Confidence · Self Improvement

How to gain confidence at work

“Confidence doesn’t come when you have all the answers. But it comes when you are ready to face all the questions.”

I strive to be a confident woman at work. I yearn for the day I can walk into the office with the utmost trust and determination within myself to accomplish whatever is in front of me. Unfortunately though,  I constantly find myself filled with self-doubt.

Despite having a background and education in my field and X years of experience, I question and doubt my own abilities, the ones which I worked hard for years to achieve. I find my bosses and coworkers intimidating, new projects and opportunities frightening and self-doubt continuously growing. This doubt is responsible for many other insecurities: lack of overall confidence, believing someone else may be better qualified, forgoing new opportunities and assuming all my accomplishments are purely by luck.

Lack of overall confidence:

Belittling yourself at work can cause an overall feeling of inadequacy. Doubt is contagious: once you start believing that you’re incapable of accomplishing something, others will too. Confidence is silent, insecurities are loud. If others doubt your capabilities,  how will they trust you for taking on new projects, for example, or promoting you to a better position? Try harder to be confident (ask questions if you’re unsure, trust your intuition, take online courses for more knowledge in your field, be the best that you can be), believe in yourself, pursue new ideas you’ve never tried before and put yourself out there. You may fail once, twice or even multiple times, but eventually the experience itself will help you learn and grow into a confident human being.

Others can do it better:

Scenario: It’s Monday morning and you’re called into a meeting with your team of six other specialists, all in the same position as you are. Your boss announces the start of a new project which can potentially help the company grow significantly, if conducted properly. She clearly states the project isn’t similar to anything the company has done before so there will be several new factors and learning involved. It is also a high-risk project but the reward will be worth it. She then asks for one person in your team to take the lead on it. Do you raise your hand?

If you didn’t immediately answer yes, you’re not alone. Though we have the background and skill-set, the idea of an entire new project relying on our leadership to succeed is intimidating. The difference between a confident person and an insecure person is that the confident person is unafraid. They don’t find this scenario intimidating or shy away from the pressure, bur rather they view it as a challenge to overcome or a puzzle to solve. Confident people take risks, whether they’re the most qualified of the group or not, because they know that with enough determination, learning, and extra hours they will accomplish anything they put their mind to. So I encourage you, the next time an opportunities rises, raise your hand and be bold because I truly believe if determined enough, you can accomplish anything. Don’t forgo potentially career-changing opportunities just because you didn’t trust yourself enough.

Missed opportunities:

It’s been a year or two in the company and you have worked extremely hard every day, learning, implementing new strategies, increasing sales, accomplishing goals and overall going above and beyond the basic requirements of your position. At this point you believe it may be a good time to ask for a promotion. But, doubt consumes you. If you’re anything like me, you probably think over a hundred different scenarios of what your boss may possibly say to you. You run through all the “what ifs” such as her laughing in your face while reading your well-though-out and extremely-descriptive promotion letter, or telling you how inadequate you are or even firing you! You know that won’t happen, but even that .01% chance is enough to fill you with doubt and drain your confidence.

But that shouldn’t stop you!

You don’t want that day to come where due to your lack of confidence, you missed asking for a well-deserved promotion or a raise. This inner struggle of “am I really qualified for this?”, sometimes called the impostor syndrome, can be the reason why you stay where you are or move up career-wise. Confidence is what gives us the courage to act on these scary, yet appropriate and necessary actions. Believe in yourself, for you are where you are purely by your own mind and actions.

Maybe your boss won’t give you a promotion at this time, but just maybe she will. Remember:

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

Luck, not skill:

So far what I feel I’ve accomplished, career-wise: graduated from a good university, joined a non-profit, worked in my desired field and learned new skills. Though I am aware these are milestones I should be very proud of, I can’t help but think a lot of it was due to pure luck: luckily I got into UC Davis, by chance I came across Child Rights & You (CRY), somehow I got into a field I enjoy (and maybe there was no one else that applied for my position at work) and miraculously I learned the skills necessary to succeed in the desired field. Why, even after all these achievements, do I devalue myself?

What I’ve learned is giving myself credit is crucial. I took the initiative to go to school. I drove myself to join CRY and make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children. I pursued my field of choice. I took the appropriate courses and taught myself the skills necessary to succeed in the field. These daily reminders to myself help me improve my confidence at my workplace and the more confident and comfortable I am in my own skin, the more risks I’ll take, the more opportunities will arise and the more I’ll advance in my career.

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. – Michael Josephson

So as a practice, whatever you achieve in a day, whether it be small or big, write it down as the day goes on and review it at the end of the day. This could be anything from: I finished a task earlier than anticipated or I started being nicer to myself at work to I accepted constructive criticism without taking it personally or I completed a quarterly goal. It’s these daily accomplishments and reminders that will boost your confidence at work and help you move forward in your career.

Be proud of who you are, you made it this far!

How to gain confidence at work


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4 thoughts on “How to gain confidence at work

  1. Well-written. Confidence is a tricky one. You have to have confidence to be confident! It is very cyclical, and there are ones who just do it naturally, and for others it has to be learned. This comes from acting confident even if you are not confident. Like – stand tall, groom well, work out, clean up your desk, clean your calendar, get organized, focus on finishing tasks before starting new ones, be on time, congratulate yourself, etc. These are simple behaviors, that start to build it up, and goes a long way in making you feel accomplished. And that lets you set your sights on the bigger tasks, and goals, and knock them down, one by one. There are probably thousands of lists of what successful, confident, CEOs, or name your title for confident & successful people, do. You will see a common theme in all these.

    Also, it is very important to use failures as learning opportunities. It takes a lot of energy to do that, especially if the failure affects you in a tangible way – like being passed up for a promotion. Brood – but not for long – and then pick up and see what you learned from it. Make a conscious effort to list down things that you would do differently next time if you did this task – even if it is unlikely that you would do it again.

    Always willing to learn and try new things is another way where you keep growing. Trying something new in areas like food, weekend activities, that are smaller, gives you the confidence to take on things that are probably not in your comfort zone, elsewhere. It might seem trivial, but it is the mindset that you start changing within you towards new and unknown things. Because you inherently build up the ‘I have done this and it was not as bad as I thought’ or ‘it sucked, but i survived’, mentality that makes you open to taking that leap when a new assignment presents itself in areas that you are not very familiar with.

    This also has the added benefit of now you having lots of stories to tell, that helps build a good rapport with your friends and colleagues. It is always good to have them rooting for you!

    As much as attitude affects behavior, there is research that shows behavior affects attitude. And that seems like a great opportunity right there to bring up about tangible ways of personal development.

    1. Great insight, Ed! You have to act the part to be the part!

      I especially love your take on trying something new outside of work and how that mindset will then open you up to other experiences that once seemed scary and intimidating.

      I may write a follow-up post on all this. 🙂

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