I was working with a client the other day, and they said something to the effect of, “I second guess everything I do, so I find myself completing a task and then asking other people their opinion, and then I second-guess what I’ve completed, so, I scratch my work and start over.”
Have you ever felt this way? I know I have.
So, it got me thinking. Why does this happen? How do we lose our confidence?
I’m not a psychologist, so I turn to the tool I know – ChatGPT. My question was, “What are the top 10 ways people lose confidence?” G’s (ChatGPT’s) response was:
Here are ten common ways people may lose their confidence:
- Failure or Repeated Failures: Experiencing failure, especially repeatedly, can lead to a person doubting their abilities and losing confidence in their skills or decision-making.
- Criticism and Negative Feedback: Harsh or excessive criticism, whether from others or self-inflicted, can erode a person’s belief in their competence and worth.
- Comparison with Others: Constantly comparing oneself to others, particularly when it seems that others are more successful or competent, can create feelings of inadequacy and diminish self-confidence.
- Lack of Preparation: Feeling unprepared for tasks, presentations, or significant life events can trigger anxiety and undermine one’s confidence in their ability to perform well.
- Physical Appearance and Health Issues: Struggles with body image, aging, or health concerns can negatively impact how individuals perceive themselves, affecting their self-assurance.
- Social Rejection or Loneliness: Experiencing rejection from peers or feeling isolated can lead to a lack of confidence in social situations and a belief that one is not likable or worthy of attention.
- High-Stress Life Events: Going through highly stressful life events, such as a job loss, divorce, or financial difficulties, can cause individuals to doubt their capabilities and decrease their self-confidence.
- Lack of Knowledge or Skill: When people find themselves in situations where they lack the necessary knowledge or skills, they may feel incompetent, leading to a reduction in confidence.
- Negative Thought Patterns: Persistent negative self-talk and a pessimistic outlook can ingrain a lack of confidence as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Traumatic Experiences: Trauma can profoundly affect an individual’s sense of security and self-esteem, leading to a long-term loss of confidence if not addressed.
I can see how each of these can play a role in someone losing their confidence – but I think it’s much simpler than that.
I think people lose their confidence because they stop doing what they say they will do. They lose faith because they don’t believe in their selves anymore. Why don’t they believe in their self? Because they don’t do what they said they will.
They don’t get up when they said they would.
They don’t work out consistently like they said they would.
They don’t write that blog, record that video, or send that email like they said they would.
They don’t do the small things – therefore, they don’t trust themselves to do the big stuff.
They are always looking outside themselves for the answers when the reality is they know what they should be doing – they just aren’t doing it. And because they aren’t doing it, they start to feel like they can’t do it. It’s a vicious cycle: inaction breeds doubt, and doubt paralyzes further action. When we don’t follow through on our intentions, we send ourselves the message that we’re not reliable or capable. That’s why the little promises we make to ourselves are so important. They build the foundation of trust within ourselves that we need to tackle larger challenges.
This self-distrust manifests in that second-guessing my client talked about. It’s easier to ask for others’ opinions and seek external validation than to face the discomfort of sticking to our own decisions and seeing them through. It’s a form of self-sabotage because, deep down, we fear that we’re not enough on our own.
But here’s the thing: confidence is a muscle. It strengthens with use. Every time you follow through on a commitment to yourself, no matter how small, you’re building that muscle. Every time you resist the urge to ask for validation and instead validate yourself, you’re reinforcing your worth.
So, if you’re in this place where you’re struggling with self-confidence, start small. Keep the promises you make to yourself.
Walk the dog when you said you would.
Set the alarm and wake up when you said you would.
Work out like you said you would.
Do the things you can control and watch how that changes your perspective and builds your confidence muscle.
These small acts of following through on your promises are powerful; they’re proof that you can be trusted and that you are competent. They create a positive feedback loop in your brain, slowly rebuilding your belief in yourself. When you start to keep these small promises, you won’t feel the need to constantly seek others’ approval because you’ll know intuitively that you are capable of achieving what you set out to do.
The change won’t happen overnight. It takes time and consistency. But as you stack these tiny victories, you’ll find that the foundation of your confidence becomes sturdier. You’ll stand a little taller, speak a little more firmly, and approach your tasks with renewed confidence.
And then, when you face bigger tasks, you won’t be paralyzed by the fear of inadequacy because you’ve proven to yourself time and time again in the small moments that you are capable.
Because you ARE!
So today, decide to do one small thing that you’ve been putting off. Just one. And do it. That’s how you start. That’s how you break the cycle. That’s how you begin to reclaim the confidence you’ve lost, not by overhauling your life in one fell swoop but by one small, deliberate action at a time.
You can do this. You’ve got this. Because doing the things you say you will do is the simplest form of honesty, and honesty is the bedrock of confidence. So start with being honest with yourself, and let that guide you back to the confident person you know you can be.