How to tackle the confidence gremlin

Working mum, juggling, time management

Confidence is one of the biggest issues facing working mums. Coach Catherine Rushforth gives some advice on how to keep the confidence sapper at bay.

The challenges associated with being a mum and fulfilling yourself as a professional woman are hard and something women have been grappling with for years. Not only is there the issue of how becoming a mum changes women’s priorities, but there is the endless question of how we can both satisfy ourselves that we are being the best mums we can be and be professionally fulfilled.

A common thread that seems to run through both the work and mum aspects of women’s lives is confidence, or to put it more accurately, our erratic relationship with confidence. Confidence worries creep into women’s lives and destabilise them; they are a completely unwelcome visitor, making their appearance at the most inopportune of times. Let me explain what I mean.

There I am, about to deliver the pitch of a lifetime – a really innovative, dynamic service that will transform the experience of my customers. I know I have the experience, the foresight, the theory, the qualifications, but my unwelcome visitor intrudes anyway…… 

-“Yes, (it says), but you’ve not delivered this before” 

– “Best not to (it says), you’ll mess up and embarrass yourself”

– “You’ll get found out, (it says), look completely incompetent”

– “Best to play it safe”

On and on it goes, eating away at creativity, inspiration, energy and success. It is not there all of the time, but when it drops in, it rocks our very foundations.

In the course of coaching women in business, I hear about ‘it’ a great deal. Even the most accomplished women encounter it. It does have its uses, of course. It ensures that we have a conscience by making us question everything, it reminds us to think our ideas through and protects us from just launching in with little thought.  However, the negatives loom large. How can we befriend it and handle the acutely undermining aspects that just kill confidence?

Here are some top tips for keeping it in check ….

1. Look after yourself, eat, sleep, rest well – nurture yourself. (For working mums, of course, this will include building a secure and reliable network of support from a partner, family members, friends and professional childcare. A ‘five star’ childminder or friend are worth their weight in gold).

2. Notice the repetitive narratives – i.e Oh there is ‘I’m not good enough’ again. (Once these are recognised, it provides us with the opportunity to begin the process of reframing them to empower and support us).

3. Seriously consider whether you might be getting anything out of engaging with these narratives e.g. do you feel you are constantly ‘winning against the odds’? (This might include repeatedly setting yourself up as a rescuer to ‘save the day’!)

4. Trust your judgement about those around you, who seem to actively fuel the drama and contribute to these narratives.

5. Give yourself time to think,. i.e. if you not sure of your opinion about something, delay giving it rather than pressuring yourself into make a premature decision

6. Identify those around you who truly are your supporters and listen to what they have to say (put yourself in their company often).

7. Collate a file of glowing testimonials and add to them frequently.

8. Talk to a trusted colleague or coach to assist in gaining some perspective.

Finally, you will have noticed that nearly all of these insights include talking to others. This is intentional. Remaining alone with ‘it’ droning away in your head perpetuates the cycle. Talking about ‘it’ on the other hand shakes the foundations on which ‘it’ thrives.

*Coach Catherine Rushforth of My Business Adventures will be co-leading a Workshop on ‘Growing Professional Confidence’ at the Business Adventures Conference, in London on 22nd June 2012.




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