How to find and restore your confidence

Confidence is something we all seem to be constantly working on since it can be easily faked, lost, or thanks to design imposter syndrome always in short supply. Yet confidence is something that is critical for creativity, leadership, and happiness so we need to understand what undermines it and find new ways of restoring it. In this episode, we will look at the fears that commonly undermine our confidence and 5 ways effective ways to find or rebuild it.

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80 episodes feels like a bit of a milestone so this week we are going to talk about confidence. Confidence is a funny thing – often faked, frustratingly transient, yet so critical to creativity, leadership and happiness. Before we get to the content it feels like we should take a short detour into my process.

When I work on these shows it usually happens in one of two ways
• One: I write everything from experience. I have worked on and taught the subject enough that I just need to form it into a good show.
• Two: It is a topic I want to talk about, have some framework or angle I want to take on it but I need to research and think about how to really bring it to life.

That is the interesting thing about this show – it is meant to share insights that I think will help people but if I am being honest a decent percentage of the time it also selfishly helps me work through some of my problems as well.


Fears play a big part in creativity and confidence. I recently read an article by Tom and David Kelley of IDEO that I thought captured these fears really well. Creativity is something you practice, not just a talent you’re born with. Our confidence takes hits from and is undermined by some basics fears.

Fear of the messy unknown
When you create you have to deal with unexpected findings, uncertainty, and with irrational people who say things you don’t want to hear.

Fear of being judged
Fear of being judged often constraining our careers. We self-edit and killing potentially creative ideas because we’re afraid our bosses or peers will see us fail. We stick to “safe” solutions or suggestion allowing others to take risks.

Fear of the first step
Even when we want to embrace our creative ideas, acting on them presents its own challenges. Creative efforts are hardest at the beginning with blank pages, screen, and big problems.

Fear of losing control
Confidence doesn’t simply mean believing your ideas are good. It means having the humility to let go of ideas that aren’t working and to accept good ideas from other people.

You can read the full article here

Tend to your wounds

I think an important part of restoring confidence is allowing yourself the time and energy to tend to our wounds which it should be obvious by the intro is something that I am still in the process of working through in numerous different ways. In my experience real confidence isn’t about suppressing pain or pretending that a failure didn’t hurt. Too many of us do that and I think that holding on to it and not dealing with the problem is what undermines your confidence as you feel isolated, frustrated and defeated. Find a way to talk about and accept the blow to our ego, allowing yourself to acknowledge the associated feelings (good or bad), and finding a way forward. As hard as it may be, don’t dwell on what happened for too long or give it more importance than it should get because dwelling can become a full time job if you aren’t careful. Acknowledge it in order to move forward because vulnerability is the most profound form of strength.

Reframe the problem

Problems, failures and blows to your confidence will happen so the question is how should you think about it when it happens? I’ve talked before about the difference between failure and learning. If you see this as failure then it is debilitating and feels like the end of something. Or you can reframe it as learning and understand that is going to be a part of the process, learn from it and see it as making you stronger instead of tearing you down. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt. It just means that your “failure” isn’t the full story. The rest of the story is what you choose to learn and do by seeing the situation differently. Failure is inevitable. How you process and reframe those failures is up to you. But the key to reframe something isn’t just to sit around and hope you think about things differently. You have to create actionable steps to make change.

Build momentum with small wins

Most of us think of confidence as an all-or-nothing proposition where we think someone has the confidence or lost confidence but we never say that someone is nurturing or piecing together confidence. When you talk to someone about the problem they will always say they are building or restoring confidence which always implies that there’s a lack of it. We have this flawed thinking when it comes to a number of things like attractiveness, health, and success. We think people either have the confidence or they don’t, which isn’t true. We have this flawed thinking when it comes to a number of things like attractiveness, health and success. We think people either have confidence or they don’t, which isn’t true. Those bricks come in the form of small wins. Take the time and tend to your wounds, figure out how to reframe the problem and then take your problem and break it down into manageable pieces. Small wins build confidence.

Make it difficult to quit

When you are frustrated or things are difficult there are honestly few things more gratifying than quitting. When you quit a difficult project or avoid a difficult problem you get a sense of relief and enjoy a temporary refuge from the stress, anxiety, and frustration that come from confronting your limitations. That temporary relief has long-term consequences that can far outweigh the immediate rewards. Those consequences come because your haven’t removed your long term need to grow, become more creative, become a better leader and more. You have only postponed the discomfort that will come with the growth. You have only postponed the discomfort that will come with the growth. One solution is to use a simple accountability system that discourages you from quitting because you will let other people down. Make commitments to partners for deadlines, deliverables or achievements to create the accountability you need to push through.

You can also use services like to help keep you on track for your goals.

Don’t let the past dictate your future.

But I think the last thing is an extension of the need to tend to your wounds – tending to your past. Your level of confidence is set in part by how you deal with past. The difference between people who are confident and those who aren’t come from how they carry the past. That past is what creates the fears we just talked about. That past is what creates the fears we just talked about. Show the same compassion to yourself as you do to others. Make two lists: one of your strengths and one of your achievements. Try to get a supportive friend or relative to help you with these lists, as people with low self-esteem are not usually in the most objective frame of mind. Keep the lists in a safe place and read through them every morning.

Final thought

If you have lost your confidence know that your recovery will not be instantaneous. A professional, personal, or creative setback will take time to properly process. It will take some time to get over the setback but if you stay in the game, those wounds will morph into something more profound: a reminder that confidence, like a muscle, only grows through challenges.

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