Successful people tend to have at least one thing in common: confidence.
If confidence isn’t already your strong point, it can be tough to figure out how to get some and apply it to your own life. Where do people find this mysterious elixir that lets people crush it, and let others know they’re crushing it? Unfortunately for us, there’s no magic involved in building confidence at work. But there is some good news: there are plenty of simple things you can do to boost your own confidence, and boost your career in the process.
According to The Muse, building confidence at work has three basic components:
- Comfort level in what you’re doing and what your goals are.
- Your understanding of what your strengths and talents already are, as well as your limitations.
- Your ability to trust your instincts (or ignore them), depending on the situation.
Broken down this way, this gives you a very basic attack plan for boosting your own confidence in your work, and setting yourself up for future success. Confidence is a unique skill in that there’s an art to it, sure, but also plenty of manageable, concrete things you can do to try to build your confidence.
Let’s look at some of the things you can do to raise that confidence factor.
1. Know your comfort zone.
Are you comfortable with your daily tasks at work? Do you feel secure at your company, with the parameters of your work? Once you’ve sat down to figure out how you fit into the bigger picture at work, and how everything works, you can let go a little and feel more relaxed about your role.
2. Make a list of things that would make you feel more comfortable at work.
Maybe it’s working with your boss to adjust your workload, or taking on new responsibilities that are more in line with your long term goals. Maybe it’s connecting more with coworkers so that you work better with them on projects. Or maybe it’s as simple as promising to take a lunch break every day, or clean off your desk before you leave in the evening so that things don’t feel chaotic when you come back in the morning. Whatever is on the list, it should include tasks that will make you feel happier and more in tune with your job.
3. Communicate more openly.
If you have concerns, vent them! If these are issues you feel comfortable discussing with your manager, great. If not, it’s totally fine to have a trusted confidante (at or outside of work) with whom you can talk about anxieties and frustrations. Don’t keep things bottled up, because then they fester and become longer-held resentments. Similarly, if you have issues with a coworker, don’t just sit on them. Discuss them in a rational, professional way before miscommunications pile on miscommunications, and everyone’s ticked off. Being open about things (and getting in the habit of doing it) can make you feel like you have more control over a situation, as well as what the next steps are.
4. Get outside feedback and help prioritizing.
Confident people know they can handle what’s on their plate. That’s not because they can magically handle everything, but because they know what’s important and what they can do. If you feel overwhelmed, work with your boss to figure out how to restructure your tasks and make sure your head is in the game for the most important ones.
5. Learn new skills.
One of the best ways to feel more confident is to go out and get more skills. Feel a little insecure about your tech know-how? Find online tutorials. Scared of presenting? Take an improv class. Anxiety and self-doubt often stem from being unsure about how to tackle new things. If you dive right in and discover that you have the skills to take on new things, it’ll start to bolster your general confidence.
6. Expand your network.
Nobody is an island, right? Make sure you’re adding to your network all the time. It’s like having a virtual posse behind you, and can make you feel less like you’re out there on the high wire all alone. Feeling supported is key to confidence. You can build your network by trying to find open social events in your field, or by using social media.
7. Engage experts in your field.
This is kind of like building your network, but adds the step of trying to start dialogues with people in your field who Know Their Stuff. With social media, it’s easier than ever to follow someone’s posts, then offer comments and ask questions accordingly. It may not be the most personal connection, but it gets you in the habit of dialoguing about your own experience while learning from others’.
8. Accept self-doubt.
Even the most confident people have self-doubts. The key is in not letting those define your decisions, or just ignoring them completely. Self-doubt is kind of a mental check on our instincts. When you feel them, think about whether the concern is valid or not, and what you can do to feel comfortable enough to push past those doubts.
9. Sit up straight.
This is a very physical thing you can do to start feeling more powerful and confident right away. Flash back to all those times your parent or a teacher told you to stop slouching. They weren’t doing it to be annoying—there are studies that show that good posture correlates strongly to confident thinking.
10. Get physical.
If you’ve got your head down working on something, it can start to feel like you’re in a bubble, with your own perspective swirling around and around. Taking a break to get up and walk around, do yoga for half an hour, etc. gives your brain some space, allowing you to come back and feel confident that you know what you need to do next.
11. Drop a few off-color words.
Of course, this one really depends on your audience—a meeting with colleagues and higher-ups is not the time to debut your new Swear Like a Pirate policy. But using strong words makes us feel strong and confident.
12. Try some power posing.
Body language is everything, according to social psychologist Amy Cuddy. Throwing a few power poses into your repertoire at work can make you feel more self-assured. You can channel your inner superhero while you stand with hands on hips, lean forward with hands flat on a desk or table, or sit back with your hands behind your head. These poses get you into an ownership mindset where you feel strong and self-assured.
13. Use some daily affirmations.
Okay, so gazing into the mirror and whispering sweet nothings to yourself sounds a little weird. I get it. But having a quick set of positive things that you say to yourself can help you feel more confident as you get ready to go about your day. Make statements like, “I WILL achieve _____ today,” or “I am so ready for this” as you’re getting ready for work.
14. Envision success.
Vision boards may not be everyone’s cup of tea—the arts and crafts part is optional. But having a clear image in your head of what your success looks like (on a project, in a year on the job, or whatever parameters you want to use) can make you feel more self-assured on your path to get there.
15. Work on your physical appearance and confidence.
You know the old cliché “dress for success”? Well, it’s a pretty true cliché. Wear clothes that make you feel put-together and ready for the world. (Work appropriate ones, of course.) If that means getting up ten minutes earlier so that you have time to pick an outfit that makes you feel strong and attractive, do it! Personally, I’m guilty of defaulting to “what’s clean and readily available as I scramble to get ready?” and I always feel more ready to take on the world if I spend a little more time and wear what I want, rather than what’s easy.
16. Be selective about who you spend time with.
Your time is valuable, so you shouldn’t spend it with people who make you feel bad, or who are (quite frankly) a waste of time.
17. Stop putting everyone and everything else first.
Your career is the most important one (and mine is for me, and Aunt Sally’s is for her.) Whenever you make decisions, it’s fine to evaluate your needs and priorities above others.
18. Live in the present.
It’s so easy to get caught up in what happened back then, or what’s likely to happen in the future. Focusing on other times let’s self-doubt creep in about what you’re doing now. Try to stay focused on what’s directly in front of you.
19. Speak your mind.
This doesn’t mean brutal honesty all the time (as fun as it would be to remove all filters sometimes), but rather speaking up when you have something to contribute. Whether it’s in a meeting or a social occasion, don’t wait for the perfect moment to speak up—that moment may never come. Make your voice heard, even if you’re expressing an unpopular or dissenting opinion.
20. Forgive yourself.
The most important one is this: forgive yourself for mistakes, and move on. Getting caught up in a cycle where you blame yourself, and let that cause anxiety about how to act in the future is not a healthy place to be. Confident people know that stuff happens, and you learn from it and move on to the next thing. If it’s your fault, acknowledge that you’ll learn from it and do better next time, and let it go.
All of these are things that you can start phasing in to your daily routines. There’s no need to overhaul your way of seeing the world—just adding in some practices that will help you get a stronger sense of yourself and your goals. That’s really the heart of confidence—knowing where you want to go, and the strengths you have in trying to get there.
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