How to Survive ‘Sudden Loss of Confidence’ Syndrome

by Glynis Sherwood MEd

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and
fear of the future – Fulton Oursler

What we focus on gets amplified – Michael Yapko


Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been going through a stressful or challenging time and a negative incident happens that feels like ‘the straw that broke the camels back’. It may or may not be a big event, but nevertheless it’s the tipping point. Before you know it, your normally confident attitude plunges into self doubt and anxiety. This crisis in confidence usually feels disorienting at best and frightening at worst.

How do you deal with a crisis in confidence? Start by becoming a detective. Ask yourself:

1/ What this crisis makes you feel and believe about yourself and/or the world?

(Hint – it’s usually negative, sometimes it’s about shame). Negative or fear based narratives may be trying to convince you that you are a failure or inadequate, or that the world does not have your back. Often it’s some kind of black and white, catastrophic thinking that’s got you in its grips. Sometimes these narratives are unconscious. By working backwards – first clarifying what you are thinking – you can get at the belief that sets you up to lose faith in yourself. You may discover that you have been vulnerable to negative beliefs about your self – or your world – longer than the recent ‘crisis’ of confidence has been going on.

If you find you are being relentlessly self-critical, or holding yourself to impossibly high standards, ask yourself where this comes from. Perhaps you grew up in a family where perfectionism was expected, or you did not feel accepted for who you are, or people walked out on you if you showed distressed emotions or expressed needs. Look at evidence in your life which runs counter to your negative expectations of yourself, or internal pressures to be someone you aren’t. In other words, try and discover your successes, or at least things you did that were good enough. Reframe your negative beliefs and thinking along more compassionate and realistic lines.

2/ What this crisis needs you to learn from it?

A crisis in confidence means you have stopped believing in yourself. What is the ‘purpose’ of this loss of faith? Try and determine why you feel so vulnerable, and what you can do to build yourself up. Perhaps a fundamental need is not being met now, or wasn’t met in childhood. For example, the need for love, rewards, companionship, validation and/or understanding. If this is the case, what can you do to try and get your legitimate needs met? What changes or adjustments to daily living will help you move closer to meeting your needs?

Or maybe it’s the company you are keeping that needs changing. If you spend time with people who don’t understand or appreciate you, criticize you, or lack shared interests, you can end up feeling invalidated, which erodes confidence over time. It may be best to step back and redirect your focus on finding people with whom you share common bonds and mutual appreciation. If you find yourself drawn to people who neglect or abuse you, consider connecting with a counsellor who can help you start to draw healthier lines around your needs.

What to Tell Yourself:

• The most important thing is not to go blindly along with the ‘agenda’ of lost of confidence. In fact, you may have to start by giving yourself permission to regain your confidence. Remind yourself of who you really are when you are not feeling uncertain about yourself. Get in touch with your ethics and principles – what you believe, and how you conduct yourself in life that tells you that you are a person of integrity and worth. Remember what you appreciate about yourself. Recall the positive feedback you have received from people who care about you and whose opinions you respect. Try and reconnect with your passions and dreams. If those dreams have changed, or you are not sure what they are, spend some time creating an updated vision for your life that reflects who you are now, and what you want your life’s purpose to be.

If you’ve always found it hard to believe in yourself, and this loss of confidence just exaggerates that perspective, then it’s a good idea to connect with a therapist. A therapist can help you understand the purpose of your beliefs and feelings, and to find more confidence-affirming approaches to living.

If you have lost confidence due to violating your values, allow yourself to feel guilty, but draw the line at shame. Use this pain as a learning experience, and plan what you will do so you don’t make this kind of mistake again.

• Focus on the present. It’s the only thing you can control. Talk supportively to yourself. The language you use can profoundly affect your mood and belief in yourself. Some helpful – and reality based – statements include: “ This is a temporary setback”; “I’ve had many more successes and better times than the pain and doubt that’s happening now” ; “I have made a mistake(s) – but I’m not a mistake”; “The fact that I’m hurting so much now is a statement about the strength of my character and values, otherwise I wouldn’t care as much as I do”; “I intend to learn from this pain, not be crushed by it”.

The ability to accept and forgive yourself, combined with compassion for the pain you are experiencing are pivotal cornerstones for transcending a crisis in confidence, and regaining faith in yourself. If you grew up in an environment that was devaluing and/or unsupportive, you may be more vulnerable to losing confidence, and may need additional support to build your strength.


Need Help Rebuilding Your Confidence?  Contact Glynis to Request a Counselling Appointment

Counselling is available online by Video worldwide.

Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Certified Addictions Counsellor is a Psychotherapist specializing in  Chronic Anxiety, Complex Grief, Trauma, Family Scapegoating, Couples Counselling and Love Addiction.