This conversation with Melissa was amazing and totally worth the read. She drops the mic on how you can turn the negative self talk into your own personal cheerleader!
Jenessa: I’m here with Melissa Howard who is an international confidence strategist, speaker coach and empowerment photographer and she specializes in supporting overachievers who are ready to end their battle with self sabotage and regain their confidence.
Melissa: Thank you for having me
Jenessa: Tell us a little bit more about what you do, who exactly do you help and how do you help them.
Melissa: I started my career in healthcare and it was always instilled in me as a child to be a go getter. I was a perfectionist and I was so proud of that. Everyone wanted my life. I had a six figure income at age 21 or 22. I had a house, a car and a fiance. I had everything. But I just felt like I was chasing something that every time I've got it, I wasn't ever happy. I had a lot more emotional baggage then I needed and unfortunately, I developed depression and anxiety and I believe our inner critic is a host to that. It just regenerates like a catalyst.
I was driving home from work one day and I just felt really scared because I have gotten in the car and I arrived at home, but I couldn't recall anything that happened to me in the middle because I was on autopilot. That was just a picture of my life. I went to work and I was ripping myself apart and was thinking, what if they find out that I’m a fraud? Then I realized that I couldn't keep doing this because I'm not enjoying it anymore. Unfortunately, when people don't enjoy something, the thoughts get worse and then you never know what happens.
Jenessa: It also borders on the mental health issue too. It seems like almost an epidemic right now that people are strapped with anxiety and depression. I’ve had my ups and downs in life as well and I never really thought that I was depressed. I probably clinically was, but I never realized it. So in looking back on my life, I was depressed. Thank God for some reason I didn't realize it and I somehow was able to pull myself out of it without even really realizing it. There are people that don't understand that and they listen to that voice in their head.
Our thoughts, technically, aren’t our own. It’s like these thoughts pop into our heads from, digging down into our subconscious from way back when we were children. Or things that we learned at home, at school, from friends or from some guy we met in the grocery store and it can happen anywhere. That’s what I call the mean girl in your head. It just plants itself there. It could be a very silly thing or could have been a very traumatic thing or anything in between. But now those thoughts are there, and now they start talking to you, and you start believing them because it's in your head.
Melissa: For me, with my mental health, I had that throughout my teenage years. I had a traumatic experience and I was sexually abused. I personally still don't attribute that to the reason I have mental health issues, but I just think it was just the time I was living in and the hormones and boys and life. I just didn't know how to deal with them because I never had to deal with it before. I went to therapy and all they ever wanted to do was pin everything back to that moment. It's like, the thoughts I'm having now are worrying what other people think of me.
These little sayings that undermine your life and the labels like “depression” and “anxiety,” I feel we need to talk about it more. Especially in the UK, we really just started to talk about this. We’re now in the second decade of the millennium, you’d think we’d be talking about this a lot more. I generally see it as regardless of your label or not, it's the symptoms that you exhibit in that period of time and it doesn't have to follow you around for life.
Jenessa: So tell us what your tools are to turn that inner critic into your inner cheerleader?
Melissa: The first thing is knowing what are the inner critics. There’s generally about seven. I think if you can identify which one is your main critic or your main mean girl and which girl is the main bully, it makes it easy for you to actually pick it out. The first one is perfectionism. This was something that was so hard for me. I used to go into interviews and say my biggest strength is being a perfectionist and actually that was the one thing that was holding me back because I had to have everything perfect. Especially high performers and overachievers, they definitely have some sort of perfectionist trait. I'm not saying having high standards is a bad thing, but it's when actually being fearful disqualifies you from moving forward.
The second one is being an inner controller. This one stops you from any impulse behavior that might be dangerous. How I picture this is like a train conductor who just takes control of everything that you do.
The third one is the taskmaster which is close to perfectionism. For example, if you don't do something perfectly, you're going to be shamed and mediocre or you'll be less than average. This can cause a feeling of over striving for work. That's what happened to me. I lost all of my friends because I was thinking that at some point I'm going to be found out as a fraud and the only person that can do a good job is me. I had this taskmaster telling me that I’ve got to do better.
The fourth one is an under miner and impostor. It really undermines your self confidence and your self esteem and you won't take any risks because you don't want to fail. And you don't want to get too big or too powerful or too visible because you feel you're going to get attacked or rejected and feel completely worthless.
Jeneesa: This is a tricky one for entrepreneurs, because to be an entrepreneur, you have to put yourself out there. Whether you're selling a widget, or you're selling a service, people want to know who they're buying from. So, if they can't know you, like you and trust you, then they're going to move on to the next person.
Melissa: Definitely. Some people do sort of attack other people in the jack, but it is basically themselves who feel they could never do that. The fifth one is the destroyer.This makes attacks on your self worth and it just shames you deeply. It just wants to follow you around everywhere like black clouds. Every now and again you see it over your shoulder and it wants to consume everything off you and it really does.
Then you've got the guilt tripper. Doesn’t need any more explanation, but it just makes you feel guilty for everything. Guilty because you're successful. Guilty because you're not guilty because you're not spending time with the kiddies or the dog, or you haven’t showered for two days. Hey it's entrepreneurial life.
Jenessa: Especially when you have kids and a family. Then when you actually do something for yourself, you feel awful. Like how dare I think about myself. But if you don't fill up your own cup you're not going to be able to fill up anybody else’s either.
Melissa: Then the last one is the molder. This is where you fit a mold for either a certain job type, certain image, that you should have. Like if you're a photographer or an entrepreneur, maybe even molding for your family of what they believe you should be. It’s like if you’re aggressive or too polite, it’s like you're always going to be too polite so we're going to put you in this box that you could never be a manager or an entrepreneur being polite. This is what we’ll feed ourselves especially when we’re being praised.
Jenessa: I know that I had a hard time, for a long time, accepting compliments. We're not saying you should be perfect or that you shouldn't have negative thoughts, we're human. We're always going to have that thought in the back of our heads. I think it's more what you do with it and how you react to it and how you move forward from it is what’s going to count.
Melissa: So I like to share this because it's quite raw. My background is health care. Even though I said I felt like a fraud and impostor, I knew what I was doing and I could do it with my eyes closed. When I decided to retrain and become a coach, all of those instances when I had therapy or spoke to someone who gave me bad advice that didn’t work, made me think about that person at the time I was training and I felt like, who am I to do this? I've got the qualifications, but why would anyone want to pay me when Tony Robbins or, Rachel Hollis are accessible and are better and they’ve got a social media presence. So why the hell would anyone want to invest in me? These were the thoughts holding back.
Jenessa: I think everybody that starts something new, whether you’re an entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur that has been in business for a while, when they try something new they're going to get these feelings. You know that reptilian part of our brain is going what are you doing, you've never done this before, this is scary, do something else. It still does happen to me sometimes. It’s like they creep back every once in a while like that old lady neighbor that sticks her head out of the doorway and has to know what you're doing. It happens and it’s ok. When I first started doing all this self work, it was like the second that I would get a negative thought, I would get another negative thought because I got that negative thought. I'm thinking I'm here, but what am I doing wrong? Let it go. Let it go. You know you're not doing anything wrong. You're retraining your brain to think differently. The first time you try it, it's like anything else you have to keep doing it and keep doing it, and less and less will that mean girl show up, but she’ll still show up.
Melissa: The best is when my critic turned into a cheerleader when was when I went back and thought, what evidence did I have in favor of me either coaching or actually succeeding at helping somebody else. I literally have pages and pages of stuff that automatically made me feel great. I did videos of me where I've helped people and I asked them to do testimonials for me. It was just for my personal use, but I had to listen to the voice at the time saying how I helped them change their mindset and their life. In the beginning I didn't have that, but I knew in earlier times I've been able to help people, even if it's crossing the road with an old lady, picking something up at the supermarket or when someone drops it. There's little things that helps fill that cup when you feel so low. When you don't feel like you can speak to someone, it helps when you feel like a good human being and gives you the confidence to go into this coaching session to help others knowing you can’t fix them, but you’re going to help them.
Jenessa: Yeah, and that's important. We know that we can't fix people, because that's not our job as coaches. It's our job to guide those people, to the right decision for them. It's holding space for them to realize what it is, whatever we're coaching them on at that moment. You know what is the right path for them to take.
What would your advice be for those people in my audience that are new entrepreneurs who want to get themselves out there, get their branding done, get on their Facebook Live and Instagram Live and get their message out there.
Melissa: Even if you think you don’t need to do the training for your business, you need to do it for yourself. Write down all of your thoughts and your fears. Then write a list of evidence you have that everyone's going to judge you, make fun of you, reject you and attack you. Most people haven’t experienced that. Especially if they've never had any sort of presence before. If someone picks you apart, are they your ideal client? Are they going to be paying your bills? Does their opinion matter? At the end of the day, what is it that you're putting out. Is it positive? Is it helpful? Is it going to help even just one person think better about themselves and move forward in their life? We're entrepreneurs for a reason. Keeping our gifts and our passion to ourselves is the worst thing that we can do and is really selfish. That would be my starter, but I just think with everything you just need to be less harsh. The more positive you can be, the more hopeful you are. It festers, it multiplies and conversely negativity multiplies too.
Jenessa: To add on to that, what would you do if your child was going to go live. Would you say the same thing to your kids, or would you be encouraging? Would you say, “You can do it, you got this, just do it and get through it and you'll get better every time you go.” Or would you say, “Now you're nervous, don't do it because it’s too hard for you.” I'm pretty sure you probably wouldn't.
You're not going to die from doing it, but that’s what it feels like inside. You’re so nervous, you feel you can’t. So, whenever I see one of my clients say I can't, I walk them through the actual physical steps of what they're going to do. You just have to take the story that you're attaching to it, and put that aside. That's all it is. All those feelings, all that analysis is the story you're telling yourself. When I first started, I was going to outsource this and I didn't want this.Yes, I don't like a lot of things in business like, I don't think financials are my strong point, but the more I tell myself that, of course, it’s not going to be my strong point. Like, web design I've designed my website and it's not the best, but it's not the worst. If I paid someone to do that and it wasn't how I wanted it, how can I tell them what I want.
Melissa: I agree. You should know how to do everything in your business. Do you need to be an expert in everything? You don’t, but not knowing stuff could be dangerous.
Jenessa: So true. All that you can do is work with what you have. Pick apart those negative and know that you're having them. The first step is to know that what you're thinking is not serving you and it's not helping you move forward and it's actually holding you back.
Melissa: No matter how painful this process is, know that it is gonna take you at least a step closer, at least one millimeter shift, every day. This is what part of the critic is. I wanted to get everything done I was a perfectionist. I want to do it all over the week, but then after three days I would burn out from doing it. I found out I couldn't do and it was too difficult. Whereas doing something, one millimeter every day, one little change is 360 by the end of the year.
Jenessa: You overwhelm yourself right in the beginning. You can get it all done in a week when you know you deserve more grace than that. You have to keep doing it. You have to keep moving forward.
Melissa: In February, I'm going to be doing a five day free challenge for the inner critic. Every evening, we're going to meet on Facebook and chat about what came up. When you're in a group environment, like I found this great, there's two of us. Can you imagine if there were eight? These challenges or any other kind of a group on Facebook with like-minded people and you're all working towards the same thing, that energy is amazing.
Jenessa: Thank you so much Melissa I really appreciate you coming on.
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