We may be empowered girl bosses here at Well TO Do, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our moments of self-doubt, which is why we were so happy to read an advance kindle copy of Louisa Jewell’s new book, Wire Your Brain for Confidence: The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt. It’s been powerful to implement the simple tools she describes to acknowledge any self-doubt as we strive to expand the reach of Well TO Do.
Balancing everything – day jobs, relationships, nutrition, pets, exercise and the website – is a lot but Louisa’s mantra “practice peace at six” has reminded us not to seek perfection in everything. Read below for more on her practical tips to conquer self-doubt and wire your brain for confidence.
Well TO Do: We were so excited to read Wire Your Brain for Confidence and loved every page! Could you please introduce yourself to the Well TO Do Readers?
Louise Jewell: Thank you so much! It makes me so happy to hear you loved it!
A little bit about me: About 18 years ago, after going through some hard times and suffering through four miscarriages, I found myself in a deep depression. My doctor put me on anti-depressants, and I started seeing a psychologist, but I knew that I had to take control of my own mental well-being.
I soon discovered that there was a scientific study of well-being and it was known as positive psychology, so I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) from the University of Pennsylvania and it completely transformed my life. I applied everything I learned to myself and I never became depressed again. So many people came to me wanting to know more about it, so I founded the Canadian Positive Psychology Association in 2012.
Since then we have run conferences every year, bringing in scholars, researchers, and practitioners to share their knowledge on this important topic. I now spend my days teaching positive psychology across Canada and at the University of Texas and I deliver keynote talks to organizations in all sectors to improve the mental well-being of people across North America.
My first book, Wire Your Brain for Confidence: The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt focuses on my favorite topic in positive psychology. I’m excited to be sharing this knowledge and creating programs around it so people can learn it at a deep level.
WTD: Why did you decide to write Wire Your Brain for Confidence?
LJ: When I was young, I had confidence. I worked hard in high school and university so that I could get a good job. I always had a desire to be a strong, independent woman – and I was. But when I went home at night, I was plagued with self-doubt. I questioned everything that happened that day and I would ruminate about it. That is, something would happen and I would think about it over and over again. My ruminations were killing me and I was not happy. So here I was, a seemingly confident woman, but self-doubt was robbing me of my happiness.
I also found that self-doubt was stopping me from going after my big goals and dreams – and I was not alone. Over the years, I spoke to so many women who were doing really well, but they were still all plagued with self-doubt. I realized that being generally confident was not enough. When I completed my master’s degree, I discovered that there are different kinds of confidence. I learned a formula for a more action-oriented kind of confidence and once I started to apply it in my life, I started to go after everything I wanted with no anxiety or stress. The ruminations stopped.
That’s when I decided I would write the book so more people could learn how to manage their own self-doubt and build their confidence. You see, I always felt that confidence and happiness went hand in hand. When you’re not afraid to professionally stand up for yourself or say confidently, “No – I don’t want to do that!” or, “Yes, I want to do that!” (even though you’re scared out of your mind to do it), then you have the confidence to live your authentic life and show up in the world the way you truly want to live, which makes for a happy life.
WTD: What was the hardest part about doing so?
LJ: Deciding you are going to write a book and doing it are two totally different things. I am a natural speaker but not a natural writer, so I solicited the help of a writing coach and that made all the difference. I think the hardest part was just carving out the time in my busy schedule to write. If you want to make anything happen, it has to be scheduled and made a priority.
WTD: What are some of your top practical tips for conquering self-doubt?
LJ: First I want to say that some self-doubt is not a bad thing. A little bit of self-doubt is that voice that says: Wait have you practiced enough? Have you worked hard enough on that? Some self-doubt can propel you to work harder and perform better. Also, when you decide you are going to go after something completely new, it’s natural to have self-doubt. How can you feel confident about something you have never tried before? So relax, it’s normal to have self-doubt at the beginning of anything new. We really only want to conquer self-doubt when it is chronic. That is, when you have self-doubt about everything.
Tip 1: Be Aware of When Self-Doubt is Stopping You
You need to have some awareness of when self-doubt is stopping you from going after what it is you really want. If you are engaging in self-sabotage, impostor syndrome or procrastination, these could all be manifestations of self-doubt. In the book I describe how these unhelpful behaviors come about as a result of self-doubt and what to do about them. Awareness is the first step.
Tip 2: Abandon Perfectionism and Practice Peace at Six
When we are constantly setting the bar at ‘perfect’ as the standard we must meet, of course we are going to have self-doubt. No one and nothing is ever perfect so why we demand it from ourselves is really beyond me. As women, we are wanting to be perfect in so many domains of our lives including our families, our homes, our bodies, our communities, career, volunteer work, the PTA…the list continues.
When we fall short of perfect in all of these domains we feel we are never ‘good enough’ and begin doubting ourselves as capable human beings. It is an impossible task to be perfect in so many domains. So I share a tool in Wire Your Brain for Confidence called ‘Peace at Six’. That is, decide on only three domains where you want to strive for a ‘ten’ in your life and set the rest at six. Decide that you don’t need to be perfect in so many domains and decide this for your own happiness and well-being. I know when I gave housework a six, the anxiety that came along with always having to have my house perfect disappeared.
Tip 3: Don’t Make Your Self-Esteem Contingent on Success or Failure
We tend to feel good about ourselves when we are doing well and we feel bad about ourselves when we are not doing so well. The best way to build your confidence is to build your competence. But if you are always feeling bad after every disappointing attempt, you are not going to just get back up and try again. You might even abandon ship all together. If you want to keep persevering and get better and better every day, you have to feel good about yourself after every attempt, no matter what. Focus on each performance as if it was an experiment, analyze what you did well and how you can improve and learn for next time, feel good about yourself for trying, and then get right back up and try again. Worry less about ‘looking good’ and focus more on ‘getting good.’
WTD: You are very involved and accomplished in the field of positive psychology. How would you describe positive psychology to someone new to the subject?
LJ: Positive psychology is the scientific study of psychological well-being and human flourishing. While traditional psychology focuses on mental illness and what is wrong with us, positive psychology focuses on the study of how we can stay psychologically healthy and improve our resilience.
WTD: What questions are you asked most frequently on the subject of self-doubt and confidence? Are there any topics you think aren’t paid enough attention?
LJ: I think the biggest question I get is about rumination. As I mentioned earlier, rumination is when you think about something over, and over, and over again. Rumination is more common for women than men and it is known as a contributing factor to female depression. Wire Your Brain for Confidence has many strategies about how to stop that cycle and treat yourself with greater self-compassion.
One topic that I think we don’t pay enough attention to is how our bodies factor into feelings of confidence. Being physically active and strong can fuel your confidence in many areas of your life, not just about body image. After a good session at CrossFit or hot Yoga, my body feels strong and that sends a message to my brain that I am a strong, confident woman. Do not underestimate the power of your body in your battle to conquer self-doubt.
WTD: Even as we incorporate the tools you describe in Wire Your Brain for Confidence, we are sure it is normal to have ‘bad’ days or moments. Can you talk a bit about this and what you do when this happens to you?
LJ: I always say that confidence is like a muscle. You can’t just build it one day and then expect it to be high for the rest of your life. Sometimes small things happen that we can easily overcome, other times things happen that completely knock us off our feet. When I am feeling like nothing is going right, I use visualization as a tool that gets me back on track. Every morning, and especially when I am going through a tough time, I sit and visualize everything going exactly as I would like it to go. I visualize a good performance, a good outcome and a productive process to get me there. After visualizing good things, I feel energized and that fuels my confidence to go into my day strong.