Why You Sell Yourself Short and How to Take Your Power Back

Why You Sell Yourself Short and How to Take Your Power Back

You have to so much to give—so much talent, brilliance, and fire—and yet you sell yourself short. As a female entrepreneur, this means:

  • You’re leaving money on the table because you’re too afraid to ask for more.
  • Your business is growing slower than it should because you’re afraid to take risks. 
  • You’re in a constant state of imposter syndrome, leading to stress and anxiety.

I get it, I’ve been there many times myself and still work to shift out of this mindset on a daily basis. The good news is, you don’t have to live like that. You can own your power to make intentional and brave progress in your business—but first, you have to understand why you sell yourself short. 

With awareness, you can then take steps to shift that mindset and start owning your potential. Let’s get you back into your place of power, shall we?

Selling Yourself Short: Why Do Women Struggle With This?

When you sell yourself short, you doubt your abilities and this habit is typical of female entrepreneurs—and women in general. As Maggie Warrell, author, speaker, and founder of Global Courage explains:

“We spin plates, juggle balls, move mountains… or certainly try to. Yet that little voice rarely lets up, constantly critiquing what we haven’t done or should have done better. In the process we allow our self-doubt to wield too much power in our lives. At least more than the no-more-talented-than-us men we work and share them with.”

As a female entrepreneur, you bring more to the table than you give yourself credit for, but there are plenty of reasons why you don’t see that. Let’s dive into a few common, high-level reasons why us women tend to underestimate ourselves along with tips for how you can step back into your power today. 

You Frame Failure With “Bad Luck” 

Everyone experiences failures. But how you frame setbacks has an enormous impact on your future progress and even your perspective on future chances at success. In other words, where the mind goes, energy flows. If you equate past failures with “bad luck,” you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy where you continually sell yourself short. 

I love Carmen’s Gallo’s Inc article on this topic, Why Your Mindset Around Failure Can Make or Break Your Success. Gallo, a keynote speaker and author of Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, profiles a wide variety of women, from athletes to poker players, to explain the pervasive nature of bad luck and how it impacts your future success and ability to have a “victory mindset.”  

Gallo uses the metaphor of a “bad beat” in poker, an unlucky hand that you should have statistically won but didn’t. Instead of focusing on bad luck, a successful player thinks: “The cards went against me this time, but I made good decisions. It's not a reflection of my skills. If I keep making these good decisions, I'll win more often than I lose.” 

Why will this thinking stop you from selling yourself short and buying into the bad luck mentality? Gallo hits the nail on the head: “The words you use to frame your current situation will change your mindset and elevate your mood. A positive mindset allows you to stay open to new possibilities where others see barriers, and a positive mood will lift your spirits and attract people in your life who will help, support, or [even] hire you.”

Luck has nothing to do with your future path, while mindset has everything to do with it. 

Step Into Your Power: Grab your journal and reframe a recent set back with this “victory mindset.” For example, if you didn’t win a client, you might shift from, “I wasn’t good enough for that client” to “They weren’t the right fit for my services right now, but the more I pitch myself the better I get at it.”

You Play the Comparison Game

Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  It’s easy to underestimate your potential when you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people’s often unrelated journeys. 

What’s worse, social media magnifies the success of the people around you, which intensifies this feeling of “not enough,” and in turn, gives you more reasons to sell yourself short. A significant amount of research points to the harm social media can cause in this way. 

A recent study, in particular, focused on the effects of Instagram on women. “Beauty and fitness images significantly decreased self-rated attractiveness, and the magnitude of this decrease correlated with anxiety, depressive symptoms, self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction. Therefore, excessive Instagram use may contribute to negative psychological outcomes and poor appearance-related self-perception.” 

By comparing yourself to people on social media platforms—people you know or don’t, celebrities, influencers, etc.—can instantly make you feel inadequate and thus doubt your abilities and self-worth. 

Step Into Your Power: Instagram is a valuable social network for building your brand and developing a community—but it doesn’t have to be a driver of comparison. Enroll in Mindset Mastery + Instagram Strategy, a monthly coaching membership, to start tackling that comparison and stepping into your power on this powerful platform.

You Were Taught to Be Grateful for What You Have 

Many women were taught to be grateful for what they already have instead of wanting more. This quote from Abby Wambach, a World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist, sums it up well:

“It hit me that I’d spent most of my time during my career the same way I’d spent my time on that ESPYs stage. Just feeling grateful. Grateful to be one of the only women to have a seat at the table. I was so grateful to receive any respect at all for myself that I often missed opportunities to demand equality for all of us. … Like all little girls, I was taught to be grateful. I was taught to keep my head down, stay on the path, and get my job done.”

In this way, women are often hardwired to be complacent. Instead of wanting more, you sell yourself short—”I don’t need to ask for that much money, this much is good enough.”

This is a limiting self-belief and you have to break the pattern—and you can. The scientific paper The Biochemistry of Belief breaks down the relationship between your thoughts and perception, how that’s processed in your brain, and as a result, what happens in your life. 

The authors of the paper also explain: “Even when we feel stuck ‘emotionally,’ there is always a biochemical potential for change and possible growth.

When you choose to change your thoughts (bursts of neurochemicals), we become open and receptive to other pieces of sensory information hitherto blocked by our beliefs! When we change our thinking, we change our beliefs. When we change our beliefs, we change our behavior.”

Step Into Your Power: Get intentional about challenging this belief that’s causing you to sell yourself short by rewriting it. In one column, write the limiting beliefs associated with being grateful for what you have. For example, you might write: 

Negative: I’m not educated enough, I’m not worth that much, and I don’t need more money. In the second column, re-write each one to be more powerful and true. 

Positive: My education doesn’t reflect my value, My rates reflect the many years I’ve put into this business/my career, and I don’t need more money, but I deserve to be paid what I’m worth. 

Now, every time you think of the negative belief, challenge it with the positive one.

How to Step Into Your Power

Now that you understand why so many of us female entrepreneurs fall into this trap, you can create actionable habits that help you step into your power. In addition to the tips and ideas above, use the following tactics to doubt yourself less and build your confidence more. 

Slow Down and Tune In

You can’t understand your emotions, (limiting beliefs, fears, anxieties, etc.) if you’re always in the hustle mindset. To step into your power, you need to slow down, recognize the beliefs that are coming up and challenge them. 

Try one of the following tactics to start tuning in:

  • Journaling: Start with the prompt: How am I feeling right now?” and start writing words, I.E. anxious, frustrated, sad, creative, etc. This helps you start tuning into what’s happening under the surface, which is key for addressing underlying challenges and shifting your mindset. 
  • Reflection: Sit, do nothing, put your phone and devices in a different room. Be present and see what comes up. This reflection time is where I uncover my most powerful insights. The trick is to turn off your worries and listen in to your intuition. 

On Mindset Reset Radio: Why Tuning In is Critical for Living With Intention

Seek Support

Individual mindset work is a great place to start, but it can only take you so far. To arm yourself with even more tools, seek professional support. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of therapists, counselors, and coaches for business, spirituality, mindset, and health. 

Interestingly enough, social media can also be a space to seek support. While this may seem counterintuitive, Emma Seppaelae, director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University and the author of The Happiness Track, explained this concept to Psychology Today. 

“When we use social media just to passively view others' posts, our happiness decreases. We compare ourselves to others, get lost in their idealized lives, and forget to enjoy our own. But contributing, sharing, and interacting can have the opposite effect.”

Instead of being a passive viewer to strangers’ curated highlight reels, which, in turn, makes you feel bad about yourself, use social media as a space to engage, interact, and create a community where you encourage and support others. 

Take it a Step Further: For female entrepreneurs looking for a support group of powerful and authentic women, check out our mindset and marketing coaching program.

Get Clear on What You Want

How can you chase after your wildest dreams if you don’t really know what your dreams are? Sure, we might all think we have a high-level idea of our goals but are you really aligned with your WHY? 

During your meditation or journaling, consider what you want in life, both professionally and personally. Write down what sticks out and develop your mission. For me, that mission is to raise the vibration of the world by empowering other women.

When you're aligned with a strong WHY, you’re reminded of all the reasons why you can no longer sell yourself short—the world needs you and your voice!

Keep a Confidence Folder or Confidence List

Remember that you’re always going to have down days. It’s the ebb and flow of human nature. For those days when self-doubt inevitably sneaks in, create a resource to lift yourself back up: a confidence folder. 

Keep a confidence folder or list of all your big wins. This can be as simple as a note on your phone, a Google Doc, or a file on your desktop. Include every victory, big and small. For example:

  • Screenshots with praise from clients
  • Revenue milestones that you hit with your business or side hustle 
  • Smiling selfies that were taken on big days

Don't Sell Yourself Short—Own Your Power 

If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that time is precious. No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Don’t sell yourself short and waste your brains, skills, and gifts! Dive into self-reflection, understand why you underestimate yourself, and then correct it with these simple yet valuable strategies so you can start stepping into your power, today! 


Jessica Thiefels is a published author, host of Mindset Reset Radio, CEO of Jessica Thiefels Consulting, and co-founder of Don’t Ask How. She's been writing for more than 10 years and has been featured in top publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur. Jessica is on a mission to empower women to make their own rules and live with intention so they wake up every day excited about the life they get to live. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


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