Confidence is comforting (for yourself and others), that’s why you project it. But what everyone else can see on the outside isn’t always what’s going on inside. And it’s what’s going on inside that really counts towards your emotional wellbeing.
Knowing deep down that something isn’t working for you in the way life and work are fighting it out for your time and energy is a good indication that your wellbeing is caught in the crossfire of your commitments. When was the last time you felt your many commitments (professional and/or personal) made you a happier, well-rounded person? Delivering on commitments can build confidence, but having too many of them can crush it.
Confidence is all about knowing how good you are at what you do, AND being able to deliver on that goodness in the right ways. In my corporate life I can count on one hand how many times I had the luxury of delivering on something with absolute confidence. And when I did, my colleagues were just grateful I delivered, having no idea the amount of thoughtfulness, expertise and time that went into confidently delivering it. Or the sacrifice it took, because to get to confidence in my work I spent personal time away from my loved ones to get work done well.
And no one noticed. Except my family, who missed me. And my body who “white knuckled” me through the risk and audacity of spending many extra hours hunched over a keyboard to deliver something I could feel sure about.
Hot mess in the making; putting in all the emotional labour needed to get something to a point where I felt certain about it meant I over-delivered. And not once, but time and time again. Always hoping my boss, team or organization would notice the care, attention and detail I put into things. Always thinking I had to do it that way or I’d effect the reputation I’d worked so hard to build, disappoint the people who were counting on me – that I’d disappoint myself for not doing my best.
My organization was grateful, but they couldn’t see the “extra” I put into my work because I did it on the side; it was completely invisible to them. And, because they couldn’t see it, when they needed more from me, it meant more and more time working, even less time with my family or looking after myself.
I became trapped in a commitment and expectations spiral that made me irritable, over-whelmed, exhausted and sometimes very angry. It made my home life unpredictable. I wasn’t looking after myself. I didn’t feel good about myself as a spouse and parent. I didn’t feel good about myself as a person. I didn’t feel good about myself as a professional. Hot mess - the first causality was my confidence.
Setting expectations (yours and others) has more to do with self-confidence than you know. If you’re caught in an expectations/commitment spiral, ask yourself how it would feel to let yourself off the hook, and in doing that, deliver exactly what your organization needs with certainty?
It’s possible to do less with success and be confident - it’s part of creating a work life you can love.