Everything changed once I stopped telling myself I didn’t have what it takes.
It was always my dream to be a writer. For 10 years I wrote the same novel five times, but I never finished it. “I’m not a writer,” I would think to myself.
Then I had children, and my life turned upside down. Anyone who has had children will know what I mean. Anyone who hasn’t, brace yourself.
My time became a rare commodity, and while I was still trying to write in my non-existent spare time, I was, more importantly, trying to read about how to be a good parent. It was my incredibly challenging parenting journey that helped me see what I was actually supposed to write. It wasn’t a novel. It was a parenting book.
Against my better judgment, I self-published. I printed the books, shipped the books, wrote articles, and invested in social media marketing and publicity myself. It was really, really hard and really expensive, and many times I wanted to give up in exhaustion and frustration. As is common in these situations, there were plenty of naysayers, and not many supporters.
But the reviews were coming in, and they were positive. Because I believed that my voice was needed in the parenting world, I kept going. I desperately needed this book when my kids were born, and I believed that many others would, too. That belief in my own voice was like a lantern guiding me through those long dark tunnels of fear.
One day, one of my articles went viral, and sales went through the roof. This began a domino effect, and soon after, the biggest publisher in the world reached out and asked to publish the book. Today, it is out in more than 25 countries and counting. I now do talks all around the world, sharing a message I truly believe in.
For years, I would tell myself, “I’m not a writer,” or “I’m too lazy,” or “I’m not good at this.” But in my research, I discovered that the labels we have for ourselves come from our childhoods, and we often don’t even realise it. We may have heard these labels from our parents, and we internalised them. So, I began to challenge my self-talk, and all these labels and turn them around.
Instead of saying “I’m not a writer,” I simply wrote. Instead of saying to myself, “I’m too lazy,” I said to myself, “I am struck by bouts of laziness, but I am an intensely hard worker once I get going on a project.” Instead of saying to myself, “I’m not good at it,” I forced myself to learn how to be better.
You see, our brains grow throughout our lives. Intelligence is not fixed as was once believed. Neurons that fire together, wire together, and we can build a stronger belief in ourselves by beating a new path to a new identity, with the words we say in our head guiding the way.
Therefore, my biggest advice to anyone dealing with fear is to change your negative self-talk. If you want to be a writer or a CEO or a sky diving instructor or even a better friend or family member, it starts with the voice in our heads that says “I’m not” and transforms into “I am”.
Every step forward into discomfort and fear with that new description will fortify the belief in yourself a little more.
I have had to face so many scary situations since I found my own voice. I have spoken for hundreds of people, and been on live TV with millions of viewers, where my armpits were sweating so much from anxiety that I didn’t dare move lest someone see the wet patches.
But instead of letting that inner voice stop me and tell me “I can’t do this,” “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m not,” I have trained myself to say “I can do this,” “I am capable,” and “I will.” Yes, I might screw it up — but so what? I will certainly learn from the experience one way or another. And isn’t that what life is all about anyway?
I truly believe that the biggest mistake we can make out of fear is to underestimate ourselves.
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.