When you hear the word “greatness,” who do you associate it with?  A famous athlete?  An Oscar winning actor?  A parent or spouse? This word is often associated with other people, but never ourselves.  Why is that?  Professor Maja Jovanovic has a PhD. in Sociology and dedicated the past four years of her life to researching the reasons behind why we, specifically women, lack confidence and focus our attention on our personal faults as opposed to focusing on our strengths and abilities.    

Remind Yourself of Your Greatness

Think back on your life come up with a list of 10 things you have done that you are proud of.  As you ponder on this, these moments should come quick.  You should know what you have done and what you are proud of.  However, women struggle to compose this list.  They tend to think, “Is this ‘thing’ good enough?  Of course it is!  When we think of things we have accomplished that we are proud of we always tend to think too big.  It is important to recognize the smaller things we achieve each day while on our journey to achieving the great things.  Constantly be reminding yourself of these little victories.

Far too often we tend to break down what we do into two categories: Total success or utter failure. For example: it is your child’s birthday party and she has asked for an ice cream cake.  You go to the store and you buy what you believe is an ice cream cake.  The birthday party has been a total success and she has had a great time with her friends.  As you cut the cake you realize it is not ice cream, but chocolate inside.  Your daughter does not notice but you do.  Now in your mind, as opposed to focusing on the overall success of the birthday party, you chose to focus on the one mess up.  

Any number of simple example like the one above can cause us to feel bad and lose confidence in our self.  Why is it that we focus so much on negative experiences as opposed to glory in the positive experiences?  One way we can build confidence and focus on the good we have done as opposed to ruminating in the bad is to schedule a small amount of time for conduct a Worry Dump.  A worry dump is a time set aside throughout your week where you allow yourself to focus on the negative.  Think about the mistakes you have made, the bad things that you have done, or the moments where you were unsuccessful.  Schedule one hour sometime throughout the week to give attention to these things and then don’t think about them again until your next worry dump.  

When you cease to focus on the negative aspects on your life and begin to give yourself credit for all of the amazing things you are doing, you will become a more confident person and begin to understand your incredible value and self-worth.  It’s ok to remind yourself that you are great!

Stop Saying Sorry and Using Minimizing Phrases

Have you ever received a text that you did not respond to immediately?  When you finally did reply you more than likely responded with something like this: “Sorry, I was at work and was unable to respond to your message, but I am good, how are you doing?”  Why did you apologize for being at work and giving focus to your job?  You do not need to apologize for these things. So many apologies are unnecessary.  When we apologize, we believe we are being perceived as kind or polite; however, when the apology is not necessary, it has the opposite effect.  This is not to say that we stop saying sorry all the time.  When an apology is needed and is used correctly, then it becomes empowering.  Real apologies should make you feel good afterwards.  But, if we find ourselves constantly apologizing for mundane things that require no apology, then it can become exhausting and deflating.  

While some apologies are superfluous, so are many minimizing phrases that we use on a daily basis.  Imagine you are in a meeting at work and you have something to say to the group.  How often have you found yourself using one of the following phrases: “I might be wrong on this but,” “I have a little idea,” “I’m working on a side project,” or “I’m not a total expert.”  We tend to use these types of phrases because we fear coming across too strongly or believe that we may be misperceived as aggressive or cold.  

It is ok to be confident in your abilities.  Be confident in yourself and don’t downplay thoughts or comments you might have.  Being confident is something that doesn’t just appear overnight; it is a muscle that strengthens with use.  Constantly apologizing and using minimizing phrases are ways that we are sabotaging our own confidence.  We are Olympians in discounting the positives in our life.  Present your ideas! Speak up when in groups!  And realize that your thoughts and ideas are worth just as much as anyone else.

Be Selfish

As women, where does a majority of our energy go?  More than likely it is to the care of others. Recognize that sometimes, it is ok to be selfish.  We have to take care of ourselves.  Professor Jovanovic’s research has shown women can be so focused on being selfless that they can feel drained and exhausted.  We live in a culture that is constantly reminding women of their need to take care of other people that sometimes women forget to take time to focus on themselves.  Make time to do the things that you enjoy and that will be beneficial to your mental, emotional, and physical health.  

Failure is Information  

When we hear the word failure, we tend to always associate it with something negative.  However, what if we took the concept of failure and turned it into a learning experience, which provided us with information that helped us in the future?  We are not perfect.  We will all fail multiple times in our lives.  But, when we step out of our comfort zone and we aren’t scared to fail, we will develop a grown mindset.  Recognize that mistakes are useful and that each mistake we make provides us with an opportunity to learn.

Lastly, remember that failure does not mean you cannot do something.  It just means you cannot do something YET.  If we cannot do something automatically, we think we cannot do it and that mindset prevents us from trying it again.  For example: Imagine your are teaching your child to read.  The child becomes frustrated thinking they will never be able to advance to the reading level other classmates are reading at.  Each night you have the child read a book and after fifteen books she is now reading at the level she thought she could not achieve.  After they have achieved this level of reading, remind them of what they did to achieve it.  Show them all the books they read to reach that goal.  It is important to be reminded of the small steps we took to achieve the goals we didn’t think we would reach.

Remember that you are great!  Get off the apology train, interrupt the negative self-talk, and recognize your self-worth.  If someone offers you a compliment, don’t be afraid to accept it!  Say thank you and be proud of who you are.  When was the last time someone commented on how great your hair was?  Was your response: My hair is so gross I haven’t washed it in like 3 days.  Or was it:  Thank you so much, I appreciate that!  Become comfortable with yourself, your abilities, and the role you play in your own success!


Get Professor Maja’s Self Confidence and Self Compassion Guide here.

Professor Maja Jovanovic’s Twitter 

Professor Maja Jovanovic’s Instagram

Listen to the Running for Real Podcast here:

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accomplished, anxiety, apologize, belief, confidence, empowering, failure, fear, goals, growth, negative self talk, positive self talk, proud, self love, self worth, sorry, stressed, success, women, worry dump

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