Wednesday, May 12, 2010

30-Day Confidence-Building Challenge: Confidence Killer #3 Avoidance

You may have noticed that this space has been blank for a few weeks.

That's because, much as I love this blog, I've been wading through the deep muck of avoidance.

You know the feeling: Those urgent matters, or at least the important ones, are tickling at the edges of your consciousness. But with all your considerable brain power, you're focusing on.... Facebook. Or email. Or your child's dance recital costume. Or that story that's easy. Or those emergency edits.

What you're not doing is taking care of the stuff that needs taking care of. What you're not doing is building confidence.

Why do these go together? The best explanation I can give is to answer that question with another question:

When you've been practicing avoidance, how do you feel at the end of the day? Heavy, right? Lethargic. Maybe a little ashamed. And usually very overwhelmed with the growing to-do list you'll have to tackle tomorrow.

Now switch it. When you've done the scary stuff and faced down those tasks you were avoiding, how do you feel at the end of the day? Chances are, you feel lighter. You feel energized. Strong. Proud. Confident.

This week, my goal for each day has been to face the tasks I've been avoiding. It's painful sometimes. I'd really rather surf the web than work on a story assignment that's more idea than angle. Trudging through the embarrassing and sometimes demoralizing process of narrowing down an amorphous idea into a sharp, concise story isn't high on my priority list, especially when I'm already feeling down. So how do I make myself do it?

Get aware
The first part is always coming out of the fog of avoidance and into the stark and sometimes uncomfortable reality of awareness. Maybe you've sunk into Facebook so far you can't see your email list. When you come out of that denial, expect to feel overwhelmed, ashamed and stuck. It won't last, but remember the feeling. Want to avoid feeling that way? Avoid avoidance!

Accept it
What most of us naturally do is start berating ourselves for losing a few minutes, hours or days to avoidance. How could we be so stupid? How could we have fallen into that trap again?

Well, we do it because we're human. Lighten up on yourself. If berating yourself worked, you'd be winning Pulitzer Prizes and accepting that Nobel Peace Prize right now. It doesn't. All it does is make you so uncomfortable that, guess what? You slip right back into avoidance.

Skip that whole trap. Just practice telling yourself, "I accept that I lost X minutes/hours/days in avoidance. Yep. I did it again. This is part of being self-employed." Like the weather, it comes and goes. Try not to turn it into a referendum on your worth or professionalism.

Take action
Welcome to the hard part. That stuff you've been avoiding? It's staring you in the face. Choose one of those things. For me, it was email yesterday. I used to be so good at clearing out my email. I was an inbox-zero girl. Yesterday, I had 355 emails in my inbox. Overwhelmed? Oh, sure.

So I just started. I sat down and spend some time clearing them out. I found an email from an editor that needed replying to. I sent her three story ideas. I started feeling better about myself.

Let it snowball
I kept going. I found some news reports on subjects my editors follow and forwarded them as a courtesy. I got bolder. I followed up on an outstanding invoice. That felt so good that I sent three invoices that needed sending. Finally, I did the big thing I'd been avoiding for a week: I called the source I needed to call for a story I'm working on.

Don't ask why I was avoiding it. I don't know. The important thing is that I did it. I went to bed feeling better about myself, feeling in control of my life and my business, and confident that today could be just as good.

And you know what? It has been.

How do you fight avoidance?

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