Ways to Build Self-Confidence and Stand Out at Work

Oct 11, 2018
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The secret to successfully leading meetings and standing out during appraisal time? It’s all about feeling more confident in yourself.

We’ve all felt butterflies before a big meeting or felt our hands shaking while giving a big presentation, but more of us are struggling with confidence than you might think. A recent workplace survey1 found that 32% of us are afraid to put their ideas forward and 20% have missed out on a promotion because of our lack of self-belief.

Don’t let a lack of self-confidence hold you back. Whether you want to push for a new role or make sure you stand out in those morning catch-ups, here are five ways to find more confidence, fast...

1. Strike a power pose

Your body language might be the key to appearing more self-assured. Before a meeting or presentation, try a ‘high-power pose’ such as standing with your legs wide and your hands on your hips. Or just try standing taller with your chin up, rather than fiddling with your clothes or holding your arms around you. According to Harvard and Columbia Business Schools2, standing confidently can increase levels of testosterone – the hormone linked to power and dominance, and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol. 

2. Head to the gym at lunch

Many of us feel guilty for heading out at lunchtime, but making time for exercise – whether it’s a brisk 10-minute walk or 20-minute gym session – will help you come back feeling more ready and confident in the afternoon. Researchers in Finland3 found that those with the highest levels of cardio fitness and muscular strength experienced the least stress at work. They also scored higher on tests of mental capacity and confidence. This may be because exercise can help your brain buffer the effects of stress and help with feeling more resilient.

3. Record yourself

If you’re worried about public speaking or giving presentations, try recording yourself. Public-speaking expert Dale Carnegie4 recommends practicing your presentation beforehand and if possible recording yourself to find out whether you’re speaking clearly and at the right pace – many of us tend to speed up when we’re nervous. You’ll feel more in control and better prepped when the time comes. 

4. Say yes

We all suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time, and the fear of ‘being found out’ means we’re less likely to volunteer for new challenges at work. Saying yes to new opportunities might push you out of our comfort zone, and as a result could give you newfound confidence knowing that you can rise to the challenge. 

5. Stop and breathe

In moments of anxiety or self-doubt, try pausing and taking a deep breath in. According to Cara Moore, Head of the Training Academy for Professional Women5, this will allow you time to reset yourself. “Our more deliberate thinking can catch up with our involuntary flight or fight response, the ‘I can’t do it’ paralysis that can set in,” says Moore. You have time to tell yourself: ‘yes, I can.’ “When you breathe in, you also smile. This triggers positive emotions and makes you feel calmer and confident.” Try it now.

1 Research commissioned by Feel Good Lenses and conducted by Red Dot research, July 2015 http://www.onrec.com/news/statistics-and-trends/new-research-reveals-confidence-crisis-in-the-workplace
2‘The benefit of power posing before a high-stakes social evaluation’, Harvard Business School Working Paper, No.13-027, September 2012, https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/9547823/13-027.pdf?sequence=1 
3 Effects of physical activity and fitness on the psychological wellbeing of young men and working adults: associations with stress, mental resources, overweight and workability, University of Turku, 2015, http://www.doria.fi/handle/10024/103576
4 Dale Carnegie Training https://www.london.dalecarnegie.co.uk/events/public-speaking-courses/
5 ‘How to be confident at work and get over imposter syndrome in 6 steps’ by Cara Moore, Head of the Training Academy, Voice at the Table, The Telegraph, March 2016, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/how-to-be-confident-at-work-and-get-over-imposter-syndrome-in-6/

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