Low confidence is a career killer. 5 ways to beat the shit out of it.


Low confidence is a career killer. 5 ways to beat the shit out of it.

Christopher Maloney, a 34-year-old customer service representative with singing talent, had been trying for many years to apply to one of the world’s most popular talent reality shows and every time after filling up the form he would tear it apart. Finally, when he made it to the show, my heart went out to him. On the stage, his hands were shaking so much that the mic was almost about to pop out of his hands. He was crying.

A very close friend of mine confessed to me that he gets cold feet when he is asked to do a presentation and he secretly wishes that someone else does the job.

An old colleague, who is one of the sincerest people I have known, broke down when she was given a very important task because she thought she did not have any experience in that subject. She used to have sleepless nights over it.

As a master’s student, I earned the reputation of being someone who easily mingled with people from various backgrounds and was one of the most active participants in class discussions. However, in some of my later years, there have been times when I found myself to be nervous and intimidated, did not trust my abilities and secretly wished a meeting to get over soon so that I did not have to speak up.

That’s low self-confidence at its full blossom.

This has made me wonder what makes successful people so confident. You know? The CEOs, celebrities, hotshot entrepreneurs and the like. I found some amazing results.

We are not alone in the boat!

Two of the greatest actors Tom Hanks and George Clooney have been victims of self-doubts and low confidence. Tom Hanks, suffered from Impostor Syndrome i.e. he thought he was not good enough to deserve his achievements and lived with a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. When Clooney’s 2014 film, Monuments Men did not do good, the actor was filled with self-doubts, couldn’t sleep for 30 hours worrying about criticism and apologised to Sony Pictures saying, “I’ve just lost touch”.

Rihanna, the seemingly bold, brazen and fearless multi-Grammy award winner, paid £500,000 for “confidence counselling” to deal with her extreme self-doubt and low-esteem issues.

Ace tennis player Serena Williams has always tried to copy her sister Venus for the same reasons.

Singer Marvin Gaye used to send his brother onto the stage ahead of him to test the audience’s reaction — he needed reassurance every time that the audience loved him.

I personally know a CEO of a highly successful company who is tremendously competitive, a go-getter and super-confident. Within closed doors, the guy is full of insecurities and on numerous occasions has broken down in the face of challenges.

When actor Robbin Williams died, a psychiatrist in her interview told that people in positions of great power like mayors and ministers — once they were inside her chamber — threw away their cloaks of enviable confidence and presented themselves as creatures that were completely shattered from the inside.

So, what’s the learning?

That it’s absolutely normal to have bouts of low self-confidence!

In the words of leadership coach John Addison, “Somebody’s always going to make you feel inadequate, intimidated and not being good enough”.

So, let’s just accept it as a normal phenomenon rather than fretting over it too much. The fact that successful people are as vulnerable as we are; that they are as naked as we are put us on the same level in terms of the probability of getting infected by this bug.

This tells us something very important

That they are successful despite their insecurities, low confidence and self-doubts. That’s because they responded to their vulnerabilities by taking concrete actions and overcame them. If they can, so can we in the pursuit of our own dreams and ambitions.

So, the challenge really is to get our confidence back whenever it’s on the low. Below are 5 ways that can help us regain our confidence:

1.) Sharpen your skills and prepare well: One of the key reasons behind low confidence is the lack of relevant skills or skills becoming outdated. Therefore, the key is to keep on sharpening our skills related to our profession. Take relevant courses. Gain experience. Practice. If we keep on practising something repeatedly, it becomes a second nature. Same goes for preparation. A very close colleague told me that the better he is prepared for his meetings and workshops, the more confidently he performs.

2.) Positive self-talk: Negative self-talk or too much of self-criticism is another reason behind low confidence. We got to do the opposite — remind ourselves of all the good things we have done or achievements we have made. Ask your close friend or partner to verbally tell you your past and recent achievements. Hearing them out from another person is like someone appreciating us which can make us feel good. Alternatively, you can create a “feel good” board where you jot down whatever you have achieved — small or big — and look at them occasionally to make you feel good about yourself.

3.) Push yourself out of your comfort zones: We got to push ourselves out of our comfort zones to the extent that we are brutal with ourselves. A Linkedin friend told me that he had stammering issues to the extent that speaking with new people used to be a horrid experience. Today, he speaks in front of achievers coming out of the Ivy Leagues. He still gets the butterflies and a lot of them actually but it does not stop him from continuously challenging himself which brings me to my next point.

4.) Give a damn to what others think: Being overly self-conscious i.e. feelings like we may look stupid or what will others think of us is another trait of low confidence. A finance professional confessed to me that when a more experienced person is in a meeting she does not feel very confident to speak up. The key to this is not to take things too seriously. If we make a mistake, so what? We have to internally tell us something on these lines — “Great, I have learnt something new today which I can apply tomorrow or “Great, I am improving as a professional as I am learning new things”.

This point, however, depends a lot on the organisational culture or the surrounding people which brings me to my last point.

5.) Get away from negative forces: Be it people or organisation, you have to see if by being in those circles is bringing down your confidence. If yes, severe ties with them. A very talented classmate from my MBA days joined a new company where people were manipulatively critical and ruthless. He told me that he became very silent, was afraid to speak during meetings and his confidence level went down near to his boot laces. In the new organisation that he has joined, in a very short time and based on his performance, he has been nominated to coordinate projects with massive international impact. A more encouraging office culture and supportive people did the trick.

Negative forces can really be bad. This is why our friend Christopher Maloney took so long to sing in the reality show. By the way, if you want to know what happened to Christopher, check out the video below. You will be amazed. It has been viewed 50 million times.

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Note: Some of the causes behind low-confidence can be very deep-rooted and complex that could be traced back to various circumstances one has experienced in one’s life. I have excluded those scenarios from this article.

About me: I write on leadership, motivation, inspiration, self-improvement and agile projects. I help to build collaborative teams and products to solve real customer and world problems through process, people and technology.

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