Boss Lady

5 obstacles to confidence and how to overcome them all


Do you ever catch yourself saying things like, ‘This just isn’t good enough, I’ve got to re-work this before anyone can see it’, or ‘I won’t apply for a promotion yet because I’m not quite ready,’ and ‘other people do that far better than me so I won’t put my hand up? When your self-confidence is low, you hold yourself back, make limiting choices and give your power over to perfectionism – something we women are all too familiar with.

You might question your own ability to have an impact and to negotiate and stand up for yourself, whether in your career, at home or returning to the workforce after an extended period, like maternity leave. The issue is that most of us think of confidence as something that the lucky few are born with and the rest are left wishing for. Yet confidence is learnable and is not based on our actual ability to succeed but on our belief in our ability to succeed.

Here are five obstacles holding you back from your true potential, and how to expand your confidence to get over all of them.

OBSTACLE 1: Faking it until you make it

Showing up as truly confident over a sustained period of time is something that needs to be built from the inside out. Whilst ‘faking it until you make it’ can be a good strategy if you’re thrown into something at a moment’s notice, it only gets you so far and for so long. Trying to pretend you have the confidence needed to get the job done can be exhausting! When you truly believe in yourself, you draw on your strengths and what you are great at. When you believe, you start to see what you’re good at is important. This is when you truly start to believe that you are valuable and valued, whether at home or in the office.

ANTIDOTE 1: Show up as the real you. Believe you are great – because you really are!

OBSTACLE 2: Flying under the radar

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is put your head down, be the good girl and get the work done. Then you wonder why you’re not being promoted and why being good at your job is not enough anymore. At work and home, there are times when you need to speak up when no-one else will. You need to be visible and be able to show case the work that you and your team do. Sometimes this means also standing up and making unpopular decisions. You don’t need to be the Dalai Lama, but you do need to stand up for what you deem right, fair and important.

ANTIDOTE 2: Stand up for yourself – for what you stand for and why – no matter what.

OBSTACLE 3: Hiding your voice

Many of us find it challenging to find our voice and speak up when we need to. You might be unsure how to offer your opinion in a team meeting, how to challenge a colleague, or how to give feedback to one of your team.

Sometimes we hide our voice as a way to avoid conflict or we fear being judged. As a result, we keep our opinions to ourselves – thinking that if we just keep doing our job and delivering the outcomes, we will get ahead. We must see conflict not as bad, but as healthy debate. Like Martin Luther King Jr put it, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter’. 

ANTIDOTE 3: Speak up! Practice finding your voice in different situations and seek feedback about how you are doing – it will get easier with time.

OBSTACLE 4: Staying within your comfort zone

If you’ve got your ‘head down and bum up’ all day long, knocking off your to-do list, how will you be able to assess what you need to do to ensure you make real progress? You need to have the confidence and skills, and the ability to take on an element of risk, no matter where you live or work. You need to do things differently tomorrow from how you are today. You need to take yourself out of your comfort zone – to challenge yourself, and be confident enough to do this.

ANTIDOTE 4: Step up and assess what you need to do to get you from here to there. 

OBSTACLE 5: Doing nothing about it

Our confidence generally goes up and down based on different environments, contexts and demands. So you need to reflect on when a lack of confidence might be holding you back and then take action to do something about it! Stop, reflect and assess your confidence levels regularly in different situations, from working with a group of colleagues you don’t know well to discussing an issue with your partner. Then revisit the obstacles and antidotes above to help you supercharge your confidence and stand out in your life and career.

ANTIDOTE 5: Stop and assess where your confidence is at and then take action!

About Michelle Sales

Michelle Sales is a highly sought-after speaker, trainer, facilitator and coach who helps senior leaders and their teams learn to show up as the best version of themselves, to build their confidence and influence with others, and to maximise their leadership and performance. She is the author of the book ‘The Power of Real Confidence’. Find out more at

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