This is a coping mechanism I find difficult to do, or certainly difficult to remember to do, though it works really well when I do apply it.
When body consciousness really strikes, and I’m constantly mulling over what others may be thinking about my appearance (as detailed in this post back in early-June), I find it really helps if I try turning the situation on its head, primarily by considering what advice I would give someone in my situation. I know for certain that I wouldn’t be anywhere near as critical – quite the opposite in fact. I would suggest to that person that very few others, if any at all, would be thinking in the same way. I would question how often that person looks at others and truly judges based on appearance? I would suggest that most people have a multitude of things running through their minds at any given time, all of which will be considerably more important to them than wasting time honing in on the appearance of someone else. I would suggest that it’s beneficial and actually quite life-affirming to try to see the good in people; to acknowledge that, whilst there will certainly be a small number of people who do judge based on appearance, the majority of people are not so shallow.
So, given all of the above, which sounds so easy to do, why do I really struggle with this concept, especially when it works so well? I guess I’m not alone on this but I really don’t know the answer. Perhaps it’s far easier to place myself in what is essentially a fictitious situation and visualise a positive outcome than it is to address it in real life? Perhaps it’s just the way most of us are hard-wired? That self-criticism just comes more naturally than self-praise?
In a similar vein, I have previously thought of someone quite similar to me in terms of character and personality and written a brief appraisal of them, noting all that is good and positive alongside all that is not-so-good and negative. This doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you know either – someone in the public eye works equally as well. The key here is to identify someone you feel shares similar character traits and a similar outlook on life as you. What this exercise has always shown is that the positives far outweigh the negatives, often by a considerable distance, therefore the same should apply to me and I should be in a position to take the positives on board and build upon that, right? Well, actually, no – that’s rarely the case, for the reasons listed above. Damn those insecurities and that inability to think of myself in a positive light! However, it does work to a degree on occasion and is therefore an exercise I will continue to conduct on a sporadic basis.
Something which does work better for me, and which I revisit on a frequent basis, is an exercise which was conducted at an away day a few years ago at a previous place of work. A typical corporate session, addressing ways of working, process improvement, and team-building, the exercise which really resonated with me was based on the image you see below. This sheet was copied and placed around the room, with one copy for each attendee. We all went around the room and circled just one entry for each of our colleagues. A little biased perhaps as it only contains positive skills and traits but, at the end of the exercise, we were each left with a sheet showing how our colleagues viewed us, with the core aim of this being a confidence booster. It worked better than any other method I have mentioned here and I’ve retained this image as something I can refer to when the self-doubt really kicks in. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it was welcomed and appreciated by just about every attendee on the day. Perhaps it’s no surprise that none of my colleagues circled ‘Competitive’, ‘Assertive’ or ‘Confident’ but I can live with that! I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to bolster self-confidence and togetherness within a team environment, whether that be a team of 2 or 82.
Taking a slightly different view on this theme, I’m constantly trying to consider putting myself in the shoes of others in everyday life, primarily as there are times when I have a short fuse and find myself getting hacked off at fairly innocuous occurrences far too frequently for my liking. On the days when this really is bad (usually coinciding with a poor night’s sleep or a stressful day at work), nothing changes my view. However, on the days when I’m a little more contemplative, this can work. I try stepping back from the anger and assuming the other person’s viewpoint. That car motoring down the street at breakneck speed – is it really going too fast or does it just seem that way because I’m stood still and looking on? That driver slightly cutting me up or failing to use their indicators – are they really the spawn of Satan or, in fact, do they have a really personal issue preying on their mind and occupying their every thought? That person taking the seat next to me on the train and getting too close for my liking – are they really the rudest, most inconsiderate person on the planet at that exact moment or is it just that I am forgetting for a moment that I have a fairly big frame and my shoulder is probably spilling over a little into their space, making it a difficult situation for them rather than me? I realise that all these examples are transport based and I should therefore remain calm by never leaving the house (!) but it really does help to recognise the immediate anger, fight it, and try to take a different viewpoint. I continually tell my daughter to acknowledge that there are 2 sides to every story. This is something I do try to consider each and every day – it’s just that some days it proves more difficult than others!
yinally, I’ll quote a section from one of the most important and inspirational books I’ve ever read. ‘Tools of Titans’, by Tim Ferriss ( link here, though I have no doubt it is also available from smaller independent bookshops which would really appreciate your custom…) is a summary of numerous interviews the author has conducted with ‘world-class performers [from] around the globe’; a distilled notebook of tips, tricks and tactics to consider and adopt. It is an easy read as you can dip in and out of any section at will and each is only a few pages long. It is full of inspirational content but the section that perhaps resonated with me the most is taken from an interview Ferriss conducted with Jocko Willink, a retired Navy SEAL Commander. Simply titled “Good”, it details Willink’s use of this simple word to deal with any negative situation, be it a setback, failure, delay, defeat or other disaster. As he puts it, “When things are going bad, there’s going to be some good that will come from it.”
- Oh, mission got cancelled? Good. We can focus on another one.
- Didn’t get the new high-speed gear we wanted? Good. We can keep it simple.
- Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better
- Didn’t get funded? Good. We own more of the company.
- Didn’t get the job you wanted? Good. Go out, gain more experience, and build a better resumé.
- Got injured? Good. Needed a break from training.
- Got tapped out? Good. It’s better to tap out in training than to tap out on the street.
- Got beat? Good. We learned.
- Unexpected problems? Good. We have the opportunity to figure out a solution.
It really is that simple. As Willink states: “When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out, don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. No. Just look at the issue and say: “Good.”” This really is quite profound for me and I just had to share it. Should this blog ever grow, I may receive a sternly worded e-mail from the lawyers of Mr Ferriss or Mr Willink but that’s a risk I’ll take – this content is too important not to share.
Thanks again for taking the time to read this – I really do appreciate it – and please do try some of the techniques mentioned above. Hopefully you will find something that really works for you.
Until next time.