What’s Undermining Your Confidence?

Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click and make a purchase.

Willow was a graphic designer working for a large agency. She enjoyed the work but she wanted a more flexible schedule. She wanted to strike out on her own and launch a graphic design business, but she was terrified of taking the leap.

Sound familiar?

When someone asked her what was holding her back, Willow said it was a lack of confidence. Without confidence, it’s easy to stay stuck in situations you dislike. Maybe like Willow, it’s a job you hate or perhaps it’s a relationship that’s become draining.

Understanding the cause of your low self-confidence is the key to overcoming it. Here are four of the most common reasons that people lack confidence…

Frequent Self Criticism

You’re always worried about what others see when they look at you. You fret that people won’t like you because of your hair, skin, or nails. You complain about how you look or what skills you lack.

When you have a constant string of negative thoughts about yourself, it’s hard to feel confident.

Instead of beating yourself up over this, pause. Ask yourself to list three good qualities about yourself.

If you can’t think of anything, ask a supportive friend or caring family member what they love about you.


Trauma comes in many forms—from being bullied on the playground as a kid to watching your home burn down. To make sense of trauma, your brain tries to create a reason for it.

If the event was seemingly random (such as a house fire), you may blame yourself. You may think you were bad and deserved it. When you have low self-confidence stemming from trauma, it can be helpful to seek out a professional counselor or therapist to help you work through these feelings.

Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes, it’s not about what you think about yourself—it’s about what you expect. If you’re a perfectionist or were perhaps raised by one, you may believe that everything you do needs to be perfect.

Often, people that struggle with unrealistic expectations and low self-confidence believe that their identity is tied to the things they do. This creates a problem when you do something imperfectly. Then you label yourself a failure or fraud.

The best thing to do in this situation is to take a step back. Ask yourself if you would have these same expectations for anyone else.

For example, would you expect your best friend to move and have her new home organized within a day?

Past Decisions

Everyone has a past and everyone has done something they’re ashamed of. But for some people, they become hyper-focused on what they’ve done previously. Instead of practicing self-forgiveness, you remind yourself of all the ways you’ve messed up.

You may even believe that your identity is linked to your past mistakes. For example, you might say, “I’ve never done well in school. Why should I think I’m capable of starting my own business?”

But these thoughts fail to acknowledge that you are a human being capable of growth. Regardless of what you might have in the past, today is a new day. That means you have another chance to be a new version of yourself.

Low self-confidence doesn’t have to be a curse you carry around for the rest of your life. With awareness and coaching, you can overcome it and embrace a more confident you.

If you want to dig a little deeper into your lack of confidence, journal your answers to these questions:

1. Do you frequently criticize yourself for shortcomings or flaws?

2. What’s in your past that’s holding you back from becoming confident?

3. How can you reach for self-forgiveness and let go of your past?