Do you ever feel self-conscious at work? Or does it feel like it’s hard to feel confident when you’re starting a new job? If you answer “yes,” this one’s for you. 

Recently, I was given the feedback at my new-ish job that I needed to have and show more confidence. This is not the first time I’ve received this feedback. 

Pretty much everyone I’ve encountered has told me this. I’ve certainly received this feedback in every professional setting I’ve ever been in. 

And let me just lay this out there: being told to be more confident SUCKS. It is unhelpful. I don’t consider it constructive. When I hear “you need to be more confident” I interpret it as “you are not good enough, get better and show it. Prove yourself.” 

And the worst part? I thought I was pretty confident at my job up until that point. I was finally in a job in my field that I had been working so hard for. To hear this made me feel like I wasn’t being seen, that I wasn’t being understood.

I kept thinking “why? Why do I keep hearing this? What’s wrong with me? What am I not doing? Why haven’t I been able to fix it. What does confidence at work even look like?”

I’m determined to change this. I’m determined to grow. (I first typed “I’m determined to fix this.” But confidence nugget #1 and important reminder: I don’t have to fix me because I’m not broken. It’s just time to grow more.)

Having Confidence At Work: What It Means And How To Get There

First things first, let’s ask ourselves these two questions:

  • How do you portray confidence?
  • How do you see confidence in other people?

Language is so important here. The way we’re perceived by others is 100% about language — both physical body language and verbal language, and we may be giving off cues of doubt or insecurity without even realizing it. 

Think about these things, for example:

  1. How is your posture? When you read this did you sit up straighter? 
  2. Do you cross your arms when you are talking or listening? Arms crossed over our torsos immediately tells someone that you’re guarded or closed off. Try gently rolling your shoulders back and letting your arms by your side, showing that you’re open to communication. 
  3. Think about what you say when you speak to someone. Do you qualify your ideas with “Well, I think…” or “I’m sure this is not a great idea but…” or even just “um, well, like…” Language matters, people! 

But don’t worry, we’re all working on it. Confidence is not something that is solidly gained and kept. We have to keep striving for it, keep growing, keep practicing. 

I was talking to my friend about this, someone I admire greatly for her sense of calm and confidence, and she told me, “No, I’m not always confident. At all.” I was SHOCKED. I realized, we are all trying our best and figuring out ways to be more confident

Seven things you can do to grow your confidence:

1. Ask for measurable feedback.

“Be more confident” is not helpful feedback. Maybe you just gave a presentation or handed in a project and you can say, “was there anything I could do differently for this?”

Related: When (and Why) to Seek Feedback From Your Boss

2. Ask for clarity on the things you may be less sure of.

One thing I’ve noticed is that communication means different things to different people. Sometimes, I will receive a project and think I know what I’m doing, and realize I have to go back and ask more detailed in-depth questions. And QUESTIONS ARE OK! The less sure I am of what I’m doing, the less confident I am. Asking thoughtful questions shows your employer that you are taking your time, considering the project fully, and trying your best to knock it out of the park.

3. Daily affirmations. 

My friend taught me this one: “I am safe, I am loved, I can do hard things, I have help if I need it.” On my really hard days, I repeat it over and over and over — and I’ll add my own lines like, “I’m smart, I’m caring, I’m capable.”

Related: 8 Positive Affirmations to Speak to Yourself Daily

4. Focus on what you’re sure of.

If you need help finding your footing, focus on what you do know. “I’m a great organizer, I know how to search for the resources we need for this project, I know who runs the program we’re trying to emulate….” We all know things, and are all good at things, but with so much “expert this and expert that” it can be easy to get lost in the weeds and feel like we don’t know much.

5. Practice patience. 

Confidence won’t come over night. Knowledge doesn’t come over night. You may grow your confidence in one area and find you have to start all over in another. It’s ok. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to try.

Patience, patience, you’re growing and growth is not linear!

6. Listen more than you speak. 

I have this fear of saying dumb things in meetings, and I think it stems from “participation grades” in school, where you had to speak X amount of times per semester in order to get a participation grade. It didn’t matter what you said, you just had to say things. And I listened to a lot of random things as a result of it. But, you’re not getting participation grades! If you speak before you think, you’ll risk being known for the person who may be jumps into things too soon. But if you listen, and really listen, and not just listen to figure out what to say next, you might find a lot of answers or clues that will help you.

7. Practice sticking up for yourself.

I’m not good at sticking up for myself. For example, if someone says, “Hey can you please send me this file,” most likely I’d respond with, “yes, sorry…here you go.” Why am I apologizing?? In one instance, I had sent the file twice already and the person misplaced it on their desktop. Not my fault! I am learning to say, “yes, here is the file you asked for.” OR “Yes, I did send it on September 9th but I’m happy to send it again.”

Sometimes we have to acknowledge our own work even if it might sound boastful or snippy. If you’re polite, clear, but firm, you’ll come across confident and probably feel better about yourself. Saying “I’m Sorry” when it’s not necessary tends to make me feel like I’ve done something wrong, which is not needed! Women tend to apologize for things they don’t need to, either “sorry to bother you,” or “sorry but I have a question” and this subtle communication shows people you don’t value yourself or that they don’t have to value you. We don’t have time for that, friends!!

Related: 5 Words to Stop Saying to Be More Confident

We all have it in us to feel more confident, and as we work towards it, we will begin to show it. Actions speak louder than words, and I know I’ve used a lot of cliches today, but they’re cliches for a reason. We’re all working on this. Every single one of us.

From big head honchos of companies to babies learning to walk — we’re all growing and practicing and having faith in ourselves. So let’s show the world what we’ve got.

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