4 Ways to Boost Your Confidence, Even If You’re Constantly Racked with Self-Doubt

Have you ever sat in a big meeting, listening to the conversation bouncing around and suddenly had a great idea about how to help your company?  Then just as you’re about to speak up and inspire everybody, suddenly your stomach turns into knots, your heart starts to race and your palms turn clammy.

“Not yet!” your brain might have shouted.  “You’re not good enough to pull that off,” perhaps whispered your voice of self-doubt.  And so you retreated back into the safety of silence, consoling yourself with the belief that your idea probably wouldn’t have worked anyway and you’ve saved yourself from embarrassment?

If you’re nodding your head you’re in good company.  Studies report that fifty percent of women and thirty one percent of men find that self-doubt holds them back at work.

The truth is, your brain is wired to want to avoid making mistakes, to please others, and to play it safe as often as possible.  But if your feelings of fear and self-doubt are consistently making it difficult to turn your thoughts into action at work, then your lack of confidence is probably impacting your career and your wellbeing.

So what can you to make peace with your self-doubt and finally feel truly confident?

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Confidence Booster #1: Understand Your Confidence Level Is Not Set In Stone

Many of us feel like confidence is like a “yes” or a “no” question – we either have it, or we don’t.

It’s true that our genetics, our schooling, our upbringing, and society’s messages have all been found to impact our sense of confidence – but so have our own choices.

For example, when University of Milan researcher Zach Estes asked five hundred male and female college students to solve a series of 3-D spatial puzzles, the women scored measurably worse than the men. No surprises there – after all, it’s generally accepted that women aren’t as good at math as men.

But when Estes reviewed their results, he realized it was actually because many of the women hadn’t even tried to answer the questions they weren’t completely sure about. Rather than confidently take an educated guess, they simply left the questions blank.

Then Estes asked the students back to complete a similar test – but this time, he insisted the students answer every single question. This time, the gender stereotype vanished. Both the men and the women averaged eighty percent, suggesting identical ability in this area of math. When the women were forced to turn their thoughts into action, they were every bit as capable as their male colleagues.

These results are actually great news for those of us who suffer from a crisis of confidence. The research suggests that it is possible to make choices that affect our confidence levels – and our performances.  We just need to keep building our confidence muscles.

Confidence Tip #2: Find Ways to Be More Authentic at Work

Many of us are terrified to bring our true selves to work, because we feel like it will limit our careers or lead us straight into hot water.

Over the years, we’ve received many signals (implicit or explicit) that our “softer sides” are best left at home – but recent research suggests that finding ways to be more authentic at work is one of the best ways to increase our confidence.

How exactly do you do that? The key is to discover and develop your strengths – the things we’re good at, and actually enjoy doing.  Then to build upon these consistently each day as we go about our jobs.


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Confidence Tip #3: Practice Self-Compassion

Do you have a little voice chattering away in your head that fills you with self-doubt?

Just like in the cartoons, that voice is like a little devil sitting on your shoulder, whispering things like “You’re not good enough”, “You’re letting people down”, “You’re in over your head”, and “You’re such a loser.”

We call it our “mean girl” voice – and just between us – she can be vicious.

Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that self-criticism is actually far more destructive than it is helpful when it comes to building our confidence. Neuroscientists suggest self-criticism actually shifts the brain into a state of self-inhibition and self-punishment that causes us to disengage from our goals.

But if we want to turn down the volume on our own mean girl voices, how do we do it?

Dr. Kristin Neff and her colleagues at the University of Texas suggest that tapping in to our self-compassion – or as we like to call it, our “kind girl” voice – can help us to break our entrenched patterns of self-criticism, while still allowing us to be honest about our fears.

Confidence Tip #4: Re-frame Success

Researchers including Carol Dweck at Stanford University have found that for many of us, the key to confidently taking action – and ensuring we achieve what we’re capable of professionally and personally – is to let go of holding the outcomes too tightly.

Sound counterintuitive? We understand. But developing what’s called a growth mindset is actually one of the most powerful things you can do to increase your confidence.

Underpinned by the belief that we each come into this world with a certain amount of intelligence, talent or ability, but that with learning and practice we can always improve, a growth mindset results in us judging ourselves — and others — by the effort we make and the growth we achieve.

When we believe that effort and growth are the true measure of what we’re worth, it has some interesting consequences in the way we go about our jobs.

With growth mindsets, studies have found we’re more willing to take on new challenges, see feedback and criticism as valuable for our development, and view failures simply as teachable moments.

Not only does having a growth mindset leave us feeling more confident, it makes it easier to set ourselves stretch goals, ask for help, and feel motivated to achieve the things that matter to us most.

Want to take a step toward shifting your mindset? Set a growth mindset goal each week. Your goal must be something that stretches you outside your comfort zone. With each goal, you may succeed or fail – but either way you will learn something – and you’ll also be working on increasing your confidence at the same time.


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