Mastering Self-Perception: How to Recognize and Own Your Competence
Ep. 310
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In the latest episode of Lessons from a Quitter, we delve into building self-confidence in the workplace. Many professionals struggle with imposter syndrome, doubting their abilities despite their accomplishments. This episode explores how to overcome these doubts by recognizing your true competence. We discuss the detrimental effects of perfectionism ingrained from the education system and how to shift focus from failures to successes. Practical tips include creating a list of your achievements and changing your internal narrative. Join the Quitter Club for personalized support in transforming your mindset and pursuing a fulfilling career.

Show Transcript
Hey, welcome to Lessons from AC Quitter, where we believe that it is never too late to start over. No matter how much time or energy you've spent getting to where you are. If ultimately you are unfulfilled, then it is time to get out. Join me each week for both inspiration and actionable tips so that we can get you on the road to your dreams.

Hello my friends and welcome to another episode. I'm so excited you are here. I hope you're all doing well. I wanted just to talk about confidence and having self-confidence in the workplace because I know a lot of us tougher from kind of imposter syndrome and thinking that we're not good enough or you know that we're a fraud or people are gonna figure us out. Or even if it's not that we're a fraud, like I'm just not that great at this job.
All of the thoughts that we tend to have, and one of the things I work on with a lot with the people in the Quitter Club, my membership is how to build self-confidence. We actually just had a month full of self-confidence, the masterclass challenges kind of learning the concept of how do you build this muscle of knowing that you can figure things out of really relying on yourself to do the job that you were hired to do or in really all aspects of life Because not only is self-confidence important to like feel good about the job that you're doing, right, to not constantly worry and constantly being angst over the fact that you maybe are not doing a good enough job. It's really important because it drives your action or inaction I should say. There is tons of studies that show that people who feel as though they are not good at something, right?
Whether they're rating their own competency in the studies, it tends to be like they're gonna give people tests or exams or ask them to participate in prizes for certain activities. And the people who self evaluated as not being really good at that saying or thinking they're not good at that thing tended to not enter into the prizes or try to be in the competition or whatnot, right? It makes sense. Like if I don't think I'm good at surfing, I'm not going to enter a surfing competition because I don't think I'm good at it, right? And so what happens is that it stops a lot of us from doing things that we should be doing. It stops us from going after promotions for asking for raises, for advocating for ourselves, for applying for new jobs, right? We've all heard kind of the statistics that especially women tend to not apply to a job unless they meet 90% of the qualifications.
Whereas I think men, it's like 60%. And so for women especially, we tend to count ourselves out and not put ourselves in the running because we've already told ourselves like, I'm not really good at this, or I'm not good enough at this, or I don't have enough of the skills for this, right? Going back to these studies, one of the things that these studies actually show is that we are terrible judges of our own competence. So some of the studies, they would ask participants to rate how they think they were going to do and whether they wanted to like enter in for prizes. And women tended to rate themselves much lower than men. And then when they took the actual test, women were equal to men in their performance, right? And so it would show that it wasn't that they were actually not competent, it was just that they were a terrible judge of their own competence, right?
And this happens. We all know because we all have heard of the term imposter syndrome and for so many of us, we suffer from it where we constantly think or tell ourselves that we are fraud or that we don't know what we're doing or that we aren't good enough. Even though we've been hired for this job, like we've made it clearly through the interview process, they have had us do the job, we still have a job. It's amazing to me how many people want to convince me in my program, like in my membership, people wanna convince me that they don't know what they're doing in their job. That they have no idea that they, they're like, no, you don't understand. I really don't know. And then I ask them how long they've been working there and they're like eight years . I'm like, you don't think they would've fired you if you didn't know what you would doing?
Like clearly you do, but you're not seeing it. You're not letting yourself see it. And so the whole point of this podcast episode is one of the really important pieces of building your own self-confidence is forcing yourself to see your own competence is changing that lens that has been on for so long that tells you you're not good enough, you don't really know what you're doing and forcing you to see that you do that you are good enough that you clearly do know what you're doing. And I'm gonna tell you why I think we sort of have this disconnect for a lot of us. We are raised in a school system that requires perfection. That it's not about whether you understand concepts or whether maybe your brain works in a different way or whether you can come to a conclusion in a different way. It's rote memorization, right?
I'm gonna teach you this concept, you're gonna memorize it and then you're gonna try to get as close to perfect as possible and you are gonna get a hundred percent right. That's the goal, is to get a hundred percent if you get an like 60 or if you fail or whatever, obviously it's terrible. It's not like, Hmm, what were you thinking? Why did you do it this way? It's like, you're bad. And so we internalize that very quickly on from when we were children that like my job here is to memorize all the information and then spew it back out. Now in a school setting, it is possible to memorize all the information because it is a closed universe, right? They'll give you a certain amount of information and they'll say like, chapters one through three and we're gonna have a test on that. So you can memorize chapters one through three and then you can get this false sense of like, I knew all that information.
I did it all and it was great. I don't have to tell you that that is not how the real world works. There is no closed universe of information and as we all know, especially now with the internet, it's just information is endless and there will always be more. And so when you've been kind of raised in this school system and you've done that for year after year after year, even through college, and then you get kind of thrown out into the quote unquote real world into work and there's just an open finite amount of information. Of course for a lot of us it's unsettling. 'cause we feel like, well, I don't know everything, but how could you know everything? I think about this. Now obviously hindsight's 2020 and I have a lot of these tools and this work that I've done over the years, but I think about who I was when I was a lawyer and the fear I always had that like, I don't know what I'm talking about.
Or I can't say with certainty that this is the answer because laws are always changing. Cases are always changing. Like I had to research let's say case law. And so I was going on these databases and I was looking at cases from all over the country in both state and federal court cases. And and of course you're constantly like, well, I could be missing something. I'm just like randomly searching these terms or I'm trying to find it in other ways, but I don't know every case that's ever happened on this subject. I can't read it all. And then states are constantly changing their laws, federal government's changing the laws, policies are changing, all of this stuff is happening. So when I'm looking for these cases, of course there's this doubt of like, this might not be right. Or maybe I didn't find, you know, the most relevant case law, or maybe I'm not doing this right, maybe I'm missing something.
There's this like constant thing of like, maybe I'm missing something, right? And when you were raised the way that I was where it's like you have to go for perfection. If you don't get a hundred percent, then something is wrong. You didn't do what you were supposed to do, you are a failure, right? And we create these kind of impossible standards of like I have to know with certainty that this is the right answer. But how can you ever, in the real world, right? You can know to a certain extent, maybe you can get a better understanding, you get better at the job. You gotta kind of like generally how things work, but there's gonna be doubt. There's gonna be kind of this open, this constant changing, and you have to start learning how to be comfortable with that. You have to start learning that like, yes, with changes in maybe my activities, what I have to do for work, each project, each case, whatever I'm given, it'll be slightly different.
And I may not know everything and I may make a mistake. God forbid I may be a human being. And that doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing. And I think for a lot of us, we don't realize this disconnect. We think like, no, if I was good enough, if I was good at my job, I would know everything. I want you to think about like what is the standard that you've set for yourself to feel successful at work? Like when do you get to feel like you are successful? Write that down. Because likely the standard is insane. It's like I never make a mistake. I never have to ask for help. I know everything. I can work really fast and efficiently. I never get distracted or procrastinate, right? Like it's just not a human being. It's not never gonna happen. And so if I've created this impossible standard that I can never meet, then of course I always feel like I'm failing.
And so I have people who are doing incredible in their jobs and are getting promotions and I've made it to like partner at a law firm or you know, whatever the equivalent might be in your field, telling me that they don't know what they're doing. I'm like, that cannot be. There is clearly this disconnect. And I think even when we think about imposter syndrome, right? The whole point is that like, not that you're an actual imposter or you wouldn't have it, it's that you are doing the things that you've studied, that you've gotten degrees in, that you have gotten jobs in and you're still telling yourself these lies of like, I'm not good enough at this. I'm not competent enough at this. And so people, when they come to me and they wanna work on self-confidence, I think they're constantly thinking of like, how do I just make myself perfect?
How do I make myself good enough that I don't make a mistake? So then, then I can feel good about myself? But that's not the answer because one, you'll never be perfect. You'll always make mistakes. You're gonna be a human being, you're gonna fail. And two, if that's the self-confidence you're going for, you can never do anything new. You will only ever be able to have confidence in things that you have mastered and that you've memorized everything for, right? Where you can feel like, oh, okay, now I know the answer all the time, but that's not the solution, right? The solution is being comfortable and I can figure it out. I figured out tons of things in my life and I can figure this out too. I might make a mistake and then I'll figure that out. I have a pretty good handle on this.
Like I've done enough work in this and I can recognize that. And so this is what I wanted to talk about, this aspect of self-confidence. It's not just in how do I move forward. I think for a lot of us, it's like, okay, on the next project, how do I become better? It's how do I look back and realize the lies that I told myself that I didn't know what I was doing? How do I look at my competence up until now as evidence for my brain to see like of course I know what I'm doing. Of course I knew what I was doing all along. Why would I tell myself I didn't? Our brain has like an attention spotlight. It has something that you're gonna focus on. And when you focus on it, your brain serves that up to you. Basically your brain is filtering in a lot of information.
And so it, it just filters out things that aren't important to you. And then it shows you the things that are important to you. So for instance, if you're gonna like buy a certain car, you all of a sudden start seeing that car everywhere, right? It's not that the car is just all of a sudden everywhere. It was always there. You just weren't paying attention to it before, right? The same thing happens with this negativity bias that we naturally have. Our brain tends to focus on negative things. That's why a hundred compliments will just roll off of you. But one criticism will keep you up at night for years and years and years, right? You will focus on that. And evolutionarily this has been kind of helpful because it kept you alive. Like you wanna think about the negative things. Like you don't care about all the berries that taste delicious.
You care about the berry that's poisonous. You wanna make sure that you know which one's gonna kill you so you don't eat it. So like there's a reason that we have a negativity bias, but in our current form of civilization and the way that we live, we're it's overused in ways that aren't our safety or our lives are not at threat, right? And so we look very closely at things that we fail at. If I make a mistake that I'll remember for the rest of my life, but I won't remember all of the stuff that I did that worked out well, all the stuff that I did, that works out well every day, right? And so what you have to do in order to build up your self-confidence is move that attention spotlight is to show your brain like, no, like just like I was saying, like when I'm looking for that car, I see it everywhere.
You have to direct your brain to look for all of the ways that you do know what you're doing, all of the ways that you are competent in what you are doing. 'cause I promise you, there's a mountain of evidence. Like you might have made one mistake, but you did a hundred things right? And you're just ignoring all those things and it requires you to see it. It requires you to look at, look, if I've worked at this place for a year, two years, five years, 10 years, how many things have I done? Right? How many things did I figure out? A lot of the stuff I haven't even noticed because it was so easy because it was my day to day, I just went through it, right? Some of the stuff maybe I noticed for a split second. Maybe I celebrated like the win or the presentation that went well for like half a beat before I went to like, oh no, but I really don't know what I'm doing.
And what we're trying to do is get ourselves to notice those things. To see that and be like, no, I do know what I'm doing. Look at all the stuff I've figured out. Of course they want me to work here. I figured out tons of stuff, even if I've made mistakes, even if some things I haven't, even if I've needed help from others. And so specifically, like I want you to find that evidence. Write a list. You could literally make a list of all of the things that you have figured out that you did right, that you nailed. I don't even wanna say it like nailed because like it doesn't have to be a hundred percent. We're not taking a test here. No one's getting a grade, right? B minus work is totally fine. It's what will get you moving forward. So it was like, did I successfully finish that project?
Great. Put that on the list. You can even start from now, like I want you to just create a list of all of the things I want you to go through one day. Just go through one day and think of all of the tasks that you do and just write every task that goes off without incident that is just done well, even if it's an email, I want you to think about the millions of things, decisions, you know, tasks that you do that end up working and then the very few ones that don't. And you will see how crazy it is that we look at the one or two that don't work and say, well, this means I'm not good at this, or I don't know what I'm doing. Versus all of the stuff that does tend to work. And doing that will quickly help you see that you don't have to be perfect to be competent in the thing that you're doing.
And I know that one of the responses I get when I talk about this kind of stuff is, well, I don't wanna be delusional, right? Like I don't wanna tell myself that I am good at this job if like, what if I'm not? What if other people think I'm not? What if I actually suck at it or whatnot? My answer to that is, you're already delusional. We just talked about it. This imposter syndrome is a delusion. So many of you are like thriving in careers, you're like getting promotions, you're being advanced, you're getting good reviews every year you're getting raises. And then you're just telling yourself, I don't know what I'm doing. That's already being delusional. That's literally looking at the evidence and being like, no, I'm gonna ignore it and I'm just gonna think what I wanna think. And that thing that I'm gonna think is just super harmful.
I think a lot of us think like, I need to think that in order to get myself to work hard. But that's not true. You've worked hard in spite of that. Like imagine if you didn't have a bully in your head every day yelling at you. Imagine all the energy and time you would have to do better things. You are just that good that you're able to do your work while someone's yelling at you all the time. And I'm just asking you, let's just like turn down that volume a little bit. So if you're already gonna be delusional, if you're already gonna think these insane things about yourself that you dunno what you're doing and that they're gonna figure it out any moment and that you're not really good at this job or whatnot, might as well be delusional in a way that serves you.
You might as well think like, all right, if I'm gonna tell myself lies, I might as well tell myself that I'm great. Why not? At least I'll feel better. There was a piece of advice I think is like the best piece of advice that I've heard. And it was, I don't know where it came from, but it was like, don't ever say no to yourself, right? And and the premise of it is that like, let other people say no to you. Like don't count yourself out, kind of, you know, take the shot and see what happens. And so that could be in applying for the job, that could be in asking for the informational interview. That could be for a lot of things. It's like take the shot and let other people say no to you. Because I think for a lot of us, we miss those opportunities 'cause we're so scared to take the shot that we say no to ourselves before it's even happened.
But I think of it with imposter syndrome too, for people that feel so worried that like no, if I'm not kind of policing myself all the time, if I'm not super onto like whether I'm gonna mess up, then you know people are gonna, I don't know, think things and say that I'm bad at my job or whatnot. But I'm always like, okay, let them say it then. Like if you truly are bad at the job, which like I am not saying, is out of the realm of possibilities, like maybe you don't have the skillset, maybe you have a lapse in judgment, maybe things are going on in your home life, likely your employer will tell you you'll have a review, you'll get written up. And I know none of us want that. I get that. But I want you to think about like that's the worst case scenario.
What you're living with right now is a bully that's telling you you're terrible every single day in the hopes that at some point maybe you can avoid feeling bad because someone told you that you did something wrong. So you're like, I'm just gonna make myself feel like crap all day long and then I, whenever I have to deal with like a boss firing me, which by the way also doesn't work because usually for people that are like really struggling with imposter syndrome, you tend to make more mistakes. 'cause you're so terrified of making a mistake, right? Like you're so distracted, you're so in your head, you're so like on edge that you, it's likely not the most conducive way of doing your best work. And so you can even get fired even if you are hypervigilant, right? And so I just say like, put that onus on them.
They'll tell you, I promise you, corporate America is not a charity. They are not keeping you just because they like you. They're not keeping you because they don't wanna hurt your feelings. They don't give a about your feelings to be honest. And they will tell you, and you my friend can handle that. I promise you. I know it won't feel good, but it's okay. We can take that criticism and we can decide what we're gonna make it mean. We can decide that like, hey, maybe I'm just not cut out for this job. Or maybe it was in this company, or maybe I just don't like working with these people fine. Or maybe I need to learn some new skills. So maybe I do need to brush up on this stuff. But let's not be the one that's constantly telling ourself that when there is no evidence to the contrary when nobody has said anything.
And so as you're working on building self-confidence, I honestly think that you can't do it if you're not willing to see your own competence right now. It's not gonna just come out of nowhere and it's not gonna come when you become perfect because spoiler alert, you're not gonna become perfect. So it becomes like, can I start seeing that I can trust myself to figure it out, that I have the requisite skills and talents that I need to do this job, that I will do it to the best of my ability, that I'll keep learning that I'll apply that and keep getting better and take feedback and do all of that that's necessary. And that's how I start learning to trust myself, to take on bigger roles, to ask for promotions, to go for bigger things, to try new jobs that maybe I don't have that much experience in because I don't need the confidence in mastering the whole subject before I take it on.
It's the confidence in myself to figure it out, right? It's the confidence that like no matter what happens, I know that I'm pretty smart, I'm resourceful and I can ask for help and I'm a hard worker and I'm a quick learner or whatever. And the traits are that you can have confidence in that can help you in your next role. Okay? So I want you to see your own competence. I want you to look for it, look for the evidence of it, make a list, review that list daily. I want you to keep a list by your computer and every time your brain tells you, I dunno what I'm doing, I want you to look back at that list and be like, I kind of do. I kind of do. I dunno why I keep telling myself the story. 'cause all the evidence is right here.
Open your eyes and I promise you that evidence is right there for you to see. And we just are choosing to ignore it. All right, my friends. It's amazing because like I work with such high achieving people, such incredible people that are incredible at their jobs and they're creating so much unnecessary suffering for themselves, trying to keep up a story that's clearly false. So I want you to see that story. And if you want help with that story, if you wanna rewrite that story, if you wanna start seeing the evidence, you want me to help you point out that evidence, you can come and join me in the Quitter Club. It's my membership where I help you learn how to manage that mind of yours in the workplace, how to gain that self-confidence, how to show up the way that you want so that you can start creating the work and the life that you want.
You can go to lessons from a club and check out more about the membership and come join me in there. But in the meantime, I want you to just start making a list of all of the things that you're doing right, because there's so many of them.

All right, I hope this was helpful and I'll see you next week for another episode. Hey, if you are looking for more in-depth help with your career, whether that's dealing with all of the stress, worry, and anxiety that's leading to burnout in your current career or figuring out what your dream career is and actually going after it, I want you to join me in the Quitter Club. It is where we quit what is no longer working like perfectionism, people pleasing imposter syndrome, and we start working on what does, and we start taking action towards the career and the life that you actually want. We will take the concepts that we talk about on the podcast and apply them to your life, and you will get the coaching tools and support that you need to actually make some real change. So go to lessons from a club and get on the wait list. Doors are closed right now, but they will be open soon.