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Would I be able to do it? Am I making the right decision? Do I belong here? If you find yourself often asking such questions, then there’s a high chance you are experiencing something over 90% of people experience to some degree every day – Under-confidence.

In the middle of daily routines and societal expectations, under-confidence quietly infiltrates our thoughts and actions. It is a complex and often misunderstood human behaviour that goes beyond a simple lack of self-assurance. In this article, we will deeply understand the what, why and how of under-confidence. 

Understanding Underconfidence

Under-confidence is more than just a lack of self-esteem; it’s the nagging voice that questions our abilities, the unseen force that holds us back from realising our full potential. At its essence, it represents a profound lack of belief in one’s own abilities and worth.

It’s not just a personal struggle but a collective challenge that influences how we perceive ourselves and interact with the world. This psychological phenomenon manifests itself in various ways, affecting both personal and professional spheres. 

To add a quantitative perspective, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association found that a lack of confidence is a significant contributor to stress, with 48% of American adults reporting an increase in stress levels due to feeling inadequate or unable to meet expectations.

This underscores the tangible toll that under-confidence takes on individuals’ mental and emotional well-being.

Psychology Behind Underconfidence

To truly grasp the intricacies of under-confidence, it is important to highlight that it is not just one simple feeling. It includes a wide range of thoughts and emotions ranging from subtle self-doubt to crippling feelings of inadequacy.

Let’s look at some psychological aspects that come into the picture when dealing with under-confidence:

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1. Cognitive Distortions

When the quest for perfection creates intense pressure, it leads to a distorted self-image. In simpler terms, when someone strives to be perfect all the time, it can negatively affect how they see themselves, contributing to feelings of underconfidence. As Charles Cooley’s concept of the “Looking Glass Self” suggests, individuals develop their self-concept based on how they believe others perceive them.

Lack of confidence can distort this reflection, leading to an unreliable self-image. These distorted thoughts often manifest as negative self-talk and unrealistic beliefs about one’s abilities. 

Psychologist Aaron T. Beck noted, “The negative beliefs we hold about ourselves are often not facts but distortions of reality.” To overcome lack of confidence, individuals must recognise these distorted thoughts and actively challenge them.

Techniques such as cognitive restructuring play a crucial role in reshaping negative thought patterns, and fostering a more accurate and positive self-perception.

2. Nature And Nurture

Psychologists have been time and again indulging in debate about the influence of environmental and genetic factors on shaping the personality and perspective of an individual.

Nature refers to genetic factors that influence personality traits and cognitive patterns, while nurture comprises environmental factors, including childhood experiences, societal influences, and cultural upbringing.

Some might have a genetic tendency to be more sensitive or self-critical, but it’s the environment that can magnify or alleviate under-confidence. Understanding this dynamic helps individuals recognise and address both the intrinsic and external factors contributing to their lack of confidence.

3. Imposter Syndrome

Imagine achieving something remarkable, yet feeling like it’s a fluke or luck. That’s the crux of imposter syndrome. It revolves around the persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite evidence of one’s competence and accomplishments.

It’s that nagging doubt, the inner voice whispering, “You don’t belong here; you’re not as competent as they think.” Individuals grappling with imposter syndrome often downplay their achievements, attributing success to external factors or luck rather than acknowledging their skills. 

As Steven Furtick noted, “One reason we struggle with insecurity: We’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” Imposter syndrome breeds self-doubt, making individuals question their achievements and live in constant fear of being exposed as undeserving.

Overcoming imposter syndrome involves recognising the masquerade, embracing accomplishments, and understanding that everyone experiences moments of doubt – it doesn’t make you a fraud.

Causes Of Under-confidence

Rooted in psychological dynamics, people have a tendency to experience low self-esteem and lack of confidence due to various reasons.

Let’s explore a few primary causes of under-confidence:

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1. Social Comparison

In today’s interconnected world, individuals often find themselves navigating a sea of achievements and successes showcased on social media platforms. The constant exposure to the curated highlights of others’ lives fosters an environment where individuals measure their worth against an often unrealistic standard.

This habitual comparison triggers feelings of inadequacy, as individuals perceive themselves falling short in various aspects of life.

2. Negative Self-talk

The internal dialogue we engage in shapes our self-perception and influences our confidence levels. This internal dialogue is often shaped by deep-seated beliefs, past experiences, and societal expectations.

The power of negative self-talk lies in its ability to reinforce cognitive distortions, resulting in a cycle of self-doubt.

3. Fear Of Failure

Society often places utmost emphasis on success and prosperity, extending the notion that failure is synonymous with inadequacy. In order to avoid feeling inefficient, individuals create a self-imposed limitation on themselves to stay in their own comfort zone.

Over time, as this notion gets internalised, the focus shifts towards an inherent inadequacy translating into under-confidence if left unchecked.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Nelson Mandela

Signs Of Low Confidence

Low confidence manifests in various observable behaviours and attitudes. Recognising these signs is crucial for individuals seeking to understand and overcome under-confidence

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1. Being Constantly Apologetic

Under-confident individuals tend to apologise excessively, even for matters beyond their control.

For instance, “I am sorry the rain ruined your picnic,” “I am sorry about the traffic,” or “I am so sorry about the COVID-19 outbreak.” Apologies become a defence mechanism, a way to seek forgiveness for perceived shortcomings preemptively.

The overuse of apologies not only reflects a lack of self-assurance but also signals an underlying belief that one’s actions or presence may be burdensome or unwelcome. 

2. Withdrawing From Social Interactions

Are you a person who avoids social interactions? This social withdrawal serves as a protective mechanism, shielding them from potential criticism or perceived scrutiny.

The reluctance to engage with others on a social level is rooted in the apprehension of not measuring up to societal expectations, contributing to a self-imposed isolation that reinforces feelings of inadequacy.

3. Seeking External Approval

Individuals with low confidence levels often seek approval from others as a way to validate their own worth. The constant need for external affirmation reflects a lack of trust in their own judgement and abilities.

It often becomes a reinforcing cycle, as each external reassurance provides only temporary relief from the underlying self-doubt.

4. Sticking To The Routine

Routine provides a sense of predictability and control, becoming a safety net for those with low confidence. Deviating from the familiar is perceived as a potential risk, triggering anxiety and self-doubt.

As a result, individuals with low confidence may resist stepping outside their comfort zones, limiting their exposure to new experiences.

5. Taking Things Too Personally

Individuals with low confidence tend to internalise criticism to an extreme degree. Constructive feedback or even casual remarks may be interpreted as personal attacks, triggering a heightened emotional response.

This hypersensitivity arises from a fragile self-esteem that perceives any form of criticism as confirmation of inherent inadequacy. 

6. Blaming Others

A coping mechanism employed by those with low confidence is the tendency to deflect responsibility onto others and indulge in the fundamental attribution error.

By attributing failures or shortcomings to external factors, individuals with low confidence avoid confronting their own perceived inadequacies. This avoidance strategy provides a temporary shield against facing personal accountability.

7. Avoiding Eye Contact

Non-verbal cues often betray low confidence, with the avoidance of eye contact being a prominent signal. The inability to maintain direct eye contact reflects feelings of insecurity and discomfort in social interactions.

Eye contact is a fundamental aspect of confident communication, and its absence can be interpreted as a lack of assertiveness. 

Low self-esteem often intertwines with under-confidence, creating a self-reinforcing cycle that affects personal and professional growth. Let’s understand the same below.

Effects Of Under-confidence

So what if I am underconfident? Surely, you are wondering about how harmful it could be. Well, here are a few effects of under-confidence that shed light on how low self-esteem can translate and interrupt different facets of life.

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1. Hindered Personal Growth

When individuals lack the confidence to explore new opportunities and challenge themselves, they remain within the confines of their comfort zones.

The reluctance to step outside established routines and confront unfamiliar challenges prevents the acquisition of new skills and experiences. The invisible opportunity cost of this limitation is the foregone opportunities for learning, self-discovery, and personal fulfilment.

2. Strained Relationships

Individuals grappling with under-confidence often struggle to express themselves authentically, fearing judgement or rejection.

This reluctance to open up can strain relationships, as partners, friends, and family members may find it challenging to understand and connect with someone who struggles to convey their true self.

The continuous need for reassurance can also put a strain on relationships, as under-confident individuals seek external validation to fill the void of internal uncertainty.

3. Impaired Decision Making

The fear of making the wrong decision or facing potential criticism leads to hesitation and second-guessing. This indecisiveness can have cascading effects, delaying progress and preventing individuals from seizing opportunities that come with decisive action.

In professional settings, impaired decision-making due to under-confidence may lead to missed chances for career advancement and innovation.

Recognising these effects is crucial for individuals seeking to break free from the shackles of under-confidence and unlock their full potential. 

Overcoming Under-confidence

The journey of overcoming under-confidence involves not just identifying and acknowledging its presence but also moving towards a sustained presence of confidence.

It can be systematically cultivated and confidence can be mastered by following the techniques below:

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1. Self-awareness

To start this transformative journey, individuals must engage in introspective exercises that illuminate their strengths, weaknesses, and the underlying beliefs shaping their self-perception.

The SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool that helps individuals gain a comprehensive understanding of their internal Strengths and Weaknesses and external Opportunities and Threats.

Here’s how it works:

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  • Strengths (S): Identify your positive attributes, skills, experiences, and qualities that contribute to your confidence. This could include talents, achievements, and positive characteristics.

  • Weaknesses (W): Acknowledge areas where you feel less confident or skills that need improvement. Be honest and specific about the aspects that contribute to under-confidence.

  • Opportunities (O): Explore external opportunities that align with your strengths. Identify areas where you can leverage your abilities to enhance confidence and open new avenues for personal development.

  • Threats (T): Recognize external factors that may pose challenges to your confidence. This could include potential obstacles or situations that trigger under-confidence. Understanding these threats is the first step to overcoming them

2. Positive Affirmations

Negative self-talk often reinforces under-confidence, creating mental barriers that hinder personal growth. Introducing positive affirmations is a powerful technique to reshape these thought patterns and instil a more optimistic mindset.

For example, if an individual struggles with imposter syndrome, affirmations like “I am competent and deserving of success” can be incorporated into daily routines.

The Three P’s framework ensures the effectiveness of affirmations by making them personal, positive, and in the present tense. Here’s how:

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  • Personal: Tailor affirmations to your specific goals and values. Make them deeply connected to your aspirations and challenges, ensuring they resonate with your individual journey.

  • Positive: Frame affirmations in a positive light. Focus on what you want to achieve rather than what you want to avoid. Shift the narrative from self-doubt to self-empowerment.

  • Present Tense: Phrase affirmations as if the positive change is happening now. This reinforces the belief that you are actively working towards your goals and experiencing positive transformations in the present.

3. Continuous Learning

Engaging in continuous learning does not just require individuals to identify different resources to upskill themselves continuously but also to maintain the zeal to enhance oneself constantly. The Growth Mindset, developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, encourages viewing challenges as opportunities for learning and growth.

It promotes resilience and a positive attitude towards setbacks.

The steps for developing a growth mindset are as follows:

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  • Embrace Challenges: See challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. Instead of avoiding difficulties, approach them with the mindset that overcoming challenges enhances your abilities.

  • Effort as Path to Mastery: Recognize that effort is a crucial component of mastery. Instead of fearing failure, understand that putting in effort contributes to your continuous development.

  • Feedback as Valuable Input: View feedback as valuable input for improvement. Constructive criticism is an essential part of the learning process and an opportunity for refinement.

  • Success of Others as Inspiration: Celebrate the success of others and see it as an inspiration rather than a threat. Embrace a culture where everyone’s achievements contribute to collective growth.

Incorporating these techniques into a holistic strategy empowers individuals to overcome under-confidence systematically and unlock their full potential. 


In conclusion, under-confidence is a multifaceted aspect of human psychology that demands a holistic understanding.

By unravelling its roots, recognising the signs, and implementing effective strategies, individuals can overcome under-confidence and unlock their full potential. 

At the end of the day, remember what a wise man once said – “Confidence isn’t walking into a room and knowing you’re the best. It’s walking in and not caring who the best is.

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