It feels like it’s been an eternity since I last posted.
Over the past month, I’ve been in a rougher place mentally than usual. A lot of self-doubt, a negative downward spiral that I seem to be able to get myself out of, and the resurfacing of internalized naysaying thoughts about my abilities.
Here are the lessons that I’ve learned and do my best to put into practice every day about dealing with issues of self-confidence.
Reflect on the source(s) of loss in self-confidence
If you only take away one thing from this post, let this be the single change you start implementing in your life.
Did you receive critical feedback that caught you off guard?
Was the outcome or end result of something you did, a decision you made, etc. “worse off” than you had originally expected?
What are other stressors that you’re experiencing?
Are you experiencing more interpersonal conflict than usual?
Consider the specific situation or set of circumstances that led up to how you’re feeling now.
Zoom in: Explore the source with curiosity, not judgment
It’s time to put your product thinking skill of being curious to use!
Let’s say someone on your team gave you critical feedback, and now you’re filled with feelings of self-doubt.
First, take a few deep breaths.
Now, question your thoughts and feelings about the feedback:
What about this feedback caught me off guard?
Are there other data points that further validate this feedback?
Is this feedback aligned with the values I want to exude while collaborating with others? Why, or why not?
In this case, remember to focus your curiosity on feedback itself, not the person who gave you the feedback. After all, each of us is entitled to have our own opinions and perceptions—whether they’re true or not is another question altogether.
Zoom out: (Re)Define what self-confidence means to you
Now, take a step back and consider what self-confidence means for you.
Here are some questions to get you thinking. I recommend physically writing down your responses, then holding onto them or digitizing them, so you can iterate on and refine your own definition of self-confidence over time.
Think back to a situation in which you felt self-confidence surge through your veins. What did you say? How did you carry yourself? How are these attributes different than the words you use or the actions you do (or don’t do)?
What is different between present-state Me and self-confident Me?
What might help present-state Me and self-confident Me become one in the same?
What might be stopping this transformation from happening right now, here and now?
What is the first step that I need to take to make this transformation happen?
Learn from others
Is there someone in your life who you admire for their seemingly unshakable or unwavering self-confidence that they appear to exude anytime you interact with them?
What about their words, their actions, or both radiate self-confidence to you?
On the contrary, are there people in your life whose overabundance of self-confidence (read: massive ego) turns you off or leaves you feeling drained after each and every interaction with them?
What about the words that they use or the actions that they do tips the scale too much in the opposite direction?
Acknowledge that periodic dips are a natural course of life and the human condition
We all go through highs and lows with respect to our mental state, let alone our levels of self-confidence.
Remember those people who you perceive to radiate self-confidence? I’m almost certain that they, too, experience lulls in their own self-confidence.
What’s important is not that we experience these dips; instead, it’s how quickly we’re able to bounce back from these inevitable lulls that truly matters.
Celebrate and document your accomplishments
At a minimum, block out 30 minutes at the end of each week to journal about your professional wins in your medium of choice, such as a physical journal, Google Doc, or Notion page.
Here are some questions to get your thoughts flowing.
What positive feedback did I receive from my manager? My peers? My stakeholders?
What did I learn?
What challenges did I overcome?
How did I positively influence our customers’ experience? Our business? Our internal operations?
How do you feel after reflecting on these questions?
Admittedly, it felt highly unnatural or uncomfortable at first when I started this practice. Nowadays, I still feel a bit awkward going through this routine—much less than when I first adopted it.
It’s grounding to look back on your past accomplishments when you’re going through a touch patch in life. It refills you with the hope that things will get better—you just don’t know exactly when—and you will be able to overcome this period.
“Outsource” refilling your self-confidence bucket
No person is an island.
It’s okay to rely on others to lift yourself back up after your confidence has nosedived.
Surround yourself with people who truly care about your wellbeing and contentment, whom you can be unabashedly yourself in their presence.
They can be within your company, beyond your company; folks you talk with everyday, folks you catch up with monthly.
To recap, here is how to weather the psychological storm that is a dip in your level of self-confidence:
Reflect on the stressor
Zoom in to understand the stressor and how it affects you, with curiosity
Zoom out to refine your confident self
Observe others to learn different ways of exuding self-confidence
Accept the natural ebb and flow of self-confidence
Celebrate your wins
Lean on others for support
What did you think of this month’s post?
Would you add additional principles to this list?
thanks for your courage in sharing this - it's very personal. I very much respect this, and also recognize it from my own experience.
a suggestion; the book 'Self-Compassion' by Kristin Neff.
"Would you add additional principles to this list?"
I would add (what you are doing by publishing this); share your feelings with others. Can be anyone, but probably best to find a peer PM with similar (level of) experiences.