Self-confidence isn’t just a feeling you have or a personality trait. Self-confidence comes through doing, taking action effectively, building skills and becoming competent in areas you designate as needing to change. Self-confidence is knowing for certain you can make happen what you need to have happen.
There are behaviors and habits, however that can rob you of your self-confidence over time. In this series of articles, I write about the seven behaviors or habits I have identified as self-confidence robbers and the ways in which you can stop them.
The Seven Self-Confidence Robbers are:
- Ignoring Self-Care
- Defensiveness/Taking Things Personally
- Comparing Yourself to Others
- Lack of follow through (having a difficult time seeing things through to the end)
In the previous two installments of this article series, I wrote about perfectionism and procrastination. In this installment, I’ll be discussing the next self-confidence robber – overcommitment.
The dictionary defines overcommitment as “binding or obligating (oneself, for example) beyond the capacity for realization”. I like to refer to overcommitment as the “Accordion File Syndrome” (AFS). Women are particularly prone to it, though men can suffer from it too.
Sufferers of “AFS” have a difficult time:
- Setting priorities
- Putting their needs first
- Recognizing their limits
- Setting realistic expectations
- Saying “No”
They overcommit to others. They take on too many things at the same time. And like an accordion file, they stretch and stretch as they take on more and more.
Why? As always, there can be many reasons.
There’s a lot of information out there (not really supported by research) that says women are better at “multitasking”. This “skill” is attributed to the fact that we are often wives, mothers and career women all at the same time. Or we seem to be able to do many things at the same time quite well.
But just because we can…should we?
Research would indicate the answer is no; in most cases, doing one task at a time is more efficient in terms of time, energy and efficiency than multi-tasking.
And from a psychological perspective, having too many “balls in the air” generally causes stress. And, at some point, one of them will eventually drop, causing even more stress.
Another reason people overcommit is that there is often a fear that saying no will bring disapproval, criticism or rejection.
Co-dependency and Adult ADHD are other possible causes.
No matter the cause, overcommitment causes problems.
At some point, even the largest of accordion files becomes overly full and cannot take on one more thing. It begins to look disorganized. It begins fraying and tearing at the edges. It becomes unwieldy.
And the same holds true for us. At some point, if overcommitted, we will lose track of our promises, start missing our deadlines, and disappoint or anger those on the receiving end of our commitments. Guilt, stress and self-reproach can ensue. We run ourselves ragged and exhaust ourselves in the process.
Here are some ways you can stop overcommitment from robbing you of your self-confidence:
Decide on Your Priorities
List your commitments.
Next to each, list why you do them.
Put some kind of indicator (word, symbol) next to each of them to express how you feel about them; for example:
- Coaching – Like/Love
- Cleaning house – Dislike/Hate
- Attending meetings – ambivalent
Then ask yourself these questions:
- Is the reason you committed to them in the first place still valid?
- Does this commitment build your self-confidence and help you to grow? Does it bring you fulfillment?
- Your commitments should reflect your values – does each of the commitments you listed resonate with your values?
- Which of these are on the Love to Do List, Have to Do list, Feel Obligated to Do but Really Not Worth the Time List, Dislike Doing List?
- Of the ones you dislike or are ambivalent about – Which can you delegate out? Which can you eliminate? What can you do less of? Which can you take a temporary break from?
- Of the ones you love or like – Are any of these too much of a good thing?
Now, choose one thing that is not a priority and decide to let go of it. Inform whoever needs to know. If that person asks why, remember you do not need to explain but you can simply state “Things have recently changed for me (in my personal life or business) and I can no longer______.” No need to apologize (you did nothing wrong).
Deal with Guilt Head-On
Saying “No” to a request for a commitment or reversing your decision about a commitment may cause a wave of guilt. Many women feel guilty when they put their needs first.
It’s time to deal with the guilt. Remember, guilt is an appropriate emotion only when we have done something wrong.
Being assertive by saying no or changing our minds is not wrong. And if someone feels hurt in response to this, it’s OK to feel empathy, but it’s not OK to feel guilty.
Take a moment and ask yourself “What are some of the words I associate with guilt? What do I associate with assertiveness? What do I associate with selfishness?”
Write your answers down. Give yourself some time and then revisit your answers. Question in a loving, nurturing way any negative associations you have with these words.
Now, see if there is any secondary gain that keeps you feeling guilty. For example, you may feel guilty because otherwise you might feel angry…and anger is a much scarier emotion. You may believe it’s safer to feel guilty than angry!
You do have a right to all your feelings but you never have to stay stuck in them! Find functional ways to release the guilt as quickly as you can. (Note: this is true for all negative emotions.)
Declare a Moratorium on Doing
Whether you take a day or a weekend to do so, allow yourself to stop striving and only do the things that are meaningful to you, that bring you joy and satisfaction.
Allow time to just be, sleep in, read a book or meet up with friends. Even if you can’t take a vacation or have a change of scenery, you can create this freedom in your mind and in your immediate surroundings.
Say No More Often
Get in some “No” practice. Unless it something that you truly want or is of benefit to you, allow yourself to say no to everything and anything for a period of time. It takes about 3 weeks to break a bad habit and if always saying “Yes” is a habit you want to break then start with this time period. It will teach you to be decisive and get you to pay attention to how good you feel when you divest yourself of feeling chronically obligated.
Use “The Zen Approach”
Try this for one day (or part of it) and see if you can eventually expand it into more.
Do only one thing at a time. Don’t multi-task.
When you eat, just eat. Enjoy your food and the experience of eating.
When you are watching TV or a movie, just enjoy watching – get into the experience of what is on the screen.
Do the same with any task or chore you have to do.