22 March 2023

Top 5 Things That Are Holding Women Back In The Workplace And How To Deal With Them

There are at least 5 classical types of behaviour or mindsets

Lack of self-confidence is among the core reasons that hold women back in the workplace. Over the years of coaching on self-development, confidence and performance, I’ve seen lack of confidence being manifested in various different ways but those that seem to keep coming back on my coaching agenda are the ones I want to talk about here.

There are at least 5 classical types of behaviour or mindsets that prevent a lot of women from maximizing their growth and fulfilment at work.

1. Fear of being judged
Fear of judgement is one of the most common human fears and it is linked to our natural desire to be liked by all, at all times. Brené Brown would say, it comes from our natural “longing for connection”, which is nothing but normal, until it turns into inner insecurities. Fear of judgement is often preventing us from speaking up, asking for help and sharing our opinions with others. In the end, it is holding us back from being honest and authentic, it keeps us from openly experiencing and expressing our true selves.

Confidence is not ‘they will like me’. Confidence is ‘I’ll be fine even if they don’t’. – Christina Grimmie


  • Learn how to be yourself at all times and own your authenticity, decide what that means for you and practice it every day (get clear on your values and start honouring them in your every-day life).
  • Work on the relationship you have with yourself, if you truly love yourself for who you are, you won’t need others to like you as much and you will become more immune to judgement.
  • Practice to see criticism as feedback, say thank you for every critical comment you receive and learn from it.
  • Never take judgment personally. You know yourself more than anyone else does, don’t let judgments shake your core beliefs you hold on yourself. Don’t let others define you.

Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. ~ Brené Brown

2. Lack of Self-Belief
If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will and as a result you will miss on opportunities to grow and increase your performance at work. You project your self-belief or lack of it everywhere you go. The way you see yourself, believe in yourself, think of yourself will affect the way others see you at work. It is thus your own responsibility to change your self-image and increase your self-belief, don’t expect that from others.


  • Pay attention to what you do well at work and officially recognise yourself for all, small and big achievements (I build an Achievement Tracker with my clients, which they learn to use every day).
  • Give yourself opportunities to be challenged, self-belief grows outside of your comfort zone when you can prove your subconscious-self that you CAN.
  • Focus on your efforts instead of results, this way you will be celebrating your attempts and you will stop constantly defeating yourself over your failures. Have you heard of the Growth & Fixed mindset theory by Prof. Carole Dweck?

3. Active Self-Critical Voices
We all have self-critical voices within us but women tend to manage them less effectively than man or they don’t manage them at all, in which case those inner self-critics become super active. The more active and lively they become, the more powerful they are to affect your performance at work, or any other area in your life, quite frankly.


  • Define your self-critical voices, notice when they become active and what messages they put across (the so-called limiting beliefs).
    Start managing those voices by first identifying them and then mitigating them gradually, in other words train yourself on how to give them less attention.
  • Cut the overthinking time once the self-critical voices get active, overthinking makes your inner saboteurs grow to uncontrollable levels.
  • Start building empowering voices that will help you defeat your self-critics (e.g. affirmations, positive thinking, gratitude practice – yes, they work!).
  • Find out about your own inner critics by completing this free Saboteur Assessment.

4. Fear of Embarrassment
For women who tend to be very self-conscious at work, embarrassment or humiliation is very much interlaced with the fear of loosing dignity and self-esteem. The fear of embarrassment prevents us from making the most of opportunities and risk-taking, it can be overwhelming and stand in the way of carrying out our daily responsibilities at work.


  • Learn how to become comfortable in the uncomfortable – start exploring the space of vulnerability (watch Brené Brown’s TEDTalk on the power of vulnerability below).
  • Always acknowledge your feelings and sound them out to others, tell everyone or yourself what just happened and how you feel about it.
  • Try this one mental exercise: instead of seeing yourself as the protagonist in a given “embarrassing” situation, picture yourself as an observer, this will automatically decrease your self-awareness and emotional discomfort.
  • Admit to your mistakes, faults, gaffes and flows, own them and don’t pretend they never happened. The act of trying to hide your own flows is more demeaning than openly admitting to your mistakes. The attribute of knowing how to laugh at yourself is a pure act of courage and shows a solid level of inner confidence (ps. not to be confused with self-blame, that is another extreme!).

Brené Brown on “The power of vulnerability”.

Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.- Brené Brown

5. Not wanting to Appear Arrogant / Big-Headed
The common misconception is that there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, this prevents a lot of women from being more engaged and active during work meetings, asking direct questions and putting themselves out there, as they don’t want to appear arrogant. Confident does not always mean arrogant, in fact there is a huge difference between the two. Moving away from arrogance and into confidence can propel you forward in your career and in your life.

Get clear on the difference between arrogant and confident:

  • Confident people are okay with making mistakes and showing who they really are, arrogance on the other hand prevents us from showing our vulnerability, which is necessary if we want to resonate with people.
  • Confident people celebrate the successes of others, they don’t need to put others down to lift themselves up. People with confidence can see the best in others and happily celebrate their successes, while arrogant people tend to be very self-centred and self-celebratory.
  • Confidence is based on strong self-esteem and self-belief, it comes from within; while arrogance is built on ego-pleasing situations and is conditioned to external circumstances.

True confidence comes from within and not from the ego-pleasing situations.

Easier said than done? Yes, often that is the case until you take the first step. Confidence is a learnable skill AND it takes time and efforts to grow and nourish it, just like any other skill.

If you relate to any of the things mentioned in this article, let me know in the comments below what is one ONE thing you will do differently from now on. Share below!

Confidence Programme
As an expert in the field, I’m offering an in-depth 6-month confidence coaching programme, not just for women but for everyone who is ready to maximise their personal growth, fulfilment and joy in life by building a stronger and healthier relationship with themselves based on solid self-confidence, self-love, self-acceptance, self-belief and self-trust.

Get in touch if you are interested, or if you know someone who would be!

For more information on 1-2-1 confidence coaching or group coaching, contact me on coaching@patriciaskurzak.com or visit my website www.patriciaskurzak.com

Written by Patrycja Skurzak


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