Surveys have demonstrated “a strong correlation between confidence and occupational success”. Maintaining a positive workplace attitude can, in some cases, lead to higher wages and quicker promotions. However, success in the office can be harder to come by for people who lack confidence. Insecure workers often find themselves passed over in favour of more self-assured colleagues. Many people believe that self-confidence is an innate ability. However, this simply isn’t true. Confidence is not something we’re born with. Think about it. As infants, we all had to depend on a caregiver for nurturing and growth. As we mature, we learn how to feed ourselves, put on our own clothes, and communicate with those around us. We go through school and maybe then show up in the workplace without an ounce of experience.
Somehow, in the business world, our confidence either depletes gradually as we make mistakes or grows as we accomplish tasks and excel. Often, the difference in our confidence level comes down to how we react to criticism, our ability to gain knowledge and experience, and the decisions we make throughout the day.
With practice, anyone can boost their confidence levels and command the workplace. It’s possible to grow in confidence at work, but you have to be ready to deine, evaluate & apply some of these habits.
Confidence and Stress
Confidence is primarily undermined by stress, which professionals define as when the demands on an individual “exceed the personal and social resources that the individual is able to mobilise”.
This means that we tend to feel stressed when faced with:
- New and unfamiliar tasks.
- Tasks we have struggled with in the past.
- Unexpected disruptions.
- Critical comments.
These situations often occur in the workplace, and can rapidly chip away at our self-confidence.
Facing the Unfamiliar
A lack of confidence often stems from being unsure of how to do something. As a result, many people feel a rising sense of panic when faced with an unfamiliar task.
Take control of this feeling by asking a manager or co-worker for help. You can still demonstrate your initiative by deciding how you would logically approach the task, before approaching others for help.
Silence is Golden
Asking for help can sometimes feel like a failure. If you’d prefer to try and work through a new challenge yourself, sit back quietly and watch other people first. You can learn a lot just by being observant.
Some people cover their lack of confidence with a loud and exuberant personality. However, don’t let this shake your own sense of self-worth – loudness does not necessarily equal skilfulness.
Picture the Future
When faced with an unfamiliar task, some people instinctively react negatively. When you’re struggling to master a new skill, it’s all too easy to believe you will never succeed. However, practice makes perfect – envisaging yourself mastering the task in the future can provide you with a confidence boost.
The above ‘ujanja’ will help you to become more confident when facing new tasks. However, workplace confidence can also be derailed by other situations.
A proven way to build confidence is Thought Awareness – a technique often used during cognitive behavioural therapy.
The process is designed to tackle negative thinking at the root, and unfolds as follows:
- For a two-week period, keep a daily ‘stress diary’.
- Whenever a stressful situation arises, make a note of the details – along with your emotional response and thoughts.
- These observations must be totally honest – it can take a couple of days to get the hang of it.
Maintain this diary for a minimum of two weeks. Once you’ve completed your observations, take some time to go through the pages and look for patterns of repeated behaviour. People with low confidence tend to have a higher proportion of negative thoughts – often triggered by certain situations.
The key to thought awareness is to identify these negative thoughts and triggers, before using rational thinking to combat them and build confidence.
Keep your daily stress diary for another two weeks, noting down each time you feel stressed. However, rather than allowing your thought process to continue unchecked, battle your negativity with rational thinking.
As we saw above, several different situations commonly cause stress in the workplace:
- Tasks we have struggled with in the past.
- Unexpected disruptions.
- Unexpected criticism.
Rational thinking can be used in these situations as follows:
Tasks we have struggled with in the past.
The fear of repeating previous failures is a powerful force, and can prevent people from realising their true potential. If you find yourself dwelling on past mistakes, remember that you now have the benefit of experience on your side. Firmly remind yourself that one failed enterprise doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily fail in the future.
Unfortunately, we cannot control external influences. For some people, this lack of control can cause confidence to rapidly crumble away. If you fear the unknown, build your confidence back up with through thorough preparation. Decide how you will deal with unexpected issues in advance, and draw up an ‘emergency plan of action’ to fall back on.
Criticism can be difficult to hear – even when delivered in a constructive manner. For some people, a critical comment can completely destroy their self-confidence. If you’re due to have a discussion about your work, arm yourself with a record of your thought processes, and be prepared to talk through your decisions.
Dealing with Criticism
When you receive criticism you have a choice.
- Use it in a positive way to improve, or:
- In a negative way that can lower your self-esteem and cause stress and/or anger.
Focus on Yourself
Confidence is a flexible quality, and this article discusses some healthy ways to cultivate it. However, some people use unhealthy methods. This can be seen most clearly on social media where some people portray an exaggerated projection of their lives in order to make themselves feel better.
Remember – you will only achieve true self-confidence by focussing entirely on your own self-image and internal dialogue.
Trumpet your own successes
It’s OK to let people know when you get a win, at least in small doses. That’s not normally true with friends or spouses in daily life, because it sounds like bragging. Yet, you can build your own confidence by pointing out, in a matter-of-fact way, that you were the one who accomplished something for the company. It makes you more confident because you get into the habit of self-rewards and self-acknowledgement.
Tell people you will finish the task
Confidence often starts when you state your intentions. Let people know you will finish an assigned task at work–and then go ahead and finish the task. By voicing your goals to everyone, you gain confidence because you are holding yourself accountable. Speaking it out loud helps you build credibility with others in the office and gain more respect. Note that a confidence killer can also happen if you don’t finish the work.
Turn personal attacks into a change agent
It happens to everyone. Personal attacks are meant to push you down and make you lose confidence. Don’t let that happen. If you get attacked personally, dismiss any anger or resentment behind it and look for how you can change and grow. It works. If someone attacks you and says you need to speak up at meetings, accept the feedback. Speak more. The process of growing when you hear negative comments is what can build confidence.
Speak your mind
I’m not recommending you avoid having a filter for what you say at meetings and just chime in with whatever comes to your mind. Yet, a lack of confidence is often a bottleneck that keeps you from saying what you really think. Uncork that confidence blocker. By stating your view in a meeting, you are building confidence because at least you can see the reactions to your viewpoint and adjust as needed.
Personal training helps build confidence because it goes right to the source of the problem. You might feel ill-equipped at work and hesitant because you don’t have the proper training. Fortunately, that’s easy to correct. Find online courses in your field or go to a seminar and start growing in your capabilities to counteract any feelings of inadequacy.
Increase your knowledge
It might seem obvious, but you can also build confidence by learning more. Read more books, watch more TED talks, attend more seminars. It’s easy to go overboard, and spouting your knowledge too often can be a confidence killer when people who have greater knowledge on the subject start debating with you, but knowing what to do about a complex issue or problem can help you gain confidence. Confidence grows when you act on what you know.
Bounce the criticism
Here’s a technique to try when you face criticism that zaps your confidence. If you hear something negative that just isn’t true, before dwelling on it and letting it destroy what you believe about yourself, just reject it out of hand. Try thinking of something more positive and remind yourself about the skills you do have. The reason this works is because it’s the brain cycles you waste on something negative that tends to lower confidence.
People with confidence tend to smile more, but it’s a learned skill. If you walk around the office and greet others, smile first and ask about their day. The change in attitude about what is going on around the office builds your own confidence because you realize you need to have a better outlook–and that’s highly contagious. Confidence is reflected.
Walk with pep
No, really. This works. How you move around in the office can determine your mood. Shuffling down the hall to your next meeting creates a reaction with other workers. Add a little zing and energy, and you can gain more confidence when people notice you have the pep. It’s also self-perpetuating (ahem). The more bounce you have in your step, the more energy you generate physically and the more you will feel like getting to that meeting a little faster next time.
Find people who will boost your confidence
I’m convinced the best way to build confidence is to find people who know how to encourage you and build you up. The best example of this is my wife, who always seems to have a little compliment for how I’m dressed for the day or a project I’ve completed after my day is over. If you tend to hang out with people who criticize you too much, that’s going to kill your confidence. It might be time to find new friends.