How Nice it Would Be to Always Be Right
Here’s a huge confession—At times I would love to be a narcissist.
It’s true that narcissism is described as a serious pathology by psychologists. Narcissism is thought to be chronic and incurable.
I personally wouldn’t know, because narcissists are never attracted to me. If someone rells me I’m dumb and inept, I usually say, “You know . . . I’ve actually noticed that myself.”
I’m very attracted to the description of the narcissist. They’re people who have an inflated sense of their own importance. They have a deep need for excessive attention and admiration from others. They totally lack feelings of empathy.
So why would I ever want to be a narcissist? It would be such an amazing thing if I never doubted my superiority above all others, my always being right, and to never experience a negative thought or doubt about anything I’ve ever done or might do..
But I’m none of that—I’m not a narcissist. I’m a consistent self-doubter.
I attribute my lack of self-esteem to my West Texas relatives who took me to church every Sunday. Our way of thinking was, “If you want to be a really good person—you have to understand how really bad you are.”
But you didn’t have to be raised in a tight religious community like I was to get fed self-doubt. There are parents, teachers, coaches and drill sergeants whose first priorities were not to tell us our better qualities—quite the opposite.
So we get stuck with negative thoughts rattling around in our heads for the rest of our lives—and that can be our undoing. Negative experiences, fueled by self-doubt, can be the biggest barriers we face to having a happy and effective life.
In a job interview where two people, with equal intelligence, appearance, and skills compete for the same job, the person with the greatest measure of confidence will almost always be chosen. After preparation and practice, the jet fuel of our lives is our personal view of ourselves.
Here are some ways to deal with self-doubt:
- Understand that a Self-doubt Can be Useful. The delusional belief in our own inerrancy will ultimately take us down the path to self-destruction. A measure of self-doubt can help us avoid risk. Having a sense that we haven’t achieved perfection causes us to weigh risks and ally will people who have qualities we lack.
- See Your Past as Your Prologue. Every bit of progress that I have made in my life is a direct result of my early failures—any success I have is based on the mountain of mistakes I’ve made in the past. The first steps I took as a child resulted in a fall. The first words I learned started out as babble.
Sometimes I remember something horrible that I did in my earlier life, and I say to myself, “What a jerk you were!” I’ve now learned that being a jerk in the past has allowed me to develop a whole new set of values and ways of relating to people. It’s not just that I’m not the person I used to be—the person I am now is based on the trials and errors of my past. I am who I am now because of the person I was then.
- Self-doubt that Ends in Failure Is a Call to Try Again. Failure really hurts—and when I fail I would rather never do that again. Yet if I analyze my failures and improve my skills, I’ll finally succeed based on what I’ve learned. So as Michael Dell has said, “Fail fast!” The faster you fail the more likely you are to learn the skills for success. We must learn to embrace failure, not as losers, but using failure to learn our way to success.
- Learn the Science of Talking to Yourself. Research in neuroscience tells us that our minds have several centers that generate thoughts and feelings. It’s my experience that just as I’m telling myself I’m going to knock the ball out of the park on a presentation, another voice within me says, “You’re going to choke and make a fool of yourself.”
These are two very different voices going on in my head–one cheering me on, the other undermining me. Our own self-doubt will lead us to our self-sabotage.
We need to identify what we’re telling ourselves. We need to address contradictory self-talk, the voices that are feeding us conflicting messages. You can dissolve your self-doubt by having a conversation with yourself on how your preparation and high confidence level will allow you to deliver the best presentation in our life.
- Your Age Today Is Your Opportunity. The more times you’ve defeated self-doubt the more successful you’ll be. It’s not a coincidence that top leaders are much older—young people are not just goofing off. It takes much longer to learn key patterns that only come from getting past self-doubt to fail often enough to succeed. It’s called pattern recognition and it comes with age. Today’s issues are extremely complex and longer lifespans give us the opportunity to learn skills we would never have mastered at a younger age.
Overcoming self-doubt is a process that we achieve over time. Some people are wired for confidence and a lack of self-doubt, but a great many of us have to work to achieve consistent confidence. The first part of our lives is learning how to stick within the boundaries and limitations that we have been taught that make us be able to fit into society. The next part of life is figuring out which of these norms no longer work for us—which we’ll keep, which we’ll modify and which we’ll throw out. It is truly a process that we learn, and well worth the effort.
Do I REALLY want to be a narcissist? Nah…although it might be fun from time to time. But the sweet spot of striving, failing then learning and getting right back up without beating myself up is the journey that leads to personal and professional growth for a lifetime.