In this article you’ll discover 5 techniques for defeating your fear of not being good enough and dealing with situations that make you feel uncomfortable. In addition, Claudia Landini – cross-cultural coach and founder of Expatclic – shares her own experiences of this. You can find the full version of the interview with Claudia in the book Master the Art of Life, where she describes her journey and explains how to use your own life experiences to find your vocation.
Have you ever found yourself feeling inadequate, or not equal to the situation, when faced with a new experience, or perhaps when setting up your own business? It’s happened to me a lot. Anthony Robbins regards this as one of the fundamental fears that haunts every human being.
I felt like this during my first Bollywood dance session (Bollywood dance is a fusion of various Indian dances). When the instructor switched the music on, the other girls casually started dancing, and they already knew all the steps.
I was left rooted to the spot, along with two other girls. The only three first-timers, we had no idea what to do or how to get started. I tried with difficulty to follow the instructor’s moves, struggling to keep up with the too-fast rhythm, but I felt completely inadequate and awkward.
The quick break at the end of the first half hour of the class gave the other two novices the chance to slip out of the room. I also wanted to escape from this situation, which was making me feel really uncomfortable. However, I didn’t want my sense of inadequacy to get the better of me, so I decided to stay until the end of the lesson.
What happened in that dance studio has parallels in a business context. Let’s see how.
1. Abandon perfectionism and throw yourself in before you’re ready
When you decide to launch your own business, it’s very likely that there are already individuals and businesses with more experience than you operating in your professional field. Maybe they started one, three, or perhaps even ten years before you.
Faced with the competition’s experience, it’s easy to feel insignificant and doubt your abilities. Why would clients choose a newbie?
As we saw from the dance lesson, though, every time you’re getting ready to do something new, you’ll come up against someone who has more experience, who started earlier, who has built up a reputation over time.
It’s normal not to feel ready at first, but you have to practice to get good at something, and you have to make mistakes in order to learn from them. So, don’t wait until everything is perfect – start immediately. Try, get things wrong, experiment.
Claudia Landini, founder of Expatclic – a web portal that for 11 years has been helping thousands of expat women across the world settle in to their new home country successfully – also encountered this issue when she launched her career as a cross-cultural coach.
“For quite some time I had been feeling inadequate, convinced that other people were better than me. I saw people offering the same services as me, but doing it in a way that seemed more appropriate, more innovative and more outgoing. I, on the other hand, always felt that the way I presented myself was a bit clumsy.
I had to come to terms with this feeling and learn to live with it, until I saw the results I was starting to get and my anxiety decreased. It was only by throwing myself in head first that I was able to keep the feeling under control. If I hadn’t jumped, I could never have proved to myself I could do it,” Claudia says.
2. Focus on your strong points, not your weaknesses
As I explain in the free mini-course ‘Release your potential’ (only available in Italian, for now), don’t let limiting beliefs slow you down. Transform these beliefs into empowering convictions, so that you can take full advantage of your abilities.
When you get the feeling that you’re not good enough, think about your strengths instead of beating yourself up over your shortcomings. What are these strengths? What can you do really well? Which of your abilities could turn out to be useful in your current situation?
“It’s important to constantly remind yourself of your own strong points. In my own case it helps a lot to repeat ‘I have experience in this area’,” Claudia continues.
“For someone else it may be helpful to keep a life-changing event in mind, something that other people haven’t experienced. Or perhaps some significant education or training undertaken, such as a degree at a prestigious university.”
For example, coordination is not my strong point and I often feel awkward. But I also know that I’m very enthusiastic and curious, I enjoy learning new things and I like to take away useful lessons from what happens in my life.
That’s how my dance experience turned out to be a great source of inspiration for the article you’re reading right now :)
3. Recognize your fears and persevere
Don’t give up at the first hurdle, and don’t let anxiety or your fear of not being good enough gain the upper hand.
Recognize why you feel the way you do and… resist! We all feel uncomfortable when we have to cope with something new – it’s normal! As time passes, these feelings will gradually get weaker until eventually they disappear.
“Fear and anxiety are your true enemies because they eat away at you from within and damage your confidence and self-esteem. If you deal with your fears and anxieties in the right way, success will come, and so these feelings will remain under control. You need to find a way to give them space but at the same time to restrict them, recognize them and then contain them,” Claudia says.
Two months before trying out Bollywood dancing, I had taken a stab at yoga and experienced the same thing: I was the only beginner in a group of 50 people who moved with grace and agility, apparently making no physical effort at all. How could this be possible? I was torturing myself attempting to use muscles I never even knew I had!
Yet with a bit of practice, I realized that sticking with it had given me greater confidence in myself and… I even improved!
4. Don’t compare yourself to others, but to your past self
When you’re around other people, or in direct competition with them, you often want to make comparisons. But this isn’t helpful at all. How can you possibly compare your abilities as a beginner to theirs as experts?
You may be inspired by their success, but avoid comparing yourself to them and concentrate on your own progress. What improvements can you see since yesterday? And since the day before yesterday? As long as you’ve done better than you did the day before, even just a little, you know you’ve improved.
Keep on doing things, putting them into practice and trying them out. Don’t let excuses stand in your way – make a concrete effort to change. Create your action plan, take the necessary steps, even if they’re small ones, and never stop.
5. Take pride in your victories
Every so often, look back and take stock of the results you’ve achieved and the feedback you’ve received. Too often, we’re caught up in the excitement, or we feel the need to do more, and we don’t notice all the things we’ve already accomplished.
“It was difficult throwing myself into a new career as a cross-cultural coach, but the feedback I received helped. Even before I began working, there were certain things I would hear consistently. I was seen as a highly active and well-connected person, with a range of abilities, knowledge and helpful information,” continues Claudia.
“Moreover, I had already lived as an expat in 6 different countries, and so objectively I had built up a certain level of experience. If all it came down to was experience, I did at least have that. So at some point I said to myself, “If people see all these things in me, it’s obviously because there’s something there.”
Think back to a month, two months, a year ago. Where were you? What were you doing? How has your life changed since then? What changes do other people see in you?
When I ask my coaching clients to take me through the objectives they’ve reached in little more than 6 weeks, they’re knocked sideways by what they’ve achieved, and by their potential.
Too often, we concentrate on what’s still missing. Focusing our attention on what we’ve achieved means we can value our results and be grateful for what life is offering us.
So, to summarize, you can deal with your fear of not being good enough by:
- Abandoning perfectionism
- Focusing on your strong points
- Recognizing your fears and persisting
- Drawing comparisons not with others but with yourself
- Taking pride in your victories
Don’t take yourself too seriously, and be sure to recognize the mistakes you’ve made. This way you’ll really savour your whole journey.
During that dance class, I often ended up laughing at myself, at how awkward and clumsy I was. So even though I couldn’t keep up with the steps like the other girls could, I really had a lot of fun :)
Here I am with Claudia when she came to visit Singapore. I’m hugely grateful for her continued support, for all her wonderful initiatives for women and for sharing her experience with us! You can find the full interview with Claudia in the book Master the Art of Life.