Have you ever thought this to yourself or felt like this?  

“I feel so overwhelmed but I don’t want my team or investors to know that” or “I don’t want to appear rude if I ask that employee to do their job more thoughtfully” or “I am going to let my family down because I can’t keep up with everything” or “I don’t feel confident that I am sufficiently intelligent and an expert at what I do” or “If I am not constantly recognized publicly, that’s an indication of insufficient success” or “I don’t want to sound too demanding when improvements are needed”?

These are quiet thoughts that many high-performing, successful leaders experience during interactions with clients, partners, vendors, family and when they are on their own. Don’t judge them—in fact, congratulate them for being aware and brave enough to admit it. These thoughts they discover have a life of their own, in that one thought leads to the next to the next . And here are a few of the results if one isn’t intentional about shifting them:

  • Your mind incessantly bounces all over the place and it’s exhausting and unproductive.
  • Ideas and solutions seem to be forced rather than be inspired—reducing confidence in their success.
  • The needs of family, teams, partners, investors overrides yours every time, delaying action on improving your own well-being.
  • You are shockingly resistant to feeling good and continuously stay in what doesn’t.

How perceptions steal your effectiveness and your aspirations 

The truth about these perceptions that you have about what others think of you is this: All the while you are focused on these disempowering thoughts, you are not focused and acting on what you really want: the satisfied partner, the happy client, self-confidence, connection with others, incredible business results, the high-performing new hire. And instead you are silently miserable or anxious, silently belittling yourself at not meeting your own expectations, or continuously playing the exhausting game of keeping up appearances.

More faulty perceptions 

Many people think that the solution is to go the gym, force oneself to think positive, collect every uplifting meme, read the latest leadership book or jump on the trendy buzzword bandwagon—and that these thoughts lessen in intensity over time or go away all together. And we all know the truth: they don’t; they only temporarily address the feeling. 

For example, when you are on a run or a hike in the woods, you feel great, right? But what happens an hour later when you have a whining employee in your office or funding gets pulled on your project or you have to face a difficult person on your leadership team? It’s hard to extend that feeling from the run or the hike into that moment, correct? 

Breaking this pattern is necessary

Could you rest with this premise? The only person you need recognition from is yourself.

But here is the thing. You know yourself less than you know others. Why? Because your attention is usually on others, not on yourself. And why is that? Because maybe you are worried that other’s perceptions of you are actually true. When you really think about that though, how can that possibly be true? For the most part, no one can read your mind, no one has been through the experiences you have been through, no one has aspirations exactly like yours, no one experiences work exactly like you, no one has the strengths that you have in the precise way that you do. While this may sound cliched, the truth is you are the one that knows yourself best. But many have forgotten this important detail.

It is therefore an intentional effort to getting to know yourself—some of it can be frightening but mostly it’s a powerful and enjoyable journey. Equipped with this, you can alter these perceptions you have about what others think of you—and what others think of you will align with who you really are. And things get a whole lot simpler, aligned and enjoyable! 

Obviously this isn’t something that you can buy off the shelf at the grocery store—and it’s something that only works well if you approach it systematically. 

What you can do starting right this minute

  1. Become crystal clear on the thoughts that help you meet your goals and aspirations.
  2. Deepen your well of self-awareness to catch an unproductive thought in the moment.
  3. Practice redirecting attention, at will and in the moment, when an unproductive thought persists.

And have some fun exploring!