5 signs your lack of confidence is holding you back

When it comes to building a career you are truly proud of and feel amazing about, confidence is key. It’s the fuel that keeps you going when the going gets tough. It’s the lever that allows you to realize your full potential. On the other hand, lacking confidence can have a negative impact on your career development.

“When we lack confidence, we tend to sabotage our goals and dreams. We don’t do so intentionally, but when our fear and self-doubt is unconsciously governing our decisions we don’t take bold actions, we avoid risks, and we don’t stretch ourselves beyond our current comfort levels. That often means we are also not pursuing and securing leadership roles, greater responsibilities, increased pay and new opportunities,” says life and confidence coach Savanna Schiavo.

“Even when we do utilize the courage to pursue our career goals, we don’t show up to new roles and opportunities powerfully, boldly and with the energy of a leader when we lack confidence.”

So, could a lack of confidence be holding you back in pervasive ways? Watch out for the five signs below (and if you do recognize yourself while reading, don’t panic — confidence can be cultivated and acquired).

Analysis paralysis

Do you find yourself obsessively planning and asking everyone for advice before taking important career decisions? Do you feel like you need a lot more training and qualifications to be credible enough to take on your next career challenge? Analysis paralysis is a surprising indicator that your confidence levels have room to improve.

“It often looks like a lot of thinking, planning and preparing (which feels important), and a perpetual state of gaining experience, education or knowledge. In most cases, taking these actions makes us feel productive, safe, and as if we’re moving forward, but they don’t produce the results we want,” says Schiavo.

Not pursuing your career desires

“The most obvious sign that a lack of confidence is holding us back in our careers is when we know there’s a role, position or career path we want to pursue, but find ourselves continually not taking massive action forward towards it, doubting ourselves, stewing in confusion and constantly weighing the pros and cons,” says Schiavo.

If you know deep down that you were meant for more but keep procrastinating on taking action towards your next step, your lack of confidence could be costing you huge career gains. Don’t wait until you feel ready to go for it — the very act of getting out of your comfort zone will actually empower you and help you build more confidence.

Continuous lateral moves

If your last couple of jobs have all been lateral moves, you might be getting in your own way without realizing it. According to Schiavo, only being willing to pursue positions, roles, and assignments you’re absolutely positive you can succeed at can actually reveal a lack of confidence.

“An unwillingness to feel uncomfortable and an avoidance of potential failure ensures we keep the status quo, don’t move beyond our comfort zone and thus, where we are career-wise. This can look like lateral moves when we want to be climbing the ladder within an organization or industry,” she says.

Brushing off compliments

Do you feel awkward when the spotlight is on you during a team meeting? Are you quick to downplay your achievements and brush off compliments? These can be telling signs that you suffer from impostor syndrome.

“When we tend to downplay our own successes or dismiss praise, it’s often because we don’t believe we’re worthy of such recognition. Others may see us as successful and capable and applaud our achievements, but we don’t outwardly showcase (or even mention) them because we don’t share their thoughts that our efforts are sufficient, or that we’re enough,” says Schiavo.

Feeling confused

Schiavo says confusion can be a very sneaky symptom of low confidence: “Sometimes a less-subtle sign of a lack of confidence is confusion. We often tell ourselves that we don’t know how to do something or how to move forward and that we’re just confused. It feels important to have all of the information or steps we want to know in front of us before we allow ourselves to move forward, so we stall ourselves.”

So the next time you’re tempted to throw in the towel and say that you don’t know what you want to do next, take a moment to ask yourself whether you could be self-sabotaging. “Confusion is a way the brain lets itself off the hook. The confusion allows us to pump the brakes, stay where we are, and not have to move forward towards perceived danger or discomfort, which also means we don’t have to risk failure, rejection, or any emotional pain. It’s fear in disguise,” says Schiavo.