It’s almost impossible to have rock-solid confidence as a trader. Sure, some traders can’t be thrown off track very easily, but it’s natural to feel a little afraid occasionally. Let’s look at some of the reasons that you might feel shaken. What the markets will do tomorrow or next week is far from certain, and you don’t have a crystal ball. Your information is fallible. And without perfect information, you are bound to feel a little uneasy when your money is on the line. In addition, there’s always a possibility that something may go wrong. A media analyst may hype a stock you are shorting. And what about trading strategies? You can perfect a trading strategy only to see it fail when market conditions change without warning. If you lose your confidence occasionally, it’s understandable.


Even a seasoned hedge fund manager can lose confidence. Consider what Manny told us when we asked him about what underlies his self-doubt. “Fear of losing money and fear about the lack of validity of my research. It’s perfectly natural. Just like in sports, the difference between the physical abilities of the top pros is virtually nil. But the mental difference is huge. The guys at the top in tennis, for example, are mentally consistent throughout the whole match. It’s the same thing in trading.

The psychology of professional traders allows them to stick to their strategies. They don’t stress out as much as rookie traders. I still make mistakes once in a while, but not as often as I used to. It’s impossible to eliminate all doubt. I still fall victim to doubt and other psychological pitfalls. I still have major doubts, but now I know how to control them better.”

How did Manny conquer his feelings of doubt? Gaining a wealth of knowledge is key. “It requires a combination of research and experience. After a while, making or losing a lot just did not seem to bother me. It became second nature. The other thing is learning to handle profits and losses. With experience, you don’t get as excited over them. After a while, you expect to experience the natural ups and downs.”

When you experience self-doubt, don’t make matters worse by feeling bad about feeling bad. Everybody experiences doubt at times. It’s natural when trading something as chaotic as the markets. If you are a novice trader, feel solace in the fact that your self-doubt will subside after you hone your trading skills and gain a wealth of experience. And if you are a seasoned trader, it may be useful to remind yourself that everyone gets in a slump occasionally. Don’t worry. You’ll regain your momentum if you keep trading. The key to success is to remember that self-doubt usually leads to stagnation. When in doubt, don’t panic, calm down, and think rationally. You’ll eventually work through your self-doubt and return to profitability.

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