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Half of us do not fulfil our potential because we’re scared of making mistakes

Research has shown that everyone will have to upskill over the next 10 years in order to remain employable. But our confidence is holding us back according to new research from Nyenrode Business University.

Everyone struggles with lack of confidence at different times in their lives. However according to new research from Nyenrode Business University and IE University, one out of two people think they could perform better if they were not worrying about making mistakes. 

The researchers studied 1,000 people and found that more than 40% of them say they are worried about making mistakes between 20-40% of the time or more. 

Looking deeper in the differences between men and women, 46% of women worried 20-40% of the time compared to 33% of men, indicating that women worry more than men. Shockingly the numbers increase even more if we look at younger higher educated professionals. 

They asked participants whether they would be able to perform better at work if they were less worried about making mistakes. Overall about 47% of peoples said ‘yes’ to this question. However, this figure rose to 60-70% for younger higher educated professionals.

According to Professor Nick van Dam

“Employees only perform well in new positions if they have enough self-confidence and aren’t afraid of making mistakes. We actually learn the most from our mistakes after all. If we don’t feel confident, we tend to avoid speaking up, don’t give feedback to senior people, don’t ask for feedback ourselves and won’t even think about a promotion. In a more extreme case, we might suffer from burnout because we spend so much time worrying. Essentially, we’re not the best version of ourselves. It is important that companies start responding to this crisis of confidence now, in the interest of long-term employability.” 

Research has shown that everyone will have to upskill over the next 10 years in order to remain employable. After gaining new knowledge and skills, people will take on different tasks and roles in the years ahead. In order to do this successfully, we have to be the most confident version of ourselves. 

The research suggests authentic confidence is not about getting rid of insecurity but managing it effectively, which is self-empowering.

In their new book “Advancing Authentic Confidence Through Emotional Flexibility”, professors Dr. Nick van Dam (Nyenrode Business University), Dr. Jacqueline Brassey (IE University) and Dr. Arjen van Witteloostuijn (VU University Amsterdam) state that a lack of self-confidence can have a negative impact on learning ability, work performance and career success. The authors introduce a number of exercises and tools that people can use to develop self-confidence.


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