-by Matt Leedham
For the last 24 hours, I’ve been noodling on a new concept that was introduced to me by a phenomenal master coach, Kerri Myers. As one of the trainers at iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching), Kerri has proven herself to me over the last 8 months by living authentically and sharing her gifts freely with others. Of course, my opinion of her is irrelevant. What makes her so good is her opinion of herself.
The idea that Kerri planted in my mind, much like Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, was that we project outwardly what we want reflected back to us by others.
Let that sink in for a moment…
So, for example, if we value confidence and subconsciously want others to think of us as confident, we project out confidence, regardless of our own internal belief of our confidence. When we thoroughly believe in ourselves, what others reflect back to us becomes irrelevant to our self-worth, and is only used to build better relationships.
If we lack the internal belief in ourselves, things can get a little sticky.
When those around us reflect back our confidence (like a mirror), all is well. But when someone bucks the system, and does not reflect back your confidence to you, things start to break down internally. In this case, most people will respond by overcompensating, forcing out more projections of confidence to try and “win over” the other person. Of course, this usual yields the opposite result of the intended outcome. People can see right through someone who is not authentic. I know I can.
Additionally, the energy used to project out an image that is not authentic is enormous. This is particularly true when you feel challenged. All the energy that we use to project and protect our self-image is being wasted on what I’ve labeled the “Cycle of Fraudulent Fakery.” The more others challenge our self-image, the harder we try to project what we want them to see. It’s exhausting!
Now, imagine for a moment that you believe, with absolute certainty and clarity, that you are competent and capable in your given expertise, and yet are completely comfortable admitting that you don’t know everything and are always learning. In other words, you are totally confident in yourself.
Naturally, you will project out confidence to others, and it will be authentic. Predictably, most people will reflect confidence back to you, and it will be sincere. Occasionally though, you will be challenged. Someone won’t “buy what you’re selling,” or they won’t give you the benefit of the doubt. They won’t reflect back to you the image you are projecting outwardly.
Unlike someone who internally doesn’t believe in themselves, your reaction will be one of indifference or curiosity. You don’t need the reflection to jive all of the time. Others’ opinion of you is not connected to your self-image. It’s irrelevant.
You may treat this anomaly as an opportunity to explore someone else’s self-image, since their resistance is also a projection of how they view themselves. You may use this information to make a sale or position the relationship to be mutually beneficial.
I could give you countless examples of how my projection has been challenged. This happens a lot if you are trying to sell something. It’s common to encounter objections. But what happens next often sets apart successful sales people and mediocre sales people. Do you overcompensate and try to force out more confidence, often feeling insincere, inauthentic, and ineffective? Or do you relish the moment? The greatest sales people I’ve ever met (and I’ve met a lot of successful entrepreneurs that know how to sell), are those that can’t wait to get objections. It’s those moments that allow them to project true confidence. And believe me, confidence sells.
Instead, let me give you an example of how I projected out weakness and insecurity, and how it came back to me…immediately.
I had just wrapped up a successful coaching session with a client. This was one of my first clients and I was definitely feeling out of my comfort zone and insecure about my abilities. When I look back on it, that’s kind of silly because I have been writing about these things for over a year, have been through a rigorous certification program with over 25 hours of practice coaching and over 100 hours in the classroom, and have run multiple workshops on similar topics. I know, love, and breathe this stuff. But still, I felt unsure of myself.
I wanted to invite this client to take the Energy Leadership Index assessment and do a debrief with me because I believed it would help her understand the concepts we had discussed with greater clarity. I said something like this, in a fairly apologetic tone, “So, I really think this assessment would be great for you and you’d learn a lot. It’s $150, but for that price you’d get a detailed report and an hour debrief with me. We can do it as one of your next sessions or separately. Whatever you think will work if you think it will be valuable.”
My client literally said, “You’ve taught me about the limits of assumptions. Don’t assume that I’m not interested and don’t think it’s worth the money. I see great value and would be happy to pay for it.”
I just got schooled by my own client. That was humbling…and mildly embarrassing.
After I swallowed my pride, I realized what a great lesson this was to learn about the power of how we project ourselves. Who am I to make assumptions about what other people find valuable, or what others perceive to be “expensive.” It’s not fair to them or to me.
The truth is that some people will be ready for what I am offering and some people won’t be ready. Other people’s readiness is out of my control and does not define the value of my skills. The best I can do is believe in myself, project that image, and know that those that are ready and willing will gladly come aboard.
If you feel that you need to work on how you project yourself, consider focusing on building up your inner “who.” The “what” and the “how” will follow, but the “who” pervades all of your thoughts, actions, and words. Projecting your true “who” is authentic and people will respond.
By the way, this is tangentially related to a previous post I wrote on The Impostor Syndrome. If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to revisit another interesting concept related the inner-fraud.