Building Confidence and Conquering Self-Doubt

Nancy Anderson
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Self-doubt can sabotage your progress at work, preventing you from contributing innovative ideas or going out for promotions. If that sounds familiar, take heart — uncertainty and nerves are not permanent conditions. With small, manageable actions, you can build confidence and kill nagging doubts.

Fake It

Self-doubt can cause you to downplay your contributions, fail to speak up in meetings or decide to go with a safer but less-effective solution. These unwanted actions can be disastrous for your career. One way to conquer self-doubt is to fake it until you make it. This outside-out strategy uses forced behaviors to build confidence; acting more self-assured than you feel can trick your brain into believing it. If you tend to speak quietly and timidly in meetings, switch to open body language and a more commanding tone. If you avoid eye contact with senior executives in the hallways, make a point to say hello and smile brightly. These actions can feel uncomfortable at first, but over time, they help create a positive, permanent shift in your thought patterns.

Dress the Part

Clothing might seem frivolous, but it can go a long way toward helping you build confidence. The right outfit is a powerful tool: it makes you feel great, which eliminates appearance-based insecurities and enables you to focus on the job. In fact, researchers from Northwestern University found that wearing the right outfit for the job can actually improve your performance. Appropriate, well-fitted clothing also helps other people see you as an authority.

Keep Visual Reminders

When you're feeling insecure, it's helpful to remember that other people have faith in your abilities and talents. To make it easier, create a visual representation of your greatness. Gather all of the proof you can find, such as thank-you emails from clients, positive reviews in the press and employee of the month stories in the company newsletter. Post these items on a bulletin board right above your desk; any time you feel inadequate, rely on this evidence to build confidence and help you move forward.

Go for Small Wins

Small wins are one of the most powerful ways to build confidence. Instead of expecting a massive change overnight — a surefire way to kill your ego — start with tiny things that are doable given your current abilities and situation. Identify a huge goal or roadblock, and break it down until you find a task that doesn't fill you with terror. Does asking for a raise feel impossible? Start with a little bit of non-intimidating self-promotion: forward a congratulatory client email to your boss, or mention in a meeting that you completed a project ahead of schedule. As these tiny successes accumulate, it builds a foundation of confidence and makes it easier to tackle larger fears.

Eliminating doubts can be a slow process, but the end result is well worth your time and effort. By taking it easy and making gradual change, you can build confidence and take your career to the next level.

Image courtesy of franky242 at


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