The symptoms and remedy for a collapse of confidence

Are you finding that:
 
  • In the past you were assertive and confident—now you are second guessing your moves and overanalyzing the moves of those around you.
  • You’ve started to take things personally and become emotional when discussing work with friends and family.
  • You feel like you are on the outside and can’t seem to find a way into the inner circle some of your peers seem to belong to.
  • You are starting to think this company isn’t right for you and maybe it’s time for you to leave.
  • You’ve always been an overachiever and been praised for your work and for the first time you feel as if you’ve hit a wall.
These are some of the symptoms of a confidence collapse. It can happen to any of us but I’ve seen some of the more serious cases among ambitious, highly successful fast-trackers who find themselves in a new, unfamiliar role, unable to get traction quickly. The meltdown usually doesn’t occur right away…it creeps up on them while they are putting in killer hours and spinning their wheels. But by the time it’s a full-blown meltdown they have lost perspective. And, oh, did I mention they are usually perfectionists?
 
The slippage is often caused by forces beyond their control. For example, the individual may have been put in a stretch assignment as a result of reorganization, and he/she is struggling to figure out his/her role and responsibilities. In the aftermath of the reorganization, people are insecure and confused, defenses are high and everyone is marking off their turf in the new scheme of things. The high achiever is used to getting results quickly and it just isn’t happening for him/her in the new job.
 
Or, perhaps the person has been a consultant on the outside—a valued resource in his area of expertise, with a lot of clout. But then the consultant is hired as an employee by one of his clients and now the person must not only live within the constraints of the organizational structure and politics, his voice is but one of many. He isn’t used to living on the inside and is finding creating change isn’t as easy as he figured it would be.
 
One remedy I have found that helps a high achiever shake off a confidence collapse and rise above the mental morass is what I call the “So what.”  
 
Here’s how it works:
 
So what’s the worst that can happen?
 
I could get fired.
 
If you keep going down this path do you think you will second guess yourself into worse performance--or even paralysis-- and set yourself up to get fired anyway?
 
Probably! Right now I’m not saying or doing what I know is the right thing because I’m so worried about how it is being perceived! I’m miserable and I think I should probably quit. Maybe I’m just not cut out for this job…
 
Why do you think they put you in this job in the first place?
 
Probably because I had a strong voice and had the confidence to speak my mind and do what I thought was right, based on my expertise. But all that seems lost now.
 
So what has changed?
 
I’m in such unfamiliar territory and I don’t know if I’m doing the right things…and I’m not getting any traction on my ideas. I’m starting to panic and think that I’m failing…
 
So what’sthe worst thing that could happen if you start speaking your mind again?
 
What if you put a stake in the ground six months out from today? Mark your calendar and set up a meeting with yourself for that day. Don’t think too much about succeeding or failing until that day. Just do what you think should be done and say what you think should be said—as if you are still an outside consultant (or in your old role) and see what happens?  Just say to yourself, “So What! I’m going to do what I think is right!” What do you have to lose? You certainly aren’t going to be better off six months from now if you continue in your current mindset.
 
You’re right…I really don’t have anything to lose and I’m certainly not helping myself operating like this right now…
 
What often happens is the overachiever with the “So what” attitude reaches the six month mark and realizes that by following his or her instincts and doing what is right for the business, he or she is back in control and doing well. When they reflect back, they say that shaking off what others might think, or trying to be someone they are not, was crushing their confidence and shutting them down.
 
Putting that mental stake in the ground helped them feel less trapped and in control of their own destiny. They gave themselves a time period and a game plan and if it didn’t work, in six months they knew they could decide to get out. “So what” throws off the mental chains of self-doubt and allows them to quiet the inner critic and make room for their confident former selves to shine through.
 
We take a comprehensive approach to executive coaching. We create a customized plan for each executive, based on the needs of the executive and his/her organization. Call for more information about our executive coaching process at (800) 348-1944.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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