If you’re interested in boosting self-confidence, you’re not alone!
The question of how to increase your self-confidence at work is one of the most popular subjects discussed with our leadership coaching clients. And I think that’s because it has such an impact on our everyday experiences as professionals and leaders.
Lower confidence can cause you to BE...
- Less present in the moment
- A poor listener
- More likely to do low quality work
- Reserved in meetings and not speak up
- More risk averse
- Less effective at presenting and public speaking
Lower confidence can cause you to FEEL...
- Doubtful in decision making
- Stressed and anxious
- Less able to show your authentic personality and style
- Less open and approachable to others
- Less happy and fulfilled
- More critical and negative
Whew! Those aren’t fun. How many of these ring true for you? No wonder we want to figure out how to tackle this confidence thing!
In order to increase your self-confidence, I think it’s important to first look at where you’ve been trying to draw confidence from. These foundations of confidence are below-the-surface mindsets, and you may not even be conscious of them.
Where do we go wrong in trying to boost our self-confidence?
In working with clients who are struggling with self-confidence at work, I’ve noticed that they’ve typically been basing confidence on one or more of the following:
- Possessing Expert-Level Knowledge
- Having Lots of Experience
- Being the Best, or Better than Others
- Getting Praise from Others, While Avoiding Criticism
- Continually Succeeding, While Avoiding Failure
- Producing Increasing Amounts of Work and Results
- Eliminating Uncertainty and Controlling Outcomes
- Looking Physically Polished, Without Blemish
What’s the problem with these sources of confidence? They’re not always attainable, at least not in a sustainable fashion. We might experience some of these at certain points in our career. But at other points in the course of real life, these “foundations” will crack, and your confidence will follow suit.
This happened to me in a very real way when I was laid-off from what had been a successful 11-year career with an organization while at the same time navigating a divorce on the home front. Two of the biggest things that had given me a sense of success and gotten me external validation were now all-of-the-sudden shifting. And my confidence suffered. It was tough!
So, what have I learned about stronger sources of confidence?
Check-out the below list of strategies and mindsets that have been helpful for my clients in increasing self-confidence. Keep in mind — growth in confidence doesn’t come from quick-fix strategies that work overnight. It’s about engaging in a process over time. But know that it’s definitely possible. I’ve witnesses powerful changes in myself and others!
Here are 11 ways you can increase your self-confidence at work:
Connect with Purpose.
When you’re in touch with a deeper “why” behind your work, you become focused on something bigger than yourself. And when this purpose feels important and motivating, you’ll be more likely to take risks, push through challenges, and put yourself out there confidently to achieve it. Do you know your "why"? If not, take the time to answer that question, maybe even journal about it.
Know Your Values.
Having a clear sense of what defines you at the core will help reduce the tendency to define yourself based on external factors or opinions. Knowing your top 5-7 values will not only boost your sense of self but can help inform decision making. You can do a Google search for values clarification exercises or for a list of values to choose from.
Clarify Your Strengths.
High-achieving types tend to focus on their faults while downplaying their talents and strengths. Taking some time to define your biggest strengths will balance-out your view of self. There are lots of strengths assessments and exercises out there that can help (StrengthsFinder is a good and affordable one). You can also ask your friends, family, and colleagues to share some feedback with you about the strengths they see and appreciate.
View What You Do as Service.
Whenever I work with clients on public speaking, we explore an important perspective shift – that speaking can be more about helping other people rather than trying to be the expert or look good. When our emphasis is placed on serving others, we can tap into a grounded humility rather than needing to puff-up our own ego (which is a fragile and precarious starting point for maintaining confidence).
Value Contributing Over Being the Best.
We’ve all played the comparison game, sizing ourselves up against others. It’s brutal. I suppose this way of thinking has come from a number of societal, cultural, and familial influences. But it doesn’t serve us very well since most of the time we can point to someone else who’s more __(fill in the blank)___ than ourselves. Instead, it’s possible to orient our sense of value around what we’re contributing and how we’re doing that in our own unique way.
Focus on Learning Rather than Producing.
Our American culture puts an emphasis on production and results. Do more, more, more…and do it cheaper. But what about those times a project or experiment doesn’t get the results we wanted? Was it worthless? Probably not. A learning mindset embraces the process more than the destination. So even when we don’t get the best results, we can remain confident in what we’ve learned.
There’s a lie we believe about people we view as really successful – that they got there quickly and without mistakes. When we believe this myth, our confidence takes a hit every time we stumble. But guess what? Talk to anyone who’s ever achieved something or innovated in anything, and they’ll tell you mistakes were a critical part of the journey. Without the mistakes, they wouldn’t have arrived at the successes.
Take on a Challenge, Stretch Yourself.
Weaker confidence will cause you to play small, to only engage in low-risk activities. This is because you’re likely imagining the worst-case outcome of taking a risk. So, if you can consciously stretch yourself out of your comfort zone, even in small ways at first, you’ll start to see that the results of bolder actions are typically more positive than negative. And the new freedom and momentum generated will fuel confidence.
Lessen Your Inner Critic.
We all have an inner monologue. For lots of us, it’s not such a kind voice. Although the inner critic may have good intentions to protect us, it does more sabotaging than helping. It says things like “you can’t do that,” “they’ll find out you really don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “you’re going to say something stupid.” When we really stop to look at these messages, it’s pretty clear they’re whacked out! The good news is that you can learn to catch that voice, turn down its volume, and connect with more moderate and true perspectives.
Know Whose Praise or Criticism Really Matters.
Take it from a long-time people-pleaser – you can’t make everyone happy, and not everyone will like you. As hard as it is to accept that, it’s liberating if and when we can. Start by deciding on a small group of people whose praise or criticism really matters to you. Maybe that’s a mix of your significant other, best friend, a close work colleague or boss, and a mentor. Everything coming from outside of that group can be held more loosely – it’s information you can decide to take or leave.
Lean Into "Your Fam".
As humans, we all desire to be fully seen, accepted, and loved. And when we experience that, it’s a major confidence boost. So lean into the person or people in your life with whom you can share this level of connectedness, and make sure you’re reciprocating. This might be your actual family, or "your fam" of core friends and colleagues. These core relationships provide a real foundation for confidence and allow us to be less attached to the approval of others. Also, if you’re a spiritual person like I am, connecting with a higher power can be another crucial source of deeper groundedness and validation.