by Melanie Greene

What is undermining my confidence?

People often think that what stops them feeling confident is some external factor, such as

  • A particular situation in which they doubt their ability to handle matters effectively
  • Doing a particular task or activity that hooks their doubts about themselves
  • A particular person who treats them in a certain way, undermining their confidence.

If you think that a specific factor is the problem, it’s likely that you will imagine that you will be able to increase your confidence by

  • Moving to a team or organisation that is going to be more supportive of your endeavours
  • Moving to a job that is going to be more suited to your abilities
  • Behaving in a confident manner, so you will feel more confident
  • Thinking positive thoughts about yourself
  • Practising affirmations about yourself.

In some ways, all of these things might have an impact on your level of confidence, but it is important to take the action that is right for you or you might find yourself in a new organisation or job, looking confident, but still feeling unconfident inside.

In essence, it is how we relate to and react to the situation, task or person that leaves us feeling confident or not. When you think about the particular situation, task or person, you will have various thoughts running through your head and pictures in your head (positive, negative or neutral), which in turn affect how you feel: positive or negative, confident or not, relaxed or nervous. This, in turn, can affect your behaviour and performance. So sometimes our lack of confidence in ourselves can result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. And we then end up saying ‘See? I knew I was no good at doing X...’

You need to start to become aware of your inner dialogue and identify what thoughts and feelings are occurring that help or hinder you in feeling confident. There are exercises in this topic to assist you with this process.

So where do you need to start to change?

The logical levels model

Robert Dilts, an international coach and trainer, created the Logical Levels of Change Model, which you can use to identify where you might have blockages and consequently need to make changes in yourself when you are learning something new or developing new skills (see also the topics on Learning and NLP). It can also be applied to the topic of confidence.

If you identify the level at which you need to make changes and concentrate on that level, you will find that developing your confidence is much easier than you first expected. To do this, ask yourself the following questions that relate to the different levels in the model:


Are there certain situations or times when you feel more confident? What is it about these times that make the difference? Is there something that you can add to your environment that will help to boost your confidence? Are there certain people who support and motivate you and could you draw on these people more of the time?


What behaviours do you exhibit that undermine your confidence, such as over or under preparing, spending half the night worrying about all the things that can go wrong, or not asking for support because of fears that people will think less of you? What behaviours will help you develop your confidence: using some of the techniques in this section on a regular basis, for example, visualising success or setting yourself realistic success criteria? Are there new behaviours you need to develop through practice?


When you think of a situation or task where you lack confidence, what skills and capabilities do you need to develop that will enable you to feel confident? Who can you ask for feedback, coaching, mentoring or training support in these specific areas?


In a situation where you lack confidence, what beliefs do you have regarding the following:

  • The situation itself

For example: ‘This is an impossible situation and there is no way I can be successful’ or ‘There is a recession on/the business is cutting costs/there are not enough resources and so on, this will never work’

  • Yourself in this situation

For example: ‘I am hopeless at this; I’ll never be good enough to become X’; ‘The only way I can succeed at this is by spending all my time preparing and leaving nothing to chance’

  • The other person or people in this situation

For example: ‘It is impossible to be successful with this group of people’; ‘This individual will never change’; ‘My manager will never acknowledge what I do well, so why bother putting in any effort?’

You can identify your beliefs by doing the following:

Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you are absolutely right.

Henry Ford
  1. What pictures do you see in your head or mind’s eye when you think about a situation?
  2. What thoughts or inner dialogue do you hear in your head? Are these pictures or thoughts positive, negative or neutral? Do you believe it will turn out well or be a complete failure?
  3. As you listen to your thoughts and inner dialogue, identify beliefs that you hold...
  4. Are these beliefs going to help or hinder you in being confident in this situation? If they are not going to help you, what might be a more helpful belief(s) to have?


What keeps you going? What lifts your spirit and motivates you to keep going at work and in life in general? Seeing the big picture – understanding what you are trying to achieve with your life and/or the situation you are in – can help to put any challenges you face into perspective. This can lift your spirits and help you to feel more positive and confident. It is hard to feel confident if you are feeling really demotivated and demoralised.