One of my clients, Anna, wanted to work with me because she’d heard I helped women improve their self-confidence.
She came to the right place!
“Nothing I do is ever good enough …”
Anna felt like her relationship with her boss was strained. She said he didn’t trust her, nothing she did was ever good enough, and he picked her work apart. She genuinely cared about what he thought of her and her work; this concern went beyond the simple pride you want to feel when you do a good job.
I began to detect an underlying pattern …
Our habits can make or break us
I asked Anna about her habits outside of work: what did she eat, what was her exercise regime, how was her sleep? Anna admitted she had let a lot of this self-care go as she worked harder and harder to impress her boss.
Towards the end of our first session, I asked Anna not to make any calls or listen to podcasts on her drive home each day for one week. I wanted her to drive home in silence.
The reason? In his book, The Third Space, Adam Fraser talks about “moments of transition”. What I wanted Anna to do was process the day during her drive, so it was done by the time she got home. I also asked her to have a shower when she got home, as a signal to wash the day away.
The final thing I asked Anna to do was get a full eight hours’ sleep.
To say Anna was surprised is an understatement. She was mad and demanded why I would ask her to do such “stupid” things. I reminded her that she had sought me, and if she could trust the process for one week, then we would touch base, ditch what wasn’t working and see what was.
Reluctantly, she agreed.
After a couple of days, I checked in with Anna. She had been diligent with the homework I had set. I asked her if she thought it had made a difference. She told me she couldn’t be sure yet, so I asked her to keep trying.
The power of a good night’s sleep
In her book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington talks about the correlation between sleep and creativity, confidence and leadership. I agree with this correlation. I wanted to get Anna to a place where she was sleeping well and consistently for eight hours each night, and then work on her inner voice, which had been sabotaging her because she was so tired.
After a week, Anna called me to say she felt refreshed and less emotional but couldn’t tell if her confidence had changed.
Silence that inner critic
During our next session, we worked on Anna’s mindset. Her inner voice had allowed her to believe she wasn’t good at her role, and we needed to change that. I also asked Anna to start having clear conversations with her boss and manage up a little more.
Previously, because of her inner critic, Anna would repeatedly check in with her boss because she continually second-guessed herself. I asked her to let her boss know she was going to try a new approach. When he set her a task, she would ask questions to get clear on what was needed, then check in with him once to ensure she was on track, and that would be it.
Her boss was elated. He was tired of the second-guessing and had tried to give Anna feedback to that effect.
Anna was nervous but felt this plan would put her in the driver’s seat. We agreed she would also keep up the habits of the previous session.
A way forward
I checked in with Anna regularly over the next month. She grappled with some issues and had to work really hard on getting on with the work without asking for permission. But she also felt so much better and was stunned that sleep plays such an important role in our self-confidence.
Anna now has a much better relationship with her boss. By making self-care and sleep a priority, she isn’t afraid to take the lead and her self-belief is so much stronger.
Let’s change the way we think about sleep
As a business leadership coach, I see all the time how the correlation between sleep and confidence works. Sleep is the first thing that gets kicked to the kerb when life gets busy, and life is always busy.
I hear conversations between people, bragging to each other about how little sleep they need, and I wonder how this affects their decision-making abilities and confidence over the short and long term.
I would love to change the conversation. Let’s get addicted to more sleep, more clarity, more confidence!
Surely that would be better. What do you think?
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m Emma, and I’m a business and executive coach who believes wholeheartedly in the potential of women. My coaching philosophy is simple- taking action leads to results- and I love working with women in business and in corporate roles to take their passion and drive and transform their professional and personal lives.
Be enthusiastic, optimistic and energetic, every day.