This is a draft of Chapter 24 of the book I’m writing, Building the Invincible You. In it, I share a framework and strategies for:
Amplifying your power in your work and life.
Regaining your freedom to spend more of your time the way you wish you could.
Building the future you want for yourself and your loved ones.
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None of what I’m encouraging you to do in this book will matter if you tear yourself down. We face enough criticism and lack of belief from others in our lives. Therefore, you must be the one person who will always believe in you. Of course, there will be others. Or, at least, I hope so! But you should always believe in you.
You must build an unshakeable foundation of knowing and believing in:
Your points of view.
Your sense of worth and value.
Negative self-talk hurts
People sometimes set themselves up for failure. It lessens the sting if you can later tell yourself you didn’t prepare well enough, try your hardest, or choose a reasonable goal. The unfortunate reality is that people who expect to fail actually do fail more often. They will self-handicap to maintain their self-esteem.
Similarly, negative self-talk (e.g., “I’m not very good,” “I’m not smart,” or “I’m bad at everything”) can create a cascade of problems.
Increased risk of mental health problems (e.g., anxiety, depression).
Decreased motivation (e.g., “If I’m not very good, why even try?”).
Greater feelings of helplessness (e.g., “Things will never change”).
Missing opportunities when they present themselves (e.g., a great new job).
Increased perfectionism and procrastination (e.g., feeling like something has to be perfect before you try).
You will increase your odds of success and improve your self-view if you dial up your positive self-talk. Visualizing success helps. Encouraging yourself to do your best and accept the outcomes will make you more effective and resilient. It helps to recognize that other factors influence results. It’s not just you. If something fails, it may not be your fault at all!
Most people would never criticize a friend or loved one as much as they blame themselves. It’s time to treat yourself like someone you love. Be your own best friend. Replace negative statements with:
More neutral statements (e.g., “Well, that didn’t go as well as I had hoped.”).
Hopeful thoughts about the future (e.g., “I bet I’ll succeed when I try again next week.”).
Questions about how you could handle a situation differently in the future (e.g., “Hmmm, why didn’t that work? Is there something else I could try that might be better?”).
By the way, you’re already amazing
I’ve lived long enough to know that everyone is pretty amazing in their own way if you take the time to get to know them. So, you are most likely amazing, too.
Does this make me sound like Mr. Rogers?
However, you probably can’t see how amazing you are. Something, at some point in your life, made you doubt that.
You had spectacular hopes and dreams for your future when you were young. You created a plan for your life that was going to be glorious. You were making good progress on the path to your goals.
However, somewhere along the way, something—or someone—caused you to stumble. Obstacles suddenly appeared in your path. Barriers sprang up out of nowhere.
You realized you had drifted off course, and your confidence was shaken or even shattered. You may not be sure you have what it takes to make it anymore. But I’ve learned you become even stronger and more capable when you survive an experience like that and return.
There’s a Japanese art form called “Kintsukuroi.” Instead of carefully repairing and trying to conceal the cracks in broken pottery, it is “fixed” with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.
The repaired seams become a beautiful work of art that takes the pottery to a new level.
I’m not trying to be cheesy with this reference. People indeed become stronger and better when they have been tested, hurt, and recovered.
They gain depth and balance. They become resilient. They have more compassion for others who are struggling on their own paths.
Losing your confidence hurts. But, you will come back better and as a better person.
It’s rarely your fault
As a career coach, I often work with people who have lost their jobs. Sometimes, they blame themselves and lose confidence in their abilities. However, even if you were fired from a job, it might not have been your fault.
Maybe you weren’t a fit for the company culture. Perhaps the role was wrong for you. Maybe you couldn’t see things the way your boss did, so you didn’t mesh.
There are many reasons good people don’t connect well with bad bosses:
Sometimes, bad bosses think it is their job to be tough and highlight all your weaknesses to improve you.
Sometimes, they think praising and supporting you makes them look weak.
Sometimes, they’re a scheming machiavellian with an agenda you choose not to support.
Sometimes, bad bosses are simply incompetent and have no clue how to tap into your talents, develop your strengths, and guide you to higher levels of success.
Or your boss may have been OK and was just doing their job. The problem was a mismatch between the requirements and your talents, skills, and personality. Taking you out of the role was doing you a favor, even though it may not feel very good at the time.
Or you may have landed in a profession that isn’t right for you. It’s a lot more common than you think.
There are thousands of potential paths you could have taken. What are the odds that the one you selected when you were young was the ideal profession and role for you?
My point is none of this means that something is wrong with you. Getting into an unpleasant situation can steal your confidence, but it isn’t your fault. It’s not a reason to lose faith in yourself.
However, getting out of a bad situation and putting yourself back on the right path is under your control. It is your responsibility. Don’t leave your power in someone else’s hands. You need to believe in yourself and a better future.
Take back your power
Confidence should ideally come from within, not fueled by the praise of others. Rebuilding your self-belief often starts with thinking back on your past achievements.
So, take the time to capture the story of who you are, which helps you gain a perspective on your background and the value you bring to the table. Any current negative situation is just a blip on the timeline.
Document all your talents, strengths, knowledge, and experience. I’m not talking about some fuzzy mental exercise of thinking about them. Literally, write it all down in black and white. The act of writing makes a difference, and who you are will feel more concrete.
Learn what you can from past negative situations at work or with a bad boss. Some of the criticism may have been unfounded. Perhaps you lost your job once due to circumstances beyond your control (e.g., a company lost funding, economic conditions led to layoffs, a re-org put your job at risk).
However, there may be some hidden lessons, too.
Are there areas you need to improve? Do you have too much conflict with coworkers? Talk with some trusted friends or colleagues and ask for honest feedback.
Don’t get defensive, or no one will want to share their thoughts. Just listen and see if there is a grain of truth in what you are hearing.
Some criticism may miss the mark. But, there is often helpful advice if you are willing to hear it.
You own your power when you own both your strengths and your weaknesses. Be honest about your areas that need development before someone else is. Face yourself honestly, and know yourself more deeply. Believing in yourself doesn’t mean only accepting the positive feedback. No one is perfect, and that’s okay!
“Knowing others is perspective, but knowing one’s own self is enlightened; conquering others shows strength, but conquering one’s self shows true power.” — Lao Tzu
Take the time you need
You can’t just flip a switch and immediately regain your confidence and self-belief after a significant setback. It doesn’t work that way. Depending on what happened, it may take a few weeks or even months to get your mojo back.
After one of my incredibly negative experiences, I don’t think I felt like my old self for almost six months. I lost my confidence and didn’t feel good about my future. It took some time to recover and get back into the game.
If you ever have a similar experience, you don’t want to rush right into your next thing. For example, if you’re fired, things probably won’t go well if you start interviewing as soon as you leave your previous job. Or, if you just went through a terrible breakup, you don’t want to leap right back into dating.
A lot of ambitious people feel eager to jump right back into things. But, you need time to recharge, refresh, and recenter yourself.
“You have a golden moment in your job search where you’re operating at peak confidence and energy. You don’t want to use up your best contacts at a time when you’re not there yet.” — source
Instead, take time to:
Think about your long-term goals. Where do you want to be in your life in 10–20 years? Don’t settle for the easy or obvious answer based on your current life and career path. Set that all aside and ask yourself what you ideally want.
Engage in some planning in reverse to get creative about how you might be able to accomplish what you want.
Create a list of things you want to avoid in your next move (e.g., a new job). Identify red flags to watch out for when you do start engaging again.
Create a list of things you want in your next opportunity. Identify critical factors that are important to you and use them to evaluate options.
Reconnect with your health, fitness, and well-being. We often let our wellness slide when we are ambitious and work hard daily. Reinvesting in yourself is a great way to boost your confidence and self-belief. If your body and mind aren’t 100%, you can’t give your new future 100%.
Redefine your network
Intentionally develop your support network if the one you currently have isn’t lifting you up. For example, if a friend or acquaintance consistently makes you doubt yourself, it’s time to change that relationship or step away from it.
I’ve worked for bad bosses before, and I know how demoralizing and depressing it can be to head into the office and face that every day. I’ve also experienced toxic relationships with people who made me feel bad about myself. When all attempts failed to transform a destructive relationship, I finally severed ties and moved on.
I would rather work for someone who values my contribution, believes in me, and invests in me. Life is too short to work for someone who doesn’t support you.
The same goes for family, friends, and acquaintances. They should recognize who you are, value your relationship, and support you, or they don’t deserve to be in your inner circle.
The snarky comments and passive-aggressive behavior will drain the energy you need to put into your future. Some people will support you, help guide you, and celebrate your wins.
If you can’t create the network you need in your everyday life, seek one out online. Believing in yourself is easier when the people around you treat you well. There are so many supportive communities now, depending on what you want for your future. If you can find the right one, maybe you should create it! That’s what I’ve often done.
When we let others influence our happiness, confidence, and self-worth, we give up our power. We let them affect how much we believe in ourselves.
Never let that happen again.
When I wrote about overcoming impostor syndrome, I talked about finding my core truths. Once you identify, claim, and base your confidence on them, you no longer leave your sense of worth in someone else’s hands.
One thing supremely confident people have in common is that their sense of identity is centered deep inside and is unshakeable. They have an internal locus of control. They believe in themselves even if no one else does.
They know who they are, what they’re passionate about, and what they are good at doing—and they align their life and work to be in harmony with that. External factors must be dealt with, of course. But they don’t influence that core.
We can all learn to be more like that.
Always believe in yourself.
Commit to owning your confidence.
Develop a healthier and more supportive tribe.
Construct your reality where you live an invincible life.
Luck and timing matter
“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
— Suzy Kassem
We all face setbacks in life. You will not always succeed at everything you do. Sometimes, you will fail even when it seems you did everything right. The funny thing is, maybe you actually did do everything right!
There are myriad reasons why some people succeed while others fail. You don’t know all the circumstances and factors that influence a decision that impacts your life. Luck and timing matter. What’s going on in another person’s head matters. What happens earlier in a given day can affect why someone would say “Yes” one day but “No” the next.
For example, I read an interesting story about a freelance writer, Chuck Ross, who was dealing with a setback. After a disappointing attempt to get his first mystery novel published, he wanted to prove his theory that unknown authors always get their books rejected.
Guess what? All of the publishers rejected the sample.
Then, in 1977, Ross sent the entire book to ten publishers, including Random House, who had originally published it, and thirteen agents. Everyone rejected the book.
Not a single person recognized the award-winning novel. No one gave it a chance.
Of course, skills, talent, knowledge, and experience do matter. But luck, timing, and connections matter a lot too. In some situations, who you know matters much more than what you know.
Sometimes, luck and timing are all that separate the winners from the losers. You can see this happen time and again with startups, for example. A great idea failed ten years ago because the market wasn’t ready yet. That same idea becomes a multibillion-dollar company later when the timing is right.
I’ve talked about this before, but you can’t let yourself be defined by the praise or criticism of others. You shouldn’t hang your definition of success on job titles and wealth, either. You need to believe in yourself and stay focused on your goals.
Of course, you should always invest in developing your skills, expanding your knowledge, and seeking valuable experiences. However, why not tip the scales in your favor as much as possible?
Build a powerful network. Connections do matter.
Put yourself and your work out there as often as possible. Timing and luck matter, as well.
Some of the most successful people were rejected many times over. However, they knew their value and the quality of their work, so they put their heads down and kept churning ahead. They believed in themselves.
Grit, determination, and a little luck can make all the difference.
Believe that you deserve better
A long time ago, I had a conversation with a colleague. Our corporate culture and negative politics frustrated me. After years of trying to change things and make it work, I was feeling burned out from frequent re-orgs, leadership changes, and strategy shifts. I mentioned I was looking for new opportunities but worried that joining another company might be more of the same.
I felt that I deserved better. But how could I ensure I would actually find something better?
He looked surprised and said, “Why look for another job? You should start your own thing. If you build your own company, you get to define the culture from the start.”
It was an excellent point. You can either find something better or create something better.
Long story short, I did. I left the corporate world over 13 years ago, created my own businesses, and never returned. I consulted for a while and then founded a tech startup, but eventually found my way to coaching. The practice of coaching captures the essence of what I loved the most about leading teams.
Listening, advising, guiding, giving feedback, and being a sounding board for decisions.
Being the person someone can turn to when nothing else is working.
Working with people to solve their problems.
Helping people “find better.”
Yes, we do a lot of that as managers and leaders. Or we should be! But there is always some tension between the needs of the individual and the needs of the team. You’re always walking that tightrope and balancing your empathy and compassion with what you need to do for the good of the company.
However, as a coach, I have incredible clarity, focus, and purpose. When you are my client, I am in your corner. I don’t work for a company. I work for you. I am 100% focused on helping you succeed, thrive, be happy, and find fulfillment.
I finally get to help good people when bad things happen (with no conflict of interest). I get to help set things right. I believe in people, coach them, and encourage them until they regain their confidence and believe in themselves again.
It is so rewarding to help people leave a bad situation and demand something better for their lives. So, I want to share this with you, as well.
Recognizing when you deserve better.
Understanding why it is so essential to find something better.
Working through how you actually find something better.
How to recognize when you deserve better
No one expects work or a relationship to be 100% sunshine, unicorns, and puppies. But, I think we all recognize when something isn’t fulfilling us, a person is always treating us poorly, or we end every day feeling down.
We know we deserve better.
Maybe all you have is a nagging feeling that something isn’t right. Or, you assume every job or relationship must be like this. You think the grass may not be greener anywhere else, either. It is what it is. So, you put up with it.
However, I’m here to tell you that you deserve better if one or more of the following 13 issues continue to be true day after day and week after week:
Someone makes you feel like “less.”
You feel less confident than you did before.
You’re no longer growing or being challenged.
Your value isn’t recognized or appreciated.
Your input is always dismissed or ignored.
Your manager or partner criticizes or humiliates you in front of other people.
Your boss or partner keeps promising to make things right but never does.
Your manager or partner doesn’t respect your boundaries.
The energy you put into something isn’t returned.
The people around you are dragging you down.
You feel completely drained at the end of every day.
You feel hopeless, and you’re dreading the next day.
You feel like your career or life is at a dead end.
Of course, nothing is perfect. There will be good days and bad days. You will experience some normal ups and downs. But, if most of your days are bad, you spend most of your time feeling down, and you no longer believe in yourself, you must make a change.
Spending most of your time in a hostile environment around negative people can have a lasting impact on you and your life.
Why you need to find better
The longer you stay in a negative situation, the more damage it does to you. You start to internalize what you are hearing and experiencing.
You stop believing in yourself.
You lose confidence in your abilities.
Your ambition fades.
You stop striving (i.e., “quiet quitting”).
You won’t reach your full potential.
You won’t get ahead at work or in your life.
The longer you stay, the harder it gets to land a better job or find a better relationship.
Ultimately, you’ll accomplish less in your lifetime.
Life is too short to tolerate a toxic environment. Spending every day around a terrible boss, coworker, friend, or partner who makes you doubt yourself is no way to live.
You’re a good human being who deserves to be treated better. We all do.
How to find something better
We’ve all experienced bad personal relationships. And I think we’ve all learned to take some time before the next relationship to understand what went wrong, learn more about who we are, and be more careful about who we get involved with next time.
The same thing can be said about work relationships. You don’t want to leap into your next job until you understand what went wrong in your previous job. You don’t want to end up in yet another terrible working relationship with someone.
So, slow down, reflect on things, do your homework, make a plan, and find a healthy professional environment for your next move. You want to end up with a good boss and a great job to help you recover your career potential and optimize your future success.
1. What went wrong?
First, take time to understand what went wrong and why. Was the situation objectively bad, or was it just wrong for you?
What wasn’t working for you?
When did you first notice that something was wrong?
Was something off with your expectations? Their expectations?
What did you learn from the relationship with your boss or partner?
What did you learn about the environment you were in?
What did you learn about your relationship with others?
How can you spot any red flags next time?
2. Define better
Next, define what “better” means for you. If you don’t figure out what you want and what’s right for you, you may end up in the wrong situation with the wrong people again. Your definition of better could include:
A better situation that plays to your strengths.
A better company with a healthier corporate culture.
A better and more supportive boss.
A more supportive partner who brings out the best in you.
Being around people who help you grow.
3. Do your homework
Someone recently asked me how they could ask enough questions during a job interview to understand what the manager is like, get the truth about the company culture, and know what they might be getting into if they accept an offer.
My answer was, “You can’t.”
Those few minutes you get to ask questions during a job interview will never be enough time to learn everything you need to know. You must do your research ahead of time. Dig, dig, dig. Leverage your network to learn more about the company and the management team.
If things go well and you receive an offer, do even more research before you commit. Talk to current employees. Talk to past employees, too. Find people who will tell you the truth about the company and your potential new boss.
Don’t be dazzled by the superficial flash and external veneer. A big name and big money aren’t worth it if you end up being damaged for months or years by a bad work experience.
The same can be said for personal relationships. Find out who someone really is before you get too deeply involved. Take the time to get to know them. Maybe be friends first? Wild concept, right? Even better, don’t get into a relationship with someone unless a mutual friend introduces you. People sometimes put up a positive facade but rarely sustain it for longer than a few weeks or months.
4. Find your support system
Your network is one of your most valuable assets. If you connect with the right people, they will believe in you and want the best for you.
A strong professional network can help you find new opportunities that are a good fit for you, your personality, your skills, and your talent. They will also do the right thing and connect you with healthy companies and good managers.
All of my corporate jobs were because of my network and thanks to my “inside champions.” I knew what I was getting into before I even started interviewing.
Similarly, a strong personal network of friends will want the best for you. They know who you are and what you want out of life. They will introduce you to someone who has a better chance of being an excellent fit for you than some random stranger.
So, find or create the support system that will help you succeed. Connect with people who want to help you find “better.”
Create your inner circle of peers who support you but also challenge you. They’ll remind you when you’re settling for less and should seek better.
Join a community that will lift you up and encourage you to pursue what’s best for you.
Find a mentor, advisor, coach, or therapist who will believe in you until you believe in yourself again.
You want people in your corner who will be just as upset as you are when someone isn’t treating you well. You want someone who says, “Ok, that’s enough. You deserve better! Now, let’s help you find it.”
As a coach, that last point is my purpose. It’s one big reason I created my coaching business. It’s why I do what I do.
I’m here for the good people who deserve better, the talented people who should be getting ahead, and those who are tired of suffering at work under terrible leaders. I’m also here for people who deserve more out of their relationships (personal and professional).
Believe in yourself and never settle for less again
You should never settle for less. Life is short, and your prime career years are even shorter. When you settle, you deny yourself what you could have achieved and who you could have become.
I know the world can sometimes be a frustrating, cold, dark place. But no one should feel hopeless, and no one should feel alone. I’m doing my best to bring a little more humanity, light, and warmth into the professional world. I hope the articles I share help with that.
There are good companies out there. There are good bosses out there, too. The challenge is finding them. Work is a significant part of your life. You can find a job (or build a business) that is meaningful and fulfilling.
And your personal life matters even more than your job. You can and should build relationships that make everything better. Only let the best people into your inner circle.
You deserve that! Never settle for less, and keep believing in yourself.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of my book with you! Become a subscriber today to keep reading the draft chapters as I complete them.
Hi, I’m Larry Cornett, a Personal Coach who can work with you to optimize your career, life, or business. My mission is to help you take complete control of your life so you can become a more “Invincible You.” I currently live in Northern California near Lake Tahoe with my wife and our Great Dane.