The Confidence Paradox

Do you have that one thing that you’d really like to try or a change you’d like to make but a lack of confidence is holding you back?

What are you going to do?

A.) Stay where you are where everything is familiar, but you aren’t happy.  How does this improve your confidence?  It doesn’t.  Inaction has a further negative impact on your faith in yourself.

B.) Do it anyway or take one step (no matter how small) towards it. It’s uncomfortable but it’s inching you towards your goal.  The very act of trying something regardless of the outcome is progress and even if the result is not what you expected, you can still learn something and grow from it.

Your mind will tell you a million reasons why you should keep things as they are and not mess with the status quo but this “resistance” to change is normal.  If you begin to tune in to this negative self-talk, really question it and essentially drown out or at least calm down this voice of self-doubt, you can usually build up the courage to take that first small step.  Action creates confidence and moves you towards your goal at the same time.  Inaction just keeps you where you are.

Let me demonstrate with some examples:

Goal 1: get a new job

Action you are afraid to take due to lack of confidence: apply for a job/ go for an interview

Self-talk which is holding you back or limiting you:

  • I’m terrible at interviews
  • My nerves will take over
  • If I don’t get this job, I’m stuck in my current one for ever

A different perspective to encourage action:

  • It is only one interview. It is not the only possible interview or job in the whole world.  Take the pressure off by viewing it as practice rather than your only chance
  • It is not just about the interviewers seeing if you’re a good fit for the job. The interview is your opportunity to see if you like them, the company and the culture as well
  • You are obviously in a job now and may have had other jobs prior to this. Therefore, you must have done at least one good interview in the past.  What worked then that you can look at now?  Was it the preparation you did in advance, the rapport you had with the interviewers or your unique set of skills and experience?  You have been successful at interviews before so you can be again.  As well as banking your previous interview successes, look over all the other great things you have achieved that I mentioned in my previous blog
  • You are not alone.  Think about who you have in your network that can remind you of your achievements to date or can support you in preparing for the interview
  • You can only do your best and there will always be factors outside of your control such as other candidates that will determine the final outcome. Focus on feeling happy with yourself leaving the interview room that you gave it the best shot rather than focusing on the end result.


Goal 2: find a new partner/ relationship

Action you’re afraid to take due to lack of confidence: going on a date

Self-talk which is holding you back or limiting you:

  • I’ll be too nervous
  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if we don’t get on and there’s awkward silences?
  • I’m not pretty/skinny/funny/clever etc. etc. enough – I’ll wait until I am
  • I find it hard to trust people due to past experiences

A different perspective to encourage action:

  • It’s not all about them liking you. This is your opportunity to see if you they could be a potential partner for you as well
  • You’re a great catch even if you don’t believe it yourself!  Write down a list of all of your key strengths, best attributes and compliments people have given you and look back at your success bank.  Regardless of the outcome, remember you have lots to offer
  • Think of it as just an evening that you get to spend with someone new rather than the pressure of a “date”. Even better if you get to try a new restaurant/bar or coffee shop at the same time.  The more people you meet, the more you realise what you value/ don’t value in others.  You might surprise yourself and actually have fun!
  • Your only decision after the first date is whether you want to go on a second date. Don’t think any further than that.  Before you start planning the wedding if you decide that there’s a spark, bring it back to reality and remember that you don’t know enough about them yet and take it one step at a time
  • You’re not trapped if the conversation isn’t flowing. If after an hour you aren’t feeling it, you can always make a polite excuse to leave
  • It’s just one date as the book of a similar name says! There are 7.5 billion people in the world.  If it doesn’t work out, this is not your only chance.  Don’t pin all your hopes on someone that you barely know yet and keep an open mind
  • What is the worst that can happen? If it is doesn’t go as planned or your date is unusual (to be polite), you can move on and at least you have an entertaining story for your friends*
  • If trusting someone really is an issue, maybe you need to consider working on the relationship with yourself first and trusting yourself as your first step rather than the date itself

*It’s useful to have a couple of key people (friends, family, colleagues or whoever you trust to talk about this aspect of your life) in the loop.  From a practical point of view, it’s good for someone to know your whereabouts for safety but also to give you encouragement beforehand and to listen after whether it was positive or negative!


Goal 3: Do a presentation/ “lunch & learn” in work in front of a full room (50-100 people)

Action you’re afraid to take due to lack of confidence: Practising public speaking (even in a smaller setting while you work up to the main presentation)

Self-talk which is holding you back or limiting you:

  • I get flustered/turn red/ ramble/ shake when I speak in front of others
  • Everyone will start laughing at me
  • What if I draw a blank?
  • What if I can’t answer questions at the end?

A different perspective to encourage action:

  • The people you are standing up in front of are only human too, regardless of their ages, backgrounds, titles
  • If you’ve been asked to give a presentation on something you are expert at and people turn up, most of them are there to learn and to listen to you
  • Generally, professionals attend these talks to support others rather than judge or laugh at them. If your friend or colleague at work was doing something similar, I’m sure you would be there to back them rather than anything else
  • Think about all the positive “what ifs” instead of the negative ones. What if you present really well?  What if you get great feedback?  What if it leads to another opportunity or raises your profile?
  • What are all the ways you can practice building up the main event? Practice in front of the mirror, in front of family, friends or colleagues or at team meetings.  Record yourself and play it back in the car.  There are lots of places like Toastmasters and other groups where you can rehearse in a safe environment outside of the workplace.


Goal 4: Run your first 5k

Action you’re afraid to take due to lack of confidence: joining a Couch to 5k group

Self-talk which is holding you back or limiting you:

  • Everyone will be fitter or faster than me
  • I’ve never been any good at exercise
  • I’ll look ridiculous running
  • I don’t look good in running gear
  • I won’t be able to keep up

A different perspective to encourage action:

  • If it’s a beginner’s running group, it’s more than likely that it won’t be full of elite runners or people looking to enter the Olympics any time soon. The members will be there to take the first step in starting to run and are in the same boat as you
  • There will generally be a trainer or someone leading the group to ensure people don’t get left behind and can run at their own pace
  • As much as you think others will be looking at what you’re wearing, how fast you’re going or what you look like running, the chances are they won’t be. Why?  Because they will be too busy worrying about themselves!
  • Even though it might be tough starting out, think of how you’ll feel afterwards and how proud of yourself you’ll be for taking the first step
  • Think about the reasons you’re considering this in the first place and what it will give you, e.g. a healthier lifestyle, a de-stressing activity after work, a new social circle
  • You don’t need to commit to it for life but if it’s something you’d like to try, it’s worth giving it a go before ruling it out without ever trying.

Goal 5: Learn a new language

Action you’re afraid of due to lack of confidence: signing up for that course

Self-talk which is holding you back or limiting you:

  • I was never any good at languages in school
  • What if I can’t understand things?
  • I’ll be too embarrassed to speak up in the class

A different perspective to encourage action:

  • Again, think about what it will give you if you were able to speak this language….travel opportunities, new job opportunities, the chance to experience a new culture. This should create a bit of excitement to drown out some of the negative thoughts
  • It can be at your own pace. There are so many different ways (as well as some free options) to learn a language in this digital age beyond the traditional classroom setting which mean you can rewind, pause, fast forward to suit you.

So, stop waiting to wake up one day suddenly feeling confident enough to give something a go.  Instead decide what it is that you want to do, drown out some of that self-doubt and then look at the first small step you can take to move you towards that goal and watch your self-belief grow at the same time.

Book your FREE Chemistry Check

Ready to take the next step? Book your FREE Chemistry Check session today.

Website design & development by SugarProjects.