6 Post-Fail Steps to Rebuild Your Confidence

You had a brilliant idea. It really was brilliant. You did your homework. You crafted a solid pitch. The boss gave you the green light to go ahead and put your plan into action. You worked at it. You honed it. This was your baby and it was going to be awesome. And then it wasn’t. It fell flat. What was pure genius on paper didn’t translate through execution. It happens. You know it happens. You’re a champion of others who are willing to take risks and try to move the ball further down the field. Speed bumps and flops, however, happen to other; not to you (or rather, that’s what you used to think!). Now here you sit with the bruised ego to show that you’re not immune to flubbing something at work. Your confidence is shaken and you’re feeling a little gun shy as you look at that pile of projects waiting for your attention. Now what? How do you rebuild your confidence once it’s been knocked a bit off-kilter?

Strike a Pose

Research shows that our body language can influence how confident we feel. So, go ahead. Square your shoulders, sit up straight, and keep your chin up. Let your mind take its cue from your body. Act confident. Be confident.

Reframe Your Understanding

Being successful doesn’t mean we get it all right all the time. Likewise, confidence doesn’t mean that we don’t experience disappointment. Neither of those expectations are realistic. Let me repeat that: Confidence isn’t having all the answers and it doesn’t require you to knock it out of the park every time you’re up to bat. It’s rooted in the knowledge that you have the potential to succeed every time you’re up to the plate, and you’ve got the courage to stretch yourself further each time.

Own It

It’s okay to feel the ache of disappointment when you falter. Confidence doesn’t mean failure doesn’t sting. If you equate solid self-esteem with perfection, it’s time to let that delusion go. Everyone makes mistakes – even the best of us. First, recognize that you and your failure are in good company. Then go ahead and tend to your wounds; just don’t wallow. Even if you’re feeling a little tentative, dive back into that pile of work waiting for you and give it your all.

Lean on Someone

This is a great time to lean on your mentor. Vent your frustration. Your mentor can help you identify where the wheels fell off and maybe what you can do in the future to avoid the same mistakes. A good mentor or friend can help you walk through lessons learned, which is incredibly valuable. Recognizing your mistakes, apologizing if needed, and then growing from the experience is key to regaining your confidence.


Recognize that a set-back at work (or in any other facet of your life) doesn’t erase all the good stuff you’ve done already. Take the time to review previous wins and accolades. If you’re having trouble remembering those things at the moment, ask your mentor or a friend to help jog your memory. If you don’t already have one, create a file to keep tabs on all your kudos and personal success stories. That file should include that email of gratitude a happy client sent you, the “great job!” note your boss sent, and the clip of that article that included a glowing review about something you had a hand in. Also toss in the note a colleague sent you thanking you for being a life saver. For good measure, add that cute picture your toddler drew for you a few weeks ago. When you need a boost, take the folder out and relish the good feelings.

Take Baby Steps

You’re feeling better but, if we’re being honest, your nerves are still a wee bit on edge. Any one looking at you wouldn’t guess that there’s a small flutter in your stomach when you think about your recent experience. That doesn’t mean that flutter isn’t there. Getting back in the groove isn’t about cannonballing into the pool of confidence. It’s more like getting your ankles wet and then gently easing yourself back in the water. Start by celebrating the small wins. You rocked that staff meeting. You closed out three open projects without even a hint of a hiccup. You got through your day without spilling a drop of coffee as you pushed forward through task after task. Whatever it is, celebrate it. Let those little things build until that confident look you’re putting forward is more than skin deep. You’ve got this.