Marcia Desanctis

The Tool: Inner authority

The Goal: To believe in yourself

“The fear of rejection is a potent little poison. The dread of being laughed at stifles us all”

Being a freelance writer, especially a mid-life, second-career one, sometimes takes more confidence than I can conjure up. Ninety percent of the time, my ideas are rejected or ignored and, some mornings, I’d rather burrow under the duvet than face the doors that routinely slam in my face.

Description: The Tool: Inner authorityThe Goal: To believe in yourself

The Tool: Inner authority. The Goal: To believe in yourself

The fear of rejection is a potent little poison. Whether asking your boss for a raise or inviting someone out on a date, the dread of being laughed at can stifle us all. I’m often rendered voiceless by such doubt and dread. What I need – at work and in life – is a confidence boost.

So I welcomed the Inner Authority tool, designed to tackle this fear. At first, I was unsure about engaging the services of what the authors call ‘The Shadow’ – an image on which you project your insecure feelings “until they form a being you could see”. It sounds silly. An imaginary friend? At my age? But far from it – it’s actually meant to be the embodiment of all the shyness, awkwardness, trepidation and disappointments that have thwarted me and stifled my voice. I confess, this exercise was bittersweet as I felt great tenderness for the image that unfolded. It was me aged 10 with long, skinny legs and huge feet, frequently teased, fearing I’d be ignored. It’s me, tripped down to the barest core. The purpose is for this dynamic duo – The Shadow (consisting of all the things I fear and loathe in myself) and me – to join forces so no longer choke on unsaid words and emotions.

Description: The fear of rejection is a potent little poison.

The fear of rejection is a potent little poison.

At dinner that weekend, I was seated next to a famous novelist and felt tongue-tied by my sense of inferiority. So I called upon the tool.

“So what do you do?” the famous author asks me. Enter The Shadow.

Hello old friend, think, as I conjure up the pre-teen me. Do not apologise, it screams back. Not for anything. I sit up, head held high.

“I’m a writer,” I say. Yes you are, The Shadow says. He and I chatted throughout the evening. It may seem preposterous, but I felt like this so-called Shadow had argued me to speak unimpeded. It turned out, the author had read two of my articles, but that was beside the point. An interaction with a person more successful shouldn’t be a judgement on my own self-worth.

So I’m resolved to end my eternal tentativeness. So what if someone rejects one of my ideas? I need a mental reminder: they’re not rejecting me. You have nothing to lose, that striving little Shadow will say. Next time your confidence wavers, find that Shadow and go for it.

Anna Hart

The Tool: Jeopardy

The Goal: To build willpower

I’ve always been helpless in the face of temptation. I’m self-employed and aware that any procrastination has a direct impact on my career. I have a long list of ideas and half-baked project, yet weeks can pass without a hint of progress. Instant gratification is the bane of my life.

In truth, the only thing between me and another ten stone of weight, liver failure and unemployment are the barriers I’ve had to construct in my daily routine. In the absence of self-control, my strategy is to push temptation out of reach. I don’t have biscuits in the house, because I know I can demolish an entire packet in one sitting. I know how easily one glass of wine turns into four, so if I want to be hangover-free, I don’t go to the pub.

Description: The Tool: Jeopardy. The Goal: To build willpower

The Tool: Jeopardy. The Goal: To build willpower

But this tactic is as watertight as a pair of fishnet stockings. One weekend away with friends and my rational lifestyle is thrown off course; I then scold myself for my weak will. Building unstoppable willpower is fifth and final issue covered in The Tools. The suggestion is that capturing a ‘sense of urgency’ is the most effective way to forgo immediate gratification. Each tool involves heavy-duty visualisation and Jeopardy seems the scariest. It instructs me to gaze into my future and see myself on my deathbed. This older self knows how crucial the present moment is, as I’ve run out of them. She’ll rise from her bed and scream at me not to waste time. Apparently, using the tool when I’m struggling to concentrate will help me live a life where I ‘resist superficial distractions’; I’ll be able to meet a friend for just one cocktail, because I know the next morning counts.

So, I muster up the image of my dying self. She has transparent skin, hollow eyes, a shrill voice –  basically Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. But having watched too many Japanese horror movies, my imagination is too vivid for this. The mental image of my corpse-like self screeching at me is terrifying. So I go back to the drawing board and make my older self a few years younger and a smidgen smilier; I use Maggie Smith as a rough template. I conjure up Maggie – sorry, my older self – on a cold, drizzly Monday at 6.30am, when I don’t feel like going for my morning run. “You won’t remember all the lie-ins you had when you’re my age,” she say. “You will be glad you looked after yourself.” And I get out of bed. I apply the tool again when tempted to take a break from work one afternoon to catch up on Homeland. “Don’t be daft,” says the older Mrs Hart. “Finish that article and cook a Jamie Oliver recipe tonight with your lovely husband. He won’t be around forever.” I obediently re-open my laptop; it seems I cannot refuse my older self anything.

Of course, I’m not transformed overnight. There are times when I refuse to consider what Mrs Hart The Elder would say. The authors warn that using the tools takes practice, so I’m not too despondent and, so far, I’m impressed with the results. I’ve been getting up earlier and I am more focused. The most surprising result is that I’ve been much better at staying in touch with my parents and sister – taking the time to send them a text, email or card. Nothing re-shuffles your priorities quite like picturing yourself nearing the end of your life.

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