Self-confidence – A sudden drop!

Sometimes there’s a valid reason behind people experiencing a sudden loss of confidence. You may be nearing the completion of a high-stakes project, you’re approaching a deadline and are lagging behind, or you are venturing into unknown territory.

We are largely designed to react to any kind of uncertainty or volatility, complexity or ambiguity with anxiety. Let’s say you seek feedback on an idea you have been thinking of and nine out of ten are at least mildly positive, and one is negative. It is the negative response that is likely to rock you disproportionately.


This is actually helpful overall, as we are designed to find signals of potential (physical or social) harm difficult to ignore.  Though this may not be helpful in every instance.

When you experience a loss of confidence, we must try to broadly figure out if it is a complete false alarm, a justified alarm (e.g., when you become aware you’re completely on the wrong track), or a mix of both.

If you’re charging ahead taking risks and then suddenly lose confidence, this could be a sign to slow down or make a small adjustment in your behavior.

We must understand that strong emotions are a part of our very evolved internal warning system. In fact, all our emotions have a positive, productive reason for being part of our human psyche or system.   As with any system sometimes there is a chance of that getting miscalibrated as in the case of panic attacks or depression.

It’s important however to understand that fundamentally our emotions exist to help and guide us.

Ways to cope with a sudden loss of confidence

Many people including yours truly, swing between feeling reasonably self-confident and feeling anxious from time to time. Are there some simple, practical, and straightforward tips for coping with swings in your confidence? Here goes…

Recognizing the nature of your strong emotions

Recognizing what kind of alarm, you are experiencing is an important first step.  It can help you to stop catastrophizing.

Often when you feel a sudden loss of confidence, it’s a sign that you need to prioritize better, or step back and see the big picture. It’s usually an intuitive signal that sometimes what you are doing isn’t quite right.

However, sometimes you need to remind yourself that it’s not a sign that you are completely useless or that whatever you are doing or going to, do is destined for disaster.

Engage in something productive.

Normally people respond to a loss of confidence with a “freeze”, “flight” or “fight” response.  This could be like avoiding, denying a problem to arguing, defensiveness, etc. What do you do?  What is your usual style?

What you don’t want to do when feeling less confident is to become completely frozen and paralyzed. Doing something that’s productive can help stop that from happening, even if it’s going on a long drive or walking to the neighborhood supermarket for an errand that you have been putting off for a while.

It’s always a balance that you need to strike when trying to be productive and not freeze.  You must not end up using other activities as a form of “flight” response or a distraction.  You must also not end up overworking which then takes the form of a “fight” response to anxiety.

Any which ways, if you are unable to find the balance, be assured that often striking that balance is not so straightforward.  If you are not able to hit the sweet spot, don’t worry, it could just be the nature of the problem you are grappling with.

Take a step back to see the big picture

Often it just takes a “pause” as strong emotions are a signal that you need to stop and take a step back to see the big picture.  These emotions are just one part of the whole and should not affect the final outcome.  It might help you to realize that any journey will have its share of ups and downs.

Seek feedback

Seeking feedback and soliciting opinions from those who have your best interests in mind is a way to keep checking whether you are on the right track or not. You must however be aware of the fact that those who are closest to you while having your best interests may provide feedback that includes “biases”.  The choice will always have to be yours as to what you would do with the feedback.  Generally, I have found that at least when you are stuck in a rut, it helps to get a perspective that is not packaged with strong emotions.

Take breaks

Breaks help a great deal when you are overwhelmed with strong emotions.  It is a good idea to take a shower, go for a walk, listen to some music, or whatever that is not intended to be a flight response but a momentary distraction from the emotional flooding that you are going through.  Some sort of release always acts as a safety valve in the pressure cooker of emotions.

Recognizing that strong emotions and a swing in confidence can lead to a positive outcome

  • You may find that you have been able to go back and complete some unfinished work
  • You may end up creating some methods by which you can measure your progress and get regular feedback if your strategies are working or not.
  • You can end up talking about your fears and anxiety which may lead to the strengthening your relationships with the ones you share
  • You may become open to receiving critical feedback and ideas on the work that you are doing
  • You may end up completing something else that you have been putting off.  It may lead to positive procrastination.

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