Negative Self-Talk & Confidence
In this episode, herdacious host Lorelei chats with Susan Stutzel about the effect negative self-talk has on our confidence. We all have that incessant little voice in our heads that narrates our stories: what we can and cannot do, what is possible or impossible, and even how we see ourselves. As easy as it is to be complacent with the internal dialogue that often tells us “no, you can’t” or "that's not for you," mindset and productivity coach Susan Stutzel encourages us to become more aware and mindful of our negative self-talk. We learn that the way in which we speak to and perceive ourselves profoundly influences the trajectory of our personal and professional growth. Susan teaches us how we can begin flipping the script on our internal dialogue so that we progress from negative self-talk toward a more intentional, sustainable narrative that supports our confidence through our professional pursuits. From establishing accountability partners to journaling negative thought processes, Susan spotlights the importance of reframing the stories that women are often socialized to believe, moving from an "I can't do that" to an "I can do anything!" frame of mind. We must take the initiative in rewriting our own personal narratives in order for our belief systems to change that sneaky little voice in our heads.
Host: Lorelei Gonzalez
Co-host: Susan Stutzel, CPA
Susan Stutzel, CPA, is passionate about freeing professional women from self-sabotaging goals and helping them build a life of purpose and balance. As a Mindset and Productivity Coach, she helps her clients ditch overwhelm by finding their voice through the process of rebuilding habits and expectations, so they can feel successful- both professionally and at home.
Things you will learn in this episode (chapter markers available):
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Looking for additional resources on this topic? Check out our blog “How Women Can Develop Their Confidence” by Jessica Thibodeau
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Lorelei: Welcome to HERdacious, a podcast for audacious women. Welcome one, welcome all to HERdacious, the podcast for audacious women looking to make some career moves. And HERdacious is the podcast to help you do it. My name is Lorelei, and I am the happy host of the show, and today we're gonna be talking about the effect of negative self-talk on our confidence. Now, to positively support us in this conversation, I have a leadership coach and professional speaker, the founder of S Stutzel Coaching. Susan Stutzel.
Susan: Thanks for having me here today, it is so exciting to be here and speak with you and your audience about confidence.
Lorelei: Yes, it is exciting to have you here. To kick off this confidence conversation, give us a baseline on self-talk, what is it? Is it a good thing? A bad thing? A neutral thing?
Susan: That's a great way to start off the conversation. Self-talk is really that internal monologue that is running in our minds all of the time. I love that... Is it good, is it bad? Is it neutral? It can be all of that. Sometimes I think it's not necessarily good or bad. We all have that running dialogue in our minds going, and so listening to it and recognizing it, that's where we can decipher, is it good or is it bad, is it helping us, is it helping us grow and be who we were created to be, or is it holding us back?
Lorelei: And how can it affect us?
Susan: It can affect us in great ways by helping us to grow if it's positive and it's growth-minded, but can also affect us in really negative ways by holding us back to reaching our full potential. It can cause fear, it can cause anxiety, it can have some really negative impacts on our mindset and on our lives.
Lorelei: Alright, how do we identify if we as professionals, as individuals, are participating in the negative side of self-talk?
Susan: You know, it's interesting, as humans were actually really prone to negative self-talk, we tend to hear things and to process things, and sometimes in a very negative way, kind of the worst case scenario type. It runs in our inner minds, especially with people that might be prone to depression or anxiety, having that negative self-talk can really be destructive in how they live out their lives and steps that they take forward or don't take because of that ongoing narrative. And so I think of that self-talk as the story that we tell ourselves, and when we tell ourselves a story over and over again in our minds, we get to a place where we really believe it. We can identify that by really listening and capturing those thoughts and determining, as we do things and as we play out our professional lives, are there areas that we're not stepping into our fullest potential and not really being who we are because of that negativity? Because we're telling ourselves a story that maybe we can't. Or maybe we shouldn't or maybe we aren't good enough, and that's holding us back. So identifying where we're really limiting ourselves and reveal where we have that negative self-talk.
Lorelei: How do we start to identify whether we are participating in negative self-talk?
Susan: We can identify it by noticing just how we speak to ourselves, paying attention when we're in challenging times and challenging situations, what that voice is telling us. For example, I have a client that I've been working with to really gain confidence in where she's at, and she's been telling me that she really struggles in meetings and being able to speak up and speak out in those meetings. And so one thing that she started to do is after the meeting, she thinks back through that time and where she held herself back, where she paused or where she didn't speak out, where maybe she could have or wanted to, and really start to notice what her thoughts were at the time and notice how she feels about herself after that meeting and after. She made herself identify that negativity and where it's affecting her in her professional life, because by identifying it, that's the moment and that's the point where we can really take the action and turn it around.
Lorelei: So we can start journaling our internal monologue, that's one of the ways.
Susan: Absolutely, journaling is such an effective way to just start jotting that down, and that is one thing that if we do that on a daily basis, we start to see trends, we start to see some commonalities, some similar situations where it's happening and what that voice is telling us. So that then we can make the change.
Lorelei: Give some examples of how negative self-talk shows up in our professional lives.
Susan: So often for women entrepreneurs or women in high level and business, what I hear is "I have this idea, but I can't start a business. I don't know the first place to start," or, "I'm not good enough to do that, I'm just gonna stay where I am." And so it shows up in those areas where we limit ourselves when we're saying "I can't, I'm not... I don't... " That negativity, those are the words where it's negative. That's where you're holding yourself long term, that has such a huge impact because of the trajectory that we maybe want to make, but we tell ourselves that we can or we don't, we limit ourselves and stay where we are, we hold ourselves back because of the story we've created in our heads. "I can't do it, I'm afraid, I'm not gonna know about this," that keeps us from really living out our fullest potential, it stops us and it holds us short from where we really could be and where it could go. That self-talk, when we listen to it and we start to journal what we're hearing, what we're hearing our story in our heads tell us, we have to listen to it and say, "Is it encouraging me? Or is it criticizing? Is it positive or is it negative?" And when we listen to that and recognize that, that is where we can determine where it's negative, where it's holding us back, and then notice where we can actually make it work for us instead of against us. I mean, our effectiveness as a leader is one in the space between our ears and we can control that, we can do anything we want to.
Lorelei: Oh my gosh, I love that. You gotta control the narrative that you're telling yourself, because what we think becomes our reality.
Susan: Absolutely, absolutely. What we think becomes our reality, we have to be intentional about the story that we're telling ourselves and not let it just run rampant, not let that negative thought become planted and become a belief system.
Lorelei: So that negative self-talk can really run rampant like you mentioned. I think that could really end up tanking our confidence as professionals, how could that really play out for us as a woman in the workforce.
Susan: As a woman in the workforce, that plays out in creating difficulties in decision-making. Really struggling with making that final decision because we don't have the confidence to believe that our decision is the right one, it can reveal itself through lost motivation, not wanting to move forward, not being excited about stepping forward and stepping into our potential, it can show itself as an inability to take criticism when we get feedback that's a little bit constructive or critical of us, it can just completely change our confidence and really hold us back because we were lacking confidence there already. And then when we add to that, someone who's maybe even trying to help us through some feedback or criticism, it actually just feels like they're tearing us down, and that really feeds into the fear that we have, often the lack of confidence, really reveals itself in a place of fear and fear of the unknown, fear of stepping into who we are, fear of not knowing what's next. So I'll choose to do nothing.
Lorelei: Right, right. Well, to stay on this train for just another second, are there any women-specific hurdles when it comes to the whole negative self-talk thing, specifically in the workplace or in our career trajectories?
Susan: Absolutely, there are women-specific hurdles. The statistic that men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the qualifications, yet a woman will feel like she needs to meet 100%, or nearly 100%, until she applies for that... That is a drastic difference in the confidence level, stepping into something that might be unknown, and I really believe that that stems from a lack of confidence. That as a woman, if you're really good about what we're doing, we wanna make sure that we can absolutely do a job before we even apply for it, which also I think holds women back that might be thinking about starting a business. If they're not sure if they can do it 100%, they might not even try, which I think is horrifying, 'cause there are so many amazing women running businesses out there that stepped into it before they knew they were 100% sure, but it takes that level of confidence. Another area that that shows up is in comparison, I think as women, we compare ourselves to each other more often than we should, for sure, and I've often seen it played out in women comparing how they feel on the inside about something to how someone else presents themselves on the outside. That can be really detrimental to our success as women is when we feel that insecurity, we feel that lack of confidence, but we're looking at someone else who's really, what looks like, killing it in the workplace. They may feel the same way on the inside, but look incredibly put together on the outside, and so we feel less than because of that comparison.
Lorelei: What's that saying? Comparison is the thief of joy.
Susan: Yeah, absolutely it is.
Lorelei: Alright, well, to not steal anyone's joy in this conversation, we're gonna take a quick sponsor break, we will be right back.
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Lorelei: And we're back talking with Susan Stutzel on how self-talk can affect your confidence in your career. Susan, where does all this negativity come from, like you mentioned that we are hard-wired to be a little more harsher to ourselves. Why?
Susan: Great question, and it really stems from our childhood, which sounds a little bit cliche, that everything goes back to childhood... Right, but there are statistics that say that on the average, by the time we are 17, we've heard the words, "No, you can't," about 15,000 times, but yet we've only heard, "yes, you can," About 5,000 times. That's 30 no's for every yes.
Lorelei: Holy cow. That's worse than sales numbers.
Susan: It's so negative. So we were growing up with the constant, "no you can't." No wonder we doubt ourselves, no wonder we have that negative thought that says, "Oh, maybe I shouldn't try because I probably can't do it anyway."
Lorelei: So that just creeps into everything.
Susan: Everything, and that affects us in so many ways, often when we hear and we use that language, "I can't... I'm not, I don't... " It says that I am not in control, that I'm just a victim of my circumstances and not actually in control of my own life, and when we tell ourselves that story over and over, we give up the control and we say, I am a victim. However, when we choose to own our circumstances, own our own path and to own the power of change, that's where we can really make a difference and make that change because we have a choice, and when we own that and understand that, we can flip that narrative. Honestly, for me, as a child, I was told that I would never amount to anything on over and over. And so I look back at that and go, "You know what, I could have just lived out the life that was expected of me, I could have not really done anything special or anything important or anything that I was excited about doing." But I chose differently, I chose to see the opportunities that I made happen for me, that were in front of me, but you have to see them, you have to be open to that potential to see it and to figure it out along the way, and maybe not have all of the answers, but say, "Yes, I can," instead of continuing with the "no, I can't."
Lorelei: Right. I believe that we can do anything we want to do. We can be anything we want to be. The "I can't" stems from a feeling of a lack of agency, and like you said, when you hear no so many times, golly, you just have that drilled into your psyche... "No, you can't. No, you can't."
Susan: Yeah, there's so much negativity around us and it does, it gets drilled in, so it really takes pur power of choice and power of ownership we have to only who we are and we have to own our choices so that we can learn from that and have the mindset that, "okay, maybe I screw this one up. And really, I couldn't do it, but if I choose more of a growth mindset and choose to believe in myself and learn from failures and set backs and mistakes, but own those as my own, then we can move forward." And any time that we do that that's one more step in our confidence, that's one more block that we've built to stand on and move forward with. And moving forward is what we are all about, that's why we work on ourselves, that's why we are open to that growth mindset.
Lorelei: So for those of us who have identified that we might participate in a decent amount of negative self-talk, what do we do to start changing that narrative from negative to positive, to taking control of the voice in our head?
Susan: We flip the script. We change the narrative, and I know it sounds so simple. Right. Much easier to say than it is to do, I recognize that. But first, it's really about understanding what that self-talk is saying to us, listening to that voice, like we talked about at the beginning, noticing what we're saying in our heads and journaling that, keeping track of it, to recognize it, to see the trends, but then choosing what we believe instead. So overcoming those limiting beliefs, overcoming that negative self-talk is about choosing a different narrative, so whether it's a mantra, whether it's an affirmation, just reframing that belief so that we can choose what we believe. So if our current story is, "I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough," then maybe it changes with the right training and resources and support, I can learn what I need to know to create a life that I love, 'cause that is worth getting excited about, that is what can make all the difference in our life. And part of that, with the right training, it means I can learn more with the right resources, means I have access to more that is beyond me and the support that goes to not only our family and friends that are a support system, but accountability partners, that is such a key piece of the coaching that I do. But also just any change that we wanna make when we have someone that we are accountable to and will help hold us accountable for making the changes that we've set out to do for doing the things that we say, we're gonna do. That can make all the difference in truly living out the life that we intended.
Lorelei: And those accountability partners, they don't have to just be a professional coach? They can be anyone, a colleague, a peer... Even your child, we wouldn't ever let our children speak to themselves the way that we sometimes speak to ourselves in our brains.
Susan: Exactly, exactly right. It can be anyone. And I have a good friend that we've set up, and we have certain times that we call each other, and we call them our accountability check-ins, so yeah, we're not paying each other for it, we are friends that might ask each other how we're doing anyway, but we set certain times that we truly just check in about our businesses and about the changes that we've said we're gonna make the goals that we said we're going after, and so they kept the important piece of accountability. Whether that's asking someone specifically, whether it's a family, whether even like you said, a child or whether it's a coach, hold you accountable, really being open to that feedback. So asking about that and being open to hearing them say, "Hey, here's what I'm still seeing," or "did you do what you set out to do?" That's an important part of it. And in that change in that re-framing and developing the confidence. One of my favorite quotes is from John Maxwell. He said, "If we wanna change our lives... We have to change the way we think of ourselves. If we wanna change the way we think of ourselves. We need to change the way we talk to ourselves."
Lorelei: Oh, that sparkles.
Susan: That is powerful. I just love it because it does. It all stems from the way we talk to ourselves.
Lorelei: As we are changing how we talk to ourselves, we have to work on rebuilding our confidence while also monitoring that sneaky little negative self-talk voice going on in our head, how do we stay strong in that process? And what does that process look like?
Susan: It takes discipline. It's hard, but with discipline, we can recreate habits because if our current habit is the negative self-talk, then we have to re-create a habit, we have to replace it, because if we just try to stop doing something, it's much harder if we don't choose what we're gonna fill that void with. So we have to choose by recreating by replacing it with something positive, but when that limiting belief, when that negative self-talk reveals itself, it's about taking the thought captive and really deciding, "Am I gonna let this take hold, or am I going to stop it where it's at and not let it stay in my brain and tell the story over and over?" I'm gonna choose something different, so pausing and acknowledging the thought, that's okay, but then ask even why is it coming up for me? Does it come up for me when I'm around others, does it come up for me when I'm alone? What's the situation that we're in, that we're starting to notice, and that's where the journaling can be really, really important, really impactful for us to notice not only the trends in what we're saying, but in situations where they come up, and then re-framing it into something positive. But we have to be careful there too. Right. I don't think it's just that simple. "I am good, I do have friends. People like me." It's not just flipping it on its head, but it's actually defining it and making it something that you can believe, because we can't just go from no to yes, our brains don't understand that, we have to tell it something different, and so we have to create that new story. And then we act on it, so we create the story that we want to believe, that we know that we can believe with enough support, with enough repetition, and then we act on and we can do, and we become that person, that confident woman that we're created to be. And we step into that with nothing held back.
Lorelei: Thank you, I feel like you have held nothing back in this conversation. So to wrap us up, give us some more resources that we can continue this journey of agency and confidence moving forward with positive, positive self-talk.
Susan: Absolutely. Two of my very favorite books on this subject are Mindset by Carol Dweck, where she really dives into the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset, that was so instrumental in my learning and my growth and absolutely love the work that she has done. Another book by Caroline Leaf is Who Switched Off My Brain? Which gives a lot of really great information on the research she's done as far as the neuropathy is in our brain and how we can really make that change by flipping the script, by adding in that positivity. And of course, I'd love for you to check out my website where I have more information on the growth mindset by creating confidence, by defining success on your own terms.
Lorelei: Oh my gosh, thank you so much, Susan. We are definitely gonna be talking about somebody who defined success on their own terms in this episode's femme fact. So Susan, you got kids, right?
Susan: I do.
Lorelei: They're in grade school, right? They're coming home with their art assignments, and I'm sure you're really proud. You post them on the fridge.
Susan: Absolutely, absolutely. My kids are 13 and 16 right now, and so yes, I've been a huge proponent of really feeding into their skills and their strengths and helping them to be everything that they were created to be.
Lorelei: That's awesome. I'm sure you probably did the same thing when you were a child, brought those wonderful little artwork pieces home to your parents where I'm sure they displayed them in pride somewhere around the house, despite probably how not great they were... We all aren't born artists, and that's totally okay.
Susan: Right, right!
Lorelei: But our loved ones are able to look past the chaos and appreciate our work, and in some cases, they might even keep our creations well into our own adulthood, whether that's for nostalgia or blackmail purposes. That's totally up to you and your parents.
Susan: So true.
Lorelei: Right, right. Now, the way that Yayoi Kusama's parents, reacted to her amazing adolescent artwork was probably the polar opposite of some of those warm-fuzzy feelings that we were just kind of discussing. Yayoi Kusama is a ninety-two year-old Japanese contemporary artist working primarily in sculpture and installation that play on themes revolving around feminism, minimalism, psychological and sexual themes is credited for being one of the most important artists to come out of Japan. However, her artistic beginnings had a pretty rocky start. Born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, Yayoi was the youngest daughter of a well-off Japanese family who followed the cultural traditions, roles and social expectations very strictly. From the beginning, Yayoi had a love for art and a desire to pursue it professionally, but her family was not okay with that, they dismissed the idea as ludacris, instead urging her to become a housewife, which was and is a desired norm in Japan.
Yayoi was stubborn though, thankfully, and continued with her creative work, but her mother was even more stubborn than she was and would literally take Yayoi's artwork away from her and also cut her off from being able to buy art supplies. Yayoi worked around the problem by foraging for everyday items that she could use as replacements for her art supplies. When she started working at a factory, she filed her days by drawing pictures and paintings of flowers and people, even though from the age of 10, Yayoio was already implementing a very particular and peculiar artistic style that she is so well known for today, polka dots. Many of her childhood sketchbooks are filled with drawings of polka dot motifs, which were supposedly representative of hallucinations she had in response to her harsh family dynamics. Eventually, Yayoi ended up attending and graduating from the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts. She later hosted two solo exhibitions, displaying over 200 produced works at her local community center. By the late 50s, her solo exhibitions garnered quite a bit of international attention and Yayoi received an invitation to feature one of her water color pieces at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, which opened the doors to establish herself in America. As the demand for custom art in the United States grew, as well as her parent's displeasure, in '58, Yayoi decided to shift her focus to the Westernized region, and as a parting gift, she set thousands of her art pieces on fire which was understood to be a cleansing of her past.
Once in America, Yayoi started shifting the focus of her work to the pop art scene, her name and fame skyrocketed after she put on an exhibition in New York of people in the nude adorned with vividly painted polka dots, which was slightly more radical back in the 60s, than in present day. Now fast forward 50 years, and Yayoi's trademark polka dots are the talk of the internet. They are everywhere, and on Instagram in particular, images of neon colored walls and gallery spaces are covered from floor to ceiling with these amazing dots all in different colors and shapes and sizes. Some of these gallery spaces lay bare anything besides the walls, while other exhibitions incorporate sculptures of pumpkins and fungi, which are also adorned with those really cool polka dots. Yayoi's dots became such a trend that designers like Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs have created lines in collaboration with her art. Despite the rainbow of colors and optimistic aura that Yayoi's exhibitions emit to art appreciators, it is a stark contrast to Kusama's personal life. I've mentioned some of the initial challenges that Yayoi faced and overcame, which was quite remarkable, as she was able to break from tradition at a time and society when doing such a thing was really, really difficult.
Unfortunately, Yayoi's difficult childhood gave way to manic hallucinations that have persisted into adulthood. In 1977, Yayoi decided to get help in managing her symptoms and voluntarily checked herself into a Tokyo psychiatric institution that she now considers home. With her art studio nearby, she was able to channel her haunting visions into fabulous artistic creations as her own personal medicine and as a gift to the world. In 2017, the Yayoi Kusama museum was opened in Tokyo. So if you ever get a chance, please send us pictures. It is with ingenuity and a sincere devotion to pursuing her dreams in defiance of cultural and social norms and the naysayers, that Yayoi Kusama has become one of the most successful female artists of all time, even climbing the highest auction prices for any living female artist. Yayoi Kusama came from nothing and dominated absolutely everything, and that is the power of determination. Susan, I really appreciate you helping boost our confidence today and helping us flip the script on that negative self-talk. I think it's gonna go a long way.
Susan: I hope so, it was so great to be here. It's such a needed conversation to have.
Lorelei: Yes, indeed, I'll continue the conversation on the inter-webs. Visit our website, herdacity [dot] org, you can send me an email, herdacious [at] herdacity [dot] org, and do please share this podcast with a friend who might want some support on her professional journey. Until next time, I'm Lorelei. Remember to stay determined on your journey forward and ignore all the haters, 'cause haters gonna hate and women gonna win.