Selling Yourself Short: A Matter of Confidence?

In this episode of MasterChef (opens in a new link), one of the contestants was selling herself short to the judges only to find that her dish was one of the top three for the evening. Why do we sell ourselves short? According to the judges, she lacked confidence despite her incredible skill. I agree with their assessment…although that doesn’t necessarily help someone who lacks confidence.


For those of you who would rather not watch an hour-long program to see what I cited above, the contestant struggled with one element of her dish and, as a result, became disappointed with the entire dish.

As she approached the judges with her dish she told them that she wasn’t happy with what she was presenting and began listing all of the things she wasn’t happy about. Before tasting her dish the judges counseled her to be more confident and not sell herself short. After their tasting, they lauded the dish and again encouraged her to be more confident in the incredible skills she possesses. They also judged her dish to be in the top three of nine.


It’s easy to say that people who sell themselves short lack confidence. Most of us recognize this reality and agree with the conclusion. Why is it though that some people consistently sell themselves short?

Selling yourself short

One of the reasons is that people who sell themselves short have an ideal to which they aspire. They are often labeled perfectionists. They strive to an ideal and anything short of that ideal is a source of angst and discontent. They see only what’s wrong; completely ignoring all that’s right.

Another reason is that they evaluate their performance against others. Of course, the “others” with whom they compare themselves are exceptional in some regard. Again, they see only what’s right with what others do and only what’s wrong with their performance.

A third reason might be that somewhere in their youth they were counseled not to brag. The result is that they’ve gone to the other end of the spectrum and become self-effacing. They do it so consistently that they ultimately begin to believe what they say. They believe that that they are inadequate. They may think they’re being humble, but in reality humility is acknowledging the good in our lives without taking full credit for that good.

For you

If you’re one of these people who regularly sell themselves short, here are some tips to help you retrain your brain away from this mindset.

  • If you tend toward perfection, that’s fine. Lofty goals help us achieve more than we would otherwise. Shortly after rising each morning remind yourself that perfection isn’t possible for human beings. Then as you evaluate your performance, note the progress you’ve made or the lessons that you learned that will help you in the future. Both will boost your confidence and move you closer and closer to your ideal…although never all the way there.
  • Stop focusing on what’s wrong by asking yourself “What’s right?”
  • If you’re in the habit of evaluating yourself in light of others’ performance, continue to do so…but with a twist. Make comparisons with the intent of learning from them. Everyone who is better at some aspect of what we do is a potential teacher. Learn from them.
  • If you’ve trained yourself to be self-effacing, when complimented reply with a simple “thank you.” A thank you acknowledges the skills and abilities you have without appearing to brag or take credit for your skills and abilities. 

For our kids

Congratulate your kids on the things they do well. When things don’t work as they’d hoped, ask them what they learned and how that will help them in the future,. If you see them selling themselves short, help them identify the reason why they’re doing so and, using the tips above, help them see an alternative ways of looking at their performance. These tips will keep them from selling themselves short.

Let others know that you love them by sharing this blog post. They’ll appreciate that you care.

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, please share your wisdom in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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