When we spoke to you, our customers, as part of our confidence survey of over 350 women in the UK aged between 25 and 74, this is what came back as the single biggest thing stopping women making the impact they wanted to at work: “appearing confident, but not feeling confident”.
42% of the women we spoke to admitted that a lack of confidence had negatively affected their impact at work over the previous months. 36% said they felt a “lack of knowledge around a certain subject or skill” had held them back, while “managing a negative mindset” had stopped 30% of the women we polled making the impact they wanted.
When asked what makes them nervous at work, 31% of women said that being “intimidated by a boss or colleagues” put them off balance, while 23% stated that “competing with colleagues” contributed to their nerves.
The good news is that confidence, along with these other challenges, can be worked on and improved. And, the truth is, none of us are 100% immune from feeling twinges around confidence from time-to-time, especially if we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.
Barbara Brown, Consultant at Positive Momentum, focuses on delivering no-nonsense business advice and often coaches on confidence as part of her role. Here she tells us how to address these specific challenges, while boosting your general confidence overall.
What to do if you don’t feel confident:
Don’t ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. You often hear people say, ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, but Barbara believes there are actually much better approaches than putting pressure on yourself to camouflage the problem, which can be damaging. Aim to get to the point where you don’t feel the need to pretend. Find ways to be true to yourself and really work on increasing your self-awareness.
Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to ask for help through positive interventions like looking for mentors or coaches, either in your workplace or outside. Actively look for sponsors and support from people who can assist you to influence your career - and be specific in asking for what you want or need.
Don’t focus on your weaknesses. Women in particular have a tendency to do this, rather than looking to their strengths. Do you default to look at the one thing you got wrong, rather than the ten things you got right? Look at what you’re great at instead and find ways you can strengthen this.
Give yourself permission to leave if it doesn’t feel good. Females often remain in situations where they feel bad, instead of side-stepping them. Look at ways of breaking out of that cycle; give yourself permission to move on or out of an environment that’s not healthy for you.
How to upgrade your skill set if you feel a lack of knowledge is holding you back:
Unlock your curiosity. This means constantly looking for opportunities to learn and having the confidence to say, I don’t know enough about this or I need help with that, and then taking action around it. Signposting can be a healthy way of asking for support, putting in benchmarks that will help you know if you’re on the right track.
Look at things from a completely different angle. Seek out individuals and groups where you can see a positive growth mindset in action - where curiosity and learning are priorities. Take an experiential approach and test and feel how that mindset helps you.
How to get around your own negative mindset:
Build your growth mindset instead. Growth mindset is a state where you’re pragmatic with a positive outlook, which benefits the professional environment with more positivity and productivity. You can build on it by thinking about creative solutions where the initial position might be more negative than positive and investigating why that negativity is there, then dealing with the root cause - rather than the symptoms of the problem.
Celebrate success. Females are hard on themselves, so work on giving yourself permission to celebrate the small milestones, not just big ones. Give yourself permission to focus on what you do well and say, “I’m good at that.”
How to build great relationships at work and manage intimidation and competition:
Show genuine interest. Building great workplace relationships at all levels helps increase your impact and personal brand; you can do this by showing genuine interest in getting to know a wide range of people. Focus on how you can build a reputation for getting things done and seek out opportunities that will help you increase your network.
Don’t suffer in silence. If you find yourself in a position where you feel intimidated or undervalued don’t suffer in silence. Speak out, find a way to talk about how you are feeling with a supportive person in or out of your organisation to help you work through the situation.
Never allow yourself to feel isolated. Communicate the value you bring. Observe how you cope when you feel you’re up against competition and take action to neutralise any negative effects if necessary. Be confident in your own abilities, concentrate on the value you bring and develop your confident edge to communicate this with clarity and confidence.
The full findings of our “My Confidence Matters Survey” - which looks at everything from how women rate their self-confidence at work, to how they make an impact, and the importance of workplace style on confidence - are available to download here.
We created the survey as part of commitment to supporting women with advice, tips and frank discussion on issues that matter to them. The survey is an extension of our community of incredible women that aims to support each other to feel confident, on top of things and ready to face the world.