A lack of confidence in the workplace is something that affects almost everyone at some point. Whether it’s at an interview, the first day of a new job, after receiving criticism or when given additional responsibility – sometimes you just need to take a bit of time to address your confidence levels and take ownership of improving them.
The best route to becoming more confident in work situations begins with deciding to do something about it. Low self-confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy – the more you indulge your thoughts about how low your confidence is, the lower your confidence will become.
To get you started, here are some confidence building exercises to try.
Even if you don’t want to try all these exercises at once, you can pick and choose depending on the situation. The main thing is that you do take action. Knowing that you’re taking responsibility for improving your confidence will – guess what – start improving it.
Exercise 1: List your strengths
Write down what you think your strengths are, even if you think they go unnoticed. Next, list the strengths you think others see in you – things that people say you are good at, even if you don’t agree. Why did some things go on the second list, but not the first? Trust the judgement of others.
Exercise 2: Practice confident body language
Lots of confidence guides recommend assuming the body language of a confident person – and for good reason. This has two benefits: making others believe you are confident and eager and because your body language has a direct effect on your psychological state. In effect, you’re convincing yourself of your own confidence.
Practicing acting confidently is something you can do all the time, not just at work. Think of someone who always seems self-assured and mimic them. Walk like they walk, stand how they stand. How do they sit in meetings?
Eye contact is a big part of confident body language, and is certainly something you need to practice. All you can really do is remind yourself as often as possible to make eye contact – whether it’s your colleague, manager, the bus driver or a friend!
Exercise 3: Record your achievements
Whether as a one-off exercise, or by making it part of your daily routine, recording your achievements is a powerful route to increasing confidence. Workplace achievements are more than just a professional qualification or promotion – you can include every day occurrences such as being asked for help or thanked for a useful report.
Exercise 4: Challenge yourself to compliment others regularly
Have you ever noticed that confident people are often the most complimentary of others? Giving someone a compliment, whether on their clothes or a great presentation, makes you feel good because you’ve made them feel good.
While you’re at it, practice taking compliments graciously. It may make you feel uncomfortable at first, but don’t dismiss compliments or disagree with the person giving them. Always, always say “thank you” and smile.
Once you’re used to doing that, start practicing expanding your response. Replying with something like “thanks, I worked really hard on it” or “thank you – I’m glad you noticed” not only makes the other person realise they’ve made a difference, but it validates their compliment in your mind.
Exercise 5: Practice speaking up
If being confident and expressive is important to you or your job then, although it may seem silly, practice at home. If you have a presentation to do, try it at home and record yourself. Did you speak too quickly? Too quietly? Do it again. By the time you have to speak in front of other people, you can do so with the knowledge that you are aware of what factors will make your presentation effective.
Speaking up in meetings or workplace discussions is less easy to practice in advance. If you’re in the habit of not contributing in meetings, even when you may have a valid point to make, set yourself a challenge to speak up at least once next time. Yes, perhaps others may not agree with you or you may find someone else speaks at the same time. But those things happen all the time, and they are really not the end of the world.
By setting yourself a challenge, and achieving it, you’ll realize that the things that scare you are actually pretty harmless.
A lack of confidence is often founded in a fear of what people think of us, or that they simply won’t listen. You have a responsibility in the workplace to speak up when you have a valid input and to put yourself forward when you can be of use. If people don’t listen then at least you will have done your bit and you can always say you tried.
Sometimes all you need to be confident is to remember to just do your best and act like you’re sure of yourself even if you don’t feel it – and genuine confidence will follow.