Are You Riding The Self-Confidence Rollercoaster?

Lack of self-confidence — it’s one of the biggest obstacles keeping people from performing at their best.

I often hear people say they lack confidence as if it’s something that’s out of their control, like the cost of oil or their neighbor’s haircut.  In fact, your level of self-confidence is one thing that is completely under your control — and the biggest mistake you can make is leaving it up to chance.

If your confidence is dependent on things going your way, you’ll always be at the mercy of circumstance. The managing director likes your points in the board meeting? Confidence rises! You flub a few slides in the presentation? Confidence falls! Up, down, up, down, that’s the rollercoaster approach to being on top of your game.

What you need instead is to develop an unshakeable belief in your ability, one that’s not easily swayed by external circumstances. Want three ways to get started?

1.  Decide to be confident regardless.

You can do that, you know, without waiting for some universal scoreboard to give you the go-ahead. Gwyneth Paltrow, the actress, performed at the Grammy’s, singing in front of 26 million viewers. She could have held back because, well, she’s not really known as a singer, now is she? Instead, she went for it and (with a little behind-the-scenes coaching from Beyonce, apparently) delivered with confidence.

2.  Stop the comparison game.

When I was in business school at INSEAD, we received a profile book with the impressive resumes of all the other students in the class: business prodigy, decorated Army captain, brain surgeon, Olympic athlete – they all melded in my mind into one extremely intimidating uber-achiever that I let psych me out.

When it comes to self-confidence, keep the focus on you: create a cheat sheet that you can refer to to remind yourself of your own kick-ass abilities and accomplishments.

3.  Follow your game plan.

Unshakeable belief in yourself isn’t something that happens in one fell swoop; you build it one small goal at a time. Back in 2005, Isaiah Mustafa (the actor in the very popular Old Spice commercials) says he was tending bar but wanted to be an actor. So he set a deadline and figured out how to meet it.

“I mapped out a plan with the steps I thought it would take to become an actor by a specific date,” he says. “As soon as I reached the first step, I started believing in myself more. It gave me confidence to tackle the next challenge.”

So, what’s one thing you can do TODAY to take control of your confidence?


  1. sohaib September 23, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Wow. Though I like rollercoasters, this is definitely not one I want to stay on. Because of this lack of confidence, I find that I sometimes have issues communicating properly, which is especially bad when I’m coaching or teaching. Self-belief would be my first step towards getting off this rollercoast. And you are right, I DO have some kick-ass abilities and accomplishments!
    Thanks for the reminder, Renita!

    1. Renita September 24, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Nice, Sohaib. And make sure to create that cheat sheet in advance, because it’s hard to remember your “kick-ass abilities and accomplishments” when your confidence is low.


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