For when I am weak, then I am strong – Authentic Self-Confidence

‘We read to know we’re not alone’ said actor Anthony Hopkins, playing the character of author C.S. Lewis, in the movie ‘Shadowlands’. 

People suffering from the imposter syndrome doubt their abilities and feel like a fraud at work.I personally suffered quite a bit from the ‘imposter’ syndrome in the past, and at times experience serious relapses. 

Fortunately, it turns out I am not the only one!

After reading ‘Authentic Self-Confidence’ by Jacqueline Brassey, Nick van Dam and Arjen van Witteloostduijn, I realize I am part of a large community that includes successful (and sometimes well-known) academics, surgeons, management consultants and senior executives.

Lack of Authentic Self-Confidence can lead to sub-optimal performance (e.g. because individuals feel constrained to bring the best version of themselves at work), which can have negative emotional impact on themselves, their families, teams and organizations. Therefore a high-quality publication on this topic is extremely welcome.

There are three reasons why I full-heartedly recommend this book.

Great content

First of all the high quality content. The first part of the book contains a good scientific analysis of the reason for lack of ASC, as well as a strong call to action. It endswith an extensive (on-line) assessment which highlights which of the 6 practices in the second part of the book might be most beneficial for the reader.

These six practices are

  1. Purpose – Becoming and aware of and developing your personal sense of purpose
  2. Mindfulness – Being in the moment
  3. Acceptance – Learning to think and act outside your comfort zone
  4. Defusion – Observing your emotions (‘emotional agility’)
  5. Self as context – Looking at yourself through the context in which you operate
  6. Dedicated action – Committing yourself to work on important challenges in such a way that you learn to master them

Each of these practices is underpinned by 4-7 tools providing insights and practical tips. 

Encouragement

The second reason is that the book has a very positive message because the underlying philosophy of the book is the belief in adopting a ‘growth mindset’. Individuals with a growth mindset believe their talents can be developed (through applying new practices at work and input from others).

Adopting a growth mindset can result in a number of advantages: ‘greater comfort with taking personal risks and striving for more stretching goals; higher motivation; enhanced brain development across wider ranges of tasks; lower stress, anxiety and depression; better work relationships; and higher performance levels’.

Generosity

Finally what I really like is the generosity of the authors. Unfortunately, many authors go to great lengths to prove the originality of their ideas. The authors of this book on the other hand, very generously praise the work of other authors and extensively refer to them. In that sense, whilst reading the book you get the impression the authors are primarily interested to stimulate the personal development of the readers. A very sympathetic gesture is that the royalties of the book are being donated to charity (‘Save the children Nederland’).

Your personal case for action

Too often we limit our potential by the constraints we impose upon ourselves. What worked wonders for my personal development was the message of a senior leader in a company I worked for. When she spoke at a meeting we could sense her engagement with what our unit was doing, … which made her heartfelt appeal to us at the end of her speech even stronger: ‘I wish you guys would take more risks’. 

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Mark Twain

Notes

  1. This review is based on the enhanced Dutch version (ISBN 9789462156869) of the original English version (ISBN 0244192707). The English version of the enhanced Dutch version will be published in 2022
  2. “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10
  3. Illustration ‘The Son of Man’ by the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte

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© Dirk Verburg 2021

Disclaimer: Views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author

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