How to Stay Confident During Difficult Times

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How to Stay Confident During Difficult Times of Uncertainty or Change.

“Jenny, I’m trying not to take it personally but it’s hard to stay positive and not let it knock my confidence when I’m getting rejection after rejection – I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach.”

When we first met, Laurie had been let go from her role as VP of Marketing in the recent economic downturn, and her job search had been dragging on for months with little progress.

Whether it’s an unexpected retrenchment, the project you’re leading is failing, or you’re in the middle of an organizational restructure, we all experience tough times of uncertainty and change from time to time.

Adversity is the great equalizer. It spares no-one. Everyone goes through tough periods – both professionally and personally.

I know you’ve heard the saying, “This too shall pass.”

And it will.

But how will you be when you get to the other side? Will your confidence be knocked and your self-belief in tatters on the floor?

Or will this period of adversity be an opportunity to actually bolster your confidence and self-belief?

In a recent poll I conducted on LinkedIn, a huge 95% of respondents said that their confidence had been knocked after a tough period of uncertainty, change or adversity.

So, it seems that the vast majority of people sit in that first camp.

95% of People Have Had Their Confidence Knocked

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you want to place yourself firmly in the second camp and come through this tough period not just with your confidence intact, but actually strengthened, then this article is for you.

I’ll break down 6 simple steps to stay confident in the middle of a storm. Here’s how you do it …

How to Stay Confident During Difficult Times:

  1. Take a Breath. And Take Stock.
  2. Get Rid of Your Limiting Beliefs.
  3. Is this Situation Within Your Control? Then Take Action.
  4. Look After Yourself – Yes, really.
  5. Reach Out.
  6. I Won’t Tell You to Practice Gratitude. But it Does Help.

Let’s break each of these down in turn. But before we jump in, I want to get clear what we’re talking about when we refer to confidence.

What does confidence mean?

Confidence Definition

Confidence is the belief you’ll be effective at what you choose to undertake.

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Why is Confidence Important?

In good times, confidence is one of the strongest indicators of performance (Stankov, 2013).

But when faced with adversity, confidence becomes even more important – it’s a crucial anchor during tough times. It provides you with the inner strength and resilience needed to navigate challenges effectively.

When faced with uncertainty, adversity or change, confidence acts as a guiding force, enabling you to remain steadfast in your beliefs, decisions and actions.

It allows you to confront obstacles with courage and determination, rather than succumbing to fear or doubt.

Ultimately, confidence empowers you to persevere through tough times, learn from setbacks, and emerge stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to handle future challenges.

Confidence is the secret sauce to success, both professionally and personally.

Confidence really is the secret sauce to success

How to Build Confidence

Confidence is a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Confidence is like money in your savings account that compounds over time. When you take steps to build your confidence, especially during tough times, you create a positive spiral of increased confidence over time.

So, how you deal with the current adversity you’re facing, not only affects how you’ll feel when you come out the other side, it will also set you up for success in the future.

Continuing with the bank account analogy. Every time you use your confidence, you deposit a ‘confidence credit’ into your account.

Next time you need confidence, you can refer back to that previous experience and know – “I’ve done it before, and I can do it again”.

And that’s how confidence builds over time.

So, we know that confidence is important. And we want to protect and nurture it, especially during tough times.

Here’s how you do it – my simple 6 steps to help you stay confident during difficult times.

6 Steps to Stay Confident During Difficult Times.

Step 1: Take a Breath. And Take Stock.

If you want to stay confident in times of uncertainty or change, it’s essential to pause, take a deep breath, and assess the situation with a clear mind.

Instead of panicking and running for the hills, I want you to stop, steady yourself and get clear on what’s really happening here.

The best way to do this, is to get your journal out and write. Pen and paper. There’s something cathartic about writing, so much more than typing on your laptop or tapping on your i-Pad.

So, in your journal (or on a jotter pad, loose leaf paper – anything you’ve got to hand) answer the following two questions:

What’s happening?

How do I feel?

Write as many pages as you need to get it all out. Everything. Dump it all. Don’t hold anything back or filter what you’re writing. No-one needs to ever see this. This is private, just for you.

Take a Breath. And Take Stock

Step 2: Get Rid of Your Limiting Beliefs.

You might feel better after step one. Many people do. But there’s more to do, so let’s keep moving.

Before you start step two though, take a breather with a short time out. Perhaps go outside and get some fresh air.

When you’re ready, I want you to go through what you’ve just written and identify all the limiting beliefs.

What are Limiting Beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are any negative, unhelpful beliefs you have about yourself, your capabilities, and your place in the world.

They’re often unconscious, so you’re not aware of them. But they tend to come out with full force during difficult times!

You might hear them as negative self-talk that runs constantly on repeat …

… Or see them on the movie screen in your mind running pictures of all your failures and shortcomings.

Limiting beliefs can be pretty brutal!

As well as making you feel bad about yourself, limiting beliefs are damaging as they impact your behaviors and actions you will, and won’t, take.

And this will have a huge impact on how you deal with this difficult period you find yourself in.

Imagine an anchor that drags along the seabed. It either slows the boat down or stops it completely. That’s what limiting belief do to you.

No matter how hard you work to move forward, there’s something that’s pulling you back and stopping you from getting there.

Apart from being immensely frustrating, limiting beliefs impact your confidence and how you feel about yourself, during, and after, this adversity you’re facing.

So, we need to deal with these limiting beliefs.

That’s why I developed Breakthrough Coaching.

It’s my flagship one-on-one coaching program designed to quickly and easily remove ALL the unhelpful beliefs, behaviours and negative emotions that are holding you back and keeping you stuck.

You can find out more about Breakthrough Coaching here.

Breakthrough Coaching

Step 3: Is this Situation Within Your Control? Then Take Action.

Oftentimes, when we’re faced with adversity, we become like rabbits in the headlights, heads spinning and frozen by inaction. Or we waste our energy on taking wrong action.

It’s likely that whatever adversity you’re facing isn’t going to miraculously disappear by itself, so you need to take right actions to improve the situation.

But first, I want you to ask yourself, “Is this situation within my control?”

This is a crucial distinction, as it helps you direct your energy and efforts towards actionable steps rather than dwelling on things beyond your influence.

The weather, corrupt politicians and that driver who cut in front of you this morning, are all outside of your control.

And your company deciding to restructure and let you go – that’s also outside of your control.

There’s no point in wasting even a drop of energy worrying about something outside of your control. You need to make your peace with it. It is what it is, and you cannot change it.

But while you might not be able to change what’s happening, you CAN choose your response to it – it’s the last of the human freedoms.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor E. Frankl

But if this situation is within your control, or even parts of it are within your control, you need to get to work and take action.

Brace for a dose of tough love. No-one is coming to save you. It’s up to you to take right action to move yourself out of this situation.

Time to get your pen and paper out again…

The next step will look slightly different for everyone, depending on your situation and the specific adversity you’re facing.

The goal is to break the problem down into small, manageable chunks and create a workable action plan.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just choose the very first action you can take and do that.

And then identify the next right action and do that. Action gets you out of your head and creates momentum, and it will become easier to work out what to do next once you’re in action.

Avoiding overwhelm is also why I suggest doing this with pen and paper. It keeps it simple and gets you into action quicker.

A beautifully color-coded project plan on your computer might look good, but if your head’s in a spin, it’s probably not going to help you get into action.

And that’s the point – getting into action.

This is where you need to keep your perfectionism in check. We’re looking for progress not perfection.

A note for all the perfectionists reading this – which I would hazard a guess is a lot of you.

Many (many) of my coaching clients have perfectionism, but it plays out is so many different ways you might not be aware of it. Read my article on Maladaptive Perfectionism to find out how it plays out – you might be surprised!

Or if you are aware you’re a perfectionist, you might not realize the damage it’s doing. That’s why I created the Is Perfectionism Helping or Hindering Me? quiz.

If you haven’t done the quiz yet, please stop and do it now.

It only takes a couple of minutes and it’s important to know if your perfectionism is hindering you as it will impact all the other strategies designed to help you through this tough period.

Take the quiz here.

Perfectionism Quiz - Blog Post

Step 4: Look After Yourself – Yes, really.

While you’re going through this tough time, you need to make a special effort to look after your wellbeing if you want to stay confident. Self-care improves your resilience (Jin, 2022).

The usual suspects are the most important ones – eating, sleeping and exercise – and also your general grooming and self-care.

I know this isn’t the first time you’ve been told to look after yourself, but a lot of us are so bad at self-care it’s worth saying again. 😉

As humans we need to balance our need for structure vs flexibility, and predictability vs spontaneity.

When you’re going through a tough time you often lose structure and predictability in your life, which can really unsettle you.

Eating, sleeping and exercise are a great way of getting some structure and predictability back into your week, so it’s worth doing.

If that doesn’t convince you, think of the defenders in a football game.

These players aren’t the ones who make the touchdowns / score the goals to win the game but what would happen if you took them all off the pitch? It would be carnage. The opposition team would win by an embarrassingly huge margin.

Think of eating, sleeping and exercise in the same way. They’re your defenders. They won’t win the game, but you’ll soon realize the crucial role they play when you take them off the pitch.

So, you need to work out what eating, sleeping and exercise look like for you.

When you’re under pressure, self-care tends to go out the window, but if you want to get through this tough period with your confidence and self-belief intact, it’s essential you keep your defenders on the pitch.

Look After Yourself

Step 5: Reach Out.

During times of adversity, reaching out for support can be a game-changer. This really isn’t the time to try to go it alone …

Working remotely, the threat of isolation is very real.

Connecting with friends, family or colleagues who uplift and encourage you can provide an essential source of emotional support and perspective.

Seeking guidance from peers or mentors who’ve faced similar challenges or possess expertise in certain areas can also be helpful.

Communication plays a crucial role in this step though – you need to be open about your struggles to allow people to offer support. There’s no use hiding behind a ‘everything’s okay’ façade.

Remember, seeking help and support isn’t a sign of weakness but a demonstration of strength and resilience – and this will help build your confidence.

Whether it’s a listening ear, practical assistance or guidance, reaching out can lighten the burden and provide a sense of connection and reassurance.

And if you find yourself struggling with your mental health, experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor is essential.

They can provide support, coping strategies and interventions tailored to your specific needs, helping you navigate these tough times with greater resilience and well-being.

Reach Out

Step 6: I Won’t Tell You to Practice Gratitude (But if You Can, it Does Help).

It was the first week of 2021 and the UK had just gone into the 3rd lockdown. It was a cold, dark and miserable January and the Covid epidemic had been going on for almost 12 months.

I was running on empty.

The resilience that had got me through the last year had pretty much run out. Just the month before there was a glimmer of hope with the launch of a new vaccine, and I really thought the worst was behind us.

But it had been a false summit, and this made this new lockdown feel even harder.

My work had fallen off a cliff, I’d hammered my savings, I had Covid myself so was in bed feeling dreadful, one of my children also had Covid, the other one was home-schooling, I hadn’t seen my family in ages and was worried about my parents as they were both elderly – I could go on, but you get the picture.

I know that so many people had it much worse than us, but at this moment I’d lost sight of that.

Sat in bed feeling like the world was ending, I googled “how to remain positive during tough times”.

I read a lot of articles that afternoon and pretty much every one of them told me to ‘practice gratitude’. I was so far from feeling gratitude in that moment, I could have thrown my laptop across the room if one more person told me to be grateful …

I Won’t Tell You to Practice Gratitude

Which is why I’m a tad hesitant to tell you to practice gratitude to get you through this tough period you’re experiencing.

If you feel like I did on that day in January, you have my complete permission to skip this step… but do come back to it later.

The reason why gratitude is so helpful when you’re having a tough time is that it gives you perspective.

No matter how bad things feel in this moment, there’s at least one small thing that’s positive – not everything is bad – ever. It might be your dog, your coffee this morning or the new seasons flowers just starting to come through the soil.

It doesn’t have to be some huge, significant thing. The only caveat is that you have to genuinely feel grateful for it – don’t fake it.

As you go through this tough time, it’s important to take your wins where you can.

Perhaps your biggest win of the day was the friendly Barista who made you a great coffee this morning and you had a nice chat with – take the win and allow it to give you a little boost.

“The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now. And the more grateful you are, the more you get.”

 Oprah Winfrey

So how to practice gratitude? You might like to write in your journal a few things you’re grateful for at the end of each day, or you can just reflect and think about what you’re grateful for.

The other thing to try is experiencing awe. I learnt this idea from Arthur C. Brooks.

Awe might come from being in nature, sitting at the top of a mountain or looking up at the stars at night. The idea is to be in awe of the universe.

Awe really does put things into perspective as you realize that your problems are tiny in the bigger scheme of things.

It’s taking the opposite lens to the gratitude practice, where you hone in on something. With awe you zoom right out and see the bigger picture.

Give both gratitude and awe a go. There’s something comforting and reassuring about both of them – exactly what you need when you’re having a tough time.

Final Thoughts: How to Stay Confident During Difficult Times of Uncertainty or Change.

In times of uncertainty or change, maintaining confidence can be difficult, but it’s also incredibly empowering.

By following the 6 steps I’ve talked about here, you can build resilience, navigate challenges with greater ease, and emerge stronger on the other side.

And remember I’m here to support you. I created the Breakthrough Coaching program to help you get rid of all the things holding you back and keeping you stuck, so if you’re going through a period of adversity, you’re a perfect fit.

All you need to do is get in touch.

Confidence doesn’t come from having everything perfectly together all the time – it’s about believing in yourself, your abilities, and your capacity to overcome adversity when things get tough.

So, as you work through this difficult period of adversity, stay confident, stay resilient, and embrace the opportunities for growth and self-discovery that challenging times can bring. You’ve got this.

Now over to you. Leave a comment below and tell me about which of the strategies for staying confident you’ll try first.

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Hello!

I'm Jenny Ostick

As an Organizational Psychologist and Master Coach I’m on a mission to make good leaders exceptional leaders. My lifework is to help leaders overcome the unhelpful beliefs, behaviours and habits that are holding them back, so they can become the exceptional leader they’re capable of being.

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Breakthrough Coaching

Hello

I'm Jenny Ostick.

As an Organizational Psychologist and Leadership Coach I'm on a mission to make good leaders exceptional leaders.

I've spent the last 20 years working with leaders across the globe and have had the privilege of working with 1000+ leaders during this time.

I've worked with the likes of Deloitte, Virgin, Nestle and Coca-Cola to name just a few, and this has provided me with a unique insight into the difficulties that leaders face and the real things they struggle with.

My lifework is to help leaders overcome the unhelpful beliefs, behaviours and habits that are holding you back, so you can become the exceptional leader you're capable of being.

learn more

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