How to Be a Confident Badass at Work (and Silence That Little Voice in Your Head)
Here’s a riddle for you: It’s something that can propel you further than you ever thought possible, while the lack of it can send you backward. It can attract money, love, happiness and opportunity, but the lack of it can engineer a wall against those things. And, for many women, it’s something we spend our entire lives chasing.
The answer? Confidence. It’s an elusive, often fleeting quality, and society certainly doesn’t help women to build it: Study after study suggests women are less likely to receive promotions and equal pay. That’s likely a driving factor for why women are less likely to apply for certain jobs and negotiate salary.
But try not to let the numbers get you down. The number-one way to fight for what you’re worth -- and what you want -- is to boost your own confidence and self-advocate.
“There’s no such thing as perfection -- it’s a learning experience,” says Jen Sincero, success coach and author of You Are a Badass. “Nobody gets to the top without failing… They’ll screw it up for sure, but they’ll also knock it out of the park. Expect the speedbumps, and be grateful for them.”
We chatted with experts in success and confidence to share actionable tips for becoming the self-assured powerhouse that, deep down, you always knew you could be.
Put yourself first.
Raise your hand if the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is check your phone notifications (or, let’s be real, your work email). We’ve all been there. But dedicating the first few moments after waking to something you truly love -- something you do only for yourself -- can overhaul your outlook on the entire day. The daily grind often leads to focusing too much on what others are asking of you and not enough on your own needs, and when things get busy, that sense of self-care often gets pushed to last priority. But it should be the other way around, says Trish Blackwell, confidence coach and author of Insecurity Detox.
“When you lose your sense of self-care, you lose your sense of self… you’re telling yourself you’re not worth it,” she says. That can lead to -- you guessed it -- lower levels of self-confidence.
Whether it’s five minutes of quiet with a hot cup of coffee and your thoughts or a few minutes of yoga and stretching, putting yourself first at the start of your day doesn’t only serve to make you less stressed and happier. It also sends that voice in your head the message that you’re worth it -- so much so, in fact, that all other impending tasks can wait.
Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations.
Research suggests that women negotiate better when they’re doing it on behalf of another person. That’s something we need to change if we want to lift ourselves up with confidence. If you’re looking to make a serious change, here’s a raw question to ask: What are the lies I’m telling myself? Awareness is the first step here, and chances are your inner dialogue could be spewing negativity your way. These “lies” look different depending on the insecurities you’re least adept at fighting off. For example, if you’re dealing with an onslaught of impostor syndrome, you may find yourself subconsciously thinking, I don’t know what I’m doing, or Everyone else is smarter than I am. Once you’ve identified the negative self-talk you’re subscribing to, it’s vital to introduce an affirmation that’s opposite, says Sincero.
It’s normal not to believe the affirmation when you first introduce it as part of your daily routine, but it should bring up an emotion -- saying it and imagining it to be true should make you feel a twinge of excitement. For the aforementioned example, that could look like, I’m incredible at my job, and I’m constantly learning. Hold onto that feeling of excitement when you say the affirmation, says Sincero. Sooner or later, that should translate into belief. And if you’re still stuck in the comparison trap? Know that experts say the most important component of success isn’t limited to intelligence, talent or contacts: It’s the idea of consistently showing up and taking action. You don’t have to have all the steps figured out, says Blackwell -- just lay out one or two steps, and keep taking some sort of action every day to reach your goal.
Fake it ‘til you make it.
Take a moment to close your eyes and clearly imagine where you want to be 10 years from now. What type of work are you doing? What’s in your bank account? Where are you vacationing? What does your love life look like? How passionate are you about your job? Once you’ve got a clear picture -- and this might feel strange, but bear with us -- act as if that’s already you. Instead of worrying you won’t get there, act as if you’re there already.
Think about how you’d speak about yourself and the emotions you’d feel. Settle into this “confident expectation” of who you’re going to become, says Blackwell -- this can help stave off comparing yourself to others or to where you think you should be. Paying attention to your body language can help significantly. How would the future you hold her body? Sit up straight, smile and walk proudly with your chest out, says Sincero. Lead with openness and enthusiasm, and know that your body language is one of the factors telling your mind what to expect and how to feel that day.
See what you can get away with.
Throw away the “I have to be perfect” attitude, says Sincero. Instead, adopt the attitude of “seeing what you can get away with.” If you’re feeling serious pressure surrounding, say, networking opportunities or pitching a new idea, switch your focus -- think of it as an adventure instead of a business opportunity. This can help remove any limitations you may have placed on yourself and how far you can feasibly progress in certain areas.
Another way to think about this? Approach your goals -- at work and in life -- with a sort of “whimsical fancy” and create your own rules, says Blackwell. If you’re mentally living by society’s rules, you’ll likely place limits on the type of job you can snag or the amount of money you can make, but if you’re living by your own rules, there aren’t any limits -- or any expectations. Give yourself permission to break the rules you’ve been living by in life, whether it’s avoiding playing your music in the park or not asking for a raise until your annual review. “Anytime you hear, ‘I should,’ that’s a sign you’re living by someone else’s rules,” says Blackwell.
Look for proof in the past.
Still skeptical? Look into your past to find examples of things you’ve accomplished that seemed impossible or terrifying beforehand. “We’ve all done stuff that [scared] the living crap out of us,” says Sincero, but afterward, we tend to take those accomplishments for granted or even forget them entirely. Pay attention to your thoughts as you go about your day -- when you’re thinking, I can do this, and when you’re thinking, I can’t do this -- and note the results you see from positive versus negative thinking, says Sincero. As a quote attributed to Henry Ford says, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Blackwell suggests jotting down “champagne moments," or things you're especially proud of accomplishing, every day. It “builds up this crazy snowball of self-worth,” she says.