Rollercoaster of confidence

Last week at our launch event I talked about my last 20 years in business and the rollercoaster of confidence that I’ve been on during that time.

I don’t know anyone (please correct me if I’m wrong!) that can say they have ALWAYS had confidence. Even the most confident person will have had times in their life when they have felt nervous or not good enough for what life has thrown at them.

I have had periods in my life where I have felt very confident. A particular passion of mine is singing and I generally don’t lack confidence when I’m in front of an audience performing. However, there have been many times when I’ve been in a work situation – mostly when faced with an audience of management consultants (mainly men) – when I have been terrified of standing up and speaking. I may have looked confident but I felt sick inside.

Looking back, I now see that this deep-rooted feeling came from thinking ‘I’m not good enough’ and ‘why should anyone listen to me?’.  This was particularly difficult when I co-founded my previous company and we were selling the concept of the business. We felt like punch-bags on many occasions – being told ‘you need a man on your board’ and ‘you’ll need to sleep your way to the top’. Can you imagine how those sorts of comments would go down today? An enormous amount of resilience was required to get over that!

Having two children also knocked my confidence. I felt like I wasn’t good enough to do either role – and I know I’m not alone. I remember in the very recent past sitting down and trying to update my CV and wondering what on earth I had done in my career and couldn’t think of any strengths. It took a friend to come and sit with me and talk about my experience and replay my strengths back to me, which I can now safely say were plentiful!

Recently I have been reflecting on the times when I’ve lacked confidence, and have come up with my personal tips for getting off that rollercoaster. These tips can be summarised into ‘Four Ps’:

Push yourself out of your comfort zone – start with small steps, and each time push yourself more. You’ll find that when you look back to the first thing you did that you were scared about, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about!

I used to want to speak in public without preparing as I didn’t like the idea of using notes. However, I just thought I could stand up and speak off the cuff. However, when I did I panicked! Some people are naturally able to do this, but I now realise that preparation (however boring) is essential. I use long-hand notes first, then transfer to mind-maps and bullet points so that I can picture what I’m going to say when I stand up.

I also found it really hard to practise before speaking. Now that I do practise (I would even practise doing a 60 second pitch for a networking event) I can relax so much more when it comes to standing up.

One thing I have found is that once you have found a passion – in my case this is singing, working as part of the PTFA for my kids’ school and now this new business venture –  it is so much easier to feel confident.

If you take on board these ‘Four Ps’ I hope you’ll find it easier to get off that scary rollercoaster and enjoy the fairground.  It is worth it!

My Confidence Matters wants to inspire and help women who are currently lacking confidence at work and want to get off their confidence rollercoaster. Do let us know if we can help you by contacting


Joy Burnford