Boosting Your Confidence at Work - A Toolbox for Success (Be more swan)

Earlier in July I was excited to facilitate a new workshop with MBL on confidence. It was really well received by delegates from law and financial services firms well as from legal government departments. This post is intended as an additional learning resource for delegates. Poll results are shown below. Key takeaways selected by the delegates are summarised here: Boosting Your Confidence at Work – A Toolbox for Success.

Self-confidence and Confidence – Be more swan

At the start of the session, we looked at the difference between self-confidence (internal – what you feel inside) and confidence (external – what you project to others). In an ideal world we would both feel self-confident and appear confident.

We liked the analogy of a swan. You can look serene above the surface (projecting confidence) even if below the surface your legs are paddling furiously (lacking self-confidence). The session looked first at tools to make you feel more self-confident and then at techniques to make you appear more confident to others.

Humans don’t like uncertainty. Confidence usually dips when we have to try or tackle something new. Learning anxiety is real! It was interesting to hear that many delegates – both young and old – felt anxious about using new technology. So it was comforting to look at the statistics of how many people felt anxious in social settings, on the phone, at work and when presenting. One delegate noted: “They could never cure Olivier of stage fright. And Sir Edward Marshall Hall, KC was always terrified before big trials”.

How to feel more confident

Build your self-esteem – There were many tools to help you build your self-belief and self-esteem: list your strengths and achievements, develop a more positive internal dialogue and keep a note of positive feedback received. Be more confident and convey confidence – top tips (

Develop your inner coach – Many of us are familiar with our inner critics. These are voices from our past who make critical comments and use the word “should” a lot to make us feel bad. So we can cultivate an inner coach – a more positive voice that supports and encourages us and reminds us of our strengths, efforts and the good things we do. Self-compassion should be cultivated – we need to be as kind to ourselves as we are to others.

Reframe – There was a discussion about the impact of cognitive distortions and negative self-talk. The idea of re-interpreting negative emotions and thoughts into a more positive frame was helpful. One example was reinterpreting our negative views of our bodies with a positive view of how marvellous our bodies are in doing what they do (there was a reference here to stretch marks and bearing children from Shirley Valentine!) Building Resilience – Regulation, Reframing, Relationships and Reflection (

Set small, manageable goals – Break down big challenges into small, bite-sized pieces. You will be more likely to start tackling an activity for just a few minutes rather than one likely to take several days. Having regular checkpoints and goals will be more motivating as well.

Create an alter-ego – Beyonce created Sasha Fierce to help her overcome shyness on stage. We can create an alter ego as well.

Flip the script – Flipping the script (challenging limiting assumptions) can make you feel more confident about tackling challenges. Before your set your goals – check your limiting assumptions (

Use power poses – The power poses that can increase levels of testosterone after just a couple of minutes (suggested by psychologist Amy Cuddy) were appreciated. 

Talk to people – Some delegates commented on the value of talking to others in break outs. They learned that they were not alone in lacking confidence in some situations. Just knowing you are not alone is comforting. We also talked about associating with positive people (radiators) rather than negative people (drains).

Build your support network – On a related point, we touched on the need to extend our support networks. All humans have a need to connect. Isolation can make problems seem worse than they are. This honest book, written by a young lawyer in 2022, provides insight and guidance on building your network Book review – Great networking by Alisa Grafton (

How to appear more confident

Prepare and plan – Give yourself time to prepare properly for meetings. Consider in advance what you might want to say. You can also calm yourself before a meeting – possibly using breathing or meditation exercises.

Manage your appearance – There were numerous ideas here. For example, wearing appropriate clothing to “look the part” (which also boosts how you feel). Managing how you appear on a virtual screen in terms of frame-size, eye-level, posture and lighting.

Pause – Confident people feel comfortable with brief pauses while they are speaking. And before they answer questions. The STOP technique helps you regulate your emotions. 

Use non-verbal communication – We considered things we can do with non-verbal communication to appear and be perceived as more confident by others. Topics discussed included:

  • Professional attire (there were comments wearing red (especially lipstick) made you look confident and there is evidence that it makes you feel confident too)
  • Using space
  • Avoiding crossed limbs
  • Eye contact
  • Adapting your voice (tone, pitch, volume)
  • Posture

.Non-Verbal Communication (NVC) – the basics (Video) (

Assertive communication: The importance of voice (

Set boundaries – Healthy boundaries are an important aspect of assertive behaviour. Although setting and keeping boundaries can be challenging. We considered assertiveness in general. Assertiveness skills – getting what you want and saying “No” ( This article offers help on setting boundaries 5 Things to Know About Setting Boundaries | Psychology Today

Feedback from the session was rally positive and comments included:

  • Thank you it has been really good and helpful
  • Thank you so much Kim – this has been fantastic
  • I think the session was perfect!
  • It has been amazing, breakout room could have been a little longer

It’s funny but I kept the breakouts shorter on this session as I was sensitive to the possibility that being about confidence some delegates might feel uncomfortable for longer sessions working independently. But now I know better for future sessions!

And I’d like to remind everyone about five things to support your mental wellbeing 5 Ways to Wellbeing | Mind – Mind

  • Connect
  • Get active
  • Take notice
  • Learn
  • Give

The next date for this session is January 2024.

Delegate aims

The delegates had a variety of aims for the session including

  • Avoid feelings of self-doubt
  • Manage my emotions when dealing with traumatised clients
  • Feel less anxious and self-conscious at meetings – especially with senior people
  • Speak out in team calls
  • Adjust to a paperless office
  • Articulate myself confidently
  • Cope with a change of role where the “rules” change
  • Be confident in saying “no”
  • Reduce my tendency to perfectionism
  • Receive feedback and criticism calmly
  • Feel more comfortable facing conflict
  • Present and public speaking without nerves
  • Reduce my fear of making mistakes

Delegate poll results

Confidence levels

  At the start of session How you would like to feel at work At the end of the session
2 11%    
5 33%   11%
6 56%    
7     56%
8   22% 33%
9   44%  
10   33%  


How often do you experience Imposter Syndrome?

  • 56% Often
  • 44% All the time

Which is the situation where you most lack confidence?

  • 22% Learning new things
  • 22% Presentations/public speaking
  • 22% Social/conversations
  • 11% Actual or virtual meetings

Do you avoid things that make you feel nervous?

  • 43% Sometimes
  • 57% Always

Are you mostly:

  • 44% An optimist
  • 56% A pessimist

How resilient do you think you are? Improve your resilience – tools to help you cope in difficult times (

  • 56% Average
  • 33% High
  • 11% Very high

What impact do you think clothes have on how confident you appear? (1=low, 10=high)

  • 7 – 44%
  • 8 – 22%
  • 9 – 11%
  • 10 – 22%

Where does most of your personal power come from? How do you make a personal impact – Make a difference (

  • 29% Presence
  • 43% Authority
  • 29% Impact (incisive questions)

Do you think you are: Assertiveness skills – getting what you want and saying “No” (

  • 22% Assertive
  • 56% Passive
  • 22% Passive-Aggressive
  • 0% Assertive

I think my boundaries are:

  • 50% Porous
  • 38% Healthy
  • 13% Rigid

Related posts 

Assertive communication: The importance of voice ( May 2023

Conversation skills book review ( May 2023

Soft skills – Boost your self-confidence and confidence (Video) ( October 2022

Telephone skills: Anxiety, voice, etiquette and the client experience ( September 2022

Book review: The psychology of successful women by Shona Rowan ( June 2022

Non-Verbal Communication (NVC) – the basics (Video) ( August 2021

Book review: Digital Body Language – How to build trust by Erica Dhawan ( June 2021

Improve your resilience – tools to help you cope in difficult times ( November 2020

Insights into assertiveness, confidence and effectiveness ( October 2020

Be more visible – the PVI model ( September 2019

Be more confident and convey confidence – top tips ( June 2019

assertiveness, impact and effectiveness ( March 2018

How do you make a personal impact – Make a difference ( March 2018

Assertiveness skills – getting what you want and saying “No” ( March 2017