3 Steps to turn doubt into confidence

Many years ago, a manager pulled me into his office to let me know my role would be expanding.  From his perspective, I had been readied through a series of assignments.  From mine, I worried that this was a huge stretch and I’d fall flat.

My manager did me a huge favor that day.  He sensed my doubt and asked me a series of questions:

Mgr: Have I given you stretch assignments before?

Me: Yes

Mgr: Have you been successful in those?

Me: Yes

Mgr: Do you think I would give you a stretch assignment just to watch you fail?

That stopped me.  I did not yet have enough years or successes under my belt to be confident in my ability.  But he did.  He had the perspective of working with many others, and could view my abilities in a broader context.  More importantly, he did not want to fail anymore than I did.

In the years since, I called upon those early experiences to help build the confidence of others.  Men and women with great potential that see the next step as a worrisome unknown.  I always go back to the questions I was asked, starting with a request to look back on their history.

Often, that’s enough.  When it isn’t, I call upon my role as manager or mentor and ask one last question:

Do you have confidence in my judgement?

Early on in our careers, we do not have a history to look back on.  Experience that tells us we will be okay walking into the new and unknown.  Sometimes, we need someone else’s confidence in our ability to get us through until we have our own.

A friend of mine recently expressed doubt in her professional ability after a long stretch as a stay at home mom.  She was lucky – the hiring manager knew her from her past life, knew her ability and believed in her.  She just needed to believe in herself.

I shared with her my doubts – in every role that I’ve taken, every stretch I’ve pursued.  Doubts that did not stop me from moving forward, or eventual success.  I reminded her that even if she was not sure she could do the job, there was someone she respected that was.

She thanked me for the reminder, saying it was exactly what she needed to hear.  I have no doubt she will do just fine as she reenters the workforce.  That she will use her manager’s confidence to keep the doubt at bay, until she can re-develop her own.

You will always have Doubt whispering in your ear.  Confidence just has to have the louder voice.

We all experience doubt.  It is not uncommon to think we have gotten to where we are on low expectations, and that this job will be the one where we are “found out.”  While it may be common thinking, I believe it is an uncommon reality.

When faced with doubt, I would suggest three steps to turn it into confidence:

1.  Look back on your history 

If you have walked into the unknown before, and come out the other side successfully, there’s every expectation you will this time as well.

2.  Look to your mentors

The value of a mentor is their ability to provide a different perspective and help see you and your potential in a broader context.  If someone you trust, who’s opinion you value, is expressing belief in your ability, listen to them.

3.  Look to the hiring manager

No one wants to fail.  If you are selected for a new role, the hiring manager – who needs you to be successful – believes in your ability.  Even if you don’t have the experience to know whether or not you are truly capable, they likely do.


If you cannot yet believe in yourself, believe in those that believe in you.  Hold on to it until you can get through those days, weeks or months that it takes to have your first success.  To get your feet under you.

Once you get there, this becomes one more part of your history that you can look back upon when you wonder.  Next time, when Doubt comes calling, let Confidence respond with “I got this!”


Do you have other advice to keep doubt at bay as you go after new opportunities or are getting your career off the ground?  Please share your thoughts in the comments and keep the conversation going.


photo credit: Roo Reynolds via photopin cc