We all have an inner dialogue – the little voice in our head that never shuts up – and what yours says can have a surprising impact on your career success. Over time, negative self-talk can erode your self-confidence, stop you from taking risks and prevent you from reaching your full potential.
Read on for five self-limiting work beliefs and how to overcome them. Are you guilty of any of these?
Toxic self-talk #1 “I don’t have anything worth saying”
Even if you don’t have anything earth-shattering to say, it’s important to add your voice to meetings.
Ruth Winden, career coach at Careers Enhanced, says: ‘Junior staff members often worry about speaking up in management meetings because they feel intimidated by their colleagues’ seniority.
‘A good organisation values different perspectives, whatever the level of responsibility and junior staff members might just hold the answers senior management needs to hear.
‘If you feel nervous talking in meetings, the longer you wait to speak, the harder it becomes. Say something early on, even if it’s only small talk to break the ice. Talk to one person you have a rapport with and once you gain confidence, you can make eye contact with everyone in the room.’
Toxic self-talk #2 “If it’s not perfect I’ve failed”
Failure is a great teacher and many successful people would argue that they only achieved great things because of what they learnt from their mistakes along the way. Yet when you make a minor slip-up you’re a complete failure.
‘Perfectionists are especially bad for telling themselves they “should” or “must” do certain things and holding themselves to rigid personal rules they wouldn’t expect of others,’ says Professor Stephen Palmer of the Centre for Stress Management.
‘When they make a mistake, perfectionists can lapse into all-or-nothing thinking and label themselves a failure, which prevents them from learning from their mistakes.’
John Lees, career coach and author of How To Get A Job You Love warns that trying to get everything right can backfire. ‘Not making mistakes can indicate that you’re not being challenged and not growing. When you obsess over minor details you risk missing the bigger picture.’
Toxic self-talk #3 “Why ask? They are bound to say no”
If you don’t put yourself forward, don’t be surprised if you’re overlooked.
‘Many people are too timid to ask for what they want, whether that’s a promotion or a day off, and convince themselves that the answer will be “no” rather than risk potential conflict,’ says Corinne Mills, managing director of Personal Career Management.
‘If you want the company to invest in your career development, you need to ask for it. You can’t expect opportunities to land in your lap. Whether it’s volunteering for a new project or asking for a promotion, put yourself forward.’
Toxic self-talk #4 “Who would want to mentor me?”
A mentor can make a huge difference to your career, but only if you go out and get one.
‘“Who would want to mentor me?” is a response I often get, surprisingly from people who are highly talented, aspirational and hard-working,’ says Ruth.
‘Don’t underestimate how much a mentor can learn from you as a mentee, how much pleasure mentors get out of supporting the professional journey of committed individuals and how many individuals would like to be a mentor, if they only knew how to find a mentee.
‘Having a mentor can seriously enhance your career, so go out and find one!’
Toxic self-talk #5 “Someone will see through me soon”
Even high-achievers in senior positions can suffer from imposter syndrome.
‘Despite external evidence of their competence, people with imposter syndrome believe that they are frauds and dismiss their accomplishments as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and capable than they are,’ says David Shindler, performance coach and author of Learning To Leap.
If you suffer from low self-esteem at work, David suggests seeking feedback and keeping a record of positive comments from your manager, clients and colleagues, as well as positive appraisals.
‘Next time you doubt your abilities, read them back and remind yourself that how others see you is often very different to how you see yourself.’