Handling Your Fickle-ness

By Carey Nieuwhof


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.

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
  • Withdrawing
  • 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.

Dealing With It

So what do you do? [-] Because doing nothing will never make a struggle around self-confidence better.

Below are 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.

What’s your struggle like? What helps you?


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