The way you feel about yourself and your self-confidence, impacts your happiness level. It can make life more or less stressful for you. If you trust your ability to handle difficult situations, you can see them as a challenge instead of as a threat. If you don’t trust your own ability to handle things, you will be more likely to see new situations as threatening. “Self-efficacy” is the feeling that you are capable and resourceful. This can contribute both to self-esteem and to stress management. I have written about this before. You may like to re-visit that earlier blog (suefirthltd.com/building-self-worth-why-its-worth-it/)
A lack of self-confidence in life and work, can mean situations feel more stressful. Some issues that arise from a lack of self-confidence can link to problems at work:
The correlation between a lack of self-confidence and illness. Low self-confidence can lead to feelings of helplessness amongst those diagnosed with illness. Over time, they can feel a victim. The illness grows worse as their personal coping resources (including self-confidence) become depleted. Then they isolate themselves from support. These feelings of helplessness and worthlessness cause severe stress. It can become a vicious circle and an individual can seek time off to recover.
Self-confidence and social interaction
Individuals with low self-esteem may fail to maintain or form new social relationships. This is relevant for new students in University or for people new to their work situation. They may be less likely to seek out social activities/occasions. If you are also prone to illness, you deplete your resources. This can alter your perception of how welcome you feel.
Self-confidence and social inequality
Confidence is essential to our ability to compete in society. When we don’t feel confident we are less likely to make the kind of decisions that can give us an edge over others. Stress can actually boost the competing confidence of people with low anxiety. It can also reduce it in people with high anxiety. Researchers believe stress can cause inequalities. Very anxious but very competent individuals, become trapped in a self-perpetuating loop. Their low competitive confidence results in them losing the competitive advantage. For example, if they are not hired for a job, they begin to believe they aren’t competent.
What are the resulting problems at work?
A lack of self-confidence can have a huge impact on both personal and work life.
Many people continue to work and function well whilst ill. As the illness continues though, it can affect an individual. Their confidence begins to drop. Illness can be scary, stressful and exhausting to manage. After a while it can get to you and you become its victim. Those with less self-confidence suffer more as they have depleted coping mechanisms. They may allow themselves to be overcome by anxiety and worry. If they become isolated, this can exacerbate their fears. What may have started out as a physical illness evolves into a mental difficulty too. In any job an individual can encounter stress, but the level of it is dependent on the job itself. Stress-related work can add to the existing problem and can impact self-confidence further. Individuals struggle to keep up with workloads as their health deteriorates. This often leads to self-doubt in their abilities and negative thoughts. Lack of belief in ourselves comes from the feeling that we are unworthy or destined to fail. This often goes hand in hand with self-sabotage, and it’s a link that can be hard to break.
A lack of self-confidence can lead to issues with assertiveness too. The way you feel about yourself can affect your productivity and job performance. This can affect your career success. There are many ways self-esteem can get battered at work. The pace of work demands are often so fast that we may not acknowledge good performance. The demand for productivity has grown too so we can feel we’re not doing enough. Bosses tend to concentrate on workload and work we haven’t done. This can make you feel inadequate so confidence can be further affected. In turn it becomes a vicious cycle in which low self-esteem leads a person to accept more work than he/she can handle. this, in turn, causes further stress forming a harmful feedback cycle.
Social interactions with colleagues at work can make a big difference to us. They can mean the difference between success or failure in a career. No matter how adept you are in your particular area of expertise, your work may have little impact. We build important social networks and support systems at work through socialisation. Colleagues can relate and support each other when going through difficult periods. Some people lack the confidence to do this. They don’t form these networks so they isolate themselves from support. This affects their wellbeing and can affect their productivity at work.
So what can you do?
The good news is that you can alter your behaviour. It requires determination and persistence but it is possible. In turn, you can improve relations with people, boosting self-esteem and your career. Being more assertive is part of the answer. This can mean your words and action have conviction. In turn, this helps you advance in your job and career. Regulating and balancing feelings of confidence requires considerable self-awareness and knowledge.
It’s important to avoid being over-confident though. Over-confidence can lead you to take on projects that are beyond your capability. You may not be able to complete the tasks. Healthy confidence can encourage you to engage in challenging but manageable projects. This will help you move outside your comfort zone. It may enable you to achieve new goals. These are the valued characteristics of successful workers.
How to be more confident at work
- Stay focused on you and learn to say no. Do the best you can to stay on-task and focused. Confidence emerges from time-honoured good work, combined with a great attitude. Learning to say no is an important step to take too.
- Identify your strengths and capitalise on them. Be clear on your strengths and find ways to integrate those strengths into what you do every day. When you lead from your strengths, you’re engaged and energised. You’re self-assured. Once you take an inventory of the things you do best, ask yourself how you can use those strengths to do your job.
- Identify weaknesses, and work on them. If there are weaknesses that are affecting your confidence, make a plan to reduce them. Try not to obsess over these or it can exacerbate the problem. Addressing your weaknesses can help boost confidence.
- Believe in yourself. It may be easier said than done, but try to tell yourself “I can do this,” and believe it. Saying three affirmations or a three-line mantra to yourself helps. Each night before going to bed find three things that you like about yourself. If you prefer, try three things that went well that day. There are many proven benefits to optimism . Cultivate a belief that things are positive. Create thinking habits that skew toward optimism. These provide benefits for your health and general happiness. Optimism involves more than “looking on the bright side’. It is a trait you can develop by shifting your focus and self-talk.
- Track your successes – Keep track of your daily accomplishments. This way, when you cross tasks off your list, you’re more aware of your constant achievements. Keep a file to record your successes. Store congratulatory e-mails, milestones reached and kudos from bosses or peers. Keep a note of challenges you’ve overcome. Thank you letters, and recognition/ praise from inside and outside the company. Refer to the file for a reality check of your talents and a personal pat on the back.
- Know that your confidence is vulnerable at times. Accept that this is going to happen. If you are on the receiving end of a comment that shakes your confidence, give yourself 24 to 48 hours to recover. Then respond or make an important decision. It’s vital not to do this when your mood is low as we often make poor decisions in those circumstances. We can all feel negative from time to time, but some people are negative a lot of the time. Learning to identify and create boundaries with those who drain us can help. Identifying and cultivating relationships with more supportive friends/colleagues can build us up.
- Seek encouragement from others. Ask people you respect what they think are your greatest strengths. Then find ways to use those strengths. Get feedback from colleagues and friends about how you are doing. Ask them to identify your strengths and places where they’d like to see you do more. Sometimes other people see more talent in us than we recognise in ourselves.
- Challenge yourself. Accomplishing things that you didn’t think possible can be a great way to boost your confidence. Find projects and assignments that give you an opportunity to use your strengths. Take on projects that stretch you. Try something new, even if you’re unsure or afraid. Take baby steps if needed but begin to immerse yourself in the new project or activity and see how it goes. Try to refrain from judging your performance too early. Avoid comparing your performance to someone who has been doing it for a longer period of time.
- Be a role model of positive attitude. Develop a positive attitude. Positive doesn’t always mean ‘happy’ it can also mean resilient. Focus on how you can provide solutions rather than spend a lot of time discussing the problem. We attract people with an upbeat attitude when ours is. It’s contagious, even with your boss. It can project confidence as you make this part of your ‘personal brand.’
- Face your fears. It’s important to take action rather than avoiding interaction. The negative thoughts in your head will be talking you out of it, and it’s important to act regardless of them. Put yourself in situations where there are people. Attend work outings/parties instead of excusing yourself. Even if you don’t stay too long. For some people it will be a challenge particularly if you have social anxiety. Try to tolerate some temporary discomfort as you step outside of your comfort zone. Realise that you must do this to grow.
Other recommendations include: relaxation techniques, and time-management programs. Tools for coping with stress can also improve confidence.
Stress and self-confidence matter. Stress can worsen the symptoms of almost all medical and emotional conditions. So, if you are experiencing depression, you may feel less able to manage day-to-day stresses.
The strength of an individual’s social support system correlates with their stress. People with adequate social support, report lower stress levels than their less-connected peers.
When the body is healthy, it is much easier to live with stress. Low self-confidence compromises our emotional readiness to handle challenges. These are part of daily living and increase our experience of stress.
If you think you lack self-confidence and could do with some advice please feel free to contact me.