21 Tested Ways To Build Your Confidence At Work
Confidence is one of the greatest challenges many women face in the creation of a career that they love. It may not always be spoken about. We may not even attribute the issue we are facing at work to a confidence issue. But when you start scratching below the surface even a little, there it is. Buried in our inner narrative, masked behind the stories we tell ourselves, tied up with our ego and wrapped nicely inside our never-ending imposter syndrome, it’s there.
Confidence issues can show up in so many ways and many of us have never been taught the tools and strategies that truly make a difference. We can also be running so fast on the treadmill of everyday life that we often don’t even realise that those stories going around and around in our heads are completely controllable, and don’t need to stop us from taking the action we want to take.
In this detailed article, we share with you the tools and strategies that work, and that have been proven by thousands of women inside our program. Keep this on hand to refer to whenever you need either a quick confidence boost, or more profound shift in your confidence levels.
Here are 21 trusted ways that you can build your confidence at work.
1. TAKE STOCK OF YOUR ACHIEVEMENTS
Often when we lack confidence we have forgotten about our achievements, the great things we have accomplished, and skills we have developed that make us who we are. Our brains are wired for negativity, meaning that we have a bias to focus on the problems in our lives and what can go wrong. This is great when we need to run away from danger, like that bear in the woods, but not so helpful when we are about to give a major presentation to our boss.
When you feel less than confident about your abilities, take some time to write down a list of your recent wins, things you have done that you are really proud of, or that other people have commented on. It could be anything, from the dinner party you hosted on Saturday night, to finishing your post graduate degree. It is also helpful to write down a list of your skills so that you can reflect on them next time you feel that wave of negativity crashing down on you.
2. KEEP A POSITIVE FEEDBACK FILE
A great way to consistently take stock of your achievements and wins is to keep a positive feedback file. As we’ve already mentioned, you have an inbuilt negativity bias which means that you can miss the positive wins and compliments you’re receiving because your brain doesn’t retain them as easily. Neuroscientists describe it in this helpful way - the brain and negativity is like velcro, the negativity sticks. Whereas the brain and positivity is like teflon, it slides right off. This is why you need to be proactive about capturing and retaining the positive moments in your life - you need to help your brain out a little.
When it comes to building confidence at work, a great way to do this is to keep a positive feedback file. Every time you receive a positive email about great work you’ve done, or a colleague gives you a compliment, file it away in a positive feedback folder. Whether it’s a folder on your computer, the notes app in your phone, or a physical notebook - the key point is to acknowledge it and keep track of the wins as you go. This will become a great resource to refer to when you’re feeling a little low and need a confidence boost.
3. FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS
Just like we are wired for negativity, we are also geared toward looking at our weaknesses rather than our strengths. There has been significant work done over the past twenty years, pioneered by the Gallup organisation, around what happens when we focus on and use our strengths instead of our weaknesses. Our strengths are those things that we are good at and enjoy doing. They give us a rush of energy and take us into the state of flow, where we lose time because we are so absorbed in what we are doing.
When we use our strengths our wellbeing, happiness, productivity and engagement at work all increase. When we feel less than confident it can be all too easy to start honing in on our weaknesses. When you need a boost of confidence, try instead to pick one of your strengths and use that to propel you forward. The more you can use your strengths, the greater your confidence will be and the more it will build over time. There is a great free character strengths test you can take through the VIA Institute at viacharacter.org. We work with this inside the Women Rising program and it’s a great tool for identifying what your strengths are and who you are when you’re at your best.
4. CREATE YOUR OWN CONFIDENCE TOOLKIT
When it comes to building confidence, it’s all about finding what works for you and understanding that what makes you feel confident will be personal. A fun way to work on your confidence is to create your own confidence toolkit. Your toolkit could include a favorite song that you blast as loud as you can and dance around your living room. It could be a favourite piece of clothing or pair of shoes that make you feel great. Or it could reading your skills list from point 1 in this article before walking into an important meeting or job interview. What are some of the small things you can integrate into your day to give yourself a boost? Write them all down so you can have these things ready and on hand when you need them. The more tools the merrier.
5. UNDERSTAND YOUR TRIGGERS
Often when we feel our confidence waning, or when it just disappears altogether, there is usually a trigger that sets us off. By trying to pinpoint those moments where we feel undermined, we can learn to short-circuit them at the gate. Think of these situations as examples: it’s Monday morning
and you have overslept, raced out the door without breakfast and you barely had time to run a brush through your hair let alone find the right jacket for your suit. You arrive feeling less than fabulous when your boss calls a meeting where you need to update her on your latest project. Not feeling great about yourself, you do a less than stellar job and walk out feeling dejected.
The trigger here was being rushed and not being physically put together in a way that instilled confidence in yourself (and in others no doubt). Or think about this one: you have that friend that always seems to make a comment about you that gets under your skin just the right amount to leave you feeling less than sure of yourself. This is another trigger that can zap your confidence. Work out what your triggers are, then set strategies in place to either ensure they don’t happen, or to fast track your way past them.
6. CATCH YOUR STORIES
A few interrelated things that dramatically impact our confidence are our negative self-talk, our self-limiting beliefs and the stories we tell ourselves. We have somewhere between 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day. When you really start to tune into them, it can be astonishing to notice just how many of those thoughts are negative stories about ourselves that we would be just horrified if anyone actually heard articulated. Yet we allow these stories to ramble around inside our heads, impacting everything we do. When we can start to tune in to our negative self-talk, understand where our self-limiting beliefs are coming from, really hear the story and learn to change it when it is not helpful, we can radically impact our confidence levels, and even change our lives. The first step is to catch your stories. Build quiet time into your days through meditation or mindfulness practice, so that you can really tune in and start to discern the voices.
7. CHALLENGE YOUR STORIES
We all experience a stream of ‘automatic thoughts’ which much of the time, we are unaware of and may accept unquestioningly. Cognitive restructuring describes the process by which we can re-train the way we think – one traditional approach is that thoughts can be examined for bias or inaccuracy
and then replaced with more balanced thoughts. Once you’ve become better at catching your stories, the next step in the confidence-building process is to challenge those stories. The way to do this is simply by asking the question, “Is that true?” The goal in challenging our stories is not to delude ourselves with untruths. It’s to find equally plausible explanations and to tune in to how each alternative causes us to think, feel, and act. Then, we can consciously choose to invest our energy in the stories that leave us feeling more genuinely confident.
8. REFRAME INTO ACTION
Once you’ve challenged the story by looking for equally plausible explanations and you’ve found an alternative story that has you feeling more confident and empowered, it’s time to take action. Based on your new and empowering story, what’s the next right step? A helpful thing to know when it comes to taking action, is that more important than believing in your abilities, is the belief you can improve your abilities. This is what Professor Carol Dweck refers to as a growth mindset, and it will be your greatest ally in taming that negative voice and moving into action. It’s also the next tool in our list.
9. EMBRACE A GROWTH MINDSET
Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University has been researching mindsets for more than thirty years. And she has found that there are two types of mindset that direct whether we feel we can improve our abilities, or not, and direct how we show up in the world. A fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
People with a fixed mindset believe that their most important personal characteristics like personality and intelligence are largely fixed and unchangeable. This leads to a constant need to prove and protect themselves, and constantly validate their sense of self.
People with a growth mindset believe that their basic qualities and abilities are things they can cultivate through persistence and effort. This leads not only to a passion for learning, growth and personal development, but also confidence and a resilient sense of self in the face of criticism, failure and adversity.
When you are in a growth mindset, you are focused on the experience, not the outcome. You know that you can try new things, go for new opportunities and expand your skill set, because you have the confidence that with effort, you will improve so you can give it a go. If you get negative feedback, you take it as learning and fodder for your personal development. And if you fail, you know that it's part of the learning that comes with moving up the mastery curve. Your belief is that success is just showing up, and you have the question ‘what can I learn here?’ constantly on your mind to fuel possibilities. Growth mindset underpins your confidence and helps to close the confidence gap by getting you from your thoughts, to action.
10. BUILD YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK
Who do you have in your corner, who is your best cheerleader? Who in your workplace is your greatest advocate? And which of your friends or family do you love spending time with because they make you feel so great about yourself? Hopefully you have someone in your life that makes you feel like the very best version of yourself. You just feel that little bit taller, brighter and shinier when you are around them. These are the type of people you want to surround yourself with as much as possible, and certainly they are the people you want to call when you need a boost of confidence. Think about who in your life can play the role of cheerleader and supporter. It could be your best friend, your boss, your mum or even your child. When you need that little extra boost before a job interview, or a big meeting, your support team can be invaluable to help get you through.
11. VOICE YOUR FEARS IN A SAFE SPACE
One of the key things that squashes our confidence is our fears - fears of judgement, failure, rejection, not being good enough, what others will think, unknown outcomes, embarrassing ourselves - the list goes on and on. Fear is a contraction. Fear wants you to stay stuck. It wants you to think about all of your mistakes, the skills you think you don’t have, the reasons your ego tells you shouldn’t take the next right step. Fear wants to strip you of self-confidence, because it knows that you can’t move forward without it. But the antidote to fear is action. Once you move ahead and engage, fear loses its grip on you.
A great way of getting the courage to act is by voicing your fears in coaching, with a mentor, or a safe peer group. It helps to normalise the feelings and reassure you that you’re not alone. One of the things we hear from many of the women in our Women Rising program is how supportive they find the community and how incredible it is for them to be able to share their stories in a safe space. One of our participants, Gabriela Diaz described it as a breakthrough moment for her; “One of my breakthrough moments in the Women Rising program was when I realised that this program opens up a space for women to share their experiences, their challenges, and their real life stories, with no judgment.”
12. FIND YOUR COURAGE REFERENCE POINTS
Just as it’s important to take stock of your achievements and wins, it’s also worthwhile reflecting on the moments in your life when you have acted courageously - both the little moments and the giant leaps. Take the time to write these moments down because they will become your courage reference points. It’s easy to walk around with a story playing in your head that you’re not brave, you don’t have what it takes, or you’re not confident enough, but if you take the time to pause and look back on your life, there will definitely be moments that come to mind when you’ve done something brave or outside of your comfort zone. Use these courage reference points as a reminder that you are completely capable and resilient. It will do wonders when it comes to building your confidence at work.
13. REFRAME FAILURE AND REJECTION
Here’s the thing about rejection. It won’t kill you. You think it will. You think that if you ask and you are rejected, it means something bad about you. That you are less than: less than worthy, less than others, just less. So you don’t ask. You choose not to go for it: the job, the client, the project, the deal. It’s safer where you are. Right? Actually, no. It’s not. Not safer. Not more satisfying. And certainly not more gratifying. It’s just you, stuck for fear of failure. For fear of someone saying no. For fear of the dreaded rejection.
But here’s the message that will set you free: Rejection won’t kill you. It won’t. It may sting a little. It may feel like a setback. It might even hurt for a while. But you won’t die. You will survive it. If you keep moving and trying and hoping, it will get you to your next thing, your next opportunity, your next yes. The rejections you receive along the way to your dream are exactly what you need to become who you’re meant to be. Pile them up. Pin them on the wall. Celebrate every single one of them. Say a quiet ‘thank you’.
Stephen King’s first published novel Carrie was rejected so many times that he collected the rejection notes on a spike in his bedroom. It was finally published in 1974 with a print run of 30,000 copies. When the paperback version was released a year later, it sold over a million copies in twelve months. To date, King has sold more than 350 million books.
Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, was taught by her father that failure is required on the path to success, a lesson that served her well. When she was 27, she developed a new concept for hosiery but was rejected by every company she approached. They didn’t see the value in her idea. Then one man said he would back her and the rest, well, you know what they say. Sara should know about success: the net worth of Spanx is more than a billion dollars.
Failure is part of the process. It’s required learning. So, what will you do? You could just choose to go for it. Regardless of the outcome. Rejection won’t kill you. Failure won’t stop you. Unless you let it.
14. BUILD YOUR SELF-TRUST
One of the hardest things to build confidence in as women is our own opinion. Learning to trust our own inner guidance, and act accordingly, can be a challenge. Think about it for a moment: How often do you ask others about what you should do? Who do you ask: your partner, best friend, sister? Your mother, father, kids even?
It’s much easier in many ways to ask others rather than trust ourselves. But to grow into confident women, we need to get to know ourselves, listening for and learning about the truth of who we are, what we believe, what we need, and then trusting that truth.
When we stop looking outside of ourselves for answers and turn inward, to our own inner wisdom and guidance system, we stop churning and burning our energy. We stop questioning what we think we believe but replace with others projections and opinions. We learn to find the calm in our self-created chaos, to understand grace and ease. And we learn that whatever decisions we make, when they come from our core, our own inner knowing, that we will be just fine.
The first step is to catch yourself when you are seeking opinions. Catch it mid sentence, after the fact, or whilst the question is still forming in your brain. Then pause. What is it you are really seeking the answer to? If you sat with it for just a few moments, what answer would you come up with if you gave yourself the opportunity? Tune in to what your true voice sounds like. When you are in your most quiet moments, know what your own voice sounds like. Listen for your truths. What do you believe? Write it down. What do you feel about situations, people, your work, relationships, your place in the world? Before you ask what someone else thinks, practice asking yourself the question first: what do I think about this? Develop confidence in your own truth. It’s one of your greatest assets, and you get to cultivate it as you reclaim and own your power in the world.
15. PRACTICE POWERFUL COMMUNICATION
One of the ways that your confidence can really shine in the workplace is through your communication skills. And the key to building that confidence is to become a powerful communicator. There are several ways to practice powerful communication, but one of the most helpful is to learn how to be concise. There are two frameworks that can help you do this:
1. The first is called PRE - Point Reason Example. The framework is simple and effective. As the name suggests, you communicate your point, back it up with the reason why it’s important and then use an example to illustrate what you mean.
2. The second is What? So What? Now What? In other words, what’s your point? Why is it important? What should we do as a result? What’s the next step?
Both of these frameworks can really help you get to your point and become a more confident and powerful communicator.
16. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re thinking about building confidence, but sleep is vital to the way that you function in every aspect of your life, and it therefore impacts your confidence. When you don't get enough sleep, it damages your health, your mood, your cognitive brain capacity and your productivity. Scientists have found that losing just 90 minutes of sleep reduces your daytime alertness by one third. And when you lose your alertness and reduce your cognitive brain capacity of course your ability to show up with confidence, make effective decisions and communicate powerfully also diminishes.
In terms of what constitutes ‘enough’ sleep, the research is irrefutable on how much sleep the average person needs each night to be productive and healthy – it’s between 7 and 9 hours and changes over our life cycle. If you struggle to get the sleep you need, try to create a bedtime routine that can ease you into sleep by creating a restful zone - things like herbal tea, calming music, restorative yoga or some light reading. It also helps to maintain consistent times of waking up and going to bed every day of the week to bring your circadian cycles into rhythm.
17. FOCUS ON YOUR WELLBEING
Just as sleep impacts your confidence, so too does your general level of wellbeing. When you’re feeling healthy, energetic, focused and purposeful, there’s no question that this translates into confidence in other areas of your life. A person who is thriving physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually will undoubtedly exude a confident energy. Which is why focusing on creating intentional wellbeing is one of the most important things you can do for your confidence.
18. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY LANGUAGE
Research from Professor Deborah Gruenfeld at Stanford University shows that people decide how competent you are in a fraction of a second. They judge your competence based 55% on body language, 38% on presentation, and just 7% on what you say. So, when it comes to building your confidence, it’s important to understand what Professor Gruenfeld refers to as the body languages of power and influence.
When it comes to communicating confidence with your body language, it’s about being expansive, open and relaxed. Other key indicators of confidence are:
- Feeling comfortable taking up space
- Keeping your head still whilst talking
- Maintaining eye contact
19. FIND A CONFIDENCE MENTOR OR ROLE MODEL
As Marian Wright Edelman so powerfully said “You can’t be what you can’t see”, so if you feel like you’re lacking confidence it’s helpful to find a mentor or role model who can serve as a powerful representation of what confidence looks like and feels like to you. Take a moment to reflect on this now. Who are the people in your life that exude confidence? How do they show up? How do they behave? What characteristics or traits do they display? It could be someone you know personally, in which case you could ask them to mentor you in the specific area of confidence building. And if no one you know comes to mind, is there someone you look up to in the public eye whose confidence you find inspiring? A powerful woman you can think of who knows who she is and what she stands for? If you choose a role model that you don’t know personally, consider having an image of this person close by that you can look at for inspiration when you’re feeling a little wobbly.
20. LOSE SIGHT OF PERFECTION
It’s one of the leading things that robs us of our happiness and confidence: forever trying to grasp for perfection. Our constant grappling with questions about whether we are enough—strong enough, pretty enough, smart enough, good enough—leaves us with a constant feeling of seeking to be more.
Our perfectionist selves live in fear of never being enough, of failing, of being seen as less than we know we are. But when we live in fear, our choices and actions are misguided. We spend our time scratching around in our heads, instead of leading and living from our hearts. We focus on external achievements, rather than intrinsic meaning and satisfaction.
For now, simply start to notice where you are being a perfectionist. When you do, gently breathe yourself into the present moment, feel into your body and breath, and repeat to yourself this affirmation: wherever I find myself right now, I know I am enough.
21. CHOOSE A CONFIDENCE AFFIRMATION
The final tool to help you build your confidence at work is to choose a confidence affirmation. An affirmation is simply a positive statement that is used to help rewire your patterns of thinking and focus on positive intentions. When it comes to building your confidence, it’s about choosing a phrase that reminds you of your worthiness and your strength and emotionally fuels that feeling of confidence from within. The key to working with affirmations is to repeat them often. And it’s also about trying to connect with the emotion of confidence as you say the affirmation, so that the words carry more meaning and work their magic. If you’re looking for ideas for affirmations for confidence, here are some that we love:
- I know I am enough.
- I inch myself towards my bravest self.
- I take the next right action, not in the absence of fear, but in spite of it.
- I say what I want to say, when I want to say it.
- I use my voice.
- I challenge my stories and reframe them into helpful truths that move me forwards.
- I am credible, worthy and I deserve to be here.
We want to remind you that confidence isn’t a personality trait. It’s a skill that you can build, and we wrote this article to show you how to do just that.
If you would like to go deeper and study these concepts so you can truly show up radical confidence, you will want to join us for the Women Rising program. Thousands of women have been through the program, and 98% of graduates recommend the program to their peers. We hope you become part of our trusted community.