Keeping your confidence high at work can be a challenge.
Big workloads, demands on your time, insecurities and workplace relationships can all easily knock your confidence.
When that happens, you may wonder what happened to those feel-good feelings and start to wonder how you can create them more often.
What is confidence anyway?
- What is confidence?
- Why does it come and go?
- How can you feel confident more often?
It’s notoriously difficult to define confidence. Most people know that having confidence feels great but very few people can adequately describe it. In fact, if you were to ask ten people to define confidence, they’d all probably give you a different description.
Overall, though, it’s about feeling good about yourself, believing you can take on challenges and win, and trusting yourself to be able to handle whatever work throws at you.
Who wouldn’t want to feel like that?
But the problem with confidence is that it’s something that flows through you rather than being a something you can store up.
That’s why confidence comes and goes. That’s why there are times when you are riding high and feel invincible and other times when you feel that the slightest knock will destroy you.
So, how do you manage this rollercoaster ride? And how do you feel more confident, more often.
When your confidence is high, everything feels good, easy and you probably feel you can take on anything. You feel certain of yourself and find it easy to make decisions. Everything flows and you feel in command. The future looks bright and you feel hopeful, positive and optimistic about the future.
When your confidence is low nothing feels easy. You doubt yourself, find it difficult to make decisions and you have less trust in your abilities. A low can last just a few hours or it can go on for days or even weeks. That isn’t easy to handle.
And interestingly, men and women don’t respond the same way to low confidence.
Creative business colleagues reading file together at desk in office
Lack of confidence is different for both men and women
Men and women have different coping strategies when they experience dips in their confidence. Typically, women turn outwards, men turn inwards.
How men deal with low confidence
For men, the usual response to feeling battered or low is to withdraw in some way. They pull away from a situation, person or event so they can recover or process their feelings.
They can even withdraw when things are going well. It’s like doing exercise and then allowing the body and muscles time to recover. For men, too much emotion is exhausting so they take time out to recover and allow things to settle down.
A period of withdrawal is often the only time a man gives himself space. However, it often starts off from a negative position: I’m full, tired, fed up with XYZ and then after a few hours, days or weeks they feel better and emerge again.
What’s important is that the withdrawal is based upon a perception or belief about a situation. If that perception is misguided or wrong, it could be because a man is misreading what someone else sees in them or how someone else views him.
At work, this can be due to being overlooked for promotion, not being included on a new project or feeling your manager doesn’t favour you.
So, if you are a man and you feel low, it may be a good opportunity to talk to someone about what is going on at work.
A career professional will help you see your role and opportunities differently so you can take appropriate action to change your situation. This will mean you can stop going through the same highs and lows at work.
How women deal with confidence issues
When women lose confidence, they tend to revert to their normal coping strategy.
That can vary enormously but it usually involves talking through their emotions with a trusted colleague, friend or family member.
Sometimes it includes retail therapy such as shopping, or having their hair or nails done.
Sometimes it involves eating chocolate or drinking wine.
But ultimately, the goal is to find some way of making themselves feel better.
For some women, this is gained by taking care of others so they see a more positive reflection of themselves. For others, it could mean overeating, drinking too much or even over-exercising.
The key here is that the response to a bad experience at work for women – one that damages their confidence and leads them to question their ability – is to turn to an external source to make themselves feel better.
This makes seeking help from an outside agency easier for women.
They are familiar with seeking help and support from others. So if your work situation is constantly damaging your confidence and causing you to doubt yourself, seeking help from a professional career counsellor may help you re-evaluate your situation so you can change it for the better.
The natural balance of highs and lows
If you’re experiencing a dip in your confidence it’s worth remembering that ups and downs are natural.
We can see this in how the economy has peaks and troughs, how nature can be in turn ferocious and beautiful and how life is a balance between tragedy and hope.
But… we resist this.
We want to manage our confidence so we can beat the lows and hang onto the highs.
What makes your confidence fluctuate?
Although you may accept that your confidence fluctuates, it becomes a problem when you’re cycling through the highs and lows frequently and quickly.
This isn’t good.
It’s a sign that something isn’t right. You need to recognise this before you can begin to address the reasons why it’s happening.
It could be because your needs aren’t being met. If you need to feel valued or that you’re taken seriously or that you’re trusted with important work but you’re not getting that in your job, you’ll start to lose confidence in yourself and your ability.
This is a downward spiral.
If your needs are never met, you’ll feel needy. And that will appear as weakness to others so your needs are even less likely to be met.
Workplaces are complex.
Personalities need to be worked around and structural changes and tasks are constantly evolving. If there are things going on at work that frustrate you, you’ll be on a never-ending cycle of anger and disappointment. If you can never do what you want to do, you’ll feel unfulfilled.
When you feel like this, your performance will drop and so will your confidence.
If this situation persists and you can’t find a way to deal with it, you’ll continually feel powerless, fed up and lacking in energy. None of which will do your confidence any good.
So, how do you stop this rollercoaster ride?
The best way to boost your confidence so it stays high is to get in touch with what you need. Ask yourself what is lacking in your work and life and what issues need to be addressed. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to see the gaps so you can make plans and decisions to fill them.
Having more of what makes you happy will raise your confidence naturally and keep it higher without you having to work at it.
Getting what you need will involve change. That might mean changing your role or moving company. If that’s a big move for you, you’d do well to get help and support from a professional career counselling service.
5 top tips to help you build your confidence
But how do you keep your confidence high? Here are 5 tips about how to feel good more often.
- Set boundaries. Let people know what you do and don’t accept in terms of their behaviour and demands. If someone makes demands that are causing you stress or are invasive of your time, make it clear that you don’t accept someone breaking your boundaries. You’ll respect yourself and this will raise your confidence. (If you fear your job is under threat because you don’t give in to their demands, it may be time to move on.)
- Mark your territory. If you have responsibilities that are part of your role and are important to you, make sure you don’t let others take them over. If you decide to delegate or let go of tasks that aren’t in line with your skills, that’s one thing. But it’s quite another to let a colleague take over areas of your job. Fight for what’s important to you and you’ll learn to trust yourself and feel more confident.
- Design systems that help you manage better. If you set up systems for yourself, especially in relation to routine tasks, you will feel more confident that you can perform to a high standard on a consistent basis. It will also release your energy for more interesting and enjoyable work that will once more raise your confidence. It’ll be more likely to get you noticed too, and that can lead to more exciting opportunities.
- Become aware of your thoughts. You are filtering what you perceive. Are you filtering what other say based on your fears and limiting beliefs? Or are you filtering based on your goals and confidence? Start to question your interpretation, especially if you tend to think the worst. As you begin to see things in a more positive light, and think more positively, you’ll feel reassured and more confident.
- Focus on what you’re good at. It’s easy to allow your time to be dominated by the parts of your role that are not in alignment with your best skills. That will result in you feeling inadequate. First, do your best to set up systems (see point 3) that make difficult tasks easier for you. If that isn’t possible, get some additional training so the task is easier or delegate it to someone else in your team. If your role is dominated by tasks that use your least good skills, it could be time to look for a role that is better suited to your natural abilities. You’ll find work far more enjoyable and success will come far more easily to you if you focus your time on doing what you’re good at.
Learn to trust yourself
Whenever we feel inadequate – which is often how you feel when your confidence is low – you look for solutions outside of yourself. That might involve buying something for yourself or a shiny object to solve your problem.
The problem with this is that buying in tools and external solutions don’t always work. What happens is that you place all your faith in the thing you buy, but often the solution requires your own efforts and energy.
When you look outside of yourself for the solution, it’s called Bright Shiny Object Syndrome because you are always chasing the latest thing. But what you discover over and over again is that the thing you buy doesn’t solve your problem.
- A bottle of wine doesn’t make you feel good. Alcohol is a depressant and you usually end up with a hangover.
- A new pair of shoes is, in the end, just a new pair of shoes. They may boost your confidence for a few moments, but they won’t change your boss into someone who’s understanding.
- An app can only do so much. You still need to be motivated to exercise if you want to get fitter and have more energy.
So, what can you do?
The only way to solve your problems is by creating an intimate relationship with yourself so you can focus on what makes you feel good and valued.
When you begin to discover what you truly need – rather than trying to buy a temporary fix – you ll begin to make decisions and choices that bring you joy and satisfaction.
But working out what you want can be tricky.
Those close to you have a vested interest in what you do, so they aren’t always the most helpful when you’re making changes.
That’s when help from a career professional comes into its own.
By talking to someone who sees you with fresh eyes, will help you re-build your confidence. You’ll see afresh what you have to offer the work world. That alone will make it far easier for you to go for roles that you may not have considered before.
Book a session today with one of our trained consultants and take the first step to boosting your confidence and making a real change in your work life.