3 tricks to downsize self-doubt

by Jan 3, 20163Plus, Career, Leadership, Skill building

How to downsize self-doubt

Early on in our coaching relationship, Denise realised that the chronic self-doubt preying on her, simply interfered with her capacity to correct or redirect her direct reports. She felt bad, wrong, even afraid of telling them what she thought and, ultimately, what they needed to know to do a better job. It was time to dive in and wrangle some of that self-doubt, as irrational and out-of-proportion with her level of seniority as they seemed.  Read: How companies benefit from employee self-confidence


Down size your self-doubt

Change the channel

Pay attention to the defeatist voice in your head that murmurs a limiting thought whenever things get challenging:

(That will never work… If you point that out she’ll hate you… Maybe you have no idea what you’re talking about…)

and hit an imaginary pause button.

Consider capturing these thoughts in writing. Now step back and replace each thought with a positive, encouraging message, the kind you might use with a friend

(Hey let’s give it a try… We have a solid relationship, we can speak openly… I have enough experience to know what’s needed here…).

Use your body

Enough studies now confirm that your posture and demeanour influence the way you feel and how people interact with you. Slouching, grasping your neck with both hands in a meeting, crossing arms, legs, ankles are all postures that broadcast insecurity and self-doubt, giving people licence (though they don’t necessarily do this consciously) to ignore or talk down to you.

Uncross limbs when seated or presenting, plant both feet firmly apart when speaking from a standing position, and pull your shoulders back and shoulder blades down. Not only will you appear more relaxed and confident, you will actually breathe better, which contributes to feeling confident (lots more on this from Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy


If you are nervous about an imminent presentation or high-stakes meeting, don’t leave everything to fate. Getting some decent sleep, not drinking the night before, choosing clothes and accessories that won’t have you fidgeting or adjusting is all within your power. Really truly.

Take 5 minutes to write down the top 5 fears or paralysing worries spinning in your head, for the sake of releasing their stranglehold over you.

A few hours or minutes later, grab your list and, for each fear, write down one thing you know to be true that can neutralise that fear. [Tweet “Dig into your natural strengths, resources or experiences.”] Focus on the objective facts of the situation at hand. The idea is to reignite trust in Self using what you know to be true (about you, about the person you’ll be confronting and about the business objectives) and to eliminate fears by replacing them with unemotional facts.

The business case for self-confidence

At Denise’s level, lack of self-confidence was having a knock-on effect. Her direct reports cumulated more clumsy mistakes and some showed signs of demotivation. Meanwhile, Denise was working overtime to pick up the pieces, silently fuming at her team’s incompetence and unwittingly disempowering them and chiselling away at their self-confidence. It didn’t take long for Denise to realise that her speaking up confidently would serve not only her, but also everyone else, and the collective business objectives.

When confidence shortages prevent those in charge from confronting direct reports it can compromise a team’s performance and morale. Those who underperform or misjudge don’t receive essential course correction, and those who are performing ok see that and resent the boss for not stepping in. Not to mention the fact that both populations begin to presume they can get away with all sorts of things.

One of a leader’s responsibilities is to set direction and determine outcomes. This is nearly impossible to do without some self-confidence. When those in charge lack this ingredient, everyone pays in lost time and underutilised talent. This erodes positivity, and ultimately productivity, as the former is the lifeblood of the latter.

This is why companies can do well by investing in professional coaching to help employees re-wire their brains for greater self-confidence.

Check out the 3Plus Corporate Services Programs to eliminate self-doubt

Gilly Weinstein Contributor
Gilly is an executive coach supporting international executives and multicultural teams on both sides of the Atlantic. Known for her fierce yet heart-filled coaching style, Gilly helps individuals tap into their strengths, become more emotionally intelligent leaders, and make decisions that empower them—and ultimately their organisations.
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