Self-Confidence Lost? 5 Steps to Getting It Back

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 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.

Take heart.

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!

Photo from Cristian V. via Flickr

Disappointment Got You Down? Dig In. Bounce Back.

Things don’t always go our way at work. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t: 

  • Mastered all the skills we need
  • Performed well at the right time
  • Solidified our support system
  • Been realistic about our readiness

That leaves us open to disappointment when we don’t:

  • Get hired for a job we really want
  • Promoted to a position when we believe we’re the best candidate
  • Hear our name mentioned as a key project contributor
  • Get included in issues discussions around our areas of expertise

These letdowns make us feel like we’ve fallen short.  So we:

  • Berate ourselves with a pile of negatives that make us feel worse
  • Let our performance decline by slowing our pace, losing our creative energy, and allowing our drive to wane
  • Give up putting ourselves “out there” for future opportunities
  • Ignore the lessons about what we can do better and how we can bounce back

Everyone gets discouraged. 

We often forget that everyone gets smacked with disappointment. Some hide it well and others make a drama out of it.

The big lesson is that disappointment is the cause of performance decline. Successful people don’t let that decline hang around very long.

Professional sports let you see, literally, how disappointment hurts performance:

I’ve heard Patrick McEnroe, ESPN commentator and former U.S. Davis Cup Team captain, report that losing the first set in tennis often causes a temporary lowering of player performance.

Some professional golfers who have blown leads in major championships fail to make the cut at their next tournament.

Basketball players who miss key shots at the end of tight games will often pass the ball rather than shoot in subsequent games.

It’s about attitude and confidence.

Winners know how to manage disappointment and preserve their confidence. They quickly come to terms with disappointing situations by putting them in perspective. They:

  • Analyze the contributing factors—their knowledge, skill, experience, the environment, situational politics, and/or relationships
  • Examine their choices—what they did and said, their timing, strategy, and plan
  • Consider their expectations—how realistic were they, how appropriate,  how egoistic, and how balanced
  • Weigh the results—how important are they in the short and long-term, what are the implications on their careers, what will it take to get another opportunity

We tend to give our disappointments bigger significance than they deserve. We feed ourselves negative lines like:

  • I’ll never get another shot at that job.
  • I blew that promotion interview, so that hiring manager will never consider me again.
  • I must not have what it takes to succeed in this company.

For some reason, we think we have the inside track on why things aren’t going our way. If that’s you, then here’s your next step:

Ask your boss or HR or your mentor or a trusted coworker what the real issue is. 

Believe it or not, sometimes our expectations aren’t met because of business situations that we simply don’t know about. Things don’t always have to do with us.

In our careers, we can only control what we can control, and that’s our performance. 

You can’t allow your disappointment to cause your productivity to decline, your creativity to slump, or your attitude to darken.

The people in your organization who disappoint you know it. They don’t like it any better than you do. That’s just how things happen in business and in life.

But they do watch how you bounce back from it. Showcasing your can-do, will-do, want-to-do attitude in the face of disappointment is a sign of what you’re made of.

Athletes complete the game no matter how far behind they are. That’s what the crowd pays to see—not quitters who walk off the field of play.

Our employers hire us to work in good times and bad. They expect us to stay in the game with them.

There’s no pride in giving up or beating yourself up when things aren’t working out your way. Instead, show your bounce.

Photo from CJ Isherwood via Flickr