Have you ever told yourself things like “I’ll never be able to do it” or “I’m not good for this anyway”? Don’t worry, it’s totally normal. Few are the people who at some point in their life have not despised or denigrated their own abilities. Unfortunately, a lack of self-confidence at work can be a real obstacle to fully appreciating yourself and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. But what is the root of this lack of confidence? And what can we do to deal with it at work?
The Origins of Lack of Self Confidence
According to the French psychiatrist Frédéric Fanget, author of the book OSER: thérapie de la confiance en soi (“Daring: self-confidence therapy”), “self-confidence is much more than a mere cog in our mental functioning: It is the nucleus of a pyramid based on self-esteem, acquired at a very early age, and which is expressed in the form of self-affirmation. It is therefore a fundamental element of our personality and, when it is exhausted, suffering appears ”. Self-confidence could be defined as the image we have of ourselves and our greater or lesser capacity to react to a certain situation, and therefore it is linked to the beliefs or prejudices that we have about ourselves.. Unfortunately, these are not always justified and can hinder our personal development.
These types of beliefs have their origin in our past experiences, and in particular in our failures, but also in the way in which the adults around us, such as parents or teachers, reacted to those experiences. Did a poor grade on an exam cause you to receive comments such as “you have disappointed me a lot”, or was it talked about as something you should work on to improve? Certainly, demeaning comments about our abilities such as “you’re not good at this” or “you’ll never make it” contribute to the construction of these negative beliefs. They can damage the image we have of ourselves and often lead to self-critical thoughts such as: “I am not capable of…”, “I am never good enough” or even “I need to feel that people love me”. Over time,These negative thoughts about a lack of self-confidence eventually undermine our ability to reach our true potential .
While a lack of confidence can be exacerbated in specific areas of our life, such as work, it is rarely limited to just one. People who lack self-confidence often experience difficulties in a much broader sense. This is the case of Caroline, 28, who works as a project manager and has agreed to tell us about her experience.
What are the consequences of a lack of self-confidence?
Lack of self-confidence leads to negative emotions such as fear (of failure or not being loved, for example), guilt (thinking that we are always responsible when things do not go the way we would like), shame or a feeling of exclusion. In turn, these thoughts end up influencing our behavior. If, for example, what we feel is fear, we will be more likely to adopt a defensive behavior, such as trying to plan everything down to the smallest detail, in an attempt to avoid unexpected situations from occurring in our daily lives.
What impact does it have on professional life?
At work, a lack of self-confidence can lead to repeated failures or isolation, which in turn can hamper professional development . Thus, if we feel unable to recognize our ability to take on new projects and new responsibilities, it is unlikely that we will progress. It was what Caroline experienced in her previous job: “Every time an opportunity presented itself that I could have taken advantage of and that could have helped me progress, I convinced myself that it was too difficult for me and in the end I always let it pass. During my first annual evaluation, my boss mentioned my lack of confidence in myself. He told me that I had to take more risks and jump into the pool more often. It was then that I realized that if I had been more confident, I could have done more. It was hurting my professional development ”.
Lack of self-confidence also often causes a feeling of frustration and even anger, because it prevents us from doing things that we really could or want to do. It’s a vicious cycle: the accumulation of failures caused by this lack of self-confidence often only makes the problem worse , closely related to the fear of failure. Ignoring a task or a problem in order to avoid a possible failure not only increases our suspicion, but also prevents us from achieving a possible success that helps us regain confidence in ourselves. Therefore, the more we avoid an issue or situation, the more we perceive it as a danger due to our fear of addressing it head-on.
Thus, if we lack confidence in the professional field, we run the risk of adopting avoidance behaviors and, as a result, we are likely to avoid certain situations, such as speaking in public , managing sensitive documentation, proposing a project that excites us or defending our own opinions. Lack of self-confidence can also be an obstacle during the hiring process, especially when we have to “sell” ourselves to others, and it prevents us from leaving our comfort zone and taking advantage of new opportunities that are offered to us.
How to “cure” the lack of self-confidence?
The good news is that the lack of confidence in oneself is not an immutable state, but a dimension of our personality that can be worked on . Counseling or psychotherapy sessions can be of great help in this regard, but there are also other exercises that can, little by little, help us regain confidence in ourselves. Here we show you some of them.
1. (Re) learn to speak to yourself in a more positive way
As we have already mentioned, the beliefs or prejudices you have about yourself compose the basis of this entire process of devaluation, since they keep you in a constant state of personal dissatisfaction. Therefore, it is vital to (re) learn to have a kinder and more positive self-talk. For example, you can start by stopping criticizing yourself when you do something that you don’t think is good enough. Instead of automatically thinking or saying things like “I’m stupid” or “I’m sure I’m hopeless,” try to control these thoughts and speak to yourself in a more positive way. Try to imagine a loved one talking to themselves in that way in front of you.You would probably try to help him put things in perspective and you wouldn’t let him talk about himself that way, would you? Well then, it’s up to you to do the same. And, as a general rule, we tend to be kinder to others than to ourselves.
2. Accept your strengths and openly acknowledge your weaknesses
Since no one needs to be perfect to be loved or valued, you need to learn to know yourself better . Taking stock of your resources and their limits will help you consolidate or rebuild your self-confidence, so try to make a list of your strengths and weaknesses, trying to be as objective as possible. Something that can also help you is writing down the positive comments that people make you. That’s because when we lack self-confidence, we tend to stick with only the negative things and ignore all the compliments we get. Putting them in writing will help you be more aware of them and allow you to have a more balanced view when you receive a negative opinion.
3. Take your time to review your past achievements
Often times when we lack confidence in ourselves, we find it difficult to take into account our past successes, so we end up constantly doubting our abilities. As we review our past achievements, we will realize that at the time we were able to draw on resources that we did not know we had. What’s more, taking stock of everything you have done in recent months can be an interesting exercise, as it allows you to be aware of all the achievements that you have made but that you could have forgotten or minimized.
The best way to do this is by correlating numbers, such as: “I have reached my goal of new hires in the last three months: six project management profiles, four project manager profiles, etc.” For Caroline, meeting twice a month with her boss to take stock allowed her to realize how much she was achieving and the areas where she was really adding value: “Thanks to our meetings, I realized that I was really achieving many things. Taking stock allowed me to see my progress and achievements and gain a little more confidence in myself.
4. Strengthen your skills
Caroline’s boss gave her the following advice: “Pick one or two topics that interest you and spend your time reading and learning about them. You may not end up knowing everything, but you will gain a lot of experience. ” And that he did. “Thanks to this advice, I offered myself the necessary means to become an expert on certain topics and I realized that it was easier for me to trust myself and talk about myself, ” she says. Certainly, strengthening your skills will help you feel more self-confident, as it will help to dismantle those feelings of insecurity.
5. Talk about it and get help
Talking about personal problems is sometimes difficult, as it can make us feel vulnerable in front of others. But talking and working with a professional, be it a psychologist, psychotherapist, or counselor, can help us disarm our beliefs and overcome that lack of confidence. An understanding boss can also be a true support in building or rebuilding your self-confidence in the workplace.
Self-confidence, especially at work, is an issue that has affected all of us at some point in our lives. A loss of confidence caused by a professional failure, such as a layoff or a period of unemployment , can also affect you in your daily life. However, this process is not inevitable, and it is always possible to regain confidence if we decide to work on it . For Caroline, this experience within her company allowed her to build on her self-confidence at work and also encouraged her to later embark on a project of her own to work on something that made more sense to her. So why don’t you follow Caroline’s example and dare to believe in yourself? It is never too late!