So what to do? Here are several ideas to help you feed your confidence in challenging times:
Look in the archives
When your confidence starts to ebb in your job search, it’s probably not about reality. It’s about the lens through which you’re looking at reality. That lens is a little bit like looking through a telescope the wrong way, creating a narrowly focused tunnel vision. That tunnel vision focuses on the current facts, rather than the whole picture. And those current facts (I haven’t found a job, and I’ve been trying for X amount of time) can spiral into a projected story (I can’t find a job, so maybe there’s something wrong with me).
One way to expand your perspective to a more whole-picture view is to dig into the archives. The tunnel vision typically only lets you see what’s not working, not what gifts, skills, and abilities you have to offer. So shift your focus from the present to the past and start to explore your successes, the things you have done well, things that people have praised your for, etc. Start a laundry list of examples that counter that voice of self-doubt that erodes your confidence.
But don’t just write them down and forget them. Focus on them. Relive the experiences. Use each of them as a starting point to explore why you were so good at that. The more real you can make them for yourself, the better they will counter that self-doubt.
Seek out reinforcement
One way to make the positive story about yourself more real is to get out of your own brain and ask others. Reach out to people you have worked with in the past and people who know you well. Tell them that you are reaching back into the archives to look at what you do well, and ask them for their perspective. Ask them what stands out to them. See if they have specific examples that come to mind.
The more external reinforcement you can get, the easier it is to override that internal critic and the self-doubt it feeds.
Keep it current
Many years ago before I discovered my Passion Catalyst work, I wound up in a protracted job search with no end in sight. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my confidence in my abilities had started to erode. At one point I volunteered to do a project using my professional skills (at the time I was a marketing guy) for a non-profit. As I dived into it, the professional muscle-memory came flooding back. “Oh yeah! I’m actually really good at this, aren’t I?”
When you don’t use your skills for an extended period of time, your memory of them starts to atrophy. Finding ways to keep using them, whether you’re paid for it or not, can help keep the self-doubt at bay.
Shift your attention
There’s nothing like ruminating on what’s wrong to plunge you further into the abyss. So don’t. Instead, make a conscious effort to focus on the positive. Start a gratitude journal (you can use these 15 questions to prompt your exploration). If you like the idea and want to expand it, try writing a positive journal.
Go on a news fast. You don’t need the non-stop flow of toxicity into your brain. Read uplifting and inspiring books. Watch inspiring movies. Ask friends and colleagues what they feel good about. Make a habit of looking for positive things to notice as you go through your days.
Identify opportunities to improve
Are you still breathing? Assuming the answer is yes, then you still have areas you could improve. Maybe that’s in the arena of personal development. Or maybe it has to do with building and refining your professional skills. If you want to overcome the stasis and stagnancy that feed self-doubt, find ways to keep learning and growing. Do it actively. You might even go so far as to create a curriculum for yourself, complete with books to read, people to interview, talks to attend, and steps to take.
When the chips are down, it can be tempting to spiral down into a self-reinforcing negative loop. One way to break that cycle and the tension it creates is to simply stop and breathe. Take a few minutes to just focus on your breath as it goes in and out of your lungs. Use the opportunity to focus completely on the present. Not what you should have done in the past. Not what it will mean about the future if you don’t find a job soon. Give your mind a break and let it rest. Make it a habit to stop and take breath breaks throughout your day.
None of these ideas will magically wipe away the self-doubt that can crop up in the job search. But they will do two things. First, they will reduce that self-doubt. If that’s even only by a fraction, it’s still better than it was. And second, they help ensure that you’re not feeding your self-doubt’s future growth. The less you feed it now, the less you will have to grapple with it in the future.
After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.