How to Develop Self-Confidence At Work


Have you ever seen that CEO, executive or rising co-worker who has a certain presence about them? They exude charisma but aren’t trying to impress you. They are eager to learn but are comfortable in their own skin and intellect.

These are the people with self-confidence.

The person with confidence is the person we turn to when problems of any kind arise. One chief executive put it this way: “The CEO weapon of choice is a display of self-confidence.”

More than intelligence, experience, skill, or talent, self-confidence is the most essential element in life and work. In a recent survey, 94% of the participants believe self-confidence is a major contributor to overall career growth. Clearly, knowing how to develop self-confidence at work is a vital part of career development. But how do you do that?

You start by knowing what self-confidence is and is not.

"More than intelligence, experience, skill, or talent, self-confidence is the most essential element in life and work. " @debrabenton Learn more about developing self-confidence at work. #selfconfidence… Share on X

What Is Self-Confidence?

Penguins in Antarctica are described by scientists who have studied them for 23 years as undaunted, without self-doubt, and with a good attitude.

That’s my definition of confidence. Once you’ve got confidence, you’ve got something worth noticing. In fact, having self-confidence is the best insurance toward differentiating yourself and controlling your own destiny. 

People with self-confidence speak with tremendous confidence and certainty. They are calm and walk with a suppressed power. It’s not that they don’t have bad days. It’s just that they know they can navigate those bad days and will get through them.

On the other hand, self-confidence is not about moral superiority or good looks. It is not arrogance, meaning a swollen ego with indifference to others. That kind of overconfidence is really just an inferiority complex mistakenly labeled a “superiority complex.” 

Self-confidence says, “If you want the answer, come to me.” Arrogance says, “Whom do you think you are, talking to me that way?” Or as more than one actor on YouTube has been caught saying to an arresting officer, “Do you know who I am?”

Frankly though, I am less concerned that you will be “overconfident” than I am concerned that you will not experience the self-confidence that you deserve.

How To Develop Self-Confidence At Work

There are a few external things you can do to help build your self-confidence. Various experts say the following helps with confidence: being in good health, regularly exercising and taking care of your body, frequently participating in activities that are fun and not just working all the time, having close friends that you can trust, and being happy in your relationship status. All of these can help you build confidence.

Honestly, money can give you confidence too, from the sense of security it provides. Though I know plenty of wealthy people who run scared. The National Association of Realtors will also tell you that owning a home increases self-confidence. (Oh, and alcohol gives a form of it too, as noted and celebrated in many country western songs.) 

Having fulfilling and enjoyable work is a confidence builder. But it’s important that your attitude toward yourself not be tied strictly to your job position and title because if you lose the job, you’ll likely lose your self-confidence. One CEO told me about being on top of the world on Monday, getting fired on Tuesday, and by Wednesday feeling like a failure. 

All of these external factors impact your level of confidence, but the best things you can do to develop confidence revolve around internal “work.”

Believe You Are Confident

Your self-confidence starts with you. You rule your world and run your life with the perspective you choose. Or, as one CEO told me, “Your mind is your boss, and you gotta be self-employed.”

Your mind manages all of your life: your outlook, how you approach situations, and how you interact and work with others. Regardless of your past, going forward, expect to be accepted. Count on and assume a favorable reception from others. 

The alternative is to count on, assume, and expect an unfavorable one. Whichever you choose, you’ll likely get it: a self-fulfilling prediction of self-imposed equality—or self-imposed inequality. 

The easiest thing in the world is to expect a negative response, dismissal, or rejection. With that approach, you are your first and strongest opponent.  If you don’t expect to be accepted, no one will accept you. If you do expect it, you just might get it.

You are your first and strongest opponent.  If you don’t expect to be accepted, no one will accept you. If you do expect it, you just might get it." @debrabenton Learn more about developing self-confidence at work.… Share on X

Talk Kindly To Yourself

Use the simplest, most honest, strongest mental verbiage that you can give yourself to expect and assume acceptance of who and what you are. Oust your harmful internal critic. You are not below or above anyone’s station. 

Talk to yourself as a kind friend, not as a foe. All day long if you aren’t talking to someone else, you’re talking to yourself, and a lot of the time, it’s the destructive self-talk of being unworthy and unvalued.

Think about the things you say to yourself. If someone else said them, you’d be miffed. Not only that, but those things aren’t true of you. Maybe some of the time, but certainly they are not true all of the time.

Your brain believes what you tell it, and if you take a negative perspective, your brain supports it. If you take a positive, constructive perspective, your brain supports that instead. That is true of your perspective towards yourself as well as towards others.

Most importantly, the things you tell yourself should reflect who you are trying to be. I’m not promoting delusional self-talk, “I am great. I am wonderful.” Rather, I’m advocating for you to remind yourself, “I’m adequate now while working to get better.” Because you are adequate and you are capable.

Act Confident

The next step in confidence development is to simply try “acting confident” to the outside world, practicing how it feels. The outside “show” helps the inside “take.” It’s okay to display confidence you don’t feel, to take a leap of faith. Pretending is not faking or hiding weaknesses. It’s playing the part you want to achieve.

When I coach politicians, I tell them to start behaving now as if they had already won the election. If they act the part they are seeking before they get it, it will give them practice in living this success, and it will cause voters to see them in the role, which will make the election more likely to go in their favor.

Sometimes people take offense about “acting the part,” as if doing so means that they are fakes. Anyone who has children knows parenting is a fake-it-till-you-make-it experience. Surely, confidence deserves the same pass. 

A good time to start your acting is first thing in the morning before your brain figures out what you’re doing. Be determined to go through your day feeling undaunted. If at any point during the day, you appear scared and timid, you will decrease others’ confidence in you and create bigger problems for yourself.

Push Into Your Uncomfort Zone

Once you decide to be determined, turn up the juice. Go further, and get into your uncomfort zone. Every success story starts with someone going against popular practice or thinking. Plant a stake in the ground on some position, even if it’s not the most popular. If it turns out well, great. If it doesn’t, you’ve still shown conviction.

Do the scary. Face fears. Bad things that might possibly happen are worse in your head than in actuality. Failure will not kill you. It may make you sick for a while, but that is often your own doing in your head, too.

Pros, those people who not only get promoted but also set themselves apart from amateurs, experience many setbacks and keep on going. You’ll get more courage when you do the daunting, and it will help you do the next terrifying thing. Keep stretching yourself. You will gradually get used to being uncomfortable.

Recovering Your Confidence When You Experience Setbacks

It’s inevitable that you will experience some confidence-shaking moments throughout your career (and life). People, activities, and conditions will sometimes knock us off balance, at least temporarily. 

Accept occasional self-doubt from real or imagined setbacks as they occur; the ebb and flow are perfectly normal. It doesn’t mean you are losing your confidence. When your confidence takes a hit, do not rush back to negative self-talk or imagine that the situation is permanent or unfixable. Instead, follow these steps.

First, don’t panic and make any rash decisions leading to negative outcomes; if you do, that will only create more insecurity. 

Then spend some time alone just being quiet in a distraction-free place that relaxes you and gets you away from the fray. (No moping!) Be kind to yourself. Remember that it’s acceptable to feel badly once in a while. One or two days out of a few months is tolerable. Breathe, stretch, exercise, and regroup. Tell yourself, “This is what I trained my brain for.”

Objectively review the mortifying situation. Briefly and one time only, write down what led up to it— the decisions, actions, and outcomes. 

Once written down and saved for personal documentation, shake that version out of your mind, and replace it with what could have happened. Do not keep replaying the original negative situation because you’re playing only one side of a multidimensional situation. If it slips in, pinch yourself and go back to the new thoughts. 

Review the things you’ve done well: problems solved, good decisions made, bad situations you’ve overcome, and accomplishments to date. Don’t undervalue what you’ve done. 

Pick something you do well, and go do it! Get some confidence restored by even a small accomplishment. If possible, pick something related to your setback, not something random. Remind yourself that even if you made a worthless decision, you aren’t a worthless person. 

The ultimate confidence builder is realizing that after being knocked down, you were able to rebuild a situation, and you can do it again when necessary.

Building Self-Confidence Takes Effort But You Can Do It

If you work at it, you will grow into your confidence just like you grow into your title, role, or even a suit of clothes. No one starts at the end point. You start somewhere, and then you make believe with new confidence, you have thoughts, feelings, and actions that you’ll get there, and you let no one stop you. In time, you will get where you want to be.

If you could use some external encouragement or want some guidance navigating workplace challenges, I am now offering short-term help with Bite-Size Executive Coaching, in addition to long-term coaching relationships. Click here for details on Bite-Size Executive Coaching.

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