If you Google – How do I improve my confidence at work? There are 621,000,000 results made available to you in 0.69 secs – in a year, that averages out to 1.75 million searches per day.
If you made one of those searches – were you looking for help with a specific event or situation at work or help with a more general lack of confidence in your abilities at work?
Whether you are facing a job interview, delivering a presentation, speaking at a public event, pitching for work, or negotiating a pay rise, there are strategies you can apply to boost your confidence.
Research and prepare with as much practice as possible in the available time. And here, it could help to buddy up with someone you trust to give you honest and constructive feedback.
SWOT analysis is brilliant for digging deep into a specific situation. You can read more here to remind yourself of your strengths and how you might use them to exploit opportunities and mitigate your weaknesses or challenges.
Resource: Swot Analysis in chalenging times
Start a journal where you can acknowledge and own the successes you have undoubtedly had. Develop the habit of asking yourself – how did I surprise myself this month? What did I learn? How did I challenge myself, and what am I proud of this month? And then allow yourself to sit with your answers and own them it.
Create a picture of your success. What are you wearing? What are you doing that is contributing to your success? What do you notice about yourself? Inhabit and become comfortable with who you are in that situation. Take and own the space you need.
Can be helpful to remind yourself that ‘you’ve got this.’ The following links can get you started if you need suggestions for affirmations you can adopt and how they can help build your confidence.
Resource: Affirmations for Anxiety
Resource: Improving confidence with self-affirmations
Learn to live with the discomfort
You may never feel 100% comfortable with a specific situation, but if you have done your homework – prepared, practised, and sought feedback where possible. You can move forward knowing you have done as much as possible and have another opportunity to learn. Accepting a degree of discomfort might make all the difference – sometimes, we can focus more on this than the task itself. And as a colleague told me long ago, ‘Janice, try to relax and enjoy.’
Resource: Black Box Systems
Listen to your self-talk
It is also worth noticing what you are saying to yourself and how harshly you are judging yourself. What is your inner critic saying to you, and what can you do about it? And here, Sadia Salem has provided a comprehensive guide on how to stop battling your inner critic. I love that she recognises the value of our ‘inner critic’ but that it is not the only voice to which we can listen.
Resource: Battling Your Inner Critic
And realise that you are not alone, as Bernard Marr points out in his article about the five fears that hold people back at work:
Resource: Top 5 Fears that hold people back.
- Fear of Public Speaking
- Fear of Failure
- Fear of Success
- Fear of Making Decisions
- Fear of Change
Which of the above resonates with you? He also considers how we might limit ourselves if we choose not to tackle these fears alongside suggestions for managing them.
The fear of success that I have seen with clients over the years reminds me of the lovely quote by Erin Hanson:
What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?
I am also a huge fan of Susan Jeffers’s ‘Feel the Fear and do it anyway,’ an oldie but still hugely relevant. We can’t wait to feel completely comfortable; we must have faith in ourselves and take that first step.
But for those with a more general lack of self-belief, we may need to consider that it’s not just about self-confidence.
In his book, The Resiliency Advantage (2005), Siebert writes that the three ‘Self’s’ described below are at the core of our ability to bounce back from life’s setbacks:
- Self-confidence – our belief in our ability to take effective actions, our belief in how well we do things
- Self-esteem – the feelings we develop about ourselves. Our emotional opinion of ourselves
- Self-concept– the thoughts we develop about ourselves and who we (think) we are.
Today, I am deeply thankful for all the different experiences that have shaped me, and through the years, I have become more determined to ‘Thrive and Flourish,’ come what may.
Siebert describes this as, ‘discovering your talent for serendipity, having the ability to turn misfortune to good fortune.’ Others like Jeffers and Frankl describe it as being able to truly ‘dance with life.’
The image I have of this is based on a quote by Thomas F. Crum:
‘In an uncertain world, instead of seeing the rug being pulled from under us, we learn to dance on a shifting carpet.’
We can be resilient in learning to dance on our carpet, but when we thrive, perhaps we can also ‘fly’ with it – this is my hope for you.
But to do this, we must strengthen and nourish our self-esteem, self-concept, and self-confidence. Intertwined, like pieces of thread, the stronger each self, the stronger the thread and hence the stronger and more resilient your ‘fabric‘.
I’m also intrigued that Siebert links our sense of self to the three major nervous systems within our bodies:
- Somatic – controls our physical actions and is the source of our self-confidence.
- Autonomic – governs our feelings and is the source of our self-esteem.
- Central – includes our brains and is the source of our verbal, conceptual thinking, and Self-concept.
So how do we go about ‘nourishing’ and strengthening all three? My initial thoughts on this are:
We seem as a society to place more emphasis on self-confidence, which may be considered the ‘easiest’ to do something about.
There might be a stronger link between self-concept and self-confidence, and changing your view of who you think you are (self-concept) might make it easier to change your belief in your abilities (self-confidence).
If our self-esteem is rooted in childhood experiences, it will likely be more challenging to ‘rebuild’ or nourish if needed. If you have ‘grown up’ never quite feeling lovable, worthy of respect and care, you may need to look at longer-term solutions around counselling or therapy.
We may all have an ‘Achilles heel’ – but that doesn’t mean we can’t get our voices out there. If you can’t take the first step, try moving your toes in the right direction.
Until next time
Frankl, V. (2004): Man’s Search for Meaning; Rider: an imprint of Ebury Press, Random House: London
Jeffers, S. (2005): End the Struggle and Dance with Life; Hodder Mobius: London
Siebert, PhD, A. (2005): The Resiliency Advantage; Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure and Bounce Back from Setbacks; Berrett-Koehler Publishers: San Francisco
Written by Janice Taylor
Janice Taylor, PGDip, MSc, BSc (Hons), is a Brighton-based Career Coach with a passion for promoting resilience in others. Her business Blue Sky Career Consulting has existed since February 2000.
Janice has never regretted her decision to set up her own business. She strongly values the ability of individuals to take ownership of their working lives and careers; with an acute awareness of her resilience, Janice has developed some expertise in helping people to maintain energy and focus during/through challenging times.
Outside work, Janice’s interests include playing the piano and writing a collection of stories.
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