Last week I wrote an article about “How trust will make you more successful” and received some great comments via LinkedIn. One of those, in particular, came from Yazdi Bhote who raised how hard it is to trust when you don’t have the self-confidence. It’s a comment that got me thinking so today I’m going to answer, how can others trust you when you don’t trust yourself?

Trust, and it’s relationships with self-confidence, and self-esteem gets little airtime in the 40+ hours most of us work these days. What we know and our ability to deliver are, after all, the reasons most of us get paid! When we don’t deliver, or others doubt that we can, our self-confidence and self-esteem slide to a place that includes signs of stress, anxiety and a decreased sense of self-worth. From there it’s often a slippery slope to performance management, and the downward spiral of confidence continues unabated.

I know that many of you who know me personally are probably thinking “but you don’t have an issue with self-confidence or self-esteem?” and you would be wrong. My first few years of high school were horrid; I was bullied ALOT! Any self-worth I had left, hid with me at lunch break to avoid the name-calling, physical abuse, and intimidation. 25 years on, even writing this brings back a sense of dread, and there have been times when I have still doubted myself and my abilities, yet somehow I’ve felt trusted by people around me.

What can you do to build trust when you don’t trust yourself?

Trust ultimately comes down to what people think, feel and say about you. To build trust with someone they have to feel a connection, think that you are competent, and there has to be a commitment to each other.



1. Focus on what you can do

How competent people think you are, contributes to their level of trust. They need to believe that you are capable of doing the task at hand. Focus on what you can do, if you’ve never abseiled yet are asked to, it’s likely that everyone will end up stressed and disappointed with the outcome.

Write a list of what you feel confident doing and take steps to make them the focus of your work. If you’re struggling with your performance use the same list to help discussions with your manager,  (try to) be open with where your confidence is. A good boss should recognise your willingness to improve and help you achieve it.

2. Acknowledge your negative thoughts

When you find something challenging, rather than say “I can’t do this,” try “What if I asked someone?”. While you might interpret reaching out to a teammate as needing help, most will interpret it as an interest in them and their opinion. Try things like:

“Hey, I’m working on [insert problem] and can’t decide which way to go next, can I get your thoughts on it?”

“Have you got time for a coffee to review where I’ve got to on [insert problem], I’d love to get your input.”

“I know you’ve done this before so it would be great to understand what did and didn’t work.”

3. Take steps

Sometimes your self-confidence takes a beating because of the size of the task or the fact that you haven’t done it before. You spend hours or even days trying to figure it out and get the grand total of nowhere.

If you find yourself in this predicament write the steps that you think you need take. Make Step 1 “Write a list of steps”, Step 2 “Validate the list of steps” and then add the rest. Make the steps achievable and include things that you are confident doing, where there are tasks you need help or input from others on, include their names. Lastly, send the list of steps out asking people to confirm them, whilst you might worry that it’s not right others will interpret it as seeking feedback and they might even see you as proactive (gasp!).

4. Build relationships that help

I can’t remember a time in my career where I haven’t had a mentor. Granted some of them were “friendtors” that were willing to accept coffees in return for free advice, but I have also paid for professional mentors. Having someone that you trust who is there to listen, provide input and ask the questions you avoid asking yourself may feel threatening, but it will help you find the answers. Likewise, building relationships with teammates also helps shore up confidence so it doesn’t feel quite as lonely as low self-confidence sometimes feels. In order to be trusted there has to first be a little trust!

5. Focus on your integrity

Regardless of where your self-confidence is you can always be “decent”. That means showing up, respecting others and keeping commitments. Low self-confidence doesn’t give you the right to be a dick so don’t do it. Regardless of how hard things get you will be trusted for being there, and that is a good place to start.

6. Keep a list of “wins.”

It’s hard to remember everything that you’ve done and the “wins” that you have achieved from one week to the next. Losing sight of these does nothing for your self-confidence and chances are that others will have forgotten too. Keeping a list of “wins”, regardless of how big or small, will help you build momentum and make others aware of what you have achieved. Just make sure that the list includes what’s important to others, self-confidence built by blowing your own trumpet is a quick path to arrogance.

Here’s to a more trusting world where low self-confidence isn’t confused with low performance.

Until next time!