You’re ready to deliver a talk or presentation or take on a new project. It’s the culmination of a great deal of preparation and hard work. Then, without warning, all of your hard-won faith in yourself evaporates, and you’re facing a crisis of confidence at the worst possible moment.
Most of us have been in situations where our fearlessness waned just as we were about to realize an important accomplishment. When you’re in those minutes before a presentation or up against an important deadline, what can you do to get your confidence back? We turned to the experts for advice:
When you’re experiencing such anxiety, a good way to hit the reset button is to change the way you’re breathing or moving, says Aziz Gazipura, founder of the Social Confidence Center in Portland, Oregon. If you’re sitting there waiting for a job interview or trying to focus on your project and you’re hit with that “I can’t do this” feeling, stand up and take quick a walk outside.
If you’re in a place where you can do some deep-breathing exercises or stretching without attracting undue attention, do that, he says. Otherwise, sit up straight or stand, take a few deep breaths, and focus on letting go of the negative feelings. The key is to change your position to release some of the stress and refocus, he says.
Sometimes, you have to be your own coach, Gazipura says. Act like you’re giving a pep talk to a best friend and dig up all of the “proof” that you’re ready for what lies ahead. You’ve prepared. You have a track record of success—or, at least the training, knowledge, and commitment to tackle it. He says using your own name, even though it might feel odd, makes the practice more effective.
“You really want to just start speaking to yourself like you were encouraging a friend, or really highlighting the strengths of someone that you trust and believe in. You literally want to do that to yourself, either in your own mind or verbally out loud, which can make it even more powerful,” he says.
Sometimes, we choose to interpret situations in ways that undermine ourselves, says self-confidence expert Joe Rubino, CEO of The Center for Personal Reinvention in Boxford, Massachusetts. The antidote is to focus on what you bring to the table.
If you’re speaking or presenting, remember that you’re delivering valuable information and solutions, not trying to sell something or impress someone. If you’re working on a stretch project, remember that you’re providing a valuable, needed service. When you look at your value and how you’re working to serve a need, you see yourself and your work in a different way, he says.
In situations where your confidence wanes because of what someone has said, empathy can go a long way to helping you detach from the situation and regain your composure, Rubino says. Instead of taking the comment or perceived slight personally, take a moment and think about what it’s like to be in the other person’s shoes. What makes him or her so negative or abrasive? What is it like to view the world that way? Suddenly you see the situation is more about that person’s beliefs and has little to do with you.
“Empathy allows us to detach from deeds and words that don’t support us. By asking ourselves, ‘What is it like over there to have someone do that?’ life becomes an exercise in personal development,” Rubino says.
When you’re working on behalf of something bigger than yourself—a goal, cause, or belief—it’s easier to overcome confidence crises, Rubino says. Why does this situation matter so much to you? What’s the greater purpose behind your effort? When you focus on those questions, you see the bigger picture that is less about you and your goals and more about furthering a greater cause, which can give you courage, he says.
Sometimes, we psych ourselves out because we’re so focused on a particular outcome, which is often beyond our control. You can’t predict how people will respond to your message or if they’ll love your work, Aziz Gazipura says.
What you can control is focusing on your track record and the evidence that you’re up for the job. You can control how well you deliver on what you’ve committed to do. Shift your focus to doing the best you can in the moment and stop dwelling on how it will turn out.