Self-Confidence Secret: Being Ok With Not Knowing

One thing that can quickly strip away your confidence is feeling like you don’t know enough for the task at hand. You’re not prepared enough, not educated enough, not experienced enough, etc. Very frustrating! 

The moment you feel you don’t know enough for the job, you might experience a flood of thoughts, which usually have only one goal: to take you out of the game. They sound like…

  • “I shouldn’t be here right now.”
  • “Why did I ever agree to this?”
  • “I’m done with this.”
  • “I can’t do it.”
  • “Oh godddd!! No way. I’m going home!”

So, what do you do about this? What actions can you take when you start to fear that you don’t know enough?

#1: Know That Perfectionism Is Destructive

We often are given accolades for being “perfect” — high scores, exemplary performance, perfect technique. And there’s a place for that. 

But for most daily tasks, perfectionism is an impossible demand that only ends up devouring your self-confidence

Why is that? Well, at its core, perfectionism is about fear. Fear that there’s something missing — something “not good enough,” “not likable enough,” and so on. Think about it: how do people behave when they go into perfectionism mode? Perfectionist behavior looks like…

  • Gathering more information
  • Preparing one last slide
  • Making one last edit
  • Reviewing one last notecard
  • Double-checking what I already know is ready

All these behaviors have a common end-result: I’m off the hook for right now. So, perfectionism prevents me from needing to “face the situation” — let’s say, a presentation I’m afraid of giving — by convincing me that there’s still work to be done. Perfectionism takes me out of the game so I don’t have to deal with the scary situation. 

So, what to do about it?

Action Step: When you hear the thought that you don’t know enough…

  1. Recognize the perfectionism.
  2. Thank your inner critic for trying to protect you — for making sure you know enough, making sure you’ll be accepted into the group. 
  3. Re-commit to courage.
  4. Do whatever it is you were going to do in the first place.

#2: Define Expectations (and Don’t Blur the Lines)

Sometimes, we feel we “don’t know enough” because we haven’t clearly defined what information we are, and are not, responsible for.

A client of mine, George, was running a workshop on creative writing, and had a participant who would interject with questions about topics such as ethics, civics, Israel, Palestine, etc. George found himself thrown off by not knowing answers when he was “supposed to be the leader,” even though he recognized that the questions were off-topic. He wanted to know, “How can I maintain control of the group when someone asks questions like that? I get distracted and nervous.” 

See the issue here? Ultimately, for George, the feeling of not knowing enough came from the fact that he wasn’t clear with himself or his group members about his role and responsibilities. He didn’t set his own boundaries, or communicate them to participants. So, he felt like he didn’t know enough because he had never actually defined what “enough” was.

Blurry lines and unclear expectations are the perfect environment for perfectionism and self-criticism to set in. 

Action Step: If you’re feeling like you don’t know enough…

Clearly define your roles and responsibilities. What’s your job? What’s not your job? What, exactly, do you need to know?

Notice when you’re feeling pressure to know or do more than you agreed to. 

If this pressure is coming from another person, have a conversation to reaffirm expectations.

Learn it, or let it go. You either have time to learn and rehearse, or you don’t. If you don’t, tell your little tyrant brain to chill out! (a.k.a. try out some self-compassion).

#3: Step Up Your Self-Confidence

“Not ____ enough” is a symptom of low self-confidence. If your self-criticism gremlin is running the show, it’ll always find something to be critical about. If it’s not work performance, it’s physical appearance, romantic success, nutritional habits et cetera. 

These are four areas that research has found to help people build their self confidence. 

 4 Dimensions of Self-Confidence

  1. Mastery Experiences: Awareness of your past successes and strengths (unique skills and personality traits)
  2. Social Motivators (a.k.a. your Wolf Pack): Role models and supporters — friends, family, colleagues, partners, heroes
  3. Mindset: Seeking growth opportunities, visualizing success and “failing forward”
  4. Management of Emotions and Wellbeing: Practices for soothing stress and anxiety; caring for your whole organism

Here’s a overview post on these self-confidence areas and how to take action steps in each one.

Conclusion

The feeling of not knowing enough can be overwhelming. It pressures you into being a Superman, Renaissance woman, Jack of All Trades… But, great speakers will all tell you the same thing: everyone gets nervous. Everyone gets jitters, even the pros. The trick is to not let the nervousness take you out of the game.

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Tired of self-doubt and self-criticism? Looking to transform your self-confidence and communication skills? Let me know what’s going on for you. Confidence, connection and communication are closer than you think!