Some workers seem to have it all together. You know the type: the peppy employee always ready to share their ideas or take on new assignments. They manage to convince those around them, including themselves, that they’re an asset. There’s one feeling they embrace that many struggle to find: confidence.
Confidence in the workplace is a crucial advantage, and a huge factor in career development. But some workers instead find themselves crippled with doubt and fear, unable to take necessary risks or voice their insights.
This is a dangerous path to walk, and it shouldn’t be an ongoing one. Here are five confidence killers and how to beat them. [See related story: 5 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Confidence at Work]
High-performing employees often pressure themselves to reach ridiculous standards, and sometimes become discouraged when they fail to achieve them, said Helene Lerner, author of “The Confidence Myth” (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015) and founder of WomenWorking.com, a career website for women.
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. Every time you fall short on a project, ask yourself if you gave it your all. If you did, know that you are human and cannot do everything perfectly – and accept that.
“We have to stop the negative chatter and tell ourselves our best is good enough,” Lerner said. “Make it an inner mantra.”
2. Micromanager bosses
Being micromanaged can make a person feel like their work isn’t good enough. Why else would the boss be nitpicking and telling you exactly how to complete a task?
But in most cases, you probably aren’t doing anything wrong. Lerner noted that fear is usually underneath controlling behavior.
“[Your boss’s] micromanaging probably has more to do with how that person feels about him or herself, not you,” she said.
If you’re truly confident, no one can tear you down. A micromanager might strike some insecurities in you, but you have to be the one to fight back and remind yourself just how far you’ve come, and where you want to go.
3. Disengagement at work
One of the most common reasons for feeling disconnected from your job, and therefore lacking confidence in it, is doing work that doesn’t leverage your skills. Everyone has talents and abilities, and if you’re not using them at your job, you may want to consider other opportunities, Lerner suggested.
Another option is to maintain an optimistic and encouraging attitude toward your performance at work. If you’re feeling indifferent, try a different perspective or approach. Maybe you fell into a rut or a routine that drains you. Switch it up; take a different approach that hones your passions. What can you do differently that might make your job more enjoyable? Don’t be afraid to discuss this with an employer.
4. Fear of failure
Everyone experiences fear – some more than others. As common as it is to experience the nervous stomach and sweaty palms, it’s crucial to push through and face fear head-on.
“Fear can be so crippling that it holds people back in ways they don’t even realize,” said Heather Monahan, founder of career mentoring group #BossinHeels and author of new book “Confidence Creator” (Boss in Heels, 2018), “whether it be fear of speaking up in meetings, so the employee is seen as someone who doesn’t contribute much value, or fear of being yourself, instead trying to emulate a boss and never learning to really own what is unique and special about you.”
Of course, you want to “get it right” in your career; but you shouldn’t let the fear of failure stand in your way of trying something new. A project may not turn out as planned, and you may make mistakes. As long as you learn from those experiences, you haven’t truly failed, Lerner said.
5. Uncooperative or critical colleagues
Working with rude, arrogant or otherwise unpleasant individuals can really lower your job satisfaction, especially if their negativity is directed at you. As with micromanagers, Lerner urges professionals not to take the behavior too personally, but she also advises making an effort to work things out with your colleague.
“Clean up your side of the street,” she said. “Is there anything you are doing to contribute to the [negative] situation? If so, take appropriate action.”
Keeping your confidence high
Lerner said people who want to beat these confidence killers and advance their careers need to take risks that enable them to accomplish their goals, even if they don’t feel ready to do so. For example, she advised offering thoughtful suggestions in meetings, stepping in to help without being asked and seeking a trusted second opinion that encourages you to make a move you’d been considering.
“To build confidence at work, you need to use your voice,” added Monahan. “Whether that means contributing your ideas in a meeting or letting someone know you are speaking when someone is attempting to talk over you, there are countless opportunities in any day to build your confidence.”
Monahan advised being mindful of how you speak and what you say. For instance, rather than apologizing, try saying “excuse me” or “thank you.” When pitching an idea, instead of saying, “I feel this will work,” say, “This will work because …”
“Firing certain expressions from your vocabulary will create a quick shift for you,” Monahan said.
Also, she added, there’s no need for self-deprecating humor. While it might seem innocent and even healthy to laugh at yourself, it actually hurts your confidence.
“Confidence is something that is created, not given,” said Monahan. “The sooner you accept responsibility for creating yours, the faster you will change your life and begin to create a future you will be excited about. In any moment, you are either chipping away at your confidence or building it. You decide.”
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.