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Be your best advocate

Seven strategies to fight self-doubt and improve your productivity


I have a running joke that I use on my husband, which always makes him laugh. If we are out doing something together in the middle of the day, I tell him that I’m glad my boss gave me some time off since she can be a real hard ass.


My husband always chuckles because I work for myself, and he often tells me I have a strong work ethic. When we share these moments of levity, I acknowledge, once again, that I need to stop being so hard on myself.


I started working for myself only recently after years of working for other people. The big lesson I have learned by being my own boss is to stop being my own worst enemy. I tell myself daily that I need to believe in myself or no one else will. Believing in yourself is easy to say, but self-advocacy can be challenging regardless of whether you work for yourself or for someone else.


To stay productive even when I doubt myself, I put tactics in place that help me to keep going. I want to share seven strategies that I practice for fighting self-doubt so I can be my best advocate.

Begin each day with a plan

Working on my own, I find that having a plan for each day is critical for my well-being. If I don’t provide myself some daily structure, I end up feeling depressed when I lose a day. Making a daily plan can be as simple as jotting down a list of actions to complete for the day. I make sure most of my daily activities map back to a set of major life goals I have identified. The key is to view each day as having purpose in your life.


It’s ok to change what isn’t working

My daily plan helps me to see the value in each day, but I do not let the plan rule me. Periodically, I do a review of my routine to see if my actions are contributing or detracting from my happiness. For example, if I spend too much time working alone on my projects one week, I schedule in more social activities for the next week. I don’t want my plans to turn into roadblocks.


Let other people’s achievements be inspiring

One of my goals is to use illustration and visual design to help clarify the understanding of complex topics. Applying visual design is a new ambition since science has been the main focus of my education and career until the last couple of years. I have been immersing myself in the visual arts, and I am astounded by the talent in the world. A big pivot I practice is to allow the work of other people be inspiring to me instead of letting it intimidate me. I focus on how people have reached their achievements so I can build my skills. Comparing myself to others leaves me worrying about my deficiencies.


Feedback is a gift

I have a different respect for performance reviews now that I work on my own. If you are getting feedback, you are being noticed. I view feedback as a gift whether it is good or bad. When I get feedback, I use it to motivate, change or confirm what I should be doing. Capturing feedback helps me identify my strengths and weaknesses. By knowing my strengths, I can build them up. By understanding my weaknesses, I can leverage my strengths better.


Don’t make rejection personal

Fear of rejection is a weakness that I work on a lot. I force myself to do certain activities expecting I will get rejected so I get more comfortable with “No.” One method I use to desensitize myself to rejection is to imagine the worse-case scenario. If I get rejected for something I try, the worst outcomes are usually I need to try again, or I need to try something else. When I take rejection personally, I lose time and opportunity to grow.


Ask for help

Asking for help is hard. We view needing help as a sign of weakness, but we all have required help at some point. Before asking for help, I try to do my homework. I like to identify the who, what, when, where and why of the issue first. The more effort I spend understanding my need for help, the better help I receive. I find most people are happy to offer help when the reasons and needs are clear.


Don’t defeat yourself before you begin

My negative thoughts are good at convincing me I can’t do things. I call my negative thoughts “noise.” My battle each day is to rise above the noise. When the bad days occur and the noise takes over, I make a bigger effort to be kind to myself. The next day, I start fresh by telling myself not to defeat myself before I begin. Of all strategies I use to be my best advocate, telling myself I can do something is the most powerful.


Final thoughts

I am excited about my goals but recognize that productivity requires internal grace. I use the strategies outlined above to help me be a happier working person.


How have you become your best advocate?

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