When the possibility of success strikes, what do you do with the self-doubt that shows up uninvited?
When you throw yourself into a big project, when you open yourself to something new, when you push yourself into a challenge or toward a goal—especially one you’ve had for a long time or one that’s important to you—self-doubt and insecurity usually show up. It doesn’t matter whether the goal you’ve taken on is big or small, the possibility of rejection or failure will often accompany the possibility of success. At least that’s what happens for me.
I just published my first book about mindfulness this week. (If you want to check it out, go to Amazon,) Along with the relief that came with launching something I’ve been working on for well over a year, alongside the celebration of finishing a big project, and beside the proud feelings of fulfilling one of my life goals—vulnerability, fear and failure entered the picture, too.
That’s not to say I wasn’t happy with the accomplishment or results, but the week leading up to the launch, I had a pit in my stomach. Worries like “What if no one buys it?” and “What if nobody likes it?” and thoughts like “My personal story is going to public, what was I thinking?!”
I was feeling vulnerable, and I doubted myself. I was wondering why I ever started the book in the first place. And the overachiever in me got disappointed when I was only the #2 bestseller in the Amazon category, instead of #1. On top of that, I was disappointed in myself for not enjoying the process, for not celebrating. Instead, I was spending too much time in my head.
So I turned to mindfulness to spin my emotional state around. I’ll share with you the steps I took the week leading up to my book launch, to help me win the battle over self-doubt and come back to the present moment. I’m hoping the next time insecurity or vulnerability show up in your world, these tips will help you enjoy the presence of success and accomplishment, instead of fearing it’s evil twin, failure.
Step 1: Worst Case Scenario Exercise
Ask Yourself: What are you really afraid of? What’s the worst that could happen?
Be realistic here, don’t use the 0.000003 percent chance that Oprah will read your new release, hate it, and tell everyone on national television that you shouldn’t be allowed to write anymore. For me, my fear was that no one would buy the book, care about the book, be helped by the practices in the book, or support me during the launch. That would not feel good. But… wouldn’t it feel worse to never try?
Oftentimes, the worse case scenario isn’t THAT bad.
Step 2: Recognize Expectations
Consider: Are your expectations realistic?
Determine whether you are expecting too much from your goal, too soon. For this book launch, I am a first-time author. To be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing. But somehow I wanted to be an immediate #1 bestseller.
I got some advice, did a ton of research, and worked hard. I knew becoming a bestseller was how Amazon decides whether or not to promote your book. The problem was, I didn’t know exactly how to become an Amazon bestseller in a popular category without spending a few thousand dollars for services that help you get there.
But I did the best I could, submitted the final manuscript, and then glued my eyes to the computer screen when it launched. Next time, I’ll know to start promoting earlier, I’ll know which sites are affordable to advertise with, and I’ll know how all the moving pieces work. I’ll know this, because I made a lot of mistakes the first time around. Which brings me to the next point…
Step 3: Practice Self-Compassion
Consider: Are you being too hard on yourself?
Yes, I made a lot of mistakes. And how could I not? This is the first time I’m writing and publishing a book; you can’t get it all right on the first time without professional help.
Accepting those mistakes and recognizing that everyone makes mistakes is part of self-compassion. Knowing that it’s ok to feel a little bummed about the missteps along the way, is also important. Judging and criticizing yourself won’t help your situation. This is where mindfulness and self-compassion go hand-in-hand. When we practice mindfulness, we practice awareness and acceptance of the present moment without judging ourselves.
If you find yourself judging yourself too harshly, or being hard on yourself for “not being #1,” cultivate some compassion. Would you be this hard on your best friend if he or she were in the very same situation? How would you feel toward him or her if they were feeling insecure or doubting themselves? What would you say to them?
Compassion is a beautiful antidote for insecurity, self-doubt, and working with our inner struggles—and mindfulness is the first step. When we’re mindful, we’re observing the self-doubt and emotions that arise, instead of judging them. Self-judgment causes insecurity, while self-compassion is one way to overcome insecurity. And when we let go of insecurity, we build confidence.
And confidence is HUGE when we start to summon success into the situation.
Step 4: Learn from Your Mistakes
Once you’ve accepted the fact that you didn’t do everything perfectly, take note of what you can do better the next time around.
I have a long list of notes about how to do a book launch better next time, which is a productive way to handle the missteps, instead of dwelling on them.
Step 5: Appreciate
Experience and express gratitude for how far you’ve come, even if it all didn’t go as planned.
I didn’t take this step lightly. Instead of continuing to focus on the unsuccessful attempts at advertising and unsupportive people, I shifted my focus to settle on all of the people who supported me, pushed me, bought a book during launch, and shared it with friends. I let go of the desire to be #1 and started to very much appreciate the fact that I got to be a #2 bestseller the first day my book page went live on Amazon in the category “Stress management.” This was no small feat!
It can be easy to focus on what you didn’t win or accomplish. But don’t overlook all that you did.
Step 6: Visualize Your Success
Now it’s time to bring an image of total success to your mind. Picture yourself confident and joyful, celebratory, and strong. Imagine yourself in the state of success, whatever that means for you in this case.
If you’re working hard to land a promotion, picture yourself in the day-to-day of that new role. If you’re planning a family reunion, imagine all of the pieces come together smoothly and picture everyone having a blast. If you’re launching a book, imagine the many readers who enjoy it, learn from it, and recommend it to others. Whatever would make you feel successful with the goal, close your eyes for a moment and imagine—in detail—that it’s already your reality.
Step 7: Celebrate
Don’t forget to celebrate. Whatever you finished or accomplished—even if you didn’t reach #1 status or achieve precisely the level of success that you were looking for—take some time to celebrate. Whether that means dinner with family, a cheers with friends, a yoga class, or a vacation, take at least a moment to truly acknowledge how far you’ve come. So many people don’t ever take those first steps … and look at you! You’ve come a long way.
I went through all of these steps several times during the week leading up to my book launch and throughout the day it released. I wrote this post the evening of my book launch, when it plateaued at #2. And as soon as I finished writing this post, my book rose to #1.
So my final advice is to be patient. It won’t help to stare at the computer screen, waiting to top the charts (trust me, I tried.) Your success may come just a little later than you expected.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to grab a glass of wine with some friends. I have a number one bestseller to celebrate.
The book I referred to in this post is “The Type A’s Guide to Mindfulness: Meditation for Busy Minds and Busy People.” Check it out on Amazon.