The Key to Stop Undermining Yourself

When it comes to success, there may be nothing so important as self-confidence. Confident workers are more motivated towards achieving excellence – and simply happier in general. Studies have shown a direct correlation between self-confidence levels and tangible advancement at work. The bottom line:  self-confidence in your professional life matters.   

However, even the most self-assured of us can find it difficult to be confident every day. Confidence can be fragile, and it doesn’t always take much to bring us down. Maybe you missed a big sale, have problems at home, or you’re just feeling a little bit under the weather. Negatives in our lives directly affect our levels of self-confidence, whether we notice it at the time or not.  

When it comes to how other people view us and our confidence levels, self-sabotage is pervasive. There are things that otherwise extremely competent leaders do that make others see them as ineffective, and they’re often completely unaware of them.  

So how do we recognize when we’re undermining ourselves?  

Recognizing the Problem Behavior 

The first step in addressing any problem is recognizing and understanding it. A few of the common ways we undermine ourselves in a business setting include:  

Dwelling on the Negative: Whether it’s in casual discussion with colleagues, a business meeting, or simply your internal dialogue, focusing on the bad in any given situation is a surefire way to undermine yourself. An obsession with what isn’t possible or too much consternation over navigable roadblocks make you look insecure and ineffective.  

Lacking Focus on Priorities: A flip-flopper is hard to follow. There is little more disheartening to an employee than putting work into a project only to see it wasted after leadership initiates a change in direction. Flexibility is necessary; a lack of clear and consistent goals is troubling.  

Dealing in Fantasy: In the same vein, goals need to be executable. While a strong vision is crucial, your goals need to be attainable for others to take you seriously. While its admirable to believe in yourself and shoot for the moon, if your goals are so fantastical that your teammates don’t think they are possible, you’ll quickly find yourself spinning your wheels in place.  

Beating Yourself Down: Self-deprecation can be a healthy method to keep your ego in check, but take it too far and you risk lowering the expectations and confidence of those around you. Too strong a focus on your imperfections and mistakes is bound to force those around you into focusing on the same.  

Physical Undermining: While your words say one thing, your body language says another. If you look like you’re not listening, you’re making too much or too little eye contact, you’re fidgeting too much – people are making decisions on your capabilities. First impressions can be very hard to shake, and a lack of control over the physical can be harmful to your image.  

The Key is to Commit 

Now that we recognize some of the behaviors that undermine us, how do we take action towards changing them?  

First and foremost, we commit to recognizing and improving these behaviors in ourselves. 

Commit yourself to be intolerant of these habits from yourself. Recognize which are easy to overcome and which will require real effort. Consider how failing could cost you professionally – whether it’s in your next meeting or one years from today.  

The next step is to commit to self-reflection. You may begin to notice when you’re undermining yourself in the moment, but more likely you’ll see it more frequently in hindsight. In these moments of recognition, be deliberate in your reflection. Think to yourself how you could have handled the situation differently and try to make a note of the exact moment that you slipped up.  

By committing to improvement and being deliberate in our self-reflection, we can start separating our good tendencies from the bad ones.  

Support Your Own Initiative 

Beating yourself down too often? Start collecting positive emails, performance reviews, and feedback in one place to reflect on when you’re down on yourself.  

Procrastinating or showing up late? Start scheduling extra time into your calendar before meetings and giving yourself artificial deadlines on projects.  

Once you’ve recognized how you’re undermining yourself and committed yourself to improving, the final step is creating supporting actions and structures to lean on. You could even consider speaking with career counselor or therapist to help you make concrete plans.  

Challenge your inner dialogue, recognize your own worth, be proud of your accomplishments, and motivated by your mistakes. When we undermine ourselves, we offer others an excuse to lose confidence in us – and as we’ve established, it’s hard enough to keep that confidence in ourselves. So recognize the behavior, commit to fixing it, and give yourself the tools to do so. You’ll be glad you did.