The Confidence Conundrum

A small boy with a superhero cape on whith his fists toward the sky filled with confidence and self-confidence.

Confidence is Key

Self-confidence and the ability to overcome obstacles are vital because they give us the strength to accomplish almost anything. How often have you been held back because of a lack of confidence? For many of my clients, it’s probably in the hundreds. Consider how a lack of belief in yourself could affect your earnings or your position in your workplace; or how this low self-worth has prohibited you from attracting the right partner. Your lack of self-assuredness has held you back in almost every aspect of your life. Interestingly, recent studies conducted in 2020 found that men, who are usually more confident, initiate salary negotiations four times as often as women. When women negotiate, they ask for 30% less than men.

The Confidence Struggle

Many people struggle with a lack of self-confidence, and it holds us back in such a profound way. We need to work hard to improve our morale and self-esteem to be the type of leaders employees look up to. Quite frankly, the kind of person we look up to. In my latest research on this topic, confidence is crucial to internal well-being and happiness. Without faith, we cannot achieve flow, the magical feeling when you’re “in the zone.” You need to believe in your skills to achieve that state of ultimate productivity.

Building Confidence to Overcome Obstacles

Making anything a habit is the secret to building anything into your life. The same is true for courage and self-esteem. It’s challenging because we’re naturally inclined to fall back to old comforting habits. Building confidence is new and stressful for most people. Being unconfident is a habit in itself. One of the main reasons people need to be more confident is that they’re comfortable being unconfident. They continually live their lives that way. So the only way to become more poised and gain tenacity is to build it as a habit, change that old neural circuitry, and become comfortable with possessing confidence. When we do this, we become far more adroit at overcoming obstacles that life throws at us.

What Research Tell Us

Research has shown that the best way to build a new habit is to start so small that it seems ridiculously easy. Two famous examples of this are flossing one tooth per day and doing just one push-up per day. They seem so easy that we can get started quickly, but we naturally want to finish what we start, so we often do more. This is what’s known as the Zeigarnik effect.

Here are a few specific things you could do to start building more confidence as a mini-habit:

  • Say one good thing about yourself first thing in the morning.
  • Say good morning to one person when you get to work.
  • Dress well one day a week.
  • Add one idea/comment at the next team meeting.
  • Do an easy task first thing in the morning.
  • When you wake up, smile and tell yourself it will be a great day.

    One problem is that we need to improve at judging our confidence. We often think we’re much better than we are.

The Neuroscience of Confidence:

The latest neuroscientific research on confidence is fascinating and shows why it’s hard to get right. Fear of failure is the number one reason we find genuine self-confidence elusive. It’s normal to be scared of failing. No one likes to fail, but fear of failure is when the idea of failing is so strong that it overpowers the idea of success. Fear of failure is tough to fix without professional help simply because it exists on an unconscious level, and people often can’t handle the idea of the shame that comes with failing. The best way I know to overcome this is to start small. Find something so small and insignificant that you’d be okay with failing at it, and learn to accept that failure.

Imposter syndrome

This belief is such a common phenomenon that I see with my clients year after year. The best way to describe this is simply feeling like an impostor at work or even in a relationship or marriage when you honestly know you are not. It’s akin to feeling like you’re a fraud and the whole world will find you out. Famous people like Oprah, Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey, and Maya Angelou all admit to feeling like they’re not good enough. The best way to overcome this is by not being afraid to pat yourself on the back. You don’t want to be arrogant, but you must understand that you have much to do with where you are right now. You should be proud of yourself for your accomplishments, whether big or small.

The Optimism Bias

We’re naturally inclined to be optimistic. Optimism Bias is our tendency to overestimate our likelihood of experiencing good events in our lives and underestimate our chance of experiencing bad events. While I encourage everyone I work with to build up confidence and have high self-esteem, obviously, some reality also needs to be considered. We need a healthy dose of optimism and precaution to set ourselves up for success.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

I learned about this during my first Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience, and it has always stuck with me. It is a cognitive bias where less competent people rate their competence higher than it is, while more competent people rank theirs lower. As I mentioned, we could improve at judging our skills at something. However this is a tricky fix, but if you’re more competent and focused on understanding the value you bring to a team or organization, your thoughts are going in the right direction. While you might naturally think you’re worse than you are, you’re bringing a ton of value, and you should be proud of that!

Ways to improve your confidence

The secret to making this work is persistence. It’s easy to give up after one or two tries if you see no results, but results take time. Having my 24/7 client support at this pivotal point makes a tremendous difference. Even if you slip, I never allow you to fall down the rabbit hole.

Here are a few things you can do to help improve your self-confidence:

Take care of your image

Dress well, shower, shave, and put care and effort into your morning routine. Take some time in the morning to ensure you’re looking your best. It might seem superficial, but it’s crazy how much of an effect it can have on your confidence when you think you look good.

Think positively

There are two parts to this when you work with me. The first is to think positive thoughts. Second, remove any negative thoughts. In the morning, say out loud, “you’re a great person, you look incredible, and you’re gonna have a great day today!” When a negative thought comes to your mind, argue with yourself or call me. Keep reminding yourself how good you are.

Work on your body language

You want to express confident body language. My clients know this is something I hammer home because it is imperative in their professional lives. Stand tall, speak, talk with your hands, don’t fidget, look people in the eyes, practice active listening, and so forth.


Like the idea of looking good, you want to feel good about yourself, and exercise is a great way to achieve that. Besides all the other excellent health benefits of exercise, giving you more confidence is one of them.

Help others

I always tell my clients that helping others makes them gain more self-confidence in their abilities. Always offer your help to coworkers who need it, and seek their help. You’ll be helping them gain immense confidence as well. And don’t worry about feeling like you need extra time; when we help others, we think LESS time constrained.

Share this post