I can say this without hesitation. Many of us still lack true self-confidence and self-awareness. We now live in a world that is so outwardly-facing and where self-validation comes externally vs. internally that we've literally reared a generation who has no true sense of self.
As I travel city to city with my circus I continue to be perplexed by all of the Executive Assistants in the wild who still shy away from difficult conversations, would rather accept low-key abuses than (figuratively) grab a disrespectful jerk by the neck and throw them up against the wall, or simply advocate for a decent raise they've not received for years while allowing their roles to be overloaded with new responsibilities and accountabilities, unpaid. Yes, I understand and have heard every gender bias argument on the planet. Yes, I know that we still have a problem with hierarchical, entitled behaviors, by wayward executives. But I feel much of these issues could be solved or at least mitigated by simply understanding one's own power to manipulate any situation to their advantage. And that starts with tuning out all of the tapes of our pasts and, often, reintroducing ourselves to ourselves, forgiving our own gaffs, and actually liking ourselves again.
No one is harder on me than me. It's been like that my entire life. What some may see as a simple mistake, I may perceive as a matter of (professional) life and death. Sure, that sounds dramatic but it's been the secret of my success for the 26+ years I've been an Assistant. Yes, I've succumbed a couple of times to stress resulting in two, 3-day ICU/CCU visits for what were thought to be heart attacks. But those two near-death experiences also taught me a valuable lesson: If you don't prioritize YOUR life, someone else will. I think back over those times and can't help but selfishly wonder that if I'd died would people have actually cared? Would anyone have cried and how hard? And how long would it take for people to get back to their normal state of being? As much as I'd like to believe that the world would absolutely stop for a few minutes if I passed away, I know that will never happen. And that's my point. Really understanding how insignificant we are in the grand construct of the business world shouldn't make us feel bad. If anything, it should empower us by being a daily reminder that we should matter much more to ourselves and the family and friends who actually would be devastated if we left this earth and whose worlds would stop if or when our last breath is taken.
Every day my goal is to make an impact on someone's life. But it is also to fulfill one or more goals or dreams that I've set for myself and, hopefully, impact someone else's life by leading by example. Sure, I have to put myself in the public eye on a regular basis in order to remain relevant in my industry and make a living. And yes, some people may view my posts and articles and mistake the tone as arrogant or all-knowing. And they'd be completely missing the point. I am supremely self-aware. I know absolutely everything there is to know about Phoenix Normand. I'm fully aware of my faults, my deficiencies, my absolute lack of patience, as well as my immense, diverse talents, my strengths, my absolute mastery of certain things, and an insane intuition that has never failed me. I've failed it numerous times by not listening to my heart and going the popular route to my detriment. I'm sure many of you reading this can relate.
All of this may seem like jibber jabber by this point so let me offer some easy practices to employ into your every day to help you re-introduce yourself to yourself and renew or even create a new level of confidence. I know these work because I've used them myself over the last few decades and have succeeded wildly because of them.
I'm single and a bit of a loner. I travel so much that it's really difficult for me to maintain a relationship. But instead of lamenting the fact that I'm a lone wolf, I turn it around and sort of create an alter ego. Anytime I did complain about being single people would always say, "Be the person you want to attract." That used to annoy the shit out of me until I took a beat, picked it apart, and realized they were right. I love who I am. I love my quirks and sailor mouth and the mole on my nose. I love my sense of humor and crack myself up all the time. I love when strangers notice when I walk into the room and wonder if I'm a celebrity or someone important. (Receive that comment all the time. It's weird.) I love that I drive too fast, can't pass up a potato chip of any kind, have difficulty hiding emotion on my face when someone stupid won't shut up, still ugly-cry at weddings, or secretly wish I was Donald Trump's new Chief of Staff (while remaining a Democrat) so that I could get all of those kids together in one fell swoop, clapping loudly with every single word I say. (<---- hilarious!) I digress.
I take myself on dates. Often. Because my alter ego really likes spending time with me and I really like spending time with him. I don't need to wait for someone to take me on a date to a fancy restaurant. I take my damn self. In fact, I make a whole production of it. I'll take a long, luxurious bath complete with a pre-game glass of champagne and a lighted, scented candle, get dressed up, and show up for my beautifully set table of one to enjoy a fantastic meal. With myself. With absolutely no hesitation, no shame, and a check that's half as much as it is would be with someone sitting across the table from me. There's nothing sexier to me than going to a restaurant and seeing someone eating alone enjoying their meal and a glass of wine, confidently striking up a conversation with the couple next to them or the server who stays an extra minute or two to chat them up. It reeks of self-confidence and self-awareness and usually makes me want to get to know that person and find out what they're all about. I'm often that guy. The one who loves spending time with myself and treating myself as often as possible. Remember: no one should treat you better than you treat yourself. Otherwise, you've got some work to do.
Even if you're married or in a relationship, I highly recommend spending some time alone with yourself. Yes, it can feel a little embarrassing at first, but that's only because you're assuming that people are making assumptions about you eating alone or going solo to a movie. If your energy exudes that embarrassment then, yeah, people will pick up on it and likely make comment. But who TF cares? If they're not cutting you a check right on the spot to cover your car payment that month then (what you perceive as) their opinion doesn't matter and shouldn't even register. Being comfortable enough to eat alone in a busy restaurant and actually enjoy the experience takes practice. I've been there. But what I eventually realized is that it's my life. No one else's. And I create the rules regarding how I live it. And I choose to live a life that allows me to stay connected with who I am, all that I am, and all that I care about. Nothing or no one can take that away from me because it's solely within my power. And actively being your best self makes you that much more present and effective in other people's lives. That's the win/win of it all.
I know that everyone is all about the tech these days, but there is something super cathartic about putting pen to paper. Or even Apple Pen to iPad. I've recently returned to journaling as a way to reconnect with my creative side. Having my own one-man show type of business gets to be incredibly repetitive, a little lonely, and filled with the pressure of being compelling enough to sell seats so that I can make an impact but also keep the lights on and a roof over my head. People mistakenly think that I have it all figured out. I don't. I know a few things, but I still have so much to learn. And this often pulls me into a bit of a spin of constantly overthinking my approaches, reading too much (it's possible), and being overly tactical when my strength has always been my insane creativity. For instance, I used to be an amazing songwriter. I could always take a life experience and put it into a song that would make anyone drop a tear or two or feel a certain emotion based on the story I crafted. Journaling was how I'd get there. Simply writing down all of the things I saw or experienced or that made me feel a certain way helped to get it out of my head and my heart and onto a physical medium that I could revisit as often as I liked and retro what worked, what didn't, or simply return to the place or the emotion from which I was writing.
Journaling is, essentially, free. And it forces you to be honest with yourself, with no fear of judgment or reprisal. It's pure self-expression that is completely dependent on you. No one else. And, in time, it manifests in having more self-confidence and self-awareness because you've gotten it out of your head/heart and onto paper and can move on to the next the fire or really cool experience...that you'll, of course, journal shortly.
It's folklore that talking to yourself is a sign of insanity. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Sure, it can be a symptom for someone who is mentally unstable, but for those who are in their right mind studies have shown it's actually a sign of high intelligence. You don't need to have this big, theatrical, audible conversation that makes passersby move their purses to the other side of their bodies and walk a little faster. But you should allow yourself a little private conversation every now and again as a way to confirm what your mind is thinking or to provide a slightly audible affirmation to let yourself know, "I got this." When I was a competitive tennis player I talked to myself all the time. Mainly when waiting to return serve. "Breathe. Eye on the ball. Hit through your target. Get to net." Simple little reminders especially when I was stressed or had a break point.
As an Executive Assistant I would often have a quiet chat with myself especially during moments of overwhelm. For instance, I would recite every step of scheduling a complex meeting with multiple attendees from different countries and different time zones, each with different thank you/confirmation emails and/or separate attachments. Or for complex travel arrangements I would recite each step to myself to make sure I had the flight time, airline, flight number, departing/arriving airport, arrival time, record locator number, car service information, hotel information, first meeting time and transportation to the meeting all included in the calendar item. Forget even one of those components and you can pretty much guarantee a "WTF?" email from your boss and micromanagement for the next 3 weeks.
Now let me be clear, here. People who talk audibly to themselves in an open plan office that's, ironically, quiet as a library are, in fact, crazy. Only kind of kidding. Nothing is more annoying than someone next to you chirping away about everything they're doing, every move they're making, even cracking self jokes. It's not even a fine line. Shhhhhhhhhh! The art of talking to yourself is being just audible enough for you to hear it which is right at a whisper or even mouthing the words silently. That way you're getting the internal message without being an annoying hot mess to everyone within earshot.
"If you don't prioritize your life, someone else will." Those words have stuck with me for years. Self confidence comes from self love. And many of us simply don't love or prioritize ourselves actively enough. We hand over the reins far too willfully to people who are happy to have them and steer you according to their own agendas. Taking some time that's completely yours and allows you the opportunity to hear your only your own voice in your head or experience only what you want to experience, without feeling guilty or self-conscious, pays huge returns in self-confidence. Simple things like self dates, journaling and having a conversation with yourself are ways to get back to hearing, understanding and appreciating your own voice and accepting/loving/caring for yourself in a much more proactive and immediate manner. We constantly feed our social media pages with such urgency and care with very little of value in return. And that's fine. But don't fall into the trap of constantly seeking validation from external resources. It's a slippery slope that will eventually erode your self-confidence and make you more of a spectator in your own life than the one who's actually living it.
So, where are you taking yourself to lunch or dinner this week? Seriously...DO IT! And leave a comment to let us know how it went.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.