If you lack confidence at work, take solace in the fact that you are not alone. Low confidence in the workplace is more common than you might think. Even the most confident and efficient person in your office might secretly be battling low confidence and have opted for a fake it till you make it approach.
Low confidence is something everybody struggles with at some point or another. It might appear in the form of niggling self-doubt or intrusive thoughts that keep you awake at night. You may feel inexperienced, or like you’re not doing your best at work. It’s awful when you feel like you are working hard but not achieving anything.
Here are some ways to boost your confidence at work:
1. Recognise imposter syndrome and counter it
Imposter syndrome is surprisingly common. If there’s a little voice in your head telling you your rubbish at your job and you don’t deserve it, you probably have imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome happens even though your boss has just congratulated you on a job well done, and you just won that industry award. It happens even when you should be feeling your best.
Imposter syndrome is the self-doubt that leaves you questioning how good you are at your job. It might keep you awake at night, worrying that you’re going to lose your job. Do not listen to that poisonous voice in your head. Don’t let it drag you down.
You are a capable and efficient worker. Your boss is lucky to have you, and your colleagues are glad to have you on the team. You are a hard worker, and you’re doing a good job. Keep a mental list of your achievements to focus on whenever you need to silence your inner critic. Whenever somebody pays you a compliment or thanks you for a job well done, write it down and keep it in a safe place.
2. Keep a ta-da list
You probably use a to-do list to keep track of tasks you need to do. One problem with to-do lists is that they only ever grow bigger and more intimidating. It can be disheartening to work hard all day only to look down at a full to-do list at home time. Realistically, you probably can’t get rid of the to-do list altogether. Now is not the time to be missing deadlines and forgetting about tasks, so you’ll need to keep a to-do list.
A ta-da list is a list of jobs you have completed. A ta-da list is a mini-celebration and track record of everything you have achieved. It’s a way of keeping track of how you spend your time at work. On those days when you feel like you’ve been chasing your tail, seeing a list of all you’ve achieved can lift your mood and remind you of your achievements.
3. Celebrate your wins
Make a big deal out of your work achievements. If you give an excellent presentation, get that delivery out on time and manage to keep a difficult client happy against all the odds, take a moment to celebrate a job well done. We’re so busy at work that we often rush from one task to the next without stopping to reflect on how we’ve done. Make it a habit that you will celebrate each work win. Keep a note of every time you feel good about yourself at work. This list will be useful to look back on next time imposter syndrome comes calling.
4. Speak up in meetings
Fake it till you make it, it’s cliche, but it works. You might not ooze confidence out of every pore, but forcing yourself to speak up in meetings will do wonders for your self-confidence. It’s not always easy to know what to say, especially if you’re worried about looking like a fool.
The important thing here is to say something; it doesn’t have to be perfect. Join in with the discussions and put your views forwards. It doesn’t matter if you get things wrong or make mistakes – every single person in the world gets things wrong and makes mistakes. Speaking up will help you to feel more involved in work, and this will help to build your confidence.
It might feel like a big deal to speak up in a meeting, but after a couple of months, it will be second nature and the butterflies in your tummy will have gone.
5. Be realistic about your weaknesses and strive to improve them
You’re not perfect; nobody is. You can be amazing at your job and still have areas that require improvement. You probably know what they are, but if not, ask your boss in your next one-to-one. Find out where they would like you to improve and see if they have any suggestions about what you could do better.
If that sounds intimidating, you might be surprised at the relief you feel once you’ve done it. Having a clear idea of where you can improve is much better than continually second-guessing yourself. Whatever your weaknesses are, you can work to improve them. There’s nothing wrong with having weaknesses; even top CEOs know what their limitations are.
6. Be direct
We all want to be liked and accepted by our peers. We want those around us to have a favourable impression of us. We are all guilty of people-pleasing from time-to-time. It means we start our emails with the word “sorry” and regularly talk ourselves down. Instead of telling colleagues that we need things, we tentatively ask whether they might be able to help us.
This is something you can stop doing today, though it will take time for it to become second nature. Before clicking send on an email, quickly proofread it and get rid of any apologies that don’t need to be there.
This little tweak to how you interact with colleagues could help you to feel confident. If you’re asking for something to be done, make sure you are acting confidently and directly instead of asking their permission. By being direct, you will not only feel more confident, but you will seem more confident to your coworkers.
7. Know when to say no
If you are missing deadlines and working late every night, it’s no wonder you feel like you’re not doing a good job. While it’s easy to blame yourself for these things, if you have an unrealistic workload, then you’re never going to get it all done.
If you know you have an excessive amount of work, it’s important to address this with your line manager. And, even more importantly, you need to learn how to say no to additional work. If people are always lumping new tasks on you, you need to figure out how to say no. Turning down new work will help you to manage your existing workload more efficiently, and this, in turn, will increase your confidence.
Saying no may not come naturally, but with practice, you’ll get it down to a fine art. Next time somebody asks you to do something you don’t have time for, politely tell them you’re too busy to help out at the moment. If it’s your boss and you’re worried about saying no, tell them you have a full to-do list and ask them for help deciding which task to drop. This will help them to understand how much you are already working on, which they may not know.