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1. High achievers often feel confident in what they do, but not who they are. This contradiction can create frustration when problem-solving personal confidence.

2. High achievers whose self-worth is based on high personal standards have a difficult time allowing others to see their flaws. Yet, allowing others to see our flaws and receiving the feedback that we are still “okay” is precisely what is necessary to build confidence.

 Confidence is what we believe about our personal value independent of our external success.

–Dr. Tricia


Aaron grew up with a weight problem. He was bullied by the kids at school and his family made teasing comments about his weight. Aaron grew extremely self-conscious about his weight and this self-consciousness took root as he suffered through gym class and peer social rejections. Aaron discovered in 6th grade that he had a knack for making money. He capitalized on his weight reputation and figured out how to buy and resale snacks for a profit. Over the summer, he learned how to make a profit on bike rentals and lawn maintenance. Aaron gradually obtained the recognition from peers on the business front but thought of himself as “the fat kid.” As an adult, Aaron came to see me because he was finding his lack of personal confidence frustrating and limiting. “I KNOW I am good at what I do and that others look up to me. Yet, I still feel different from everyone else and like I don’t fit in.“ Aaron was aware that this struggle decreased his engagement and enjoyment in business events that could profit him both personally and professionally.
People with low self-confidence often send non-verbal messages that decrease their credibility. It is helpful to address body language, tone of voice, and overall presentation as soon as possible to immediately change others' reactions. Otherwise, lack of respect, fewer promotions, and low interpersonal power will continue to degrade personal confidence.
First, we elucidated the self-beliefs Aaron had accumulated as a result of his weight experience. We acknowledged the negative experiences that contributed to his beliefs as well as the positive experiences that seemed to contradict them. This process is crucial. A common theme is that people tend to remember negative events that confirm their beliefs but forget positive events that contradict them. The results are a biased, inaccurate view of history. To be clear, we did not minimize the negative events. However, even when Aaron was able to recall a few people who liked him or interacted positively with him, it helped him to begin challenging the assumption that he was different and fundamentally inferior to EVERYONE. Next, we focused on Aaron’s non-business strengths. People who have compensated tend to be able to quickly list strengths in their field of specialty; however, they have difficulty seeing their value to others outside of the skills they bring to the table. When Aaron was relaxed, he had the ability to see the humor in tense situations. We discussed the degree to which this strength positively influenced the comfort and trust of people around him. Aaron was also sensitive to others' feelings because of his own background. We discussed how this strength had shaped his effectiveness as a leader beyond his ability to simply turn a profit. Finally, I asked Aaron to obtain information from those around him. We made it feel less awkward by creating a little survey on leadership that allowed room for positive feedback. Aaron was able to frame the questions in terms of leadership development but also able to get information that increased his understanding of how others view him as a person. The resulting feedback provided new evidence about the positive views people held of him, further building his confidence.


  1. High achievers often believe that if they fix something about themselves, they will be more confident. “I’ll lose weight.” “I’ll get a degree.” “I’ll work on my appearance.” While improvement always helps us to feel better about ourselves, strong personal confidence relies on self-value REGARDLESS of our flaws. In fact, this self-acceptance usually is an antecedent rather than a consequence of positive change.
  2. Confidence is not arrogance. It is not selfishness. “I don’t want to think too much of myself” is the battlecry of those who feel more secure with low self-esteem. Sometimes it is a genuine concern; sometimes it is an excuse to stay stuck. Personal confidence is an acceptance of strengths AND weaknesses. The acknowledgement and acceptance of one’s weaknesses usually prevents arrogance.



Become aware of the beliefs that undermine your confidence. When did you learn them? What evidence do you have that they are true? What evidence do you have that they are false?

Fire mean friends, and hire nice ones.

Become a connoisseur of positive, supportive friendships. Supportive relationships increase our personal confidence and help us to reshape our negative self-perception. Distance yourself from people who are negative and critical of other people. Even if they do not say anything critical to you, you will wonder if they are doing so behind your back, and you will be less comfortable in their presence.

Do a survey to check your assumptions.

Do a survey. This strategy takes guts but is super-effective. If you are constantly making assumptions about how people see you, ask. While we are trying to build our own confidence, it can be reassuring to know that there is a discrepancy between our own negative views and the way others see us.

Your are very good at what you do. I understand that. Practice finding pride in who you are.

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