What crime novels have taught me about building confidence

Okay. This is where I confess to some dubious reading habits. When I’m tired, or need something to divert me from a problem, I love reading pot boilers. My particular indulgence is cliché ridden crime novels. I only read the novels that feature female detectives, all of whom seem to be deeply wounded and suffering imposter syndrome.

Interestingly, I learned quite a bit from these heroines. For example, I’ve picked up tips on packing bags, fitting exercise into a busy schedule and reducing housework to the bare minimum. Most significantly, I’ve drawn a few lessons on building confidence from the antics of my favourite female detectives.

It doesn’t matter if you make bad decisions, as long as you adapt

It’s amazing how often the central character of a crime novel leaves her radio and/or phone behind when driving off to meet with a killer. This seems to happen to even the wiliest detective. What interests me about this, though, is that the heroine always manages to recover from her poor decision.

This is an interesting lesson for real life. Sometimes we make the wrong choice. Occasionally this gets us into very hot water. Yet, if we keep a clear head, these situations foster learning and growth. After all, making mistakes is part of experimenting. It’s inevitable that if we take risks, sometimes we’ll experience ‘failure’. It’s what happens next that matters. And that is usually totally within our control.


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The cure for self-doubt is action

The fast pace of the (fictional) female detective’s life means she doesn’t have time for rumination. I think the rest of us can learn from this. Rumination involves pondering our own flaws or errors. If we do this for too long, we’ll naturally begin to doubt ourselves. To break the cycle of rumination, it often helps to focus on something important. This doesn’t have to be hunting down a master criminal. It might just involve hunting down your perfect job, for example. In the end, what will impact your emotional state is your desire to make a positive change.

Solutions can be found in surprising places

The plot of a crime novel is only interesting when it contains unexpected twists. Life is sort of like that, too. One of the main things that attracts me to detective novels is that their central characters are usually extremely solution focused. They don’t let problems slow them down. Instead, they use lateral thinking and creativity to achieve a goal. Interestingly, they often combine high attention to detail with a strong sense of intuitive thinking. This is a great combination for anyone who wants to boost their confidence levels.

So yes. My leisure-reading can’t be classified as great literature. I’ll continue reading crime novels, though, because they spark new ideas that end up being applied in my business. Now I just have to convince my accountant to make them tax-deductible…


About the author: Eleanor Shakiba

Eleanor is a consultant in the areas of positive psychology training and solution focused coaching. She partners with HR and L&D teams to build vibrant cultures where ‘positive deviants’ thrive. Areas she specialises in include positive mindset, proactive communication and purposeful leadership. Eleanor is qualified in Social Anthropology, Positive Psychology, Counselling, Coaching, Adult Education and Neuro Linguistic Programming. Her passion is working with positive deviants to build success. Download a copy of her free ebook Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D Practitioners.