Losing confidence in yourself often happens at exactly the wrong time. Like day one of a big new job. Or when you're about to take on a fresh, new challenge. When there's conflict and you just want to hide. Or when you need to go against the flow or ruffle some feathers, but wonder what people will think.
It's frustrating. Just when you need to really feel that sense of confidence, it vanishes quicker than a shiny election promise and leaves you shaking in your metaphorical boots.
It's easy to ask "Why do I keep losing confidence in myself?", and while the answers are often elusive, the reasons you lose confidence give us some smart ways to deal with this.
1. You lose confidence because you're somewhere new
It’s easy to feel confident when everything around you is familiar. It takes zero effort, and that confidence isn’t really confidence at all. It’s safety, perhaps even complacency.
But life is full of new places. Your first day at school or college. A new job or a new relationship. A fresh challenge or a new town. And new is, of course, wholly unpredictable.
Your natural response to the unpredictable and unknowable is fear. You're programmed to be scared when you have no idea what will happen or whether you'll be okay. And where there’s fear, there’s that voice in your head designed to make you turn back toward safety. A voice that will tell stories designed to undermine you. A voice that knows how to make you feel small.
That voice is what makes your confidence vanish.
2. You lose confidence because you try to second guess what will happen
We all want to make the world a little more predictable and a little less scary. And the way we do that is by trying to project what might happen, how it will happen, and even what might happen when it all goes wrong.
If you take a certain action, there's an outcome as a result of that. But what happens if someone else does something different than what you expect them to do? What happens if the time's not right? What happens if the action you take is the wrong thing to do? What happens if the outcome isn't what you expected?
All of these projections and expectations bubble away, and in the middle of that stew you have no way of knowing which way is up.
Your brain does all this for you, often without you even knowing, with the aim of minimising any danger. If you can anticipate every eventuality, then nothing can hurt you.
Trouble is, it's this very mechanism that makes you lose confidence.
3. You lose confidence because you doubt you're good enough
Land a new job, and it feels like you need to make a fabulous impression and do faultless work that everyone notices. Start a new relationship and you want to fit together perfectly and hide all your weaknesses. Start a new project, and you want it all to flow naturally and for what you create to come together at the first attempt.
And then you start to wonder... What if I'm not good enough to do this? What if I don't have what it takes? What if I'll show everyone that I'm not up to the job?
Once again your brain waltzes in, starts stirring up a bunch of thoughts, and then makes for the exit having stripped you of your self-confidence.
What's really happening here, of course, is that you're brain is trying to keep you safe. It's just telling you stories that it hopes will keep you in your comfort zone, that known quantity where there's no risk and no need to be confident.
The key to not losing confidence in yourself...
Your confidence vanishes because you’re not paying attention to how you’re thinking.
It’s really just that simple.
Your confidence is still there, it's just been smothered by thinking that's layered on top like a dozen damp carpets.
Here's your 1-2-3 to deal with those thoughts and bring your confidence back out.
You're powerless in the face of these unhelpful thoughts all the time you're not noticing them. Awareness creates options, right?
So the practice here is to gently notice the next time you have a thought that creates fear, or dramatises everything going wrong, or makes you second-guess which way to go or what the right thing to do is, or makes you wonder if you're good enough after all.
When a thought like that bubbles up, all you need to do is say "Oh hi, it's you. Welcome." You don't have to judge that thought for being there (remember that it has your best intentions at heart), and you don't have to beat yourself up for having it (it's just how we're wired).
Just notice it.
This does take practice, and it's some of the most important practice you'll ever do.
Remember you're more than any one thought
You're a bunch of contradictions smooshed into a neat package, and as such, you're far more than the sum of your parts.
A thought about not feeling confident, about not knowing what's right, or about not knowing whether you're good enough, doesn't equate to truth. You're far more than that.
You have copious strengths, talents, experience, capability and value. You know what it feels like to be at your best, to be buzzing, flowing or at the top of your game. You have the incredible ability to grow and stretch and learn and adapt and figure things out.
All of those things are hardwired into you. Get to know them and connect with that universe.
When you notice thinking designed to keep you safe, and when you connect with who you are, you create a space where you can respond, differently.
What's a way you can respond if you knew you'd be okay, whatever happens? What's a way you can respond that honours what really matters to you? What's a way you can respond knowing that you're already good enough?
Responding deliberately to the voice of fear and the voice of not being enough is also a practice.
And it's this very practice that's the definition of confidence.
If you keep losing confidence in yourself, let me know in the comments how've dealt with it.