When Your Confidence is Shaken: 8 Ways to Get It Back

A common theme for many of my clients is lack of confidence in their careers. This can be a huge bust for taking that next step for a promotion, salary increase or new job. 

Low feelings of self-worth can come from old wounds and scars that haven’t fully healed, or from recent events at a current or former job. 

Some of my clients have been laid off, or even let go for reasons they don’t understand. Some were harassed or discriminated against. Some of my clients experienced workplace conflict beyond their control. 

If this has happened or is happening to you, then you know how much a traumatic event at work can shake your sense of self-worth and confidence. 

It could take months or even years to recover from the negative experiences of your career. As a result, you might find that you talk uncomfortably about the incident in mixed company, or that you fumble in a job interview, feeling even more vulnerable with the raw feelings you expose. 

I know, because I’ve totally been there. 

Earlier in my career, I was “fired” by a client of mine for “messing” up his advertising. I was the sales representative for his account, so I was the one who got blamed even though the error occurred in the production department, and it truly wasn’t my fault. 

Still, I was brought into a room with three very large, mafia type guys in a large San Diego car dealership — the used car manager, new car manager and franchise owner. I sat across the table from these men as the owner berated me and pounded his fist on the table, telling me what a shitty person I was. He asked me never to set foot on one of their dealerships again. 

I handled it well at the time, but in the evening the emotions settled in, and I went into a full-blown panic attack. The next day, I quit my job. 

Afterwards, when I would talk about that incident to a potential employer, I felt so vulnerable around it. What if they thought it was really my fault and I deserved it? What if they thought I was a bad worker? What if they thought they couldn’t trust me? 

It sucked. 

If you’ve ever felt that way from a lay-off or a workplace conflict, you’re not alone. MOST people have a story like this one — a story that shakes their sense of confidence. 

Here are eight ways to regain your sense of self-worth when something happens in your career that is beyond your control. 

Talk to someone

If a negative experience is shaking your confidence, talk to someone right away. See a therapist or a close friend, but get the story out of your system. Tell it to trusted confidents, analyze it, rehash it, and do whatever you need to do to give it some room to breathe. 

Journal

Journaling is a great way to process feelings. Write it out. Start by telling the story on paper. Then write down the thoughts or beliefs that you have about yourself as a result of this negative experience. Finally, I want you to write down at least three-five reasons this belief or thought isn’t true. 

Write a letter

Write a letter to the person who wronged you. Tell them how they made you feel. Tell them your side of the story. Don’t send it. Burn it, tear it up or keep it for reflection. 

Work on forgiveness

Do the work towards finding forgiveness for the person who wronged you — not for their benefit, but for yourself. If this experience has a hold over you, forgiveness is a pathway towards allowing it to ease its grip. Practice a compassion meditation to start. 

Practice, practice, practice

Rehearse your story before going into a networking event or job interview. Practice the part where the vulnerable feelings start to arise, so that you can move past them without getting triggered in public. Remember, you don’t have to give all the details in a story about yourself — just the highlights will do in the beginning. 

Surround yourself with support

Know who your champions are and go to them when you need support. My friends are kick-butt cheerleaders who I go to when I need a pump-up or a confidence boost. Perhaps it’s your family or your mentors? Just go to them over and over for support during this time. 

Work with a career coach

It’s hard to figure out how to tell your story when you’re struggling with difficult feelings or emotions, so getting an objective person to help you craft your messages can be very helpful. Consider hiring a career coach or consultant who can help you write copy for your LinkedIn profile, resume and cover letter that exudes confidence. This person should also be able to help you practice your elevator pitch and your career history in a way that allows you to feel more empowered.

Practice self care

During this time of uncertainty when your self-esteem is compromised, your biggest job is to take care of yourself. Take a bath, take a nap, go to yoga, or go for a run. Whatever makes you feel loved and cared for is your biggest priority. Practice the art of self-love.

When you feel overcome with lack of confidence in your career, how do you recover?