Looking To Others For Confidence: Why It’s Not All About You

by Paula Gardner


We often hear that confidence is an inside job, that assertiveness comes from within, and this is not wrong. However, I would like to argue that there is a certain amount of confidence that we can gain by looking to others, and that we don’t have to do everything all on our own. Intrigued? Ask yourself who fulfills the following roles in your life?

Role Models

We all need role models. Sometimes, these are people who have literally done what we want to do. They may be a few steps up the ladder than us, right in the position we covet, or have started the business of our dreams. Equally, however, they can be people who are doing something completely different, but we admire them for their qualities such as resilience, courage, kindness or creativity. Without role models, we have little to inspire us. Role models remind us that success is possible, that we can do it too. We sometimes talk about role models and think of famous celebrities, but role models can be as normal and real as the woman next door. My own role models include my two grandmothers. Who are your role models?


The beauty of a mentor is that you can learn from someone who has been through the process. You are basically benefiting from their experience. In a work situation, this could be someone higher than you, or in a role you desire elsewhere. A good mentor is someone who will be able to relate to where you are too, and can tailor their advice to your situation. They can be formal, as in you create an agreement where they mentor you for a set among of time, or just informal, where you ask questions as and when you need. Who have been the mentors in your life and do you need new ones?


More pertinent to the workplace, a sponsor is someone who actually can actually have as some impact on your career. They may be able to promote you,  or put forward a case for promoting you to your organisation. They are in a position to have some influence on your future, and therefore, it’s important that you prove to a sponsor that you are worth their attention.  From their point of view, they are creating a team of advocates that will be able to support them in their career too. Do you have a sponsor and if not, who might make a good one?

Unquestioning Supporters

Hopefully you have more than one of these: people you know who have your back at all times. These are the people you can call at 3 am and know they’ll pick up. These are the ones who take you when you’ve been passed over from promotion, when your latest date ghosts you and when you need a boost. They won’t dissect what you do, say “I told you so” or  gossip about your mistakes behind your back. These people are gold.


A challenger is someone who knows you can do better. They will (gently) push you, and perhaps throw in a question to make you think about that great idea in a different way. Don’t get me wrong. Challengers are not there to pour scorn on your latest project, but they do a valuable job of helping you think it through properly before you embark, often just bringing us back to the WHY we are doing it in the first place. Every successful business has a group of Challengers in the guise of its board of directors, or advisory board, and you can too.  It will make you sharper and help you move from talking and into doing. A good coach is an ideal Challenger and this is the role I play with many of my clients. Do you have a challenger in your life?

Paula Gardner is a business psychologist and coach. Book an introductory session with Paula here.