3 ways to build confidence – even when you're not feeling it

Mar 18, 2016

The foundational gig fell through. Then, the secondary gig began to wobble. You’ve been sending out your resume and portfolio – but you seem to be shouting into the void. You’re up late at night, worrying, and your savings are slowly dwindling… but worse, you’re feeling increasingly desperate.

You know that you should walk into interviews with confidence (everybody recommends it), but the last thing you feel is confident. You feel scared, unhappy, and ashamed – and you’re worried it will bleed through in an interview.

So how do you deal with these understandable and very uncomfortable feelings in hard times? How do you build confidence when everything seems unsteady?

1. Build skills

Here’s the rub: You may have to kickstart your confidence yourself, before the Universe starts playing along.

In lean times, build your self-esteem by building your skills; it’s a nice karmic investment in the good times to come, when you’ll need to hit the ground running. It’ll also (hopefully) keep your brain and fingers busy while you wait for your next gig.

Take a class, if you can afford it. Take a free online course. Meet with mentors. Start an accountability group with friends or colleagues, and challenge each other to meet goals. Start that new project: write the novel, paint the canvas. Learn a marketable skill, if that feels useful and you can motivate yourself – or if that’s making your brain explode with self-recrimination, learn something completely new. Learn something fun, something inspiring.

Challenging yourself will give you structure and build confidence… and you’ll feel self-propelled into forward motion.

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** 2. Reach out to your support network**

I bet if a loved one was feeling bad about themselves, you’d be right there with a real tissue and a metaphorical pom-pom, ready to dry their tears and cheer them on. If you’re going through a crisis of confidence (and we all do at some point), don’t be the strong silent type. Reach out to your support network – you’d want them to do the same!

Don’t be afraid to express insecurity and uncertainty to trusted loved ones and friends. Often, even saying your deepest fears and doubts out loud can help to alleviate some stress. If you need help, talk to others (don’t be afraid to consult a professional, either).

Ask for ideas not only about how to move forward in concrete ways (networking, opportunities, etc.), but also about how to deal with uncomfortable feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. A sympathetic advisor can help you gain real perspective about what’s real (struggle, external difficulties) vs. in your imagination.

People need other people – if you’re going through a hard time, don’t be afraid to reach out. Vulnerability can lead to real growth.

3. Remember that this, too, shall pass

Try to think of this as a stage in a cycle, rather than a permanent dip – because that’s very probably an accurate assessment.

I bet if you think back into your past, you can remember a time when you were very low indeed; when you questioned your fundamental ability to overcome a particular challenge. But then, you did overcome – and it led you somewhere better.

All of us have this kind of triumph in our past, even if we have to think back to our childhood. The point is that you eventually overcame that obstacle, and came out of it with new wisdom, insight, and skills! Often, we even forget the struggle itself – which is helpful in the short term, but less useful when we encounter yet another low ebb of confidence.

Someday, this period will also be a distant memory. All you can do is try your best. Reach for what opportunities you can, and be kind to yourself. Lean on others, and keep working on building your skills – soon, your confidence will be back, with more resilience and strength than ever before. Hang on! You’ll be feeling better soon.

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.

Kate Shea

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.