How Do You Regain Your Confidence After it Takes a Knock?

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Setbacks, rejection, and judgement are a part of life, but that doesn’t make them any less painful or challenging to deal with. I’m always looking for additional tools to add to my resilience toolbox, and confidence is one of the number one topics that comes up when I ask you what you'd like to hear more about too.

In this week's post I’m asking some of my favourite bloggers and coaches to share their experience and tips around regaining their confidence after it takes a knock. I got so much out of reading their responses and I hope you find it useful too!  

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“Self-trust means having my own back.”

“The seed for my self-trust was planted after two profound adult friendships ended suddenly; there was no conscious uncoupling, there was no honouring of our bond, or the promises we had made each other. I was shocked at how deep these ‘sister-wounds’ cut, how confused and betrayed and tender this left me feeling, for years.

But out of that grief came the recognition that I was also grieving for their belief in me.

I realised that I could treat myself with the respect and love and encouragement I was missing. Having identified these qualities, I realised that if they came from with me, they would be truly unconditional. I could make room for my own disappointment and conflict as well as success and joy.

These days self-trust means having my own back. Me, myself and I are in this together. Other people can judge, criticise or reject me, but I never this to me; I am my soft place to land. I am my own biggest cheerleader.

This isn’t a deluded ‘everything is awesome!’ kind of support - it’s robust. I am always thinking critically about how I am doing, seeing where I could have been braver, where I am learning.

But it means that whatever happens, I will never abandon myself."

—Sas Petherick, self-doubt coach, saspetherick.com

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“I turn to my favourite resource: My Smile File.”

"When my confidence takes a knock, I turn to my favorite resource: My Smile File. For the last five years, I've been putting every kind email, glowing testimonial, or client triumph in an email file called - you guessed it - Smile File. When I'm feeling down, I just dig through those emails for evidence of past victories and a reminder of what I'm capable of."

—Sarah Von Bargen, writer and teacher, yesandyes.org

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“I build myself back up with my inner circle.”

"Hard knocks happen, whether it's not getting the dream job or promotion you put your heart into, or the client you've been excited to work with going with another provider. I've had setbacks, and a big part of what helps me is remembering that the only real way to fail is to stop moving forward. That doesn't take the sting out of a tough blow, but it's the place from which I try to operate. When those tough blows happen, I build myself back up with my inner circle. I'm in a mastermind with 2 other coaches and have a small circle of amazing friends. Those folks help remind me of my strengths and let me wallow for just long enough - without getting stuck!"

—Lara Heacock, leadership coach and author, kindovermatter.com

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“Having an emergency self-care can be a great thing to pre-plan.”

"I’m definitely a more sensitive soul, so tend to feel it deeply when things don’t go to plan. I think it’s really helpful to know yourself and how you tend to react to this kind of situation, so, for example, if you are someone who takes things more personally, you can put a little extra effort into soothing yourself when it happens.

Having an emergency self-care kit can be a great thing to pre-plan, that is, preparing a few things or a list of things that you can ‘go-to’ when you need to be kind to yourself. For example, certain food or drink, comfort books or TV, even a blanket, or some messages of praise you’ve had in the past.

Once the initial sting has lessened, then I suggest taking action. When you can bear it, write out the story as objectively as possible. If you feel you’ve done very badly at something, see if you can see it through another perspective. Consider ‘lessons learned’. What benefits might this experience have brought you in the longer term? (Even if it’s simply helping to build your resilience for next time?!) What have you learned about yourself? How might you do things differently in a similar situation? Writing things out can help get them out of your head, and stop you ruminating on them. You can also talk it through in a similar way with a friend, and get them to ask you gentle questions to see other perspectives.

Most of all, know you’re not alone in having set-backs. We all have them, they are part of life, and it’s perfectly normal to feel sad or more difficult feelings around them. Try and accept and feel these feelings and let them pass through you, rather than blocking them or hanging onto them.

This will support you in moving onto the next thing more quickly. And be kind to yourself!"

—Ellen Bard, psychologist and author of This Is For You

Once the initial sting has lessened, then I suggest taking action. When you can bear it, write out the story as objectively as possible. If you feel you’ve done very badly at something, see if you can see it through another perspective. Consider ‘lessons learned’. What benefits might this experience have brought you in the longer term? (Even if it’s simply helping to build your resilience for next time?!) What have you learned about yourself? How might you do things differently in a similar situation? Writing things out can help get them out of your head, and stop you ruminating on them. You can also talk it through in a similar way with a friend, and get them to ask you gentle questions to see other perspectives.

Most of all, know you’re not alone in having set-backs. We all have them, they are part of life, and it’s perfectly normal to feel sad or more difficult feelings around them. Try and accept and feel these feelings and let them pass through you, rather than blocking them or hanging onto them.

This will support you in moving onto the next thing more quickly. And be kind to yourself!"

—Ellen Bard, psychologist and author of This Is For You

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“I let myself feel how I’m feeling.”

"When my confidence has taken a knock, my first move is to make sure I let myself feel how I'm feeling. I try not to push down the hurt and disappointment and just let it come out however it needs to. Secondly, I take a step back from the situation for a couple of hours by going for a walk by the sea, or taking a long, hot bath. Then I dial up my self-care and do what I can to get myself back to my centre - the place where I feel worthy and valuable just as I am. For me that includes dancing, journalling, talking to my coach, or being with my friends and family.

Finally, I remind myself not to take things personally, and to concentrate on staying in my own lane focusing on the things I can control. For example, if I want to get on more podcasts then I'll make sure my focus is on the process (which I can control) of sending out pitches regularly, tracking my results, refining my pitch, following up etc, rather than the outcome (which I can't control) of people actually inviting me on to be interviewed. I also have a Happy File on my computer where I save all the lovely things people have said about me and my work, and that's fantastic for boosting me back up and reminding me why I'm doing what I'm doing."

—Eli Trier, artist and community builder, Eli Trier Communities

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“Rooting myself in the cycle of the world helps me take a bigger perspective.”

"It’s hard, to feel like you’ve failed. In my working life I experience it in many different forms. When a client gives me feedback that says I’ve missed the mark; when something I’ve created from my heart doesn’t get the anticipated result; when I mess up, forget something, or miss a deadline, or don’t meet the standard I set out to. At other times my confidence is knocked as a parent, as a partner, as a friend. I lose my temper or let someone I care about down.

I’m not sure I have any advice for you if that’s where you are right now. But perhaps I can share some of what I try to remember, at these times, in the hope that it might spark your own return to yourself.

My most beloved practice, the source of my purpose and drive as well as my rest and relief, is the cycle of the seasons.

I see in nature the flow of new growth, and the fall of old. In spring, thousands of wildflowers crowd the banks and terraces where I live. By summer, they will all be dried, dead and brown – and yet I would never consider those flowers failure. Their growth was wild and temporary and joyful. In autumn, the trees shed their leaves, but that’s not because anything has gone wrong. It’s to allow them to rest and make space for something new.

And there are the sudden losses and endings too. The little finches caught by the great wide-winged buzzard. Entire forests swallowed by wildfires. Little oak saplings rooted up by wild boar after a few short years of growth, and the untold damage we humans crate, with our clumsy feet and heavy vehicles and petrol strimmers.

Loss and destruction is a part of the cycle. Disappointment is a part of the cycle.

But nothing is ever wasted. Every unripe fruit tumbled prematurely; every mouse and dragonfly; leaf and bone and breath; ultimately returns to the world. To feed the soil and fuel the cycle once more.

When I take time to breathe in the vast scope of our living planet, I see that I’m just a small speck in the grand scheme of things. My toil and turmoil is no more important than that of the river or the bracken or the hills. And I know that every challenge and hurt and heartbreak will break down into my memory, my experience, and if I let it, will feed new growth later on.

That’s not to say it’s easy! I’ve always been an anxious person, sensitive to what people think, holding myself to account for every misstep. But rooting myself in the cycle of the world helps me take a bigger perspective. After all, when my confidence is knocked I can’t change what has happened. What I can do is choose how I process it. Whether I allow myself to be wiped out and disheartened, or to accept it as the lesson I needed to learn right now. Whether I think of myself as uniquely important, separate, special – or just another living being striving and creating in this pulsing, perfect, messy world."

Madeleine Forbes, writer, theseasonedyear.com

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“Another way of handling the setback is asking what it teaches me.”

"My confidence gets bashed all the time. Developing a resilience toolbox is crucial to being able to move forward and not get stuck.

First, acknowledge what’s happened. I might write a single A4 page stream of consciousness about this. I find it a helpful method to articulate how I’m feeling ie bruised, embarrassed or rejected etc. This approach also forces me to break the cycle of rumination I’m so prone to. I don’t spend long on this bit – just the one page.

Sometimes I look over those words and see old stories and patterns right there on the page. You know, the ones spoken in that whiny inner critic voice which says I was cocky to even try or I was foolish or whatever. Now, I ask myself if it’s really true? Almost never.

Next, I ask myself if the knock is really about me at all. I’ve been rejected when online dating – who hasn’t? – and for a long time this meant wondering what was wrong with me. That was my fragile little ego talking. I’m just fine as I am; it’s also fine for the other person to decide I’m not the right fit for them. See, finally, I accept this kind of disappointment is nothing to do with me!

Another way of handling the setback is asking what it teaches me. For instance, I came to realise I had crossed all my own boundaries with a corporate client who hired me to deliver an experience for their own client who didn’t really know what they wanted.

The lesson strengthened my resolve to be clear and firm in winning business and completing a project. Most of all this example reminded me to trust myself. This is not a new lesson. Sometimes we get sent the same lesson over and over again because we didn’t pay attention the last time…

Another useful question is how important is it? Is this knock really worth spending a lot of your time, energy and attention on? Does it really justify not trying again and staying stuck in fear?

Lastly, I reflect on whether this dent to my confidence is part of a specific season of my life. For instance, bereavement has knocked me sideways a number of times over this past decade. Resilience is helpful to an extent and yet in these seasons of my life learning to surrender to the ebb and flow of grief has been the kinder and more self-compassion choice. I had to accept my temporary limitations and trust my confidence would return in time, and it did.

In summary, the key to picking yourself back up is to ask yourself some good questions, reflect and learn about yourself, then get back out there."

—Clare Barry, writer and founder of urbancuriosity.co.uk

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“Rather than "lose" our confidence, what happens is our confidence simply gets covered up.”

"The thing I most like to remind myself after my confidence takes a knock is that just because I might feel like I'm lacking in confidence, the truth is my confidence is ever present. It's my believe that confidence is innate.

Something that we're born with, which despite appearances to the contrary, we never ever lose. If I feel low in confidence, I remind myself that my thinking is most likely the cause.

Rather than "lose" our confidence, what happens is our confidence simply gets covered up with negative thinking that has us question ourselves and our abilities. If we look closely, we can see that we're entertaining thoughts like I'll never be good enough...or Who am I to...? The truth is we might feel like we've lost our confidence but if we can simply see our thoughts for what they are and take some time to quieten the chatter in our mind, we'll soon see that our confidence remains, fully intact and present, underneath all of the noise."

—Caroline Leon, Conscious Business Coach, carolineleon.com

What about you? How do you regain your confidence after a knock? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

What do you do when your confidence takes a knock? Keep reading to discover advice from 8 coaches and creatives who have been there and come out stronger.

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash