Delegates from law (including the Crown Prosecution Service) and finance firms joined a workshop on “Boost Your Confidence at Work – A toolbox for professionals”. They held various roles including: head of department, partner, trainee solicitor, paralegal, legal executive, business development, recruitment and technical writing. Delegates asked lots of questions – and shared their knowledge and ideas generously. I’ve summarised some of their questions on confidence at work.
What impacts our confidence?
The numerous ways in which our confidence is affected were discussed. We considered the difference between how self-confident we feel (internal) and how confident we appear to others (external). We touched on the link between self-esteem and self-confidence and how this develops through our childhood experiences.
Delegates reported things that affected their confidence such as: anxiety, serious illness, mental health diagnoses, difficulties juggling work and personal life, not making as much progress in their career as hoped, feeling overwhelmed, receiving challenging feedback and returning to work after maternity leave.
What’s the difference between our own and others’ perception of confidence?
We talked about Imposter Syndrome. The polls revealed that a surprising number of delegates experience these feelings of self-doubt. The research (e.g. Indeed/YouGov survey) does too:
Three in five workers experience Imposter Syndrome
Nearly twice as many women (21%) suffer frequently than men (12%)
Millennials (25 to 39 year olds) are the age group most likely to feel it in the workplace (27%)
During the session, one of the delegates was asked by a colleague for help with something. She explained that she couldn’t help immediately as she was on a confidence workshop. Both colleagues expressed surprise as they both perceived her as a highly confident professional. Proving the point that what we feel on the inside isn’t necessarily what others perceive on the outside!
Is there a link between mind and body for confidence?
When we lack confidence we may feel it in our bodies. Our hearts race, our hands shake, our breathing shallows and our voice may wobble. If we feel threatened, our fight, flight, freeze or fawn response may be triggered. Our bodies then fill with chemicals creating a physiological response that we experience as fear, stress or anxiety.
There is a strong link between our body and our mind. Your physical health will have an impact on your confidence. You need to get enough sleep, (good) food and exercise. Connections and relationships are also important – so check you have a good support system.
We spent time considering what is happening in our minds when we lack confidence. Some reported that they overthink, suffer from repetitive negative thinking patterns or have overly critical thoughts about themselves.
Overthinking is not a mental illness but is associated with conditions including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance use disorders. Rumination is where you feel stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts.
Delegates shared experiences about assuming a worst-case scenario, worrying about increased workloads and panicking in advance of a presentation. We discussed cognitive distortions and how to manage them. Common cognitive distortions include:
“It will be a disaster and my career will be over”
Black and White/All or nothing thinking
“Either the campaign will be a complete success and I’ll be promoted or it’ll bomb and I’ll be fired”
“I never say the right thing in meetings”
Jumping to conclusions
“It looks like you’re disappointed with me”
“I should have worked that out on my own”
“I’m feeling inadequate – I don’t belong anywhere”
These resources – which address cognitive distortions and low self-esteem may help:
What can I do when I’m constantly criticising myself?
We explored our inner dialogue which can be highly self-critical echoing carers’ voices from our childhood. There is often a lot of use of the word “should” as well.
We looked at ways to convert our inner critic into an inner coach. And learned that the most effective people manage to balance a positive view of the future with a realistic grasp of the potential obstacles.
We need to be kinder and more compassionate to ourselves – as we would be to other people. This means taking care when we provide feedback to others The art of giving feedback – top tips (kimtasso.com) to create a safe, appreciative environment where people can learn.
How do I deal with vulnerability?
No one is perfect! We continue to learn throughout our lives so there will always be new things to challenge us. The pace of change at work is accelerating so there will be many occasions when we lack confidence, have to tackle new things and suffer from learning anxiety.
We discussed strategies for managing our self-confidence and presenting a confident image for example: the use of alter egos and “putting on armour”. But there were questions about whether his was authentic and a useful debate about the need to share when we feel vulnerable.
There were also suggestions that you say something like: “I tend to cry easily. Please do not be alarmed. I would appreciate it if you would continue to speak to me and try to disregard my tears – I am OK”
How do you say “No” to senior people?
Saying “No” to people is often difficult – especially to senior people. Maintaining healthy boundaries is important for your self-esteem too. You’ll need a host of confidence and assertiveness skills and tools to help you. Here are some resources:
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