What to do when you don’t believe in yourself

What to do when you don’t believe in yourself

Bryan Flanagan has reached a great deal of success throughout his career as both a salesperson and a sales instructor. As a sales instructor, Flanagan has spent his time teaching others how to successfully make sales for a living. His success as a sales instructor has been paramount to his other professional successes, but success in the field didn’t always come easily to Flanagan.


The self-proclaimed “people manager” had to start somewhere in the sales industry. As he claims in his book Encouragement for the Sales Professional, Flanagan and sales professionals “don’t succeed in a vacuum. [Their] success is part of a team effort.” What he means is that the world of selling is not, and has not always been, a constant flux of rose petals and champagne. There is uncertainty, self-doubt and a vast array of disappointment to grapple with as salespeople work to be successful in their careers.

As sales professionals, we don’t succeed in a vacuum. Our success is part of a team effort.

Flanagan attributes a great deal of his professional success to the relationships in his personal life. It was these personal relationships that have lent Flanagan the support he has needed when he felt like the chips were down and he had nowhere to turn. Specifically, Flanagan’s marriage has served as a vital foundation of support in his life. “What element of success I have experienced as a sales professional is in large part due to the assistance and support and encouragement of my wife, Cyndi.” As a backbone in his life, Cyndi has been there for Flanagan through many difficult times. He claims that while he may “have given up on myself quite a few times, she has never given up on me.”

In the beginning of his career in the world of selling, Flanagan struggled with the fact that he was an “ineffective salesman… I was in sales but sales [were] not in me.” During these troublesome beginnings where Flanagan was grappling with his inability to excel in the career path he had chosen, his wife was living a polar opposite professional life. “She experienced victory after victory while I had limited success at best.” However, rather than resent his wife for her success, Flanagan found that she was able to provide him with the priceless support he needed to realize that he, too, could excel in his preferred career path. “She was always there to boost my spirits and encourage me.”

The turning point in Flanagan’s career, and the pinnacle of the support from his wife, came at a time when he was offered an opportunity to learn how to teach people to sell. “I couldn’t sell, but I thought I could teach others,” Flanagan explained, joking, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach selling!” The opportunity was exactly what Flanagan had needed and looked for in his life. He had been invited to the IBM National Training Center in Dallas, Texas, and if he passed through the two-week training program he would be able to live his dream and train salespeople how to make sales rather than be a salesperson himself. As a less-than-stellar salesperson, this opportunity was something of a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Flanagan.

So, naturally, he almost messed it up by getting into his own head. “I put so much pressure on myself that I was having trouble completing my assignment,” he recalled. As his own worst critic, Flanagan had allowed his self-confidence to almost completely dissipate into hysteria. “Three days before I was to leave, I remember sitting on the couch in our family room and giving myself a pity party. I was upset, I was crying, I was really down on myself.” The perfectionist had spent so much time prepping for his opportunity that he was on the verge of ruining his chances.

I was upset, I was crying, I was really down on myself.

It was in this moment of self-doubt, the moment when Flanagan had no belief in his own abilities, that he found a way to regain faith in himself: through the wisdom of his wife. Funny enough, it was Cyndi who approached Flanagan and gave him a good talking to in order to reinstate his confidence. “She’d had enough. With love and sensitivity toward her hurting husband, she let me have it. ‘You’re ready for this. Everything you’ve done in the past six years has prepared you for this…. You’re prepared for the next two weeks. I believe you are ready. Your boss believes you are ready… we all believe. But you’ve just got to believe it!’”

After the firm talking-to, “in a more gentle way Cyndi encouraged me to talk it out with her so that I could see the real reason for my feelings.” Cyndi and Flanagan both knew that the opportunity was such a big deal for the hard-working man that he had become more terrified of failing than excited for succeeding. “She knew that I was afraid of failing on my one chance,” Flanagan explained. Yet the most important part of the conversation was not Flanagan’s recognition of this fear… it was the validation Cyndi provided her husband following the conversation. She “assured me that she would love me whether I was a salesman, a staff instructor, or a high school basketball coach… what happened during the next two weeks was not going to change her devotion and love for me.” Even if Flanagan failed in his opportunity to pass the training program and land the job he was dreaming of, Cyndi would love him just the same.

What happened during the next two weeks was not going to change her devotion and love for me.

To this revelation, Flanagan had one word as a response: “WOW!”

It was this support from his wife that allowed Flanagan to once again find belief in himself and his own abilities. He was able to regain his confidence with Cyndi’s “encouragement and love.” Flanagan completed the training, having “the time of [his] life.”

The point here is that Flanagan, an incredibly successful sales instructor, at one point in time almost destroyed his opportunity to gain a promotion he desperately wanted; despite his preparations, despite his bouts of confidence, and despite his abilities. Fear, nerves, and pressure can get to the best of us. It is when this happens that a support system becomes so vital in somebody’s life. “Cyndi gave me the inspiration to overcome myself so that I could move into the staff instructor’s role. Shortly afterwards, I was promoted to the national staff instructor position.”

Even the hardest of workers, the most confident of salespeople, and the most tenacious of employees will have moments when they feel as if the chips are down. It is in these times that having relationships, whether they are marriages or friendships, becomes so vital to success. Retain your friendships, work on your marriage, and never lose sight of the people who love and care for you because they one day may be the eyes that you need to see through when you lose your own sight in the world. As Flanagan says, “We all need others who will support us, encourage us, and cheer us on.” We’re only human, after all.

Originally published here

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