What can you do to build your confidence and develop the career you deserve? asks Diana Robertson
To develop your career, you need a level of self-belief and confidence. Yet how many of us don’t understand the trust and confidence that colleagues seem to have in us? Do you find the voice in your head saying, for example, “I will be ready to apply for a role at Head Office when I have…” or “I’ll have sufficient belief in myself to do… after… happens”? With thoughts like these, we will inevitably hold our careers back despite the best efforts of our supporters. So, what can you do to build your confidence and develop the career you deserve?
A Little Background
I certainly know what it feels like to lack confidence. At school, I was always shy and awkward. I had big dreams of becoming a leader. However, in my daily life, I was always a follower. I desperately wanted to speak up for my friends when they got into trouble, but I couldn’t even speak up for myself. I wanted to become a successful entrepreneur, but people found it funny that I was even considering it. Looking back, this is hardly surprising. What could they expect from a shy, antisocial child who always sat in the back corner of the classroom, never raising her hand because she was afraid of what others might think of her?
Luckily my life has changed a lot since then, and I now have a career that I love as a communications skills trainer.
Based on the lessons I have learnt from personal experience, let me share four actionable ways to build your unshakeable confidence and power up your career.
1. Find the Areas in Which You Are Already Confident
What are you already good at? The most important step to take towards building confidence is to be aware of what you’ve already been successfully doing in your life.
Your answer might be anything – from being a talented organiser or a brilliant painter to being a good parent or supportive colleague. Feel free to note down any idea that comes to your mind because everything counts as a valid point.
What this will reveal to you is that confidence is not absolute, because no person on this planet is fully confident about everything. All of us feel confident about particular aspects we know we are good at. Equally, each and every one of us struggles with a specific area that needs improvement. And yet, when we face our pain points, instead of offering constructive solutions, our minds may find that there is something wrong with our whole being.
Think about a skill that you want to improve for the sake of your career. As you start working on this new skill, your confidence will grow too. Start by keeping track of what you’re good at. Make sure you don’t let yourself identify your overall confidence with the areas you feel least certain about. Nobody is good at everything, whereas obtaining new knowledge and developing new work (and life) skills is entirely under your control.
2. Change Your Negative Thoughts With Positive Statements
Our thought patterns are no different to the muscles in our bodies. Both can be trained, and through this training, we can change the habits we have got into.
Creating a new positive approach towards your area of struggle may sound strange, but it is going to be career-changing for you.
A great way to start reprogramming your mind is to repeat encouraging affirmations or statements before facing challenging situations. To find what particular affirmation will work best for you, go with the opposite of your negative thought. For example, if you think “I’m scared of being asked to share my opinion on a work Zoom call”, you can replace that statement with “I’m truly excited to share my opinion on the call!”
Do not expect yourself to believe in what you are saying after making your affirmations only a couple of times, because you may have been trained to think negative thoughts for years. Give yourself time to practise your affirmations properly so that they sink in.
This is personal, though. If a certain affirmation doesn’t work for you or if you feel extremely uncomfortable with reversing your negative thoughts into extremely positive affirmations, you may prefer using slightly softer opening statements. Instead of saying “I’m great at sharing my opinion”, you may be more inclined to affirm “I can be very good at sharing useful ideas with my colleagues”, or “It’s absolutely possible for anyone, including myself, to contribute well on a Zoom call”. What is most important is creating and repeating affirmations which make you feel better about yourself. So, feel free to try some out!
3. Question Your Negative Thoughts
If affirmations still sound shallow to you because they evoke contradicting thoughts and emotions, there is a more analytical way, gathered from my performance coaches. The following questions will help you to find out the fears that are hidden behind your lack of confidence at work (and elsewhere) and you’ll learn how to transform your destructive thought patterns into ones that are constructive.
- How can I describe the exact negative thoughts on this particular subject in only one sentence?
- Is this thought 100% true? Is it a fact or is it my assumption?
- What proves that this negative thought is completely or partially false?
- In the event that what I most fear were to happen, how would it truly affect my life? What would I do (realistically and without exaggeration)?
- If my best friend had this same thought, what would I tell them?
4. Celebrate Small Achievements
It can happen that when we take on difficult projects for the first time, they don’t go according to plan. In such situations, it’s easy to forget that one unsuccessful event means little, and that true success is achieved by taking small but consistent steps towards the goal. So, if you’ve just failed at something, remember: the key to becoming better at anything is to shift your focus onto your progress over longer periods rather than holding on to the setbacks along the way.
Why is this so important? Because by following this approach you are attaching a number of small successful experiences to your journey, and this enables you to notice your improvements. As a result, you are building a new neural pathway responsible for the positive events in the struggle area and transforming it into a normal area or even a power area. This is a part of the habit formation process that Charles Duhigg talks about in his book The Power of Habit.
When I was sixteen, I organised a party for the first time. It was a complete flop! As a result, I lost the confidence to organise any events. I avoided doing event organising for years, until I was unexpectedly faced with a work situation where I had to step up and get stuck in. On the day of the big event, the organisers got held up in traffic. They called and asked me to get things started, as our guests were already waiting and it was important to start on time. I took a deep breath, and you know… nothing terrible happened! The meeting wasn’t perfect, but it was still pretty good. Small steps at a time. I learned how to organise successful events and eventually ended up organising all sorts of meetings and parties for hundreds of people.
In other words, regardless of what happens along your career journey, always interpret your attempts as steps towards your future success. They might be small, but they’re still taking you forward. Keep on doing the same thing over and over until your brain is convinced that when you perform that stressful activity, something good happens. And it surely will, especially if you’re serious about improving and bettering your career!
Now that I’ve provided you with four easy-to-implement ways to build unshakeable confidence, it’s your turn to start applying them and boosting that confidence of yours as you develop your career!