How to Build Your Confidence at Work

How to Build Your Confidence at Work

‘Whether you can or whether you can't, you're right’. That’s a great quote as it focuses on the difference that having a positive attitude can make. But everything cannot be down to choosing the right attitude. You also need to have the opportunity to gain the relevant skills and knowledge to succeed. But confidence is necessary too.

So how do we build our confidence at work?

Seek and welcome feedback

I see self-confidence as being something similar to a balloon. It needs air to make it soar. If air escapes, the balloon deflates. Too much air and it explodes – a warning that over-confidence can be dangerous.

The biggest way of inflating our self-confidence is by building our self-esteem. We can do this by receiving positive feedback from others. Asking for feedback from people we trust is important. Valuing people’s opinions and reflecting on how we can use the feedback will help us develop, improve and grow. Be mindful of unhelpful feedback – unnecessary or perpetual criticism damages self-confidence. Look for a colleague, manager or mentor who can blend feedback and coaching.

Deal with of negative self-talk

Studies suggest we speak around 16000 words a day (source: Harvard Business Review). So how many words do we speak internally? I would suggest a lot more. Therefore, it’s important that our internal dialogue is positive, otherwise negative self-talk will take over and become a full-filling prophecy e.g.:

  • I know I cannot make a good presentation.
  • I am nervous about making the presentation.
  • I make a poor presentation.
  • I knew I would make a poor presentation.
  • I know I cannot make a good presentation.

And so, it goes on…

Now consider the impact of swapping ‘I cannot’ with ‘I can’ or ‘I will’. Create a habit of positive self-talk.

Pay attention to your body language

We are what we eat. We are also what we think and feel. Negative thoughts lead to a negative demeanour. Our shoulders can slouch. Our posture can appear gloomy. Our tonality of voice can be downbeat. This leads to our outlook being gloomy and even pessimistic.

Changing our physiology to being more positive can change how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. Positive people attract other positive people. Like positive self-talk, this becomes a positive self-fulfilling activity (read our blog on drains and radiators).

Be prepared to make mistakes (and learn from them)

Let’s face it, none of us are the finished article. Making mistakes is a natural thing to do. Mistakes provide the opportunity to reflect and learn so that they are not repeated. This needs to be supported by managers and colleagues who can coach rather than ridicule and criticise.

Look for a work environment that is supportive. Avoid work environments where fear of making mistakes triumphs. Clearly making mistakes carries risks, but these should be mitigated where people are allowed to grow and develop without fear of being chastised.

‘I never lose. I either win or I learn’ – Nelson Mandela

Look to expand your comfort zone

‘A ship is safest when it's in port. But that's not what ships are built for’. It’s easy (and tempting) to stay in our own comfort zone. However, if we do this then how can we expect to grow and develop? The human race differs from other species because of our insatiable appetite and ability to evolve. So how is your evolution going? When was the last time you got out of your comfort zone?

Look for opportunities to expand your comfort zone. There’s no need to be reckless – look for incremental changes. Success breeds success and motivation will be sustained. With the expansion of your comfort zone will come an increase in self-esteem.

Beware of imposter syndrome and deal with it

Sometimes we can feel out of our depth. Maybe we are new into a role or have just been promoted. Perhaps we have recently joined a new company or organisation. This can make us feel uncomfortable, particularly if we’ve just left a workplace where we were regarded as an expert.

Dealing with imposter syndrome requires you to feel you have the right to be where you are and recognising that you have earned the right to be there. These positive assurances can be provided by those around you – and not just at work. Seek feedback from those who appointed you and from those who know your true value.

Reframe situations

Perception is very much everything. We all have an inbuilt defence mechanism to help us keep safe. Fight or flight is a natural response. But how often is our perception true?

For example – what is more dangerous, crossing the road or making a presentation to your work colleagues? However, people happily cross the road without any concern yet fear making a presentation. Why? Because we’ve been taught how to cross the road at a young age. Our parents or others we trusted held our hands and guided us until we felt able to cross unaided and we practice regularly. Therefore, the answer to make a successful presentation is to get the training and coaching you need – and practice, practice and practice again.

Consider reframing the situations that you face into becoming more positive. Think about the gains to be had and what you can do to to receive the right training and coaching to succeed.

In summary

Take sensible steps and advice to confront what is holding you back. Obtain feedback and encouragement to succeed from those you trust around you. Be prepared to make mistakes and learn. Practice, practice and practice again. Reframe the word fear as:


Paul Beesley
Director and Senior Consultant, Beyond Theory

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