there in the business world every day, especially business owners.
Fears and limiting beliefs can be powerful forces. They can really keep us stuck, limit our potential, and sink our confidence.
Many see any weaknesses as bad. So, they hide them behind a confident smile and don’t reveal their struggles. But the fear that someone will think they are a fraud because they don’t have all the answers continues to haunt them.
The truth is, we all have weaknesses and room for improvement.
There isn’t one person on this planet who knows everything about everything… or is a master of everything.
When we acknowledge that fact and choose to see weaknesses as opportunities to learn and grow, we might even find those weaknesses can someday become our greatest strengths.
Shifting from seeking perfection and hiding our weaknesses to striving for improvement and mastery in areas of weakness is the best
way to empower ourselves to toss the mask of confidence aside and have true confidence.
As my assistant would surely tell you today, it is amazing what can happen when we stop hiding and share those authentic fears with someone we trust – including ourselves. That is the start of a healthier, more productive path forward. And that path will actually build genuine confidence.
So, don’t just hide behind a mask of confidence. Identify those fears and weaknesses, chart a path for improvement, and move forward with true confidence. Be authentically who you are and you’ll find a whole new level of accomplishments to feel confident about.
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