how to build confidence at work: 10 proven strategies

Learn how to develop workplace confidence, from overcoming setbacks to speaking more confidently.

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Workplace confidence is something every professional strives to have. Not only does it help you stay motivated and engaged with your day-to-day tasks, but it can help you develop and progress. Being confident at work means different things to all of us, but it can be important because:  

  • You are more likely to excel and progress in your job 

  • You feel confident to take on new challenges 

  • Your satisfaction in your job is higher 

  • You’re able to build stronger connections with your colleagues 

However, building workplace confidence can be challenging. It’s easy to set unrealistic expectations, compare yourself to others, and doubt your abilities. This can cause you to second-guess your efforts, leading to mistakes and reduced productivity.  

What’s more, many people – particularly women - find that being seen to act with self-confidence in the workplace can be detrimental to their success.  

Recent research found that successful women are often belittled or bullied in the workplace, with 3 in 5 respondents (60.5%) saying they'd be penalised if they were to be perceived as ambitious at work. This is a phenomenon known as the Tallest Poppy Syndrome. 

Yet, a strong sense of self-confidence remains key to achieving a sense of safety and satisfaction in the workplace.  

In this article, we'll provide ten strategies for building and maintaining confidence in your professional life.   

1. start by practicing self-awareness and self-acceptance

Being confident at work starts with self-awareness and self-acceptance. You need to know your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Instead of dwelling on your limitations, focus on your strengths and abilities. Concentrating on your strengths can help you use these to your advantage when assessing areas you'd like to improve.  

Remember, nobody is perfect. And pretending to be perfect won't improve confidence. In fact, it may contribute to a sense of imposter syndrome or the feeling that you'll get 'caught out'.  

Instead, a balanced approach that's more mindful of your strengths will help you feel grounded in your abilities and capable of growing through potential weaknesses. 

2. use confident language

Most of us have heard the phrase 'fake it till you make it'. This familiar aphorism suggests that if you imitate confidence, competence, and a positive mindset long enough, you'll eventually achieve the desired results. 

In a workplace context, 'faking it till you make it' can be helpful if you're trying to overcome feelings of self-doubt. If you're feeling underconfident, try using language that outwardly portrays a sense of self-confidence. 

If you aren't naturally loud, altering how you speak at work might be challenging. Start slowly, like trying to focus on specific words you use. 

If you have an idea that you're proud of, make sure you vocalise this. These subtle language changes will give what you're saying more authority. For example, try changing: 

  • "Can I" to "I will" 

  • "Hope that's okay" to "Let me know any questions." 

  • "Is it alright if I..." to "I'm planning on..." 

  • "Do you mind if I raise a point?" to "I would add..." 

Speaking up in team meetings will mean your voice is heard. If you're feeling insecure about this, wait for a quiet moment and ask if you can contribute. 

If you need guidance, try observing other employees in your company who you believe model self-confidence well. Listen for an example of how they use language, and practise this for your own professional development. You can also read our article on how to improve your communication skills at work or sign up for an online course. 

If you employ self-affirming techniques like this, you can slowly build confidence at work and in your personal life without even realising you're doing it.

3. be confident in your body language

Using confident body language is another way to quickly boost your confidence. While it may feel unnatural at first, practising confidence-building strategies like more self-assured body language will build your self-confidence over time - and it'll help convince other people that you're more capable. An academic study found these non-verbal cues strongly influence ratings of perceived confidence, influence, and leadership qualities.  

Examples of strong body language are: 

  • Strong handshakes 

  • Eye contact with your co-workers 

  • Sitting up straight or having a relaxed, upright and open posture 

  • Smiling  

  • Open hand gestures 

  • Uncrossed arms 

  • Leaning forward and head tilted or nodding when listening 

  • No fidgeting or hands in pockets 

  • Staying focused and not looking at the ground 

Watch videos from a leadership coach and see how they stand when they present. Focus on practising this skill moving forward to boost your confidence in the workplace. 

4. give and receive feedback

Feedback is an essential tool for personal and professional growth. Don't shy away from asking for feedback from your colleagues and superiors. A better understanding of your performance can help you take on new tasks more confidently, as you'll be clearer on the ways you can improve. 

Alternatively, giving feedback is a great way to build your self-confidence in the workplace. If you feel like you're being spoken down to or mistreated, giving constructive criticism can help others around you improve their behaviour. Job satisfaction is essential, and speaking up when you feel your career isn't going how you would like is vital. 

If you feel your success is being downplayed or your manager's expectations are unachievable, the only way to resolve these is by talking through it. Growing your confidence is far easier when your colleagues give you the space to do so.

5. face your fears

Confidence is often built by facing your fears and stepping out of your comfort zone. Take on new challenges, volunteer for a new project and embrace growth opportunities, even when this seems daunting. Putting your hand up might make you feel vulnerable and exposed, but any new challenge brings new knowledge and a chance to build on your skills. 

The most important thing when it comes to building your work confidence is developing your professional skills. This can involve pushing yourself in ways that might feel uncomfortable at first. But the more you take on, the more you’ll learn and the more confident you’ll feel. 

6. build a supportive network

Surround yourself with a supportive network who believe in your abilities. These could be: 

  • Your colleagues 

  • Mentors 

  • Friends and loved ones 

  • Family members 

Your support network can provide encouragement, guidance, and a safe space to discuss your concerns and aspirations. It can also help you maintain a sense of perspective and self-worth, even when you don't see it yourself. 

One of the best ways to build on your skills and professional development is to learn from your peers. So lean into your network, and don't hesitate to ask questions. 

7. celebrate achivements

Acknowledging and celebrating your achievements, no matter how small, is vital for building and maintaining confidence and improving your future performance. 

Celebrate milestones and use them as stepping stones to more significant accomplishments. Even celebrating your small, daily achievements helps; according to research from Harvard Business School, people who track their minor achievements every day are more motivated in the long term. So, it's clearly a great habit to get into! 

Acknowledging wins can give you that all-important confidence boost. In moments of self-doubt, you can look back at your achievements and know you can do it. 

8. practise resilience 

Confidence is not just about succeeding; it's also about handling setbacks. Being confident comes from believing in your abilities, and every setback can help boost your self-confidence. So, flip the narrative and see 'failures' as a learning experience. 

If you feel you've had a setback, take it as an opportunity to learn a new skill and set new goals. If something doesn't go as expected, don't punish yourself. Be kind to yourself and see it as a chance to learn.  

If you're feeling anxious, try our techniques to help you manage anxiety.  

One of the most significant professional setbacks you can face in your professional life is redundancy. If you want to build resilience and turn even this into a positive, read our article on how to bounce back from redundancy and build self-confidence

9. use positive affirmations

Positive affirmations and changing your inner dialogue can boost your self-esteem. Examples of positive affirmations are: 

  • "I am successful." 

  • "I am confident." 

  • "I am getting better every day." 

  • "Today is a great day." 

  • "I am filled with focus." 

Conversely, listening to your inner critic will lower your confidence and self-esteem. Staying focused on your ability to overcome challenges and reminding yourself that your current strengths, however, can help you develop assertiveness and silence self-doubt.  

In fact, an academic study found that self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with "self-related processing" (i.e. confidence) and reward. This means that self-assurance will help you feel happier, less scared of failure, and braver to take on new challenges. 

10. know when to quit

Sometimes, you can practise all the confidence-building strategies in the world, but when it comes down to it, the job isn't the right fit for you. Changing jobs could be the best thing for your career if you feel constantly put down or belittled or your confidence is being chipped away.  

Take the fear associated with change and see it as a positive thing. Assess whether you want to stay in your current career or go for something new entirely. Write a list of transferable skills you have and make a list of what you might need; you can always learn a new skill. 

No one should feel constantly put down, so take a stand and look for a fresh start. Plus, with a new environment, new people, and a new perspective, you might find that your inner champion was there all along. 

building confidence: every little boost counts

Building and maintaining confidence at work is an ongoing task. It requires self-awareness, continuous learning, a positive mindset, and the willingness to step out of your comfort zone. But remember: confidence is a skill that can be developed and within your control. 

One of the most effective ways to build your confidence is to believe in yourself, so start your journey of self-confidence today. 

boost your resilience

Resilience is an important life skill which can help you thrive in any environment. Our e-learning will provide you with techniques to help you become more resilient.

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