Here one day and gone the next. It’s a fickle state—our self-confidence. The littlest thing can fuel it or snuff it out.
Self-confidence is part of our brand identity. Our bosses and coworkers look for it, even evaluate it. It’s part of our behavioral attire, so we must do our best to wear it well.
The fear of exposure
The problem is that we’re not always self-confident. When we’re not, of course, we don’t want it to show.
Revealing faltering confidence in our skills, leadership, and decisions can have devastating career effects. It can disarm our followers and give our detractors a target.
So we do our best to cover up our declines in confidence. Too bad we can’t hide it from ourselves.
Periods of lost self-confidence affect everyone, not just you and me.
Highly accomplished, consistently successful, standard-setting individuals paid lots of money and given lots of public visibility lose self-confidence too.
Take Roger Federer, for example: Professional tennis player who’s won a record five ATP World Tour Finals, 17 ATP Masters Series tournaments, an Olympic gold medal, and was once ranked number one in the world for a record 237 consecutive weeks. (Not bad, eh?)
Now 30 years old and ranked #3 in the world (still not bad!), Federer, recently played in the Western & Southern Open Cincinnati, a key tournament leading to the U.S. Open in New York City.
Steve Tignor from Tennis.com wrote these observations reflecting on Federer’s self-confidence:
“Before his first match in Cincy… Federer talked about his nerves coming into the event, about how he didn’t want to go out in the first round…It’s not as if Federer had suddenly decided to bare his soul…But the emphasis was different. Federer was more open about both his anxiety and his desire to get back on a winning track.”
No matter how many past successes we’ve achieved, self-confidence is about how we’ll perform today and tomorrow. It’s about what we want to achieve going forward.
Fortunately, we can draw on our past successes, no matter how big or small, to help us restore self-confidence.
Getting it back
We’re all up against the inner battle to sustain our self-confidence, especially as we try to advance our careers.
Here are some steps to help regain self-confidence lost:
1. Face it—Denial gets you nowhere, except perhaps in a deeper hole. When your confidence flags, get busy figuring out the cause—a situation, a look, something said, your own reactions, or a disappointed expectation. Once you know the cause, you can address it.
2. Dig in—The best remedy for fractured self-confidence is action. You may need to rework an assignment, re-learn a policy or practice, talk to a mentor or trusted coworker, redo your plan, or put yourself out there. Take charge.
3. Buck up—Remind yourself that this will pass. Focus on what you’ve learned, what you did well and can do more of, and how to position your next move to generate a more desirable outcome. Tomorrow’s another day.
4. Reach out—Find a positive person who’s successfully experienced career ups and downs, someone who can offer useful perspectives to help you. A success coach, mentor, or other advisor may be good for you and happy to help.
5. Connect—Being with others keeps us from wallowing. Our associations feed our perspectives, distract us from our worries, and keep us moving. Holing up in your office or avoiding interactions adds to the isolation that often comes when our self-confidence is low.
We talk about losing self-confidence like it’s a permanent state. If that were so, there would be no comebacks. Our job is to be good stewards of our self-confidence, being careful not to neglect it, give it away, or allow it to take a long holiday.
No matter how dreary things might seem, there’s always reason to take heart and grab hold. Forward you go!