Friday, November 27th, 2020

How-To: Go from “I think I can” to “I know I can”

By Lisa Sansom on Mar 21 2011 • Filed under How-To

When faced with doubt, remember past successes.

Being an entrepreneur has its advantages – you get to choose who you take on as clients, you get to set your own working hours, and you get to take on only the best projects that really float your boat. But it also means that sometimes, when you are deep in the despairs of doubt and you have that crisis of self-confidence, there is no one else around to help you remember how great you really are. What to do?

Here are a few ideas to help you build your self-efficacy.

Self-WHAT? Self-efficacy is the term that psychologists use to describe that belief that your actions make a difference – that you “can.” And self-efficacy can be increased. While this might be easier working with a coach or a trusted friend or colleague, there are some simple things you can do to help you get your confidence back.

The most powerful source of self-efficacy is your own previous experience. Let’s say that you are putting together a project proposal and you get all caught up in the details and the budgeting and suddenly this little voice inside your head screams at you, “I can’t possibly do this!” Feeling a little overwhelmed? Perhaps a little out of your league? Reflect on your past successes: when have you successfully written a proposal of this complexity before? What was in place then? What strengths did you bring to that success? How can you draw on those strengths now? And what else can you put into place that will help spur your success?

Let’s imagine that it’s your first proposal and you haven’t really written anything like this before. This can really undermine your confidence in your abilities to deliver. But I bet that you know others who have been successful. Through their vicarious experience, you may be able to enhance your own self-efficacy. Consider their successes. Perhaps they have been mentors and shared some tips and techniques with you. Consider how they write proposals. What structures do they use? When do they write them? How do they manage their time and energy? For this to really work, draw from people who are most like you, possibly other successful women entrepreneurs in the same line of business, for example. The more like you they are, the more energy and confidence you will draw from their successes and the more you will be inspired to your own success.

So what if you really can’t think of someone else to draw that inspiration from? Then it’s time to work the power of your own imagination. This is a technique that is often used in sports psychology: visioning. Just as basketball players envision themselves successfully shooting from the three-point line, so too can you envision yourself successfully completing your proposal. Imagine that it’s two weeks from now (or whatever your deadline is) and you have presented the proposal to your client. Imagine that they are applauding, buying, congratulating – whatever you envision as success.

 Envision a successful outcome.

And if none of that works, then it may be time to call a friend, someone that you trust and have a valued relationship with, who can give you a pep talk. This person should be able to tell you how much they believe in you, how they know you can get this done, how you are amazingly wonderful at the work that you do and how the potential client will be so lucky to make use of your company. And someday, you will pay this back to your friend (or maybe pay it forward to someone else) but for now, just soak it up and regain that confident energy that you are missing.

Over time, you will get to know your weak spots; the times that you tend to suffer a crisis of confidence. You may even feel it in your body or emotional state before you’re really aware of what’s going on. As you become more sensitive to these leading indicators, you can stop your lack of confidence with one of the above tactics before it gets too big. Alternatively, taking a break to do something physical – a run, a massage, dancing, yoga – is also very effective at realigning your body with your intent to be successful. Deep breathing and meditation can help calm the emotional turmoil. Ultimately, you know you can. You just need to give yourself a little boost to get that nasty inner self-critic out of the way. And enhancing your self-efficacy is just what will do the trick.


  1. Hello from another Entrepreneurial woman guest blogger! This article was so great. Many many times (too many to count) in my business career do I have those moments of doubt, panic and fear. I loved all your tips for where to draw confidance!

  2. This is a great article! “Crisis of confidence” is spot on!

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