You’ve been in your job for a while and you are sat at your desk, slurping tea and staring at the ever increasing number of emails that are darting into your inbox and all of sudden your head is full of thoughts of “I’m really s**t at my job”, “I’m going to be found out”.. You stare at your colleagues who seem to breeze through life and the office with unfaltering confidence, no element of fear in their eyes and you feel they are judging you and your apologetic ways. The instant reaction is heads down, get on with the work, as you type another email that begins with “I’m sorry to bother you…”.. Just keep working and you’ll be noticed for all the good work, but inside your confidence is shaking and your perceived place in the work force is slightly below everyone else.. We’ve all been there, but how do you snap out of it, give yourself a talking to and begin to grow in confidence at work.
Here are a few tips to make you more confident in the workplace and thrive and enjoy work.
Remember you were given the job on merit
We always seem to forget this and think that my some fluke chance or there was no one else around that we’ve got the job. When we are sat staring at our to do list and panicking remember you were chosen, often above a lot of other people to do the job. People don’t give people jobs because they feel sorry for them, or out of desperation, they gave you the job because they believe you can do it.
You were given the job, because you were the best person for the job, remember that. Your skills and experience are exactly right. Day to day it might not feel like that but know that is why you were hired.
Quieten the voices in your head
We can often give priority to the negative voices in our head and the more we do that, the more we perceive that as our reality. Why do we do that, and dismiss the positive thoughts. When you start thinking along those lines, just simply say in your head not true not true.. It might be useful as well to start writing down every morning 10 positive things about yourself.. we are so quick and eager to think a long list of negative things about ourselves, but devote time to think about all the good stuff. There is good stuff, you might not instantly think it, but there is always something to be grateful for and appreciative about yourself. Some people like meditation, sometimes it’s just about getting away from your desk, making a cup of tea, or finding 5 minutes of quiet time, to just pause, find balance, take a breath and then carry on. So often when we are having a busy day our focus is all about what we have to do, that work just seems like a jumble of tasks and you don’t really know where to start. Take a step back, and all will become much clearer
Know what’s expected of you
If you don’t know what is expected of you, then make sure you ask your manager. That doesn’t necessarily mean going through your job description with a highlighter and a folder full of notes, “what exactly does clause 2;1 really mean”, nobody has time for that and your job description is there with a degree of flexibility. Too often miscommunication or a lack of asking questions, because you feel that you should know it, or a sense of pride takes over and a fear of looking stupid makes you think I’ll figure that out. So ask, do you mean I should do this, or my understanding is this.. ask for clarification then both parties know what’s expected. Also you then don’t spend hours doing something only to find out that’s not what they really meant at all. Seek feedback, not all managers are good at this, and some will say nothing or try and be passive aggressive through a veil of “niceness”. You leave the meeting and over analyse about “what that meant”, “were they being insulting”, so as scary as it sounds, just seek “what do you mean by that”, “what do you think I could have done differently”. Sometimes you might not get an answer, sometimes you might get an answer that you don’t agree with, but at least you’ve asked that question.
Don’t Take it personally
Offices are not always an oasis of civilised calm, work stress, personal issues, tiredness and insecurities can often lead to abruptness, rudeness, exclusion and miscommunication. Always remember when people behave like that, it is about them and not you. I used to sit behind my computer and over analyse a comment or slight as if I was in a late 90s American drama, dressed in plaid, looking angst whilst a rousing ballad played in the background. I would think “oh what have I done” and then I’d tip toe around and act apologetic or look wounded and sulky for the afternoon. It generally was nothing about me, or maybe it was my in opportune perkiness that had rubbed someone up the wrong way. Either way, I should have taken it less personally, realised it wasn’t about me and focused on getting the job done. I’ve since learnt to do that, but when you are starting out the move into an office environment can seem like a mind field of new ways to behave. So just think they are in a bad mood, and hey they might be an awful person but that’s their issue not yours.
Take time out for you
Try and have some time for you, try not to let work take over your whole life. You’ll be surprised that by simply spending an evening playing tennis, or doing a class, or running at lunchtime will increase your confidence. When we are consumed my work (and sometimes it’s hard not to be) that becomes our life and focus. So find time to spend time with people outside work, outside of your industry, do something fun for you, and that perspective and distance will help you not to get swallowed up my work, and realise there are other things going on in the world.
Stop avoiding things
We always try and do the easy things first, the easy things and the things that require our immediate attention. All the stuff that keeps your job ticking and all the stuff that you know how to do. So often we talk ourselves out of going above and beyond our job, you have this great idea, that stays in your head, yes it would be great for the business but what if no one likes it, what if I look stupid. You know you can do more but there is something stopping you, it might be time, it might be priorities or it might simply be fear. “I’d be amazing at that job” but I don’t think I have time to apply, what if I’m rubbish at it, or I think they really need me hear and I don’t want to rock the boat. What you are doing there is staying in your comfort zone, not raising to the challenge. So right down a scary to do list of all the things that you would like to do and make sure you do one thing, one step each day/week to get closer to that. Then you don’t even notice how far you’ve come or how much you’ve changed..
Don’t try to be everyones best friend
Work isn’t high school although it can often feel that way, it’s exhausting trying to be everyone’s friend, being in the cool gang, sharing insider jokes and laughing about Barry’s dancing at the pub on Friday. If it all feels natural and you gel with people then great, but don’t equate your confidence to other people’s opinions of you, don’t feel like you have to be liked by everyone to gain respect. You can gain respect by being great at your job and being professional and easy to work with, besides being popular is a lot of hard work. If you are too focused on being popular with the in group, or senior managers, that can distract from your work, or you can be know as the fun one that gets the drinks in on a Friday (nothing wrong with that) but ask yourself is that who you want to be?
Focus on your strengths
We get stuck in a cycle of thinking about what we can’t do, what we think we are not good at, and think everyone can see that. How often do we take time to appreciate what we are good at it? Start thinking about your strengths and how you can really use them in the workplace and you’ll see your confidence rise. Good managers will always highlight your strengths and positives and give you time to develop areas of improvement. Successful teams are built with different people with different strengths and that is too be celebrated. Bad managers often through insecurity will neglect to see your strengths and will focus on the negatives or their perception of negatives. Often it is simply you work in a different way to that person and for reasons of control they want you to work like them. That is about them, know and appreciate what you’ve done. At the end of a job or project write down ten things that went well, leave it for a good while then write ten lessons learnt. That will really help give you perspective.
Take advantage of opportunities
Sometimes if you want to be more confident in the work place then you just have to throw yourself at opportunities, a kind of sink or swim mentality, that will undoubtedly fill you with dread. Whether this be joining the company netball team or simply just going for that job in another department, sometimes you have to make it known that you are here. It is so easy to talk ourselves out of new opportunities and I have done that on numerous occasions, that thought process or trying to claw out of your comfort zone, but its oh so comfy in here, is like getting out of bed on a cold dark morning when the duvet is your salvation. Think to yourself what is the worst that can happen, you may agonise over potential disasterous consequences but ask yourself is that true? Too often we can feel that we are going to be noticed just for the good work that we do, sometimes that happens but sometimes you need to let people know. The more you wait for someone to give you an opportunity the more likely when they don’t your confidence will start to wain and you will begin to believe that there is something wrong with you. So at least once a week try and do something that feels outside of your comfort zone, something that shakes up the routine. It can be as big or as small as you make it but it’s about taking tiny steps not massive leaps to a more confident you!
Don’t compare yourself to others
We all do it, we all look and judge other people, smile politely whilst they show off their engagement ring, or tell you about their new flat that they’ve just bought, inside though we are thinking “I hate you” and why does life some so so easy for them and not for me. You look at their achievements rather than your own and feel insignificant. You cave into a shadow of yourself or turn bitter and bitchy when you go down this route, and it’s affecting your confidence. So don’t, everyone has their own journey and only they know what they’ve been through. By comparing yourself to others, you are not looking at yourself honestly but merely as a reflection of what other people have achieved or behaved. So why care about other people and how great they are at their job, sure, it can make you competitive but the only person you should be competitive with is you. Look at how you work and then try and simply improve it, without being harsh on yourself reflect on how you could have dealt with that situation or delivered that project. People will try and compare you to others, sometimes cruelly or sometimes unintentionally, but don’t raise to it, and always with your best fixed smile, respond “good for them, they deserve it”