Many of my clients suffer from a lack of confidence. They are highly educated and talented women. But at some point in their lives, they allowed negative feedback or situations to undermine their self-esteem and that has continued to affect their performance and success every day.

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Just last week, I asked one of my clients if she could recall a time in her life when she was more confident. She spoke at length about her wonderful childhood and her outstanding academic success. She always felt competent and able to tackle any situation at work. But then there a specific incident that triggered her. Years ago, one of her bosses commented to her, ‘You’re not as smart as you think you are’. And that did it. That statement unlocked her deep seeded fear that she wasn’t smart enough or good enough to succeed.

Once a limiting belief is triggered and activated, your outlook changes. You see everything through a new filter. You look for validation daily that you aren’t smart enough. And of course you will always find something that confirms this belief. For example, someone offers a different opinion than yours in a meeting. Instead of acknowledging the comment or being open to discussing it, you remain silent, or immediately get defensive and start beating yourself up. ‘Why didn’t I think of that? Obviously, I’m not smart enough!’

This is just one example from one client, but I’ve seen this over and over again with the women I work with. Their lack of confidence affects their ability to reach their full potential. Whether perfectionism or the imposter syndrome is the cause, the negative self- talk erodes their confidence as they look for proof that they will ultimately not succeed. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The good news is that we can rewire our brain with focus and intention. And although our fears and limiting beliefs won’t completely disappear, over time they lose their power over our daily thoughts and actions. Practicing mindfulness and meditation supports building new neural pathways, and consistently reciting positive mantras supports more positive thinking and self-talk.

During my work with clients, I will often give them an exercise on this topic and ask them to reflect on how their life and career would be different if they were more confident.

Here are some responses from clients.

If I were more confident…

I would be in a role I enjoy, doing work I enjoy, and growing in my profession.

A lack of confidence can have a dramatic effect on your career. It will keep you in your comfort zone because you that’s where you feel safe with little risk of failure. This prevents you from leaving a bad work situation, seeking stretch assignments, or applying for a new position. You risk of losing your motivation and it undermines your self-esteem over time.

Try saying this mantra: I believe in my ability to find and succeed in a fulfilling career.

If I were more confident…

I’d allow myself to make mistakes and learn lessons from them.

In order to grow personally and professionally, you need to be willing to take some risks and make mistakes. You can start small with something that has little risk and start to build this muscle. Gradually take on more risk. Be curious and expand your horizon.

Try this mantra: I’m open to trying something new and I’m confident that I can learn from this experience, whatever the outcome.

If I were more confident…

I’d ask questions, listen, and respond in an objective way. Because I’m worried I won’t say the right thing, I say nothing.

A lack of confidence holds you back from speaking up in meetings and voicing your opinion. How many times have you said to yourself, ‘He/she said what I was going to say’? But you didn’t open your mouth and so no one knows how you think and what you have to offer. You run the risk of being invisible which can be damaging to your career. You will be overlooked when it comes to promotions, raises, or special assignments.

Try this mantra: I am smart and thoughtful and have a lot to contribute to my team and the organization.

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