Dealing with Confidence and Self-Doubt in your Life and Career

A prominent issue I encounter with most clients is a lack of confidence. According to, the definition of confidence to which I am referring is: belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance. As with most personality characteristics, the level and type of confidence that is lacking will be unique to each individual. Not surprisingly, for a number of my clients, there is a lack of confidence regarding finding a suitable career or work that is in line with interests, skills and values. Or for clients who are seeking to improve career performance in a current role, there is self-doubt and anxiety about how an individual is functioning at work. A client may appear to have great communication, interpersonal and assertiveness skills and be successful in personal aspects of life, but when the question is focused on career, this confidence dissipates.

What we label as a “lack of confidence” has its roots in self-efficacy. Self–efficacy refers to the client’s perception regarding his/her capabilities, or his/her ability to achieve a task. A client’s belief in his/her own abilities can impact career development positively or negatively. If an individual has low self-efficacy expectations, even if objectively, he/she is skilled in a task, this belief will likely hinder the individual and could mean that he/she does not apply for an occupational role believing he/she is not capable of attaining the role. Outcome expectation is one’s estimation of the probability of an outcome. Goals are the result of effort to reach an objective. The latter two subjects will be discussed in a separate post.

Self-efficacy, outcome expectation and goals are aspects that are considered to explain the proposal by Hackett and Betz that belief in one’s abilities can affect career development. An individual will not consider certain career opportunities if he/she feels unable to achieve a specified goal, and in turn, the same individual may set personal and career goals low as a result of this belief. In contrast, if an individual believes he/she can achieve a goal that may seem unrealistic to others, perceived barriers that might be social or financial could be overcome as a result of his/her self-efficacy. The careers of these respective individuals would be expected to develop quite differently as a reflection of their respective self-efficacy.

In assisting clients with themes of confidence, self-doubt and self-efficacy, it is important to uncover the seed or cause of these thought patterns that can negatively affect one’s career performance. The first step in this process is awareness and recognition of these thought patterns. The next step is to be able to proactively deal with how to overcome these issues. A professional coach can certainly facilitate the process, but the real work has to come from within the individual. This is by no mean an easy or overnight process. However, the tools and techniques gained during coaching sessions will result in a shift in perspective and attitude that will continue to be practiced long after the helping relationship is over.
For more articles related to Self-efficacy Theory and how it relates to Career Coaching:

Contributions of self-efficacy theory to career counseling: a personal perpective – Betz 2004

Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Bandura, Albert – 1977

Self-Efficacy Theory as a Basis for Career Assessment – Betz 2000

Applications of Self-Efficacy Theory to the Career Assessment of Women – Betz & Hackett 1997