How to Better Believe in Yourself

Do you ever talk to yourself? (Right now, you’re probably thinking: Hmm, talk to myself? Do I do that?)

Most people have an ongoing mental conversation with themselves. This is what many psychologists call self-talk. Left unattended, that conversation typically sways negative. 

When I was younger, I used to be pretty hard on myself:

• “I can’t possibly deliver workshops and write a book.”

• “I can’t possibly work for that company, because I don’t know anything about the beer business.”

• “I can’t work out in the afternoon; I’ll be way too tired.”

• “I can’t possibly hold my own with this guy; he’s written 64 books.”

None of it was true.

The problem with these mental conversations is that after a while, neuroscientists theorize that those thoughts go from the neocortex part of your brain to the basal ganglia. This is where your habits are hardwired. And it takes real effort to rip out the negative stuff.

My 3-Step Plan to Crush Self-Limiting Beliefs

1) Catch yourself in a negative thought. This requires cognitive diligence. You must think about what you’re thinking about — and not mindlessly scroll through Instagram or Twitter.

2) Disabuse yourself of this notion. I do this using my 82-year-old father’s increasingly cantankerous and challenging voice: “Yeah? Who says?” Immediately, something in my brain switches, and my next thought is: “Challenge accepted.”

3) Take action. Any action, no matter how small, just to get the ball rolling. There’s a great old turn of phrase that says, “Throw your butt over the bar and your heart will follow.” I really believe that.

Plan into Action 

I love to work out, and one afternoon when I was out for my typical 10-mile hike, I had about two miles left. Then a fleeting thought hit me: Maybe I should run the rest of the way. No, I can’t. I haven’t run in over 13 years.

That’s right: I used to be an avid runner, but once I turned 40, my knees hurt, and I told myself I was too old to run. I caught myself having this thought and — no kidding — I heard my dad say, “Yeah? Who says you can’t run at 53?”

 I took a couple of steps. Then took a couple more. And bam: I ran home.

Far too many of us convince ourselves we can’t do it:

• “I can’t ask this person for a referral; he just bought a motorcycle from me.”

• “I can’t call these people; they’ll think I’m sort of telemarketer.”

• “I can’t sell 18 units in a month.”

•“I can’t sell 300 units in a year.”

Yeah? Who says?

How to Give an Honest Self-Assessment

In two previous posts, I shared 12 keys to self-persuasion success.

Now, I’d like to add one more: Create an honest self-assessment.

Begin by developing a document for your eyes only. No one else will ever see it, so make a list of your strengths (how well you deal with people, perhaps, or your ability to solve problems) and your weaknesses (your dislike for conflict or disdain for details). Then, add either a piece of positive evidence or a potential solution after each one. Some examples might look like this:

  • “I keep my promises and am excellent at maintaining long-term relationships, as evidenced by my 10-year relationship with our firm’s top client.”
  • “I am independent and can get myself out of most jams. Many people have contributed to my success, for which I am thankful. At the same time, I need to recognize and admire the nature of my accomplishments.”
  • “When meeting new clients, I get nervous and need to recognize this is a natural and normal reaction. (They’re probably nervous, too!) I will go into these situations with some prepared conversation items and questions, and I will concentrate on being interested in what clients are saying.”
  • “Although I am typically calm and relaxed in social situations, I sometimes make a social blunder, say the wrong thing or use a word incorrectly. But so does everyone else. Going forward, I’ll just make a joke and say, ‘Am I having a senior moment already?’ ”

Remember that nobody is either all right or all wrong. (Even Gandhi probably had a bad habit or two.) But with an honest assessment and a frequent review of what you do well, what you don’t and what actions you can take, you’ll be on your way to destroying that pathological critic.

The psychology of self-persuasion is all about consistency. You never want to get too high when you hear “yes” or too low when you get a “no.”

Mark Rodgers’ Ultimate Guide to Self-Persuasion Success — Part 2

In a recent post, I introduced what I like to call the “Ultimate Guide to Self-Persuasion Success.”

At the core of this approach is learning to become more resilient. Just as the body needs air, nutrition and regular exercise, your mind needs a fitness regimen, too. You must regularly stretch, feed, work, coach and rest your mind.

What follows are seven more keys to self-persuasion success. Consider this your all-access, lifetime membership to Mark’s Self-Persuasion World Gym.

1. Dopamine up.

Exercise can fuel dopamine production in your brain, making you feel good, look good and present your ideas with confidence. Plus, if your target doesn’t say “yes,” that response won’t bother you so much!

2. Be present.

Research suggests that the majority of people’s thoughts are almost entirely consumed with past regrets (“What I should have said was …”) or focused on anxiety about the future (“What if this next guy doesn’t buy?”). Such thinking makes us sacrifice the present moment, which is the most precious gift we have. So throw yourself into what you’re doing right now, and if your thoughts start to wander, tell yourself to “get back to work.”

3. Undergo digital detox.

Turn off all your gadgets for, say, 60 minutes a day — and enjoy the quiet. Think about it: No TV. No Spotify. No Twitter or Facebook. Making this a daily regimen will calm your brain and allow you to focus on the present.

4. Be convinced of your own value.

Ask yourself these questions and try to respond positively:

  • Do people compliment your work?
  • Do others ask for your advice?
  • Have you contributed an idea at work?
  • Have you sought additional education?
  • Can you produce testimonials and references?
  • Can you list best practices that make you successful?
  • Have you participated in or contributed to a professional organization?
  • Do clients or customers ask for you by name?

You might not have positive responses to all of these, but you probably have more than you thought. These are the accomplishments that should pass through your mind whenever your pathological critic works his way back into your self-talk.

5. Use positive affirmations.

In sports, team captains often rally their teammates by yelling at them: “We got this! We got this!” While it may not be grammatically correct, from a psychological perspective, it’s dead on. When you catch yourself slipping into negative self-talk, replace it with something positive. I realize this sounds goofy, but it works. Find a repeatable phrase and run it through your mind. I like one made famous by the late French psychotherapist Émile Coué:

“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”

Find one that works for you and keep using it. You got this.

6. Always create high-quality options.

Never allow yourself to have just one option for your persuasion project. Always have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. Offering high-quality options for everything you do will transform your mental state.

7. Keep a success journal.

Every night before you go bed, write down three things you did well that day. Some people are wired to magnify setbacks in their mind and minimize success. This isn’t healthy — mentally or physically. By forcing yourself to reflect on your day and capture three positive aspects, you can reverse this dynamic. Such an exercise takes incredible discipline, but if you can do this consistently, it can have the same mood-improving impact as anti-depressant drugs

Next time, I’ll share how to create an honest self-assessment.

Confidence vs. Cockiness: What’s the Difference?

Self-confidence means having and demonstrating an overall general sense that you will be successful.

Be careful here, though, as the line between confidence and cockiness is paved with peril. For me, confidence is best displayed by the assuredness that you will be able to accomplish a task. Whether it’s winning the business, meeting the deadline or smoothing the ruffled feathers of a relationship gone awry, you have the capacity to maintain the cool demeanor to get the job done. You may experience some obstacles, but you’ll do what’s necessary to make it happen.

Here are five examples of confident behavior:

  1. Listening to others and considering their viewpoints, regardless of their ranking in the organization
  2. Sharing the credit with others
  3. Not equivocating with decision or direction
  4. Using reason, not melodrama
  5. Evenly arguing a contrarian point of view

Emulating confident people can result in greater self-confidence. Here are my top three candidates for the Persuasively Confident Hall of Fame:

  1. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: He guided the United States through the Great Depression and World War II, and his most famous line is a resounding endorsement of self-confidence: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
  2. Neil Armstrong: Imagine the confidence it took to say stand at the exit of Apollo 11 and say, “Yeah, I’ll go first …”
  3. Sandy Koufax: He left baseball at the top of his game; less confident people remain long past their prime.

Cockiness, on the other hand, is simply acting like you know it all without actually delivering.

Here are five examples of cocky behavior:

  1. Brashly talking about what you’re going to do
  2. Stating in an argument that you’re being “disrespected”
  3. Participating in one-upmanship
  4. Feeling the need to always add your voice to the conversation, regardless of whether you know what you’re talking about
  5. Engaging in overly aggressive body language.

You don’t have to look far to find cocky people. The world of sports is ripe with cockiness. Fans want athletes to win and be humble — unless those athletes play for “their”  team. My choices for the Cockiness Hall of Fame include such bigmouths as Muhammad Ali, Donald Trump and Miley Cyrus

As Ben Franklin said: “Well done is better than well said.”

How Self-Doubt Can Wreak Havoc on Your Persuasion Efforts

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.”