Almost every leader I’ve ever met struggles with it at some level.

I do. And my guess is you do too.

Most of us swing between trying to avoid arrogance at all costs and having an unhealthily low self-esteem.

What do you do with that? And how do you ensure you can still lead while working that issue out?

This really matters because…

A Struggling Leader Will Eventually Make Others Struggle Too

Most leaders encounter at least a few seasons where they ask questions like these:

Do I have what it takes?

What do people really think?

How come my mood changes as much as it does?

Am I really making a difference?

Questions like that reveal that even for leaders who don’t struggle with depression, self-confidence can be on ongoing struggle.

Unchecked, it can impact your ability to lead well.

When your confidence is low, you can end up:

Being overly defensive


Pretending you know things when you don’t

Bringing the rest of your team down

Limiting what God will accomplish through your leadership

None of that is leadership at it’s finest. Keep it up, and your struggles will ultimately become struggles that harm other people too.


7 Ways To Deal With Your Fickle Self-Confidence

So what do you do? The answer has to be ‘something’. Because doing nothing will never make a struggle around self-confidence better.

Below are 7 strategies have helped me. Please understand this is not a list for people who struggle with mental health issues. It is a list for those of us who get down on ourselves during the ebb and flow of daily leadership. And even then, sometimes a visit to a counselor’s office or help from a coach is a great idea.

But if it’s every day or seasonal doubts you’re dealing with, these are 7 strategies that get me back to a healthier place:


1. Remember that God got you into this…and count on him to get you through this.

This is a prayer I pray on a regular basis. I’m in ministry and leadership because I believe I was called. Most ministry leaders we meet in scripture did not feel up to the task. Moses didn’t think he had what it took. David felt unworthy. Paul felt like he was the least worth to lead a church.

To a certain extent, our struggle takes our eyes off us and puts them on God. That’s a good thing.


2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Often insecure people can’t handle criticism. They’re defensive and project an aura of knowing when everyone else in the room knows they don’t.

It’s hard to be in leadership for a long time without having the ability to laugh at yourself.  Tell some self-depracating jokes. Admit you don’t know it all. Defer to others. Laugh with others at your mistakes.

Ironically, this often makes you feel better about yourself.


3. Listen to what your team tells you you’re good at.

Even on your worst days, you’re good at something. My challenge is I have a hard time figuring out what that is sometimes.

Listen to your team. Ask them where you bring the most value. They’ll tell you.  It might not be what you hoped you’d be best at, but you really do bring value. Rejoice in that. It’s a gift you received from God.


4. Trust what you know to be true over what you feel to be true.

It’s important to know what you’re feeling, but often feelings are a terrible guide to a better future. You will rarely feel like eating right, exercising or even forgiving someone. Wise people do it anyway.

So when you’re in a place where you’re struggling with your self worth, trust what you know to be true rather than what you feel is true. This principle might also help you create a healthier marriage and even healthier friendships. 


5. Work out of your strengths and delegate your weaknesses.

This is a good leadership principle in any season, but working out of your strengths when you’re self-confidence is low can really help you add value to the team while not sapping your energy.

Over the long haul, it’s just the best way to lead anyway.


6. Help other leaders become better.

You should always be helping other leaders get better, but when you’re in a funk this can really help.

Ask yourself, what can I do to help others win today? You will help them and you’ll feel better about things by the end of the day


7. Don’t think about yourself all the time. 

It’s not about you anyway, is it?

And yet I find when I’m struggling with my self-confidence, the more I think about it the worse it gets. Pray about it, give thanks to God for everything you can, and then get back to serving and helping others.

When you take the focus off yourself, ironically, you end up feeling better about yourself.

You might see a theme developing here
These are 7 strategies that have helped me. I’d love to hear from you.

What’s your struggle like? What helps you?


  1. JJ on July 21, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for this great article. The pastor in my church is struggling with his self-confidence. It is very small church and not really growing. When I and other church people were sharing some topics on right leadership, he thought we were criticizing him. He takes everything as personal thing. I really take care of him and wish he could overcome the issues with his self-esteem. Could you suggest something church members can do to help their leader?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on July 27, 2014 at 8:44 pm

      JJ…oh wow. That’s hard. It does sound like he’s struggling in self-esteem/self-confidence. Does he have a friend who he takes advice from. Maybe a close friend could suggest he get some help with that.

  2. Handling Your Fickle-ness | Cambridge Hub on January 30, 2014 at 10:17 am

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  3. Rich Grof on January 28, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Great article Carey. I agree with Lawrence that #3 is very important and hard to do. I found that I had to develop a new set of “ears” to listen for what people were saying and also what they were not saying but showing with their actions.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 30, 2014 at 8:05 am

      Thanks Rich…that’s very true. I actually have trouble reading body language and sometimes I just ask my team to tell me what’s really going on. So helpful.

  4. Lawrence W. Wilson on January 28, 2014 at 8:25 am

    #3 is so important, but hard to do. The kind of feedback and encouragement leaders usually give to subordinates is seldom reciprocated. People don’t think the boss needs to be coached or affirmed. You usually have to ask for this, which is hard to do without sounding needy.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 30, 2014 at 8:06 am

      True. A questions Jeff Henderson asks at North Point is “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” Superb question for leaders to ask.

  5. Justin Hiebert on January 27, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    I think number one is the most critical to understand. I know I’ve experienced, and I’m sure others have too, the feelings and struggles that come with serving in ministry. The call that I felt all those years ago, and that has been confirmed time and time again, is important to remember in the hard times.

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