In-house Interpersonal: The Self Confidence Conundrum

Is a lack of self confidence stopping you?

by Ilise Benun

I hear from creative professionals every day, both in-house and freelancers, who tell me all the things they wish they could do, if only they had the self confidence to do it.

And it always makes me wonder what exactly is getting in their way? What is self confidence anyway? So today begins a series of posts attempting to explore the “what” of it and give a few ideas about how to develop it.

So what is self confidence?


According to Webster’s, confidence is “a feeling or consciousness of one’s powers or of reliance on one’s circumstances” and “faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper and effective way.” In other words, to be confident is to know you can handle whatever comes along (which you probably can, by the way).

I notice that without self confidence, creatives can’t do what it takes to keep climbing the career ladder, whether that means striving toward better positions at better companies or leaving the companies behind and striking out on their own.

Do you believe you need “self-confidence” before taking a plunge?

This logic suggests that “having confidence” is somehow a prerequisite to effort and success. But it’s a catch-22, because unless you possess this elusive self confidence (which you can’t buy in a store), you won’t believe you’re capable of succeeding, so you won’t make your best effort. Indeed, many people make no effort at all, using lack of confidence as the excuse.

But is self confidence required before any action is taken? (And if so, exactly how much, because self confidence isn’t quantifiable?) Or can taking an action eventually result in the confidence needed to take the next one? In other words, which comes first: self confidence or action toward a goal?

6 thoughts on “In-house Interpersonal: The Self Confidence Conundrum

  1. Paul

    In my observation it boils down to the work environment and political structure we all work in within an office environment.

    I have a lot to loose if I take action. I have three kids, a home and wife. I can’t be a “risk taker.” The economy isn’t well enough to leave for a better job or industry. My skills are for major league designs, however, the best job in town is working for a boring A/E firm that believes architects know more about graphic design than, well, experienced and educated designers.

    I am pixel pushing for two people with no formal training or background in marketing and visual communication.

    In short, some designers lost their marketing departments and are rolled into administrative departments. The expectations are to produce and serve those that have some sort of management structure over production.

    And I’ve read all the, “take initiative, your ideas should win over their ideas if your a good designer.” Well, this is true, except some people do not like to be out shined.

    Frankly, I’ll wait till the good time come back and come back a roaring!

    1. Donna


      I’ve tried to take risks and impose my ideas & their effectiveness only to be (literally) told to shut up and do what I’m told.

      That is a blow to anyone’s self confidence. Especially designers, who tend to take their craft seriously.

      1. Mel

        I agree – the recession is so bad where I am (Ireland) that currently moving jobs is not an option. Even though the atmosphere in my work – especially in the design team – is bad, I don’t feel like I have any options unless I want to stop paying my mortgage. The sad and ironic thing is the bad atmosphere continues to chip away at my confidence. I have to think of some way to build that back up or by the time the economy recovers I won’t be able to job-search effectively.

        I see a few really talented designers in our group totally wasted and just passing time because the design management aren’t interested in what their designers are capable of and won’t stand up for their ideas.

      2. marie

        wow… i can relate. this is exactly what’s going on with the company i work for. our talent is being wasted and the creative energy is dissipating quickly. i never thought i’d work in that type of environment, but i too have bills to pay. hopefully things turn around soon because i’m starting to question this whole profession… not because i’m losing confidence in myself, but because these issues seem to be the norm.

    2. Donna

      Oh Marie, please don’t tell me that!! I’m hoping that when the economy improves I can change jobs to somewhere with creative LIFE. If that light at the end of my tunnel is a freight train I swear…

  2. Sheryl Campbell

    As an information architect and website content developer, I have found my most inhibiting and restrictive trait to be a lack of self confidence.

    Paul is correct – you really need confidence to take the risk, but also to have thought through different perspectives so you can validate your position.

    But even more so, I find a lack of self-confidence is based upon one’s feeling about their own ability. If this is lacking and you doubt yourself, that carries forward and impacts almost everyone’s perception about you that you want to connect with professionally.

    It all boils down to how you feel about yourself and your talents – if those feelings are hesitant and lack confidence, it will echo through to your professional world.