Mike is sitting in his plush Mayfair office, about to go to a meeting. As a CEO, his directors and managers are assembled in the boardroom, waiting for Mike to brief them on the company’s progress.
‘I need to leave for an urgent meeting in New York’, he announces to his surprised secretary.
‘Right now?’ she asks, looking confused.
‘Yes, I just got an email asking me to come in right away,’ replies Mike while packing up his briefcase.
‘OK, I’ll reschedule your meeting’, his secretary says.
Mike snaps his briefcase shut and heads out of his office. He catches the first taxi to the airport.
He buys a first-class ticket to New York and within an hour, he’s on the plane.
And that’s when the reality hits him – and with it a terrible shame.
Mike was not called to an urgent meeting in New York. He simply couldn’t face giving the presentation and he had to escape. Because he made up a New York excuse, he actually went to New York, shrouding him in some kind of faulty self-respect.
As he sat on the plane, he felt like a total and utter failure. Those feelings were then replaced with feelings of total disgust and anger with himself. What on earth is wrong with him? What just happened?
Mike is 55 years old and runs a number of companies. Yet within the last year or so, his confidence started to decline rapidly. He doesn’t understand why; it came from nowhere. It’s not his business competence that is affected; there’s this new, scary inner voice in his head, telling him he’s no longer fit to do this job.
When I saw Mike for the first time in my practice, I listened to his story in disbelief. Of course, I’m used to clients using escape routes to deal with their anxieties. For example, a client suffering from anxiety and phobia in closed spaces will ALWAYS sit close to the exit. But actually getting on the plane to New York? That was new to me.
How can this crippling, all-consuming anxiety have such a profound effect on a man like Mike? As he walks in for our first session, I observe him carefully, looking for obvious signs of low self-confidence. But on the outside, I can not find any. His body language is extremely professional and clear. He’s dressed smartly and stands tall. As he sits down in my therapy room, he snaps his hands together into the fist and places them in front of him like most successful people do. Listening to him, his speech is clear; he chooses words wisely and he knows what he wants to say and how he wants to say it. He had been successful all his life. He built companies, he managed massive teams of people, he travelled extensively. Now, when he has to face people, he runs- and runs far, he doesn’t even care where.
Mike is not alone. Most of us will experience a declining confidence at some point in our lives. During deeper analysis into clients’ lives and searching for roots of this condition, there are many occasions when we can not find the obvious trigger. This negative, punishing inner voice, this monster, as the clients refer to it, simply creeps into our minds, unannounced, uninvited, and is now destroying everything we’ve built around us.
Low self-confidence brings along a host of issues such as anxiety, feelings of worthlessness and self-hate. My clients all have different defence mechanisms- or ‘safety mechanisms’- in place to deal with this crippling anxiety. Some like Mike escape; others avoid anxiety-provoking situations altogether. These behaviours may feel like they’re helping the client, but they actually hinder fighting the condition head-on.
So what can you do when this monster replaces your healthy self-confidence and damages all you have ever known? When it controls all you do? How do you get the ‘healthy you’ back?
It starts with being self-aware. Admitting to yourself you need help is the first step towards restoring your confidence. Unfortunately, this condition is brought on by our own thinking and we need to get back to basics- learning about ourselves, how we feel and think. And when not to listen to ourselves.
Mike had been with me for four weeks now and we have had lots of positive changes. Mike chaired a meeting since that first session with me. His ‘monster’ was not completely gone at that point, but we’ve learned how to manage him. We are working intensively, using coaching and cognitive behavioural therapy methods so that one day, Mike will be alone in that meeting, leaving his ‘monster’ firmly behind the boardroom door.
Ivana Franekova is an established Harley Street Life Coach & CBT Therapist with over 14 years of experience.
Her main areas of focus are confidence, self-esteem issues, anxiety, stress, communication skills and transactional analysis
For a complimentary consultation session, email firstname.lastname@example.org