Confidence is an important ingredient to career success. It’s an active mindset, an emotion that impacts our motivation, our ability to communicate and ultimately, our results. If you have confidence in yourself it’s infectious; others pick up on it and start to have confidence in you too.

The good news is that confidence can be learnt. The challenge is that it’s not static, and so some days you can feel totally on top of your game, and others you’re might feel like you’re starting from square one.

So how can you become more confident? A good starting point is simply to think more confidently. Confidence is introspective – it is how sure you are about things. Allowing yourself to think confidently can help develop more confident behaviour. Conversely, by letting worries and anxieties take over, we can downward spiral and our confidence can become totally derailed.

Confidence can also come through practice, such as doing things that build and maintain confidence to help re- enforce what you already know you do well.

Finally, be aware of how you come across, even if you are feeling confident inside. If you don’t “appear” confident to others they may read you wrongly and make assumptions about your confidence levels.

Here are some specific tips and techniques to try out:

Thinking Confidently

  • Appreciate who you are. Value yourself and remind yourself regularly of your strengths and talents. Learn to manage your fears. It’s very natural to have some anxieties from time to time – nearly every person has struggled with his or her self-confidence at one point. You’re not alone, but don’t let your concerns overtake you. Know when they need to managed by checking how rational they are and use positive self-talk to keep them at bay.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others – everyone is different, and what makes one person feel happy and successful can be very different to the next. You are your own unique self.
  • Develop a positive mindset and focus on what you can take control of instead of worrying about what might never happen. Remind yourself of your successes and be proud of your abilities. If you think you will fail you’re likely to half-approach the challenge.
  • Retrain your inner voice. In situations where you believe you lack confidence, check what your inner voice is telling you and if it’s saying something negative then try to replace it with a positive voice.

Practising Confidence

  • Play to your strengths – recognise your talents, qualities and strengths and use them when and wherever you can.
  • Take compliments gracefully. When someone compliments you, smile and say “thank you.” Don’t respond by putting yourself down, or downplaying your accomplishments.
  • Don’t over apologise. Being able to say sorry is a good trait when used in genuine situations. However, some people apologise for everything and make it a habit. Don’t assume there is always something to say sorry for!
  • Do things outside your comfort zone. The more you do, the more you will surprise yourself and realise what you are capable of.
  • Learn from and don’t fear mistakes. Worrying about failure can keep us from doing anything at all, and if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll never get better. Everyone experiences setbacks – it’s the getting back up that builds confidence.
  • Stop being a perfectionist. Nothing and no one is perfect. It’s good to have high standards, but recognise your daily life is going to have pitfalls and flaws. Accept them and move on.
  • Be clear about what is important to you. Set realistic goals for yourself; not unrealistic expectations.
  • Seek out and place yourself amongst positive people.Their optimism will lift yours.
  • Build a ‘board of advisors’. Don’t expect to achieve success by yourself. The most confident people still ask and receive support from those around them.
  • Manage rejection. It’s part of life. Learn to be comfortable with it and don’t lose your personal beliefs.

Appearing Confident

  • Speak loudly and clearly. If you tend to jumble words in an attempt to rush through what you’re saying, slow down. Pausing a second or two before you speak gives you time to plan your response, and sends a signal that you can take control of yourself which in turn suggests confidence.
  • Stand tall with your head high. Walk like you own the world, even if you don’t feel like you do. As long as you’re not overdoing it, others read this as confident body language.
  • Make eye contact and smile. This tells someone you are giving your full attention, smiling also releases helpful endorphins lifting mood and reducing stress.

And Finally

Whilst feedback from others can be an important and helpful form of development, try not to fixate on negative feedback, especially if you are told you are not confident enough. People’s definitions of ‘confidence’ varies greatly. I have heard introverts, women and culturally diverse individuals all described as lacking confidence, when actually they were not. They were showing confidence in a way that wasn’t recognised purely by the nature of their different approach. Managers are being challenged far more to value difference these days. So don’t let your difference be mistaken for lack of confidence and in doing so actually impact your confidence!

Emma Spitz, Executive Coach and Director, talks about how to approach tough conversations with your manager. She gives some practical steps to take in preparation, during the conversation and afterwards.

Watch the Video