The professional world can be an intimidating place. And when you lack self-esteem, it can feel even scarier. That's why the more confidence you have at work, the better.
So take a quick second and reflect on how you feel during the day. It doesn't matter if you're in a huge office, a tiny startup, or a store in the mall — do you feel confident? Do you feel like you can speak up? Or, do you feel like sneak around all day, wishing you could disappear?
Of course, there can be a lot of factors at play here, but a huge reason why people feel this way is because they don't have the guts to ask for what they want. I think back to past jobs where I wasn't confident, and I can remember feeling utterly miserable. It sucks to sit at a desk all day, feeling shy and quiet. Or worse, being so shy and quiet that you're passed over for promotions, or fun, challenging work.
That's why confidence involves having the guts to ask for a raise, speaking up in meetings, and sharing all your great ideas. Oh, and it also means more success, and climbing that proverbial corporate ladder. In short, confidence means "getting what's yours."
If that all sounds good, then here are some ways to stand up for yourself, feel better at work, and finally get what you deserve.
1. Remember All Your Strengths
When you're feeling less-than-confident, it's easy to focus on your downfalls, rather than the things you're good at. Stop doing this. Instead, start remembering your strengths (AKA all the reasons you were hired in the first place). As Elli Thompson Purtell noted on TheEveryGirl.com, "Start by focusing on one thing you know you're good at. Whether it's working with people, multitasking, proofreading, or a specific computer program — whatever it is, recognize it." And remind yourself of it daily.
2. Don't Use "I Think" or "Maybe"
Words like "I think" or "maybe" don't exactly scream confidence. And yet they are often used at work, especially among women. As Lindsay Olson said on USNews.com, "Women tend to undermine themselves by using softer wording ... or even apologizing for interjecting. You don’t have to interrupt or be rude, but use more confident words that make a statement — not a gentle suggestion." Try going a whole day without apologizing, or using this soft language. Hopefully the habit will stick over time.
3. Dress The Part (With Your Own Style Thrown In)
They say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you've got. But this doesn't mean stalking around in something uncomfortable, or something that doesn't feel like "you." In fact, if you want to be extra confident, you should dress the part, while interjecting a bit of your own personal style. According to Olson, "You’ll come off more certain of yourself if you like what you wear, rather than if you dress like you think others expect you to."
4. Go Above And Beyond What Your Boss Wants
Try to impress your boss, and you'll likely impress yourself in the process. As Ruth Zive noted on TheMuse.com, "With each new assignment, think of ways you can knock the ball out of the park ... You’ll feel better about yourself if you go the extra mile — and you’ll probably get some good feedback from others, too." And then hey, maybe even a raise? It's totally worth the extra effort.
5. Carry Yourself Confidently
Do you slump down in your desk, and skulk around the office? If so, start standing up taller, and projecting a more confident version of yourself. As Katya Andresen, CEO of Cricket Media, said on Entrepreneur.com, "If we hunch up our bodies and make ourselves smaller, we feel less confident. If we strike a power pose, we feel powerful — and are perceived differently." It's definitely worth a try.
6. Don't Be Scared To Ask For What You Deserve
If you feel like you deserve a raise, but have been passed over time and again, then of course you'll feel less than great about yourself. So march up to your boss, and confidently pop the question. According to Purtell, "You may feel presumptuous or rude. But I cannot stress enough how important this is, especially for women ... if you've been working your butt of at a company for two years without a raise, bite the bullet and ask for one. The worst they can say is no. But what if they say yes?"
7. Own Up To Your Mistakes
It may sound counterintuitive, but admitting your failures is an important part of feeling confident. As Andresen said, "None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes on a regular basis. I find that when I own this part of myself and am open about my imperfections and errors, I paradoxically feel more — not less — confident." It's probably because you're no longer covering up the error, but working to fix it, and people appreciate that.
8. Be Sure To Speak Up
I know, it can be super intimidating to share ideas in an office full of other talented people. (What if they hate it? What if they think I'm dumb?) But please, don't let this fear hold you back. As Olson said, "You were hired because of your smart ideas, so it’s time to share them ... Find the balance between holding back what you’re thinking and dominating the conversation." Once you find this sweet spot, you'll feel more comfortable sharing what's on our mind.
9. Don't Get Caught Up In Gossip
It may feel fun in the moment, but keeping secrets and feeling guilty does not do much for self-esteem in the office. It can even undermine your career. As John Boitnott said on Inc.com, "As a professional with designs on upward mobility, you can't afford to be associated with the office gossip too closely." The drama will weigh on you, and it's simply not a good idea.
10. Take Criticism Constructively
Criticism can be a huge knock to your confidence, but not if you know how to take it constructively. All you have to to do is withhold your reaction, listen to feedback, understand what the person is saying, and then thank them for the advice, noted Nicole Lindsay on Lifehacker.com. This tactic is incredibly helpful for avoiding mistakes in the future, and it's way better than getting upset.
11. Be Prepared For Everything
Start your day with a structured to-do list. Show up to meetings with a notepad and lots of ideas. And always be the person who's ready to answer the phone, or fix a problem. When you're prepared for everything and anything, you'll have a sense of unshakable confidence, since nothing will (likely) catch you off guard. And what could be better than that?
12. Recognize Your Achievements
If you turn in a project early, or get a big congrats from your boss, then sit back and revel in all that awesomeness. As Zive noted, "Acknowledging those successes and rewarding yourself will remind you how great you really are — and there’s no greater confidence boost than a job well done."
After all, you are good at what you do, and you are in that office, or startup, or store for a reason. So start acting like you deserve good things, and before long, you'll be marching around and feeling confident with the best of them.
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