Ever been nervous about an interview, over-analysing hypothetical responses to hypothetical questions, and then someone casually says, “Just be confident, you’ll be fine.” Oh, that dreaded C-word.
For those of us who struggle with it, we know it’s not as simple as a Princess Diaries makeover. Sometimes it can feel like the workplace is a dog-eat-dog world, where your weaknesses are magnified for all to see. Thankfully, there are people who’ve made it to the other side of this Great Divide. Here are 6 things you can do to cultivate your confidence, slowly but surely.
Foster a positive work environment
Surround yourself with positivity. Before you scoff at that, no one’s asking you to be a perpetual ray of sunshine. Positivity can also just be resilience. Be the kind of person that bounces back easily and doesn’t take themselves too seriously.
It also means getting rid of nasty, passive-aggressive colleagues and yes, even that negative voice in your head. That’s the worst part. If you have a case of Imposter Syndrome that’s hard to shake off, it will pound your confidence to a pulp. Instead, try to question every negative thought that pops into your traitorous brain. “You’re not good enough.” Okay, but why do you think that? You’ll realise soon enough that the mean voice has no evidence to back its claims up. And besides, would you be friends with someone who talks to you the way you talk to yourself?
While cultivating confidence, also do the work to back it up. You have to constantly try to improve, otherwise, your confidence is simply arrogance. Mindy Kaling says it best in her guide to confidence.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone, even if it means taking initiative for things that scare you senseless or asking your boss for assignments that seem too challenging. Of course, don’t bite off more than you can chew but how else are you going to take stock of your competence and skills in the workplace if you don’t get a chance to apply them?
You can also devote some time every week to picking up a new skill, or reading articles that keep you up-to-date with the changing demands of the workplace.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Hard work and positivity are great and all, but you have to play it smartly too. Take cheesy online tests, or simply spend time thinking about what comes naturally to you, and what you hate doing or could do better.
Once you’ve figured out your strengths, capitalise on them. And once you’ve identified your problem areas, work on them. After all, your natural talents can only take you so far.
Celebrate your successes (and your failures)
Dwelling on your failures is so passé. Instead, why not celebrate every corner you turn and every litmus test you pass? We all need some confidence boosters at work. Whether it’s a list of your greatest achievements or that one Taylor Swift song that never fails to psych you up.
Or take a leaf out of this Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul story by Judith Towse-Roberts and celebrate your failures. After all, “you learn more from your failures than your successes” according to Roberts’ grandma.
Basically, celebrate everything. Life’s lessons are all valuable in their own way. And remember, never take yourself too seriously.
A lot of times, our fear is hinged on the fact that we have no idea what’s going on. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Even if you’re always in doubt. It’s much better than doing everything wrong, just because you didn’t want to ask a “stupid question”. The best teachers will tell you, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”
This also means, always ask for feedback. That might be a mortifying prospect, but the best case scenario is that you get praised for your work, and the worst case is that you know exactly where you went wrong. It’s a win-win!
Look the part
Fake it till you make it, is not just another cliché. Keep track of how you come across, from body language and how you speak, to how you dress at work. But don’t go to the other extreme and wear things that make you uncomfortable or try to impress people with the knowledge you clearly don’t have. Just a touch of that cute lip gloss or your favourite jacket goes a long way. Your confidence is at its highest when you’re comfortable. When you feel good about yourself, you’ll automatically feel relaxed and ready to take on the world.