Daily Muse, Contributor, ForbesWoman 11/02/2011
I recently started my own freelance writing business, so, in fact, I no longer answer to a “boss.”
But, for nearly two decades, I did—and I had bosses that intimidated me to the core, I held positions in which I questioned my skills almost daily, and I took on responsibilities that I was certain would expose me as a neophyte.
And even now, as a brand-new entrepreneur with new clients, prospecting targets, and niche markets that are altogether unfamiliar, I still sometimes deal with feelings of inadequacy and a lack of confidence on the job.
And I know I’m not so unusual: For many women, feeling insecure at work is a constant struggle. But, it’s also a major obstacle to achieving our professional dreams and realizing our full potential. So, ladies, we’ve got to get over it.
The good news is, it’s possible. If you need a confidence boost in your day-to-day routine, check out these tried-and-true tips. You’ll bolster your sense of assurance, come off more poised, and kick some butt in the workplace, too.
1. Ask Questions
Not knowing everything—whether that’s because you’re new on the job or have incomplete information—can make you feel insecure and lead to a lack confidence. But remember that (no matter what stage you’re at in your career) you’re never going to have all the answers. So don’t be shy about asking questions, especially when you’re feeling uncertain or insecure. Instead, arm yourself with the information you need to do your job well by asking for it.
2. Be Curious
Curiosity not only sends the message that you’re ambitious and eager to learn, it also positions you well to interface with more people and take on new projects. So don’t just do the work that comes easily. Try something new, something that scares you just a wee bit—whether that’s asking your boss to lead the next client meeting or learning HTML. You’ll emerge more confident and empowered than if you stick to what you already know.
3. Accept that Everyone Makes Mistakes
If you always need to be perfect, you’ll always feel inadequate: that standard is wholly unattainable. Everyone makes mistakes on the job. You will too, and that’s okay—you’ll learn from them, and you’ll move on. Plus, once you let go of the need to be perfect, you free yourself to take risks and take on new responsibilities.
4. Go Above and Beyond
With each new assignment, think of ways you can knock the ball out of the park. Can you suggest new ideas, clients, or products? Make a process easier or more streamlined? Or even just get the report on your boss’ desk three days early? You’ll feel better about yourself if you go the extra mile—and you’ll probably get some good feedback from others, too.
5. Ask for Feedback
Don’t wait to be told that your work stinks or shines—ask for feedback along the way. Doing so demonstrates that you care about your work and want to succeed in your job. Plus, instead of anxiously wondering what you’re doing wrong, you’ll gain a better sense of your performance, your strengths, and your areas for improvement.
6. Find Supportive Allies
Seek out positive co-workers and mentors who support you, who boost you up when you’re feeling down, and who can help you succeed in your job and within the company. There are always naysayers and jealous types who want to see you fail, but if you reach out to enough people, you’re sure to find a critical mass who have your back.
7. Look the Part
Turns out, there’s some truth to the old adage, “fake it until you make it.” Dressing well, having good posture, being friendly, and making eye contact with people will all give the impression that you’re confident and in control. And when the rest of the world thinks you’re self-assured, you’ll start believing it, too. So smile, stand up straight, and yeah, go ahead and treat yourself to that new blazer.
8. Trust Your Gut
If you feel that you work isn’t getting you where you want to go, it’s sure to impact your frame of mind and sense of confidence. So be really honest with yourself about your personal goals and expectations, and make sure that you’re being true to them. If you find that you’re not able to use your talents to their fullest or your job isn’t putting you on the right track for your career, think about how to change your situation—whether it’s having a discussion with your boss or looking for a new gig.
9. Celebrate Your Achievements
If you’ve received an amazing performance review or nailed the client meeting you’ve been stressing over, celebrate—you deserve it! 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.