So much of life is played out in our own heads.
We react the way we do because we believe a certain thing to be true. Our perceptions shape the world around us – at least to us. We make judgments and assumptions all the time. Everything that we do, see and believe happens in large part in our heads.
With all facets of life, this seems to hold. If I’m a fan of the New England Patriots (I’m not), then they’ll probably be the best team in the NFL – at least to me. Or, if I drive around in a Toyota (I don’t), then Toyotas will most likely be one of the best cars to drive. It’s our version of reality.
If I feel like I’m not good enough to try out for the high school football team, then it’s true. I’m not. If I don’t believe I could hack it working for that top-notch company, then it’s true. I couldn’t. Those destructive beliefs become our reality, and the more we tell ourselves those things, the apter we are to actually believe them.
Our minds play games with us, and those games can be either positive or remarkably negative. For example, impostor syndrome is brutally negative. It refers to one’s tendency to diminish one’s own accomplishments because we feel like a fraud or are somehow undeserving of success.
The very thought of impostor syndrome makes me cry.
Our minds would have us believe that we’re undeserving. Unqualified. Too dumb. Too inexperienced. Too slow or too fast. Too [whatever]. We’re subconsciously screwing ourselves into the ground by setting up bullshit roadblocks to what would otherwise be a lifetime of genuine happiness and success.
But, consider this. If our minds can play those kinds of destructive games with us, why can’t we turn the tables and force our minds to believe that we are qualified? That we are good enough? That we do deserve recognition?
That’s right – these minds games are a two-way street.
Lie to yourself
Here’s the truth: There are a LOT of people in high places who probably aren’t “deserving” of their position. Aren’t smart enough. Don’t have the experience. But, they made it anyway. Unless they are the product of nepotism or unethical favors, they made it because they believed they could. They played a different game in their head. Instead of assuming they weren’t qualified, they instead made themselves believe they were.
What would happen if we flipped the impostor syndrome on its head? Instead of assuming we aren’t qualified or deserving of success, how about we all make up our minds, today, that we ARE deserving of success? We’re qualified for anything. That author you’ve resisted reaching out to because you felt that you were “nobody” and they’d never respond? Yeah, fuck that.
Put that attitude behind you. Even if you have to lie to make yourself believe that you’re not a fraud, do it. Others have and they’ve managed to achieve some incredible goals. I mean, outrageously incredible.
Look at the current U.S. President. President Trump. Regardless of how you feel about the man, he’s a relatively unlikely person to win the highest spot in our government. He has a history. Stories. Books. Everything about him instantly became public knowledge, and not all of that was flattering.
But, he still won. It doesn’t matter whether he was “unlikely” or not. It doesn’t matter how many cards were stacked against him. Nothing matters but the reality that we create for ourselves. We cannot let the unholy barricades of conventional wisdom hold us back from achieving success.
What I’m trying to tell you here is quit shitting on yourself.
Think you aren’t qualified for that presentation in front of a set of high-level manager? Who says? They are just people. You’re a person, too. They might wear a suit to work every day, but that doesn’t mean you’re not as good at your job as they are at theirs. If you believe you’re qualified, then you begin living that reality. Something magical flips in your brain and you begin to believe that you can and do belong among those managers. Your CEO.
Hell, the damn President.
Even if you have to lie to yourself to instill within you a belief of confidence, then lie. Lie your ass off. Lie as you’ve never lied before. Lie over and over again…as many times as necessary to get yourself to believe that you aren’t too dumb, or not important enough, or just can’t hack it.
If you believe you can’t, then you can’t. If you believe you can, then guess what? More times than not, you can. If you have something to say, say it! Your position is just as valid as the person next to you. Just because someone might have “Senior” in their job title or a Type-A personality that naturally takes over discussions doesn’t make them better or more qualified to do their job than you. Don’t kid yourself into believing that there is a hierarchy in this world, and the only way to get ahead is to climb it.
There isn’t. No hierarchy that needs to be followed, anyway.
Not all success stories are “likely”
Before I leave you, check out this inspiring article by Entrepreneur about unlikely success stories. Did you know that Arianna Huffington got rejected by more than 30 different publishers for her second book? It would have been super easy to make yourself believe you weren’t good enough with that kind of track record of so-called failure.
Bill Gates’s first company was a complete disaster. George Steinbrenner (owner of the New York Yankees) drove a basketball team straight into the financial toilet back in the 1960s. Oh, and get this: Walt Disney was told that he “lacked creativity” shortly before being fired from a newspaper.
Moral of this story? Never let society shape your opinion of you. Feed on the hate. Ignore baseless criticism. Far too often, the only thing standing between us and incredible success is, well, our minds. Use the power of your mind to believe you belong. If you believe it, it becomes the truth.
Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.