8 Mistakes that Wreck Your Confidence


Mistakes Confidence

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of confidence.  Confidence in yourself is needed if you want to reach your goals and live up to your potential.  Without it, you might not go after all the things you want out of life.

With enough self-confidence, you could begin that dream project.  You could let go of all your fears and start living life on your terms.  No fear or doubt could hold you back.

But self-confidence doesn’t come easy.  It’s built over a lifetime of experiences and risk-taking opportunities.

Yet there are many things people do that undermine and hurt their confidence before they’ve even had a chance to build it up.  Tiny little mistakes can cause big problems unless corrected.

Any of these eight mistakes could be killing your confidence.

1. Assuming you should feel as confident inside as others are outside

Everyone’s point of view takes place from the inside-out.  That is, we see everything from our own thoughts, feelings and fears.

On the other hand, we can only see others from the outside-in.  We can only see their actions and outward appearance, but not their inner thoughts and fears.

So when we compare ourselves to other people, we have mismatched viewpoints.  Others may seem so self-confident that we think they have no doubts or fears.  That can make us feel bad about our own confidence and any doubt can be seen as a sign of weakness.

However, if we actually were able to look inside other people, you’d notice that more people have doubts and fears than we realize.  It’s just that we can’t dig into their minds to see it.

Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.

2. Forgetting to watch your body language

Little shifts in body language can affect your self-esteem and level of confidence.

Are you slouching?  Are you in an closed posture and hanging your head low?

If you’re doing these things, you’ll feel extremely unconfident.

Stand up straight.  Open your body language and lift your head up.  Model your body language on confident people.

Your thoughts will change as a result.  If you act confident, your mind will believe it.

3. Worrying about the things you can’t control

What if the weather turns bad and I arrive late?

What if I get sick?

It’s easy to get sucked into the land of “what if’s”.  In this place, you worry about all those things you don’t have control over.

If you want to build confidence, you have to let go of those things you can’t control.

Worrying about these things makes you feel helpless.  Instead of actively controlling the events going on around you, you’re passive.  Things happen to you instead.

That’s not the sign of someone with confidence. Should you add to focus your energy on what you can control?

4. Negative self-talk

Watch your inner dialogue.  What kind of thoughts do you have about yourself?

If you say a lot of mean things to yourself or come down hard on your mistakes, you’re only doing yourself a disservice.

You may think that being hard on yourself will push you to do better next time, but it could also be cutting your self-confidence down.

Yeah, you might motivate yourself to do that thing, but it will hurt you later when you try to do something else.

If you make a mistake or don’t live up to expectations, learn from it.  Shake it off and move on.  Lingering on it with negative thoughts will not do you any good.

5. Trying to fix it in your mind instead of the real world

So negative thinking can bring you down, but does positive thinking bring you up?  Yes, but only to a certain point.

You can’t build confidence completely in your mind.  You can think positively and build inner confidence as much as you want, but eventually you have to bring it out into the real world.

The surest way to build confidence is to get real-word experience.  Go out and do what you want to do.  Learn from mistakes and keep building yourself up.

That’s how confidence is best built and maintained.

6. Overestimating your abilities

It’s good to be confident in yourself, but bad to be over-confident.

Over-estimating your skills will hurt you even more once you face reality.  If you’ve built yourself up, you’ll have to deal with the fall.

That can be devastating.

You definitely want to push yourself, but be realistic about your skills.  Don’t let a fantasy mindset crash against the wall of reality.

7. Never taking accountability

Self-confidence is about belief.  You have to believe in what you’re doing and that your actions are exactly what you want to be doing.

That means taking accountability for those actions.  If they don’t turn out exactly the way you want, you have to accept that and take responsibility.

Own up to your actions.  Be accountable for them.  If you honestly made the best decision with the information you had, you have nothing to be afraid of.  If you didn’t, it may be time to re-examine your decision making.

In either case, own your decisions.  Only those without confidence to back up their choices would back away from them after the fact.

8. Letting fear run your actions

It’s alright to be afraid – it’s part of being human.  In fact, I’d say that fear is a sign that you’re heading in the right direction – it means you’re pushing yourself past your comfort zone.

But sometimes fear takes over.  It leads to procrastination.  We start avoiding things and push them off over and over again.

Instead of making conscious decisions to not do something, you let fear decide for you.  Letting fear make your life choices means you’ve consciously decided to stop determining your actions.

You’ve let something else dictate what you’ll do.  Self-confidence is all about believing in yourself and making the decisions you want to make.  If you let fear do that for you, you have no room left for confidence.
photo credit:David Goehring

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  1. That’s not you in the picture, is it Steve?

    #3 is my favorite of these – I bang on about it all the time – the pointlessness of worrying about things that might not happen or that you can’t change. It’s part of Cicero’s 6 Mistakes of Man which I’ve written about & happens to be, in my view all of the philosophy you’ll ever need.

    On this subject there’s also a Chinese proverb I quite like:

    “If your problem has a solution, then why worry about it? If your problem doesn’t have a solution… then why worry about it?”

    • No, that’s not me in the photo.

      I like that Chinese proverb. It’s very true. We can’t let worry bring us down. If we can do something about it, we should fix it. If we can’t do anything about it, we have to accept it.

      On the other hand, it’s ok to worry about some things. If there’s a genuine thing you’re worried about, it’s just a sign that you need to take care of it. You just can’t let it get out of control or else it can ruin your life.

      • yeah, I like the Chinese proverb too.

        I also agree to your last comment and subscribe to the idea that aside from the above, from time to time when you worry (or feel fear) then that’s often a sign that something needs to be taken care of or is actually really worth doing (as opposed to the more common flight response).

  2. I used to be so afraid of things I couldn’t control that I would “what if” myself out of doing anything new. It took a HUGE mental effort to break myself out of that cycle. I had to start answering those “what if”s with “I probably won’t die” to get myself to see the absurdity of talking myself out of doing something out of fear.

    • Those “what if” scenarios can really suck you in, can’t they? I used to have those too. I’d think about what if this or that bad thing happened? You have to get control of it. In fact, don’t get there to begin with if you can help it.

  3. Steve, I love this post! You had so many good points. What stuck out to be the most was to beware of comparing your insides with someone else’s outsides. That’s a tweetable!

    Fear can be really powerful but most of the time it’s nothing but an illusion. Think of a shadow or a silhouette in the dark. It looks a lot bigger and even creepier than it really is. When you actually turn the light on you will see that this creepy object is nothing scary at all. Same with a shadow…It’s really a lot smaller than it appears to be.

    • I haven’t heard someone compare fear to a shadow before, but I like it. Is that why whenever I do something scary, it always seems so safe afterward? Is that me shedding light onto it? Fear should be seen in hindsight to put it into perspective.

  4. I like number 1 – It’s too easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone else is more confident that you. Really, everyone feels the same way inside, about something. We all have our insecurities but some people are better at hiding it.

    • I think it’s good to realize that we all feel the same way. We all have emotions and insecurities. When you start thinking others don’t, you’ll only feel bad about yourself.

  5. Great tips 😉 Thx for sharing!

  6. #1 is great. People are always comparing themselves to others. Doing that kills your confidence altogether, it doesn’t even matter what it is. When it all comes down to it, comparing yourself with another is like comparing apples and oranges. It might seem similar but their really so different.

    I like the note about comparing insides to outsides, it’s so spot on. You have no idea what people are struggling with until they tell you.

    And #3, everyone should be coached on this. People spend so much time on this. In the end it’s so counterproductive.


    • Oh yeah, worrying is so counterproductive. It’s something that I struggle with sometimes because it tends to run in my family. I don’t know if it’s genetic or learned, but I do have it. It’s something that you just have to control so it doesn’t get out of hand. Sometimes it’s just best to let things go. Whatever happens, happens.

  7. I struggle with number three, as most perfectionist do. I try to remember that I can only control my reaction to someone else or a situation.

  8. Good list. I think over-stretching can be a mistake too. If we aim way beyond what we can do this will be self defeating and set-up to fail. If we start small and take progressively bigger and more adventurous steps then we’ll build confidence. If we fail small it’s also good practice.

    • I don’t mind aiming big as long as I’m realistic about it. If I’m unrealistic about it, I’ll set myself up for a fall. But you also don’t want to aim too short and not push yourself too much. It can be a balancing act.

  9. “However, if we actually were able to look inside other people, you’d notice that more people have doubts and fears than we realize. It’s just that we can’t dig into their minds to see it.”

    I guess this problem cropped up because we didn’t realize that people are all wearing masks. They might look good outside but their insides are full of insecurities.

    I appreciate people who share their insecurities and vulnerabilities because I think they’re more human than those who don’t. The ones who recognize their vulnerabilities are those I think are most confident because they know that their weakness doesn’t necessarily decrease their worth.

    • I don’t remember where I first heard that term “mask” before, but it’s about right. Sometimes we put on a front to cover up our fears. We can’t just assume nobody else has doubts or else it can wreck your confidence.

  10. I learned a long time ago that worrying gets me nowhere. In fact, it’s a waste of my time because 99% of the time, the things I worry about never come to pass. I would always worry about the worst case scenario, which rarely ever happens.

    • I’ve found the same thing to be true too. The worst case scenario rarely happens. Most of the time it’s all in our head. Worrying too much just doesn’t help.

  11. #1 is perhaps the one thing that people with low confidence levels don’t see. I’m apparently a confident person, but there are very few times in my life where I’ve felt confident. Most of the time, I’m winging it – and that’s ok !

    • That’s ok, I wing it a lot too. Most of the time I just make it up as I go. I believe that things will be ok and most of the time, I’m right.

  12. Some reflections on #3 Steve. there was a certain point in my life when I mistakenly realized I could control the outcomes. This was when I was practicing law and helping clients deal with various issues as they came up. Unfortunately, I realized that you can’t control everything which was a major eye opener. You can prepare for situations, get strategic in solving problems and be ready for any future problems but you can’t control what happens. I had to learn to lay my confidence with my ability to solve problems instead of controlling how and when they happened – no one can do that.

    • Predicting everything would be impossible, wouldn’t it? Things come at you out of nowhere and you just have to deal with it. I think we all like to feel we’re in control, but sometimes you just have to let that go and take what comes to you. Otherwise you can drive yourself crazy.

  13. I am guilty of a lot of them and I hadn’t even noticed it! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Ouch to number 3! This is something I’ve been working on for the longest time because it’s been a weakness of mine. Worrying about things that are beyond my control and you are correct in saying that this does affect my self-confidence. Great post as always Steve.

    • I think humans are wired to worry about things we can’t control. It seems most people do it at least a little bit. For me, it’s about being able to control it.

  15. #4 is big one. What helped me most with my self-talk were my attempt to tame my tongue. When you are mindful of what you are saying out loud, the awareness about self talk increases too.
    You are a sage Steve. Jim Rohn was saying the same about #5 and #6. Real world experiences and naked truth about yourself are the best teachers.
    BTW, you have a typo in #5- ‘real-word’ instead of real-world.

    • I didn’t know Jim Rohn was saying something similar about those points. That’s really interesting. I’ve only read a little from him, but that’s pretty awesome that I came up with something close to something he said.


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