The Confidence Guy

Wired into Truly Confident Living

May 04

Even the most confident of us have moments when self-confidence seems to vanish quicker than a pre-election manifesto promise (ooh, topical).

What you can’t do is think that losing confidence in yourself means that you’re not confident.  You still have confidence, you just have to apply it.  Here are 3 of the biggest reasons you lose confidence in yourself and what to do about them.

1. You’re somewhere new

Arriving somewhere new is scaryIf you’ve arrived somewhere in life you didn’t expect it feels pretty scary.  Unfamiliar territority, new people, new challenges – it’s easy to lose confidence when you’re somewhere new.

But who said that’s not how it’s meant to be?  You’re supposed to be feeling a little scared; if you weren’t then where you are wouldn’t matter, and that would be a dull place to be (believe me, I know).  So don’t think that shaking in your boots when faced with something new, big and scary means that something’s wrong – it’s just means that it’s the first time you’ve been here.

But please remember that you’ve been in new places before.  Your first day at school or college.  A new job or a new relationship.  Life is full of “somewhere new”, and you’ve got through it all just fine and learned all kinds of cool stuff to help you deal.

So use what you’ve learned and use what you know to be true.  Start at the start, do what you’re best at, make decisions that serve you well and trust yourself to make a new decision when you need to.  You’ll be better than fine – you’ll be confident.

2. You start role-playing

Your brain’s very cool, I want you to know that.  It has a bunch of maps stored away, maps that help it navigate through situations based on the routes it’s learned in the past.  Left to it’s own devices your brain does the most efficient job it can of plotting a course from point a to point b and keeping you safe on the way.

Your brain's very cool, for the most partBut sometimes your brain is where the problem lies.  There are times when your brain picks a really old map, something it’s used time and time again successfully, but it completely forgets that the landscape might have changed.  In the blink of an eye your brain picks a pattern of behaviour that’s out of date and no longer matches with who you are and what matters to you today.  Sometimes, your brain picks a route that emphasises safety over results.

Let’s say there’s a family occasion that means you have to head home to see your folks (and siblings if you have any).  You love them, of course you do, but they drive you a little nuts if you spend too long with them.  At some point when you’re back home with them you start behaving differently.  Maybe you get a little moody.  Maybe you get a little silly.  Maybe you get a little irritable.

You start playing the role of the person you were years before; whether that’s the 8 year old little angel, the 16 year old stroppy teenager or the 21 year old rebel without a clue.

At a party filled with strangers you fall back into the role of a nervous teenager.  At an important meeting you fall back into playing the role of an ill-experienced new starter, scared to speak up.  With your parents you fall back into the role of a child.

I hear this a heck of a lot, I really do.  People switch back to who they’ve been simply because their brain brain matches the inputs it’s receiving to the best developed map it has for safely navigating through the circumstances it finds itself in.  And that means you sometimes start playing roles that no longer apply.

Playing a role switches you immediately from the capable, resourceful and confident you to a you that might be none of those things.  Watch out for these moments when you swicth roles, because they’ll always make you feel like your confidence has vanished and it’s only by noticing them that you can take a new, better direction.

3. Your Expectancies Get Muddled

Throw away your rulebook and be more confidentIn addition to switching roles at the tip of a hat, you also carry around a huge, fat rulebook, containing all the stuff that you and other people should do.

This rulebook is constructed from expectancies – everything you expect of yourself, everything you expect of others, and here’s a real brain-teaser, everything you expect others expect of you.

Yep, that’s right – it can be a real mess.  You carry around with you an expectancy set that says things like “I expect my boss to listen to me”, My manager expects me to be quiet when we’re meeting with the CEO”, “I expect my friend to jump through hoops” or “My partner expects me to not display affection when we’re in public” – dozens, hundreds of expectancies piled up on top of each other that guide your thinking and your behaviour.

Different expectancies flying around that are often in conflict with one another leads to one thing – second guessing.  And what does second guessing mean?  It means you can’t have confidence in your behaviour.

So leave the rulebook behind.  So stop living your life according to a set of expectancies that might not be true.  Don’t assume how you should behave, don’t assume how other people need to behave and don’t make assumptions about how other people expect you behave.  It’ll drive you crazy.

You Lose Confidence Because You’re Not Paying Attention

Put simply, you feel like your confidence vanishes because you’re not paying attention to how you’re thinking.  Each of these 3 causes occur when an automatic thought pattern gets triggered that you don’t notice.  You don’t need to understand how these patterns came about or how they work, you just need to recognise them so that you can trigger a new, better behaviour.

That’s where the magic starts, learning to recognise those situations where you feel your confidence leaving you, acknowledging the thoughts that take you there and making a deliberate decision to do something else, something better.

So I’m interested to know – when you feel your confidence leaving you is it because you’re somewhere new, because you’re playing an old role or because you’re behaving according to your expectancies?  Let me know in the comments.

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  • http://www.lionslinger.com Walter

    You have eloquently mapped the true reason why most of us loose our confidence. Perhaps it is imperative that we intercept ourselves every time where faced with a situation in which our confidence have not been tested. :-)
    .-= Check out Walter´s last blog…Things I Wish Everybody Knew About Life =-.

    • Steve

      @Walter: Certainly agree – it’s those automatic thought processes that lead us somewhere we don’t want to be. The only way to stop that is to notice those processes and start making deliberate choices.

  • Karen

    Which of the three do I get? All of them, sometimes more than one at a time, sometimes all of them at once!. I’ll be in a new situation, and fear kicks in because it’s new, because of my rulebook, so then the old patterns try to kick in. This is the answer to why I get overwhelmed with new situations and people at times, the answer I’ve been searching for the last several years to break free of limits. You just helped me make a huge leap forward in my life. Thank you!

    • Steve

      @Karen: That’s a good point – it’s common to have these things interact with each other, one thing firing off another. It’s fantastic that you’ve seen some of the patterns you have – I LOVE it when that happens. Thanks so much for letting me know, and let me know how you get on.

  • Eric

    Thanks, I needed that.
    I’ll be back.

    • Steve

      @Eric: You’re very welcome Eric, good to have you here.

  • Abbie

    I do not believe in rules. I take risks, and I thrive on them. Convention has been my foe. However, I definitely have expectations of myself and others. If I call someone, I expect them to call me back, for example. Ultimately it is what I value that I also “expect” others to value at some level. I cherish diversity. Yet, I realize that without any expectations you can venture down a path where people may take advantage of your open-minded nature. I guess it is your choice to allow them to do it; however, are all expectations bad??? Aren’t some expectations important when it comes to how you treat yourself and others?

    • Steve

      @Abbie: Expectations based on your values are indeed important – but more so for yourself rather than anyone else. Expect to honour your own values and that’s amazing; expect other people to honour your values and you’ll be forever frustrated (and disappointed).

  • Angelica

    I’m a veterinarian, and I definitely worry about people’s expectations of how I should be and act. Even after I get off the phone with someone I’m thinking, “did I sound caring enough? did I answer all their questions? in the right tone of voice?” I feel like I’m supposed to have ESP. It totally drives me nuts sometimes, and I’m not sure how to stop worrying about it. Any ideas?

    • Steve

      @Angelica: I guess bedside manner is as important for a veterinarian as it is a doctor – people love their animals and care for them deeply. What makes you think you’re doing something wrong? There’s an assumption there somewhere about the way you “should” be doing this and you’re turning yourself around wondering if you’re measuring up to this big “should”.

      Figure out what those assumptions are (clue: something like “I should know exactly the right thing to say at the right time”) and look at whether it’s realistic. Then look at what you’re *actually* great at and how you’ve handled tricky situations in the past, i.e. look for your strengths and your capabilities.

      Then make a choice about whether you want to place your trust in the assumption or yourself. Makes sense?

  • Angelica

    Thanks for your advise. It’s true, we want all our clients to love us all the time, and that is probably not realistic. I think veterinarians are a sensitive bunch because we care. I stumbled upon your blog from a link at Etsy.com, and I think it is wonderful! It is hard to find good advise on confidence, because not many people want to listen to us whine about our lack thereof.

    • Steve

      @Angelica: Nothing wrong with caring, unless that means you start beating yourself up for not caring in the right way. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  • Abbie

    If people who are close to you do not respect your core values, then what do you really have with them? I am talking about deeper emotional aspects of life, like what love is — what does it mean to love — what is healthy communication, etc.? If you are not on the same page with those closest to you on key values and expectations, then how do it work?

    Thanks, Abbie

    • Steve

      @Abbie: It’s okay for people not to share the same values as you, we’re all different. That said, shared values do tend to work in favour of a relationship. I think the key is to recognise when values clash, and then to make a choice about what to do. Agreeing to disagree is normally the only real way through this, as you can argue forever with someone where there’s a values mismatch. Find a way to leverage and celebrate what you do have in common and manage the parts that you don’t have in common.

      In truth it depends on who the person is and how deeply mismatched your values are. Sometimes you gotta let relationships go, while sometimes you gotta do what you can to manage them and not let them diminish what matters to you.

  • betty bop

    i lose confidence because i feel myself alone where everyone else is dealing with each other quite well.i lose confidence because of my introvertness.

    • http://theconfidenceguyonline.com Steve Errey – Confidence Guy

      There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being introverted, and I’m quite introverted in some situations. Confidence doesn’t worry about whether you’re introverted or extroverted – you can be in introvert and be confident in yourself.

      So how can this be easier? How can you give yourself a break and make it okay to be an introvert?

      Also look at how you deal with friends or family on an individual basis. How does your feeling differ when you’re comfortable with the person you’re talking with? What’s different when you’re talking one to one with a friend or family member?

      Have a think and let me know what you find.

    • Nina

      Hi Betty Bop, there’s a book about highly sensitive persons you might find really helpful in being ok about being introverted. :)

  • Confident in them not me

    I feel my confidence leaving when I’m behaving according to expectancies, hands down. I am usually very confident when I feel that I am in control of my situation and I can call the shots but it’s when I enter a situation where I start to second guess my actions and the rules I think need to be in place.

    You have hit the nail directly on the head and I thank you for that. Thank You! I will keep all of this in mind when I enter situations. I don’t need to live up to all the expectations…I need to focus on what I want and how I’m going to attain what I want. Truly, we have a certain amount of control in every situation, I would like to utilize every bit of of it I can!

    • http://theconfidenceguyonline.com Steve Errey – Confidence Guy

      Dealing with expectancy sets is a core piece of my approach – sounds like you’ve got it nailed. Let me know how you get on.

      • Confidence has revived

        You know, my confidence was dead and buried a few days ago but it has come back and it’s fully alive! I guess it’s proof, once again, that confidence never truly dies. I lost track of my self (confidence) but your article helped put things into perspective. I’m back in my groove and enjoying life again lol. Thank you!

      • http://theconfidenceguyonline.com Steve Errey – Confidence Guy

        You’re bang on – confidence never dies, just gets forgotten about. So cool to hear that you’re back in your groove :)

  • Dicksjason

    omg!excellent,its such a relief to hear it from someone elses mouth.

  • Marina

    I love what u’ve written, it really opened my eyes. I always go around with a rulebook that contains milions of rules but whenever i try to leave this book i kind of do not succeed completely :( it comes back to me and i dont even notice that
    what do u think i shall do?

    • http://theconfidenceguyonline.com Steve Errey – Confidence Guy

       It’s hard to leave that rulebook behind, especially when there’s years and years of behaviour that’s been based around them.

      A couple of simple ways to keep this idea in mind and to snap yourself out of the rules is by asking yourself one of these questions:

      What’s a better way of doing this?
      What’s another way of doing this?
      How can this work better?
      What am I doing here that isn’t serving me well?

      It takes some practice to ask yourself those questions, step outside of what you’d normally do and be honest and insightful about your answers, but it’s entirely doable.

      Let me know how you get on.

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  • Horsewoman2002

    Truly loved this article on a day I needed it. I believe I fit 2 of the categories. First, I am recently retired after 33 years in a busy, responsible job and feeling a little bit lost and a little bit “less” needed (both my boys are grown and out of the house plus my grand daughters moved 1200 miles away right at the time I retired). Also I have the problem about expectations and keep second guessing what others expect of ME, which is probably ridiculous as it is counter productive. I have always been very happy and confident, but feel my confidence slipping. My passions have been horseback riding and motorcycle riding and I am losing confidence there as well (a minor motorcycle crash due to my own stupidity yesterday certainly did not help—but luckily I was not hurt!!!!

  • Slim

    Hey Steve! I’ve seen all 3 in my case. I dread doing anything new, although I  know I will eventually get comfortable doing it. I’m scared I’ll screw things up. I behave in a certain way with certain people. I become tongue-tied in the company of a few. And I expect a lot from those close to me and end up getting disappointed. But far worse, are the expectations I think people have of me. I want to stand up to their expectations of me. Else, I feel disappointed. Because of this, I sometimes don’t speak my mind, I end of fighting with my best friends and I’m not able to excel at work.

    However, after reading this article, I’ve made a few action points. I’m starting to believe that confidence is not lost. That itself has given me a lot of confidence. I’ll recognize the places where I’m low on confidence and just be myself during these situations.

    Thank you!

  • Slim

    Hey Steve! I’ve seen all 3 in my case. I dread doing anything new, although I  know I will eventually get comfortable doing it. I’m scared I’ll screw things up. I behave in a certain way with certain people. I become tongue-tied in the company of a few. And I expect a lot from those close to me and end up getting disappointed. But far worse, are the expectations I think people have of me. I want to stand up to their expectations of me. Else, I feel disappointed. Because of this, I sometimes don’t speak my mind, I end of fighting with my best friends and I’m not able to excel at work.

    However, after reading this article, I’ve made a few action points. I’m starting to believe that confidence is not lost. That itself has given me a lot of confidence. I’ll recognize the places where I’m low on confidence and just be myself during these situations.

    Thank you!

  • Jenny

    after returning to the uk, after 18years, i immediately knew i had made a mistake.  this was supposed to be familiar territory.  i tried to sell the apart here. no luck. [economy sit]. so for the sake of my health, am renting this place.  i will return to israel, where i have friends.but no apart. ready
    to arrive to. will stay with my son,s family.  have lost my confidence!
    how to learn to re-adjust? how to learn to trust myself again. and the shaky
    feeling inside…….

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nicola-Timms/100003185373692 Nicola Timms

      Returning to your own country after such a long time is like landing in a strange country.  In 2010 I returned to Europe after 27 years of absence and so far it’s been a nightmare.  I can’t get settled anywhere and find that I am discriminated by people in countries quite close to the one where I was born and raised, just because I live my life differently.  So much for the European passport!  It’s a load of bull.  Even in my own country I expect to be treated like an outsider for some years to come.
      Always remember your reasons why you left Isreal… why you wanted to go back to England.  Perhaps you need to be patient?  It sure is something I need to learn…
      The above article is quite interesting, and yes, my brain has been misleading me in terms of how I should have been reacting to social circumstances, completely pulling the carpet from under my feet in the process.
      In terms of the question (how I have been behaving), my answer is: in all three ways.
      I wish I’d known sooner!

  • Natalie

    Playing an old role in an old place where I have failed before and moved on to something new to mask where I actually wanted to be. I actually felt overwhelmed and the memories of the past situation just kept hunting me. 

  • Utc

    I had been successfully working as a project manager in an IT company. I had several and timely promotions to appreciate my work. However something went wrong since last 3-4 years that due to these role changes, my interaction with my team went diminishing and I actually started relaxing on that. After a while I started cutting off from other activities as well since it was being managed by my juiniors. However, now it has come to that dangerous point that I’m litterally scared of any new assignment that kicks in. I had lost the confidence in doing any job or taking any responsibility.

    I feel as if somebody has stolen my confidence and filled it with unwanted anxiety and stress :( I’m currently running on anti-depressants.

    I read your article and I think it clarifies some of my doubts but specific help indeed will help. Thanks

    • Anhvanbui

      I love to hear that you find it help when reading this article. I myself feel it useful also, and hope you will regain your confidence and success in your new job

    • JBP

      UTC,

      I have a lot of what you mention in your post going on in my life, just wondering what progress you have made and what kinds of things worked for you?

  • Qjohnson

    that’s the best article i have read so far about the topic. that’s my problem ”
    So leave the rulebook behind.  So stop living your life according to a set of expectancies that might not be true.  Don’t assume how you should behave, don’t assume how other people need to behave and don’t make assumptions about how other people expect you behave.  It’ll drive you crazy.” but the question is how to implement it?! I just can’t control things going on on my mind eventhough i know how it should be.. 

  • Jilly

    I sometimes feel unworthy of things, also I have hangups about my weight and appearance – A few pounds can make the difference between a good day and a day, when I just do not want to go out. These all link to situations in my past – numerous. I now feel old, fat and ugly and struggle to lose any weight. How do I break free from all these thoughts?

    I just want to find a way of not worrying what people think, feel they are looking at me in disgust, feel the fear of rejection or confrontation.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/DOS3CDDNQTQT7GS7ZF3WUZ3ZYM JENIFER

    lived in israel for 18years, 2 yers ago, decided to return to the uk. sensible decsion.  full language etc.  but could not pick up old connections, felt isolated.  desire to return to israel.  couln,t sell apart.  rented it out. shipped
    stuff back.  home pries up by 27% since leaving israel.  am renting here on proceeds of london rental.  moved into tiny place..hit anxiety and panic.
    after 3 days, began to accept that this IS where i am.  but loss of confidence.       JM

  • Jess

    I lose it when I start dating someone new, when I am flying solo, I can hook bout any fish, but once I have them reeled in, something inside me changes. I do not want to be alone but it seems like I am more confident when I am.

  • Charles Allisons9

    I always wondered what happened to my confidence

  • Apan

    Thank You writer … You see, I have many people around me who are trying to discourage me in my fields  and recently I thought that they are true in saying that I am incapable of doing “something” …. But , now I understand the reasons .. Now I can polish them up .   .. Thanks a lot …. It was helpful ….. :) 

  • Xxdeathslightxx

    Expectancies, and old role.

  • nick

    This yr i lost self coinfidence because i met a frnd from over two yrs ago who took advantage of me and was ment to help me with stuff and kept asking me for soooo much money :( and i also was going through some weight problems i couldnt understnd about my body. And i always thought before i was more confident in wrking out and i stared feeling bad. And i use to see a psychiatrist in the past and wouldnt understnd me what i was going through with my body i was experiencing a problem with body and i couldnt understnd and i would feel frustrated :(. But went to a gym bck in 2012 for loosing weight but it was a bit difficult for me because there was some things i couldnt understnd about my body. Chest bloating looks frustrating as it gets worse.