Confidence at work
Most of us will spend over 95,000 hours of our life at work, so it’s depressing that so many of us feel under-confident in the workplace. You may feel under-confident about the way you’re performing, or it may be that your colleagues or boss make you feel nervous and uncertain.
Whatever it is, there are steps that you can take to raise your confidence in the workplace and enhance your self-esteem and enjoyment of your work. Once you do this you’ll begin doing a better job, and more importantly, enjoying your work, as a result.
Work, like life, is about striking a balance. Among the most crucial areas in your work life are your performance, how in control you feel, your communication skills and your future. Assessing which aspect of your confidence needs a boost means looking at how satisfied you are (or aren’t) in these areas.
Do I know what my strengths are? Am I stepping up to the mark? Am I standing out?
Don’t forget that your performance is all that others know about you. They won’t know about how nervous you were writing the proposal or presenting your argument, they’ll just see the outcomes. It’s only what colleagues see or hear from you that affects their judgement of you, not how you feel creating it.
You’ll never know what others are thinking, but you can change the way you feel about your performance itself. You can start by thinking about your strengths and what it is that you do particularly well. Try writing down a list of all your strengths. Since you’re the only one who will see this, there’s no need to be modest, especially as they’re probably the reason you got the job in the first place. Next, make a list of all the strengths you would need to have in order for you to feel more confident. Finally, write down the steps that you can take to gain some of the strengths you need, and at the same time think about whether you really need those strengths or not.
Do I feel overwhelmed by tasks? Can I think clearly? Am I in control of my feelings? Do my problems affect my life outside work?
It’s very important for your confidence that you feel in control of the role you occupy, otherwise you can start feeling a victim, blaming others and generally feeling depressed. You want to feel that you can make things happen. If you’re overwhelmed by everything that’s going on try these few simple steps:
- Prioritise. Every day set yourself three goals for the day (no more). Make two for work and one for home and complete them.
- Tidy your desk – or anything else that needs tidying.
- Say ‘No’ to something you’ve always said ‘Yes’ to and then regretted it.
- Turn off email. Just look at it first thing in the morning, after lunch, and at the end of the day.
- Start one thing you’ve been procrastinating on.
- Leave space in your diary between meetings to tackle things you want to do. Being too busy can make you feel more out of control than ever.
- Once a week go to bed early and turn out your light before 10:30pm so you’re not tired.
Do I feel heard? Do I find it difficult to express myself?
Communication is a two-way process. In order to feel confident you want to know you’re communicating effectively and you also want to feel confident that others are talking to you because they know you can listen. Opening lines of communication is key to improving self-confidence. If you see work as an environment where you can get clear guidelines on tasks and talk openly about your role, your confidence will soar.
You can let others know that you’re listening by: looking at them as they speak; waiting until they have finished speaking before you say anything; asking relevant questions to clarify anything you haven’t understood or want to know; and gently summarising what they have said after they’ve finished.
If you’re not feeling heard, ask yourself: how can I make my body language more engaging? How can I feel more confident about what I talk about? How can I communicate confidence even if I don’t yet feel it? What can I do to get others more engaged (ask them questions, compliment them, etc)?
What do I want next? Do I have a career plan? Do I need more skills? How can I think bigger?
Knowing what you want for the future can make you feel confident. It gives you a goal to plan and focus on and it gives you clarity and motivation. One way of knowing what you want is to make a list of all the things you’ve always enjoyed doing – from a child to now. There may not be many things on your list, but if you can create a future that incorporates them all – either as part of your career or as a hobby, you’ll be set for happiness.
Rather than feeling daunted about your confidence or your future, why not find someone (in or outside of work) who excels where you feel you could improve and ask if they’ll be your mentor? Start taking on new challenges in areas that interest you and plan ahead in order to work out where it is you want your career to go. Incorporate as many things into your life that you enjoy, and when creating your future career path remember to stay flexible, because the forks in the road aren’t diversions – they’re opportunities.
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