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How To Find Quiet Confidence From Within: Overcoming Fear of Criticism and Disapproval

The work I do in my professional life runs along two parallel streams. Firstly, I work therapeutically with perinatal clients, mostly mums and bubs. These clients are struggling with their transition to parenthood and all the anxiety that this stirs up. Through their work with me and my colleagues they learn to trust their instincts, they learn to trust their baby’s cues, and through this process their confidence grows. I absolutely LOVE watching that happen. Secondly, I work as a mentor to mental health professionals as they transition into leadership roles. Again, my work in this regard is to help build confidence in their own clinical instincts, their own clinical leadership ability, and their ability to inspire others in our profession. Watching their confidence blossom is so rewarding, and in honour of that my mentoring program is called Quiet Confidence. I love this work so much.

Can You Be A Confident Introvert?

Given that so much of my work is around building confidence in others, you’d be forgiven for thinking I might be incredibly self-assured and confident, right? Nope. I’m basically an introvert, I worry about disappointing others, about being called out as an impostor, and being “wrong”. But to promote my work and reach my clientele I need to be active on social media. This includes regularly publishing my thoughts on various topics and sharing some personal experiences in the hope they’ll inspire or help others. I face the possibility of criticism when I do this. In quiet moments it terrifies me. And yet I continue to put myself out there. How?

Before I tell you that, let me share a couple of my childhood reflections with you.

I Was Always The New Kid

Firstly, I had a pretty tricky childhood, lots of moving about from parent to parent, then to grandparents, then back to parent to parent. This meant I was always the new girl, always trying to make new friends, always trying to win over new teachers. People pleaser! I resorted to working hard at school and sticking with a select few safe and loyal friends, rarely daring to enter the sphere of the “popular crowd” for fear of not fitting in or being criticised.

I’m Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea

Secondly, I distinctly remember at age 10 realising with incredible clarity that it was possible that some people might not like me. Really? How could that be? It was a shocking realisation, and threw me initially. But as this truth settled into my mind over time, I also realised that the sky hadn’t fallen in, that my friends hadn’t left me for dead, and my family still loved me. The people who didn’t like me didn’t matter. I was okay.

Overcoming People Pleasing

How do these two recollections relate to confidence? Over the course of my childhood I grew a strong core group of friends from the various places I’d lived around Australia. The benefit of having moved around so much. Most of them are still friends with me to this day. So as a kid, being a people pleaser worked in my favour, helping me build lasting friendships. But as an adult, I soon realised that I needed to rein in my people pleasing tendencies as they were no longer helpful to me. By being a people pleaser, I was at risk of losing my direction in favour of someone else’s. By knowing myself better as I’ve aged, I’ve been able to notice when I’m motivated to say yes to something because I didn’t want to upset people, rather than because I really wanted to do that thing. I’ve learned to pause and ask myself whether doing that thing was in my best interests. I’ve also learned to trust that by saying no when I need to, the sky doesn’t fall in and those who matter don’t desert me. So, the first lesson for tackling people pleasing? Acknowledge it, challenge it, and move on in your own direction.

Embracing Your Own Particular Brand of Tea

Secondly, by recognising early that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, I gave myself permission to focus on those people for whom I’m exactly the brew they prefer. Like overcoming people pleasing tendencies, this wasn’t especially easy. Everyone wants to be loved, needed, and approved of. But it’s true what they say, you can’t please all the people all the time. Gosh, I can’t even please some of the people sometimes! In fact, I’ve occasionally received criticism and cynicism from friends and family, as they struggle to adjust to this newish me, the one who is comfortable putting myself out there for the sake of the work I’m passionate about.  Not only are haters gonna hate, sometimes lovers are gonna hate too. And that’s okay. Of course their criticism hurts. Really hurts. How do I deal with it? Firstly I recognise that they are not the intended audience for the work I do. So, of course my work won’t necessarily appeal to them. We can all move on when this is clear and accepted, and my focus returns to those who do find my work helpful, motivating, encouraging, or inspiring. They are my tribe, and I’m happy putting myself out there for them.

Staying In Your Own Lane

When I do what I do, writing about confidence, speaking about what inspires me to help others, sharing my thoughts on strategies for improving mental health, I’m in my element. The waters around me feel calm, and my confidence rises to the surface. For me, this is safe territory because I only speak my truth. When I share personal stories, they are real. When I discuss something that I’ve found helpful, I’m genuinely hoping it will help others too. When I talk about a program I’ve developed, I am honestly excited to share my professional expertise. When I share, it’s authentic. It’s me. When we stay in our own lanes, doing our own brand of whatever it is we’re passionate about, we feel it. And not only that, those around us feel it too, that authenticity.

Listen To Yourself And Trust What You Hear

So I will conclude by sharing this secret with you. It’s okay not to be confident all the time. It’s okay to seek approval sometimes. But if we let these little inner voices of fear do all the talking, we will stray from our path and we will live a life wishing for fulfilment. You will recognise this in yourself by noticing that you seem to put yourself last, putting what you think others want ahead of your own needs, wants, and desires. This is when you need to stop, take a breath, and ask yourself: Do I want this direction? Have I lost my map? Have a strayed from my own path? To unlock this you could try some journal writing on what brings you joy, what brings you fulfilment, what brings you satisfaction. You might be surprised by the inner secret yearnings and passions that rise to the surface for you. And the inner fears. Always wanted to be a florist? Who’s stopping you? Always wanted to write? Why aren’t you? Want to study accounting? What are you scared of? Listen to your inner voice, listen to your inner desires, and your fears. Ask yourself what you’ll regret most, displeasing others or displeasing yourself? And then go for it!

Wishing you your own brand of quiet confidence, and every success,



How To Find Quiet Confidence From Within: Overcoming Fear of Criticism and Disapproval

Tess Crawley

Dr Tess Crawley is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist, based in Hobart, Tasmania. She completed a PhD in 2004, researching psychopathy in young women and is a former lecturer / clinic director at the University of Tasmania. Tess has worked in the Tasmanian and Queensland prison systems, among a variety of other clinical roles, before opening her solo private practice in 2001. Tess launched her group practice in 2009, Dr Tess Crawley & Associates. Tess has a special interest in perinatal mental health and rural mental health, and spends much of her professional time mentoring other psychologists, both those new to the profession and mental health leaders. She provides online mentoring programs for those professionals further afield. Tess is a busy mum to two boys, a mad Star Wars fan, and loves ice cream, coffee, and good red wine (not necessary all at the same time). The Stigma Rebellion blog is named after one of Tess' online communities, and continues her work towards increasing dialogue and reducing stigma around mental health issues.

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APA Reference
Crawley, T. (2018). How To Find Quiet Confidence From Within: Overcoming Fear of Criticism and Disapproval. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 2 Apr 2018
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