Self-confidence is your belief in yourself and your abilities. This can change depending on the situation. It’s normal to feel quite confident in some circumstances and less confident in others. You can feel very confident in riding a bike, but lack confidence in driving a car. You can feel confident about writing the reports, but anxious about giving a speech.
But what can be the reasons for lack of confidence and what to do about it?
1. Excessive Expectations
One thing is that we might have very high and unreasonable expectations for us. We want to be the best although we have just started and don’t have the required experience and skills. Our mind might not be satisfied with anything and always be demanding more. This makes us fear mistakes and be self-critical.
This is also commonly known as “perfectionism”. A lot of us get caught up in this way of thinking from time to time. This is normal behavior, our mind is rarely satisfied for long and is quick to find fault and insist on more.
I’m experiencing perfectionism quite often. I have read that it can be a common thing for introverts, because we tend to overthink, to work alone and get the things just right. But it doesn’t mean that extroverts don’t have this trait. It just might show up differently.
For some of us perfectionism means being very precise and correct, for others it means high standards (whatever it means) and thinking they always can do it better. Some of us like to constantly revise and explore even more than to actually finish something.
You can try to avoid a perfectionist mindset by accepting that your work will have some flaws. It is totally normal. Everybody is making some mistakes and you can’t be the best in the world in everything. There is always somebody who can do it better. It doesn’t matter, don’t compare yourself with others. Do your best and it is enough! You can even choose imperfection.
After I start working on a demanding task, I will set a time limit when it has to be finished (when there is no limit you can be perfecting it forever)
After I finish a task, I will tell myself “It is good enough!”
2. Harsh Self-judgment
Sometimes our mind can undermine us. It can tell us that we don’t have what it takes or that we are not good at what we are doing. It might even say that we are inadequate or incompetent.
This is also commonly known as “impostor syndrome”. It’s when your mind manages to convince you that you are not really competent, you don’t know what you are doing, you managed to get away with it so far, but at any moment you will be found out as a fraud.
But this is also part of the normal human brain. It is not naturally positive, it has a tendency to judge and criticize, to find negative and to predict the worst.
When these kinds of thoughts and feelings appear, it doesn’t help to just work harder. You have to acknowledge these feelings. Share them with your closed ones to get some outside context. Opening up to others might lead them to share as well and you can find out that you are not the only one with this kind of thoughts. Different studies show that up to 82% of people can have the same feelings of being an impostor from time to time.
When impostor feelings appear, ask yourself whether any actual facts support these beliefs. Challenge your doubts and look for evidence to counter these feelings.
Avoid comparing yourself to others. Everyone has unique abilities. When someone is doing a task faster or a bit better, it doesn’t mean that you are not good enough. They might have more experience in it or they got some extra support to do it. You may not know the full story behind somebody.
After the impostor feelings appear, I will ask myself “Do any facts support these beliefs?”
After I notice the feeling of uncertainty, I will tell myself “I’m good enough!”
3. Preoccupation with fear
We all have our fears. We might be afraid of things going wrong or turning out badly. There might be fear of rejection, failure, embarrassment or making mistakes and making a fool of yourself.
However, fear in itself does not affect our confidence. But if we dwell on our fears, stew on them and worry about them, that will create problems. The more preoccupied we become with our fears, the greater they grow and the more likely they are to undermine our confidence.
Fear is a natural evolutionary phenomenon that occurs whenever there is a risky situation. Risky situation simply means stepping out of your comfort zone. Even though fear is harmless, it triggers uncomfortable bodily sensations for one to delve deep into it and take backward steps in attempting a task.
Not everything you’re afraid of deserves fear or caution. And sometimes, moments of bravery are what are needed to make your life better. In times of stress or discomfort, remind yourself that some of the best things happen outside a comfort zone. These experiences can both challenge you and help you grow. Commit to giving the situation a try with your best effort, and keep expectations low to alleviate additional pressure. Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen?” then focus on achieving the opposite result.
But don’t try to immediately jump too far outside of your comfort zone, you will likely become overwhelmed and jump right back in.
Take small steps toward the fear you are trying to overcome. If you want to do public speaking, start by taking every opportunity to speak to small groups of people. You can even practice with family and friends.
After I make a mistake at work, I will say “**** happens, what can I learn from it?”
After I feel fear of failure, I will ask myself “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
4. Lack of experience
If we have had little or no experience of doing something, we can’t expect to feel confident about it. You might be comfortable at giving speeches in small family events, but when you have never before spoken on stage in front of hundreds of people and never used a microphone, then probably you will feel a bit unconfident. Next time you already know what to expect and it will become easier and easier the more experience you gather.
So when you find yourself with new challenges, then acknowledge that you might not be the best in it at once. Realize that you need to research about it, ask advice from more experienced people, start practicing with small steps and put yourself out there. You need real-life situations to get feedback, to learn, to improve. You have to do it to experience it.
Figure out if there is a way to approach this situation from some other angle in which you have more experience. Find someone who has done it before and ask for help and guidance. If possible do some volunteer work in the same area to get the necessary know-how.
After I feel unconfident about my future task, I’ll rehearse it.
After I find myself with a new challenge, I’ll do research about it.
5. Lack of skill
It’s not natural to feel confident about doing something unless we are reasonably good at doing it. Even if you have experienced some situation before doesn’t mean that you know how to handle it.
Josh Kaufman, author of “The First 20 Hours” is saying that with just 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice, you can go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well. He explains how to do it in 4 steps.
- Deconstruct the skill: Break down the parts and find the most important things to practice first. If you were learning to play a musical instrument, for example, knowing just a few chords gives you access to tons of songs. If you want to learn a new language, learn the most common 2,000 words and you’ll have 80% text coverage.
- Self-correct: Use reference materials to learn enough that you know when you make a mistake so you can correct yourself.
- Remove barriers to learning: Identify and remove anything that distracts you from focusing on the skill you want to learn.
- Practice at least 20 hours.
20 hours is for example just 40 minutes a day for a month. Start learning 🙂
After I feel unconfident about some task, I will figure out what one new skill will help me to get confident about it
After I start learning a new skill, I will break it down and find the core skills to learn first
So if you have noticed any of the reasons above for feeling unconfident, start taking small steps to become a bit better. Whether it means working on your perfectionism, impostor syndrome, fear of failure, lack of experience or skills. Just figure out what are a few tiny actions that you can do to build your self-confidence and start doing them.