I’m what might call a numbers girl. I’m a blogger by night, but during the day, I’m disguised as a Treasury Manager. I move money across bank accounts, create short-term and long-term cash forecasts, maintain relationships with various banking institutions and try to play nice in the Corporate America sandbox. And I like it, for the most part. I was fortunate enough to stumble into this profession 16 years ago and I’m grateful for all of the opportunities it continues to send my way. So then, why have I been doubting myself so much at work lately? Could it be that I need a good old fashioned dose of self confidence? Couldn’t hurt. Which is why I’ve taken up listening to self help books this year. But shouldn’t they be helping? At this point, I was hoping I’d actually be so confident that people would say things under their breath like, “Well, she thinks her sh*t doesn’t stink”, as I walk away (shoulders back and head held high). I mean that would be best case scenario, right? I’d be ecstatic if I had to start searching for books about how to tone down my awesome self-image so as not to make others feel inadequate. Could it be that all of the self help books I’ve been listening to lately are really working against me? Instead of self help, I’m starting to wonder if it’s turning into self hurt?
I started listening to motivational books earlier this year, on my commute to and from work. I actually turned to them, not for my day job, but for a boost of self confidence as I entered the dynamic world of blogging. Plus I couldn’t remember the last time I actually sat down and read a book, that wasn’t titled something like, Cat in the Hat or Hands Are Not for Hitting (isn’t this really just a self help book for toddlers?). I’ve enjoyed this change in my monotonous routine, and to think about all that I’ve been accomplishing with my spare time, besides learning the lyrics to every new pop song that comes on the radio, it’s very motivating. Although for the record, I’ve never considered these lyrical studies a waste of time. Music definitely has its own self help qualities.
The books I’ve added to my repertoire have been funny, insightful, thoughtful, emotional and practical. They’ve provided tools for kicking your butt into high gear and motivational speeches for days when I just needed to hear that “I’ve got this.” I do recommend these types of “go get ‘em” books to anyone. But the caveat should be to work them into the routine in small doses.
I went on a work trip recently. I was gearing up to lead an important quarterly discussion for the first time, and needless to say, I was a little anxious. I studied the numbers as best as I could and then attempted to put into play, all of the confidence boosting tools in my newly full-to-the-brim self help toolkit. Shoulders back, head up, posturing pose in front of a bathroom mirror, five second countdown to making it happen, chanting “I’m a badass”, maintaining eye contact without being creepy, taking at least five minutes to get centered and pouring myself a generous glass of wine. Okay, that last tool wasn’t really approved in one of the books I read, and I didn’t bring my friend Pinot Noir into the meeting, but it sounds delicious, right?
What happened to getting comfortable with the numbers and just plain showing people what I’m made of? I was so nervous about executing all of that other “stuff”, that I stumbled. I wouldn’t say it was a total bust, but definitely not my best performance. I managed to think about all of the things I’d like to improve, before anything actually went wrong. Was I really so bad to begin with? I know this answer – no.
To sum it up, here are my other takeaways for the land of self help:
- Focus on no more than 1-2 self help topics at a time. Anyone ever tell you that you shouldn’t date someone you have to completely fix? Well, look in the mirror (posturing pose or not). You can’t change everything you don’t like about yourself, but it’s okay to want to better certain things. Putting too much pressure on yourself though, is very counterproductive and just unreasonable.
- Don’t lose sight of your inherently good qualities. Self help should be the icing on the cake. The cake is a metaphor for you – and you’re already pretty delicious!
- It’s okay NOT to work on yourself. Guess what book I listened to on the drive home from my work trip? I’ll give you a hint – it had nothing to do with self improvement. It’s perfectly healthy to not be in your own head all the time. Finding some laughs, smiles and distractions can be extremely helpful for recharging and resetting.