Psychologists say the seeds for self-doubt are planted early in life, during that critical personality development period of childhood and adolescence. As a result, self-doubt can take many forms:
- A single, stinging rebuke from a well-meaning family member: “I can’t believe you did that at the Thanksgiving dinner table.”
- A constant harping on your inadequacy in some aspect of life: “You’re so disorganized!”
- A parental reprimand in front of your teenage peers: “Why did you forget to call us when you got to Brice’s house?”
That said, don’t think all of your self-doubting happened when you were a kid. Plenty of other incidents can happen during your older years to imbue you with enough self-doubt to convince yourself you’re no good at persuading. Maybe company leaders didn’t take your advice, or you were passed over for a big assignment, or you didn’t get that promotion.
All of these manifestations of self-doubt can become problematic for your persuasion efforts. Why?
Because persuasion is about taking risks. Because it requires you to put yourself “out there” by taking a stance and asking for agreement. Because persuasion is mostly about taking action, not sitting back hoping the action will occur on behalf of someone else (or not at all). And because self-doubt can paralyze you.
One way to minimize self-doubt is by understanding the inter-relatedness and importance of self-efficacy, self-confidence and self-esteem. Whenever I start talking self-esteem, I have to prepare myself for a few eye rolls.
The late comedian George Carlin didn’t care much for the so-called “self-esteem movement” that manifested itself in the 1970s. In fact, in his final HBO special, 2008’s Emmy-nominated It’s Bad For Ya, he railed against the idea that “everyone’s a winner” and claimed kids “have been so crippled” by “all of this stupid nonsense.”
You can find the foul-mouthed clip on YouTube, but here’s a transcript containing some of his warm self-esteem sentiments:
I’m happy to say [the self-esteem movement] has been a complete failure, because studies have repeatedly shown that having high self-esteem does not improve grades, does not improve career achievement, it does not even lower the use of alcohol, and most certainly does not reduce the incidence of violence of any sort. Because, as it turns out, extremely aggressive, violent people think very highly of themselves. Imagine that: Sociopaths have high self-esteem!
Next time, I’ll get serious again and explain my “Big Bang Theory for the Psychology of Self-Persuasion.”