Not everyone I work with is looking to make a career change. Some have recently moved into a new position or are returning to work after a break; maternity, sabbatical or redundancy. The theme that emerges in many of our conversations is around confidence. More specifically, the lack of it.
They often feel frustrated with themselves because they know that they are capable of doing the work. They have experience, relevant or otherwise, that has led them to be successful in getting the role. They got the job! But, despite all this positive evidence, there are underlying factors that derail their confidence and make them feel like they are just, well, useless.
This makes them nervous when presenting in a meeting, sharing their opinions or ideas, speaking up or managing difficult conversations. All of which only serves to further undermine their confidence and wellbeing.
They come to believe that EVEN THOUGH they are the right person for the job, they are somehow not actually any good at one or more elements of it and that is enough to sow the first seeds of doubt. What starts as 'first day/week nerves' (which they allow themselves, up to a point), soon turns into thinking that this is the wrong job, the wrong organisation, that everyone thinks they are an idiot and they really should have just stayed doing what they were doing before this.
If you can relate to this and are wondering how to fire up your confidence, these 3 simple tips will help you get started on boosting that self-esteem and make your working life more productive and happy.
1. Understand what your brain is doing to try and adjust:
When starting something new, there is a always a transition period. There is, thankfully, some neuroscience behind this adjustment to change, which can help with understanding that these feelings are a normal part of the process. It's called the change curve, and even being aware of it can help you to realise that although this bit is tough and you are riddled with self-doubt, it will get easier.
There's no timeframe to how quickly you move through the curve each time you experience change. What is more important is that you go easy on yourself and accept that there will be a variety of emotions to navigate. Can you start to notice where you might be on the curve and show yourself some self compassion?
2. Notice what your brain is doing when you face a challenge:
"The (human brain) bias toward the negative leads you to pay much more attention to the bad things that happen, making them seem much more important than they really are." VeryWellmind
Meaning, once something goes wrong or differently to how you anticipated, you immediately and continuously go back to that feeling every time things get a bit wobbly. A bad thing happened once, which now makes you think that a bad thing will happen again and again. You easily forget to celebrate your success and accept a compliment. You brush off praise and head straight to berating yourself for what went wrong. And, when you are starting a new job or returning to one after a break, you are going to mess up. Because you are human and failure is part of life. But if you can't shift away from the negative bias to seeing the growth potential in your mistakes then you will find yourself stuck, frustrated and wishing you'd never even bothered trying.
You become your own worst judge and jury, handing out harsh sentences on yourself for the most minor of offences.
All of which affects your confidence. And sends you spiralling into a vortex of 'not good enoughsim' and that sense of being a failure. It feels hard to muster up energy to be positive and perky. You force a smile when really you are crying out for someone to see how terrible you and suggest you find a job doing literally ANYTHING else. You want someone else to pull the plug on you to confirm your worst suspicions about yourself; you suck and the sooner everyone discovers the truth, the better.
Sounds pretty wild when you see written down it like that doesn't it? But I hear it from amazing women week after week in our coaching sessions. And believe me, I do it to myself enough to know a fellow imposter syndrome sufferer when I see one. You know it doesn't make sense, but it doesn't stop the thoughts from invading your mind.
How to overcome this? Well, you can't entirely because it is part of the hardwiring of the brain. But you can give yourself other, more positive data to go to when you feel the negativity spiral. Which leads me to....
3. Really hear what other people are telling you:
If your confidence is shot because you are adjusting to change or because you have a strong negativity bias, then it can be hard to be your own cheerleader. Self-talk is great and valuable, as are mantras and vision boards, but sometimes you need to listen to what you are being told about your performance by other people. Feedback is data and as Tara Mohr says in 'Playing Big' it says more about the person giving it, than about you. How you choose to receive it or act on it, that's on you to decide. Read more about how to accept feedback here .
If someone says you are doing a good job, or your presentation was excellent, or they liked your point, then accept the feedback and store it away, rather than brushing it off as them "just being nice". Positive feedback should be used to help you continue to grow and develop, rather than becoming a source of validation. Equally, try to hear the less positive feedback in an equally impersonal way. Much easier said than done and for me, a constant work in progress!
So there you have it, the 3 ways to give your self confidence at work at boost:
Accept that change is a process that brings with it lows before highs
Understand that we are hard-wired to see the negative and not the positive in a situation, but that being conscious of this can help you be more self-compassionate
Use feedback to nurture your growth (while remaining detached from it on a personal level)
All of this takes work and time. You'll fail and you'll have setbacks. But in a few months or years from now you'll look back and wonder why you ever doubted yourself.
If you need some support in building your confidence as you take on a new role, promotion or return to work after maternity leave, get in touch for a free coaching consultation.