Turn your CAN’Ts into CANs and doubt your limits, not yourself
“I’ve somehow convinced myself I’m unworthy of this new opportunity.”
That’s the text I recently received from a more-than-capable friend of mine, but it just as easily could have been me telling myself that.
You know the feeling — when you start that new job, new school, or found a new company, you’re filled with excitement, but…also have a fear of failing. We want so badly to do well, to showcase our true potential. Fear of failing and desire to do well can oftentimes lead to doubts about our capabilities and feelings of unworthiness.
This post is an extended version of my response to my friend. Here are four way ways to foster a new mindset when faced with a new beginning:
1. Develop a Learning Mindset
Psychology has something called the Goal Orientation Theory that I like to teach in my mindfulness sessions. It’s useful in all aspects of life, but especially new beginnings. It is broken up into two types of mindsets: a performance orientation and a learning orientation.
When we have a “fixed mindset” we focus on performance. We want to be perfect right from the start, otherwise we see effort as futile. We worry about what others will think of us as we face challenges, and we hesitate to take risks for fear of failing.
When we have a “growth mindset” we are driven by learning. We believe that we CAN improve even if we aren’t perfect right from the start. We realize we will grow from challenges and failures, and we see risks as opportunities for development.
People with growth mindsets believe in themselves and their ability to improve; they see challenges, risks, and failures as opportunities for development; and they intrinsically enjoy the process of learning and growing.
Which mindset do you identify with?
Don’t worry — this isn’t one of those tests that say, “You are X,” forever and ever. With fixed and growth mindsets, the great thing is that you can change your mindset if you really want to.
Being aware of our mindset is the first step to starting a new beginning. Confronting the person holding us back is next…
2. Get out of Your Own Way
As I talked about in my piece on Letting Go, by putting too much pressure on ourselves, we are actually getting in our own way. If our mind is full of worry, we will not have enough space to just be who we truly are and reach our full potential at work or at school. We are blocking a clear path for our mind to follow.
It is true that some stress in our life can be motivating. It may be useful at the start of a job to ensure we are putting our very best foot forward and working a little longer to prove ourselves to our new coworkers or to not let somebody down. So don’t automatically judge it to be negative — it may just be that little push from your body that encourages you to be your very best and to not take this new job lightly.
However, we need to be mindful of when self-doubt starts to hinder us. If we become so worried about doing a good job that we cannot focus on actually doing the job, then we’re getting in our own way.
In that instance, be aware of your negative thoughts and work on letting go of them. If you have already been accepted into the school, or got the job, other people think you are more than capable of doing a good job. That means:
The only person you still need to convince that you are worthy is yourself.
Are you ready to be convinced?
3. Tell Yourself I CAN Do This
Focus your time, energy, and attention on replacing your thoughts of self-doubt with more positive mantras. I mean, really:
If you are going to doubt anything, then doubt your limits.
Who are you not to be amazing and fabulous at this job/school/startup? Why shouldn’t you do a good job? There’s no reason not to believe in yourself. Build yourself up, don’t tear yourself down — be your own best friend.
Try this out for a change: Tell yourself, “I CAN do this.”
It’s truly amazing how your brain chemistry completely shifts when you say it.
Saying “I CAN handle this” was a godsend for me when I was going through periods of self-doubt, and also when I had to deal with difficult people and situations. I realized I had gotten into a habit of telling myself, “I’m not good enough! I can’t handle this! I’m already too stressed!”
So I made a pact to be mindful of my can’ts, and change them to can’s, and I’m never going back. How often do you tell yourself you CAN or CAN’T do something?
Now that we’ve pumped ourselves up, hold on for a sec and read this first…
4. Take It Step by Step
Self-confidence always needs to be tempered with a little humility. Realizing you can do this does not mean that you may not need to ask for help, or that you will do everything perfectly all at once. That’s ok. Learning is a lifelong process.
I recently took up oil painting and I learned many valuable life lessons in the process. If you look at the entire blank slate and think you have to paint something perfect right away, you are going to be completely overwhelmed and stressed. But if you instead start section by section, brush stroke by brush stroke, it all of a sudden becomes more manageable.
When I started my first painting of a flower, I kept thinking, “When does a flower become a flower?” I was taught to make gridlines, then etch the flower in pencil, then do an underpainting to showcase the shadows, and then actually start painting with colors. I followed each step dutifully, step-by-step, and then freaked out when I got to the painting part — I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know how to paint! I didn’t know how to mix colors! I didn’t know how to make texture!
What I had to learn was that:
Within each step is a series of smaller steps.
Once I focused on just figuring things out incrementally, through trial-and-error and some help from my teacher, I started to calm down. I honed in on a tiny section to paint instead of looking at the entire painting to paint, and I finally was able to make progress.
After I painted a few sections, I stood back and realized how far I’d come. It was starting to look like a flower!
So relax, whatever anxieties you are feeling are totally normal. We all get the new job/school worries where we doubt ourselves. But it gets better — you just need to get through the first week or so, put down more and more brush strokes, and then your mind will calm down, and your painting will eventually start looking more like what you hoped it would be.
- Develop a learning mindset and see this new beginning as an opportunity for growth
- Let go of your worries so you can clear a more positive path for your mind to follow
- Tell yourself you CAN do this — doubt your limits not yourself
- Take it step by step, then step back to see how far you’ve come!