If you suffer from low confidence at work, you’re not alone. Many people don’t believe in their own abilities, even when those ideas are unfounded. And unfortunately, your low confidence is hurting you in more ways than you may even be aware. On the plus side, there are some ways to conquer it.
When you have no self-confidence, you believe that you’re not as worthy as other people — of companionship, of a job or what have you. At work, you may feel incompetent and as though you’re failing. This may stem from incidents in your past, such as trauma. It can also be psychological. Whatever the cause, these perceptions often don’t reflect reality.
If you have low confidence at work — and in your work — you can probably rattle off a list of negative traits. But what about your positive attributes? You know you have some; you were hired for a reason, after all, and you’ve gotten to where you are today thanks to those strengths. What you need to do is remind yourself of them. Keep a physical list of your best work qualities (and even personal qualities) with you at all times, and when your low self-esteem is getting the better of you, refer to them.
You should also take it one step further and build on them. If you had a great achievement recently, such as developing a killer marketing campaign, find more opportunities to put that gift to use. In this case, you might ask your manager if you can work on an even bigger campaign.
“Perfect is the enemy of good” is a cliche for a reason. If you keep striving for perfection and beating yourself up when you fall short, you’re never going to be satisfied. Rather than putting unrealistic expectations on yourself, think about whether you’re doing your very best. That’s the best you can do.
You may feel like you’re falling short, but expecting too much of yourself becomes a vicious cycle where no work you do is ever good enough. You’ll make your fears a reality by avoiding situations where you might fail, and without taking risks, you’ll stagnate and never push yourself.
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to do it alone. Instead of trying to rely on only yourself for encouragement, find people who can help you. (And, of course, it should go both ways, with you supporting them when they need it, too.) It can be helpful to have a mentor to offer encouragement and act as a resource to bounce ideas off of and give you advice. Peers can also be a support system, encouraging you when you’re not feeling confident.
This is true in and out of work. In fact, a friend who’s completely separate from your office can provide a more objective, outside perspective. For example, she might recognize when the problem isn’t you but a toxic work environment.
If you lack confidence at work and are worried about your performance, find out if you actually should be concerned. That doesn’t mean going up to your boss and asking, “Are you going to fire me?” It means soliciting specific and actionable feedback. After a presentation, you might ask what your manager thought went well and what could you could improve next time. Or, you could suggest a meeting to debrief.
This shows professionalism and the desire to improve. It can also be a way to calm your nerves because chances are, your manager will have both praise and constructive criticism to offer. Remember to use the constructive criticism, rather than just focusing on what you’re doing wrong. She’s telling you so you can do even better next time.
One reason why people lack self-confidence at work is because they feel like they don’t have the necessary skills or aren’t as qualified as their colleagues to do their jobs. If that’s the case with you, fill in the gaps. You can — and should — always learn what you don’t know. Take a course (you can often get work to pay if it’s relevant to your job), or even just ask colleagues or your manager questions about what you don’t know how to do. No one is expected to know everything, and asking questions shows that you care about your work. And as counterintuitive as it sounds, it also shows confidence.
Confidence is essential for your career. When you carry yourself with confidence, others notice. After all, when you appear to trust yourself, others are more likely to trust you — and your work. When you don’t, colleagues, clients and your manager may wonder if you’re up to the task at hand. Why should they believe in your abilities if you don’t?
Confident people are more likely to get promoted and receive raises — oftentimes because they ask, whereas those who lack self-esteem are less likely to. In studies of business-school students, Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University discovered that men broached discussions about raises four times more frequently than women. In an Atlantic article, Manchester Business School’s Marilyn Davidson said she believes this is due to a lack of confidence.
Which leads me to my next point: lack of confidence can be detrimental to your career. For one, you’re not hiding it. People will notice and believe the things you believe about yourself, even if they’re not true. This can impede your ability to be taken seriously, get promoted and even keep your job.
More concretely, people with low self-confidence earn less. According to a study entitled “Self-Esteem and Earnings,” people from blue-collar families earn about $7,000 annually more than people without it from similar backgrounds, while white-collar workers see a $28,000 difference in yearly earnings.
Perhaps the adage “fake it ‘til you make it” sounds hollow to you, but if you suffer from low self-confidence at work, it could be costing you — literally. It’s essential to make strides to feel more confident. Your career may depend on it.