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How To Handle a Loss of Confidence in Yourself


Founder and Career Coach

Do you feel like you've lost confidence in yourself? Have you had strong self doubts?

Perhaps you were very successful once, but now, after 3+ years of recession, massive job losses, evaporation of retirement savings, a government that seems to not care and no longer willing nor able to protect it's citizens, perhaps you are feeling less confident in yourself and your ability to survive and do well in this new world.

This article is going to give you ideas about what you can do to regain your self confidence, because loss of confidence is just a temporary thing. But you do have to take responsibility for your own state of mind.

How Bad Is It Really?

During the last few years I have seen small business owners having to close up shop. I've seen business owners who once had 50 employees come to me for help finding a job. They had never had to write a resume in their entire life.

I've seen people who were downsized, merged, acquired, and off-shored.

I've seen people whose $175,000 a year job in now being filled by someone in China, for $40,000 or less. (no offense to China intended, it's one of my favorite places in the world)

I've seen people out of work for 18 months and more.

Probably 20+ million jobs have permanently left the United States, either because they were obsoleted by technology, or transferred offshore or the demand just dried up.

The good news, is that as I write this, it looks like hiring is picking up and people who had been out of work for awhile are getting interviews and offers. The people who may have gotten discouraged and may have temporarily lost confidence but who never gave up, are starting to see a payback for their persistence.

Losing Self Confidence is Normal and Happens to Everyone

I once heard a CEO of a very successful company give a talk to a few thousand engineers and techies. He said that during the first few years of starting his company, there were weeks and weeks without any good news.

He said there were times when everyone was so discouraged, they wanted to give up. He said there were days when all he had to believe in was his own faith in the company. So he publicly admitted to losing self confidence, at least temporarily. Most execs would never dare admit to losing confidence. But he could admit it now, just after winning awards for being one of the fastest growing American business that year.

When I was hired as a CEO of a small start up (actually it was a re-start of a start up) the chairman, (a very accomplished and respected business man) told me that being the CEO of a start up was going to be the toughest job I would ever have. He warned me that just about every week I would feel like we might not make it. He was right. That was life in a start up.

So I know what it's like to have self doubts and to go weeks without any good news. But here are some tips I learned to help when one's self confidence is running low.

Mean Time Between Good News (MTBGN)

I coined this term many years ago to describe a situation where it seems all you have is bad news and it has been weeks or months since you've had any good news.

High tech products like hard disks and memory chips have a term called Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) and it predicts the time before a product will fail.

So "Mean Time Between Good News" describes the average number of weeks or months of only bad news.

If you have been sending out resume after resume and getting no interviews, you know what it feels like.

If you've been to many interviews and you are getting discouraged because you keep being turned down, you know what I mean.

If you have been trying to book a new order, land a new customer, finish a new product, get a new job, and it seems like it takes forever and you are not sure it's going to happen, then you know what I am talking about.

Tip 1: Vigorous Physical Exercise Will Boost Your Self Confidence

If you've read my other articles here at, you know that vigorous exercise is my favorite solution for when you get bad news or when you can't remember the last good news.

You can not "think" your way out of a funky mood, depression, disappointment or whatever you want to call it. But you can exercise your way out of it.

So I think the absolute best antidote for stress, loss of confidence etc. is to go out and do at least 1 hour of heart pounding heavy breathing exercise.

I like to jog. I typically jog 5.5 miles a day, 3 to 4 days a week. But you can walk. Just go out and walk as fast as you can for 1 hour. Or ride a bike if it's safe.

If the weather is bad, or it's dark outside, use a treadmill.

Just get your heart rate up and your breathing up for 1 hour. That's all it takes.

It will clear your head and it will break the chain of negative thoughts stuck in your head.

The 1 hour is critical. doctors say the first 30 minutes is just a long warm up, but after 30 minutes the metabolism of your body is really on fire and it's that fire that will burn up all the self doubts, worries, stress etc.

Tip 2: Anxiety Is Frequently Caused By Food Allergies

I don't know what's happening to our bodies or our food supply, but in the last few years I have met many adults who recently found out that they have subtle food allergies, which had been causing mild depression, anxiety, sleep and eating disorders. Many found themselves being extra cranky and that made life for their coworkers and spouses just miserable.

Now I am not a doctor, but imagine being 40 years old and just discovering that dairy products or wheat or gluten have been causing your anxiety levels to jump off the charts.

What, you mean no more milk shakes, lattes, donuts, pizza and pastries.

I have a number of friends to whom this has happened and they actually went and got tested. Sure enough. They had been able to drink milk and eat bread their entire lives but now their body reacts badly to it and the allergy tests prove it.

Either their bodies changed or something in the food supply. Who knows?

Milk, cheese, eggs, and wheat are the most causes common food allergies.

If you have such an allergy, the food will wear you down. I'm not talking about severe allergies where you eat a peanut and stop breathing. I'm talking about subtle food allergies that wear you down over a period of time.

This actually happened to me and so I have cut out 95%+ of dairy and wheat. Now when I fall off the wagon and have a pastry, I can see a mood shift. Anxiety goes up, crankiness sets in. Energy levels drop and work does not get done.

So if I want to produce the best, highest quality work, I jog several days a week and I avoid dairy and wheat. It's pretty simple.

Tip 3: Surround Yourself with Positive People

Especially if you are stuck sitting at home without a job, you need to get out and be with positive, supportive people.

Having friends and colleagues is one of the joys of life. If you have been used to going into an office full of people everyday, and that is not happening now, it's going to hurt you.

So get out of the house and go meet some positive people.

Try clubs, community organizations, volunteer organizations, etc.

Tip 4: Know Your Accomplishments and What You've Learned

OK, now the fun begins.

I want you to think back to every job you've had, starting with the first significant one, and ask yourself these three things:

  • What did I accomplish / achieve / get done? What am I proud of?
  • What did I learn about myself or what new skills did I learn?
  • Who did I help and how?

You should write this down someplace where you won't forget it and where you can keep going back and adding things as you remember them. I would recommend creating a single word processing document for this.

If you want to spread this exercise out over several days, no problem.

The point is to build a thorough list of your accomplishments and learning's.

Once you have a few things listed, take the accomplishments that you are most proud about, and the lessons that were the most important to you, and tell a story about it.

This could be one paragraph or one page. But tell it like you are telling the story to an old friends whom you trust. It's OK to brag and exaggerate a bit.

If you hate writing, but you have a web cam on your computer, make a video. Nobody but you has to see it.

This exercise has three benefits:

  1. Remembering what you've accomplished will boost your confidence
  2. You might begin to see a pattern about yourself and this might give you new direction
  3. Next time you re-do your resume, you can include some of these accomplishments

Now, if you found some accomplishments that make you feel good, your self confidence should begin to climb.

If you had trouble identifying your accomplishments, and if it's because you weren't able to achieve much in those jobs, then you probably have been in the wrong line of work.

In that case, your top priority should be figuring out what type of work you really should be doing now. It's hard to be successful and self confident if you are doing work you are simply not cut out to do.

OK, hope that helps with your temporary loss of self confidence.