Do you struggle to feel confident at work or have you received feedback that you need to improve your confidence? If so, buckle up, because I am fired up about this topic after helping many people through their confidence challenges. This brings me to my first convicted point I want to share that if you do not read one line further, I need you to absorb to your core; it is, if you are not feeling confident today, this is not your identity. In fact, it is not even who you are, it is a mere thought and feeling and both of these are fleeting, not permanent.

Equally important and what I am going to explain here, is that when we do not feel confident sometimes we can process it as all our fault or take the entire blame when indeed there are a multitude of factors outside of and in addition to us that impact our confidence. Let’s unravel the reason why a manager should never just give the feedback, “You need to be more confident”.

Watch this short 3 minute video that highlights why a manager should never say, “..just improve your confidence”, and how they may need to assess other factors that could be contributing to the low confidence.

How does someone become confident and where does it come from?

Before we get into all the elements that contribute to someone’s confidence, it is important to understand a little bit more about where it comes from as it may seem abstract and intangible. Neuroscience has proven that even though we all talk about wanting to ‘feel confident’, it actually begins with our thoughts. Thoughts are the tip of the iceberg and yes beliefs are a form of thoughts, but the scary thing with beliefs is they can be the submerged, unseen aspect of the iceberg that are in our subconscious thoughts. If thoughts and beliefs are the building blocks to confidence, this is where one needs to begin in order to become more confident.

If you have struggled with confidence for a long time personally or professionally, then I would highly suggest you work with a counselor or coach possibly trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Coaching, CBC. I do CBC coaching and have seen it work really well for people.

What is scary is that often the thoughts or beliefs we have that negatively impact our confidence are not true and rather they have evolved due to how we have processed or made sense of our world or something that happened to us. One of the most important questions you can ask yourself if you are aware of the thought, story, or belief that has held you back is, “Is it true?”. When you answer that, make sure you answer it from your perspective, no one else’s which is going to require you to know and stand up for who you know yourself to be.

Not Feeling Confident or Struggling with Confidence is Not Your Identity

I once jumped into a contract assignment that was so unique with a training that no one had ever done before that it truly would set anyone up for a disaster especially with no support. At the end of the facilitation, feedback was obtained and 75% of the feedback was positive demonstrating objectives were met, but one person wrote the most negative, cruel review I had ever received. It was one of those where someone could have just given a low rating and leave it at that, but instead this one was spiteful and mean. This person was young almost just out of high school and they were highly stressed in a toxic environment and being intimidated or bullied at work. On top of that, the industry it was in is known to be cut throat, self serving, and manipulative. The comments on that one review, despite all of the other ones being positive and the company I worked for calling it an ‘outlier’ response, affected me for months.

Perhaps it was the cruelty of the remarks or my inexperience in this being the first negative review I had received, but nonetheless, looking back I let those remarks seep unguarded into my being causing harm to my confidence. The irony was that I spent so much time with this one individual because they required and demanded it and they had a lot of anxiety with the people and culture they were working in. Now, looking back, I will never let anyone affect how I feel about myself again and I certainly will not let it linger or pervade my everyday life. How people treat you says more about them and their state then it does about you. Remember that.

If someone has harmed you in the past or is currently, or if someone treated you in a certain way or said something to you that has negatively impacted your confidence, whatever you do, do not make what they said or did, your identity! You are not how someone treats you or what they said to you. Who you are and your identity is what you choose and believe it to be.

The same is true for if you are currently not feeling confident; that’s not who you are, it is how you are in a specific moment, in a certain situation, around some people, or in specific environments and none of these are permanent.

You are confident, you may just not feel or be confident in certain circumstances. There are people, situations, and environments that will challenge your confidence, but you can build your confidence outside and within these circumstances. What you want to focus on here, is that you have the ability to become confident anywhere, anytime.

I know that is easier said, then done, but it is true!

Why a Manager Should Never Say, “Just Be More Confident.”

In the video above, I share why a leader should never give the feedback to someone of, “…just be more confident”, and leave it at that. It is not actionable and it should come with some curiosity and inquiry as to why this may be happening for someone. The impact of this statement on others does more harm than good and it can be frustrating for the recipient.

There is another reason a manager or leader should not give this type of feedback without asking or sharing more details. If someone is appearing not confident, there are at least three big factors that could be contributing to it and they are:

  1. The individual who received the feedback may have some challenges with confidence
  2. A leader, manager or team member may be negatively impacting their confidence
  3. The work culture or environment or a meeting dynamic may impact one’s confidence

Did you notice that someone’s confidence at work is not solely their responsibility, but a shared responsibility? There is no blame to be made here, only a problem to be solved with a team approach. All of the above along with the bias of the perceiver observing low confidence can all affect how someone is appearing. For example, an extreme extrovert may think an introvert lacks confidence when they may simply be less talkative.

Before a leader or manager decides to make confidence someone’s area of opportunity for growth, it would be pertinent for them to examine their own or other team members impact on this individual as well as the work culture as they both could be contributing factors. What is hard about this, is that there could be blind spots unknown to leaders that are creating a dynamic in the work place which lowers someone’s confidence. In this case, it could be good to hire a consultant or coach who could work with the team or the company’s communication and culture dynamics.

Having Low Confidence is not Permanent. You can Improve Your Confidence.

I mentioned above that having low confidence should not be and is not your identity; it is also not permanent. Anyone can improve their confidence. It may not be an overnight fix or easy, but it can and will change. So then, how can someone become more confident at work?

  1. You need to first assess why you do not have confidence at work. For example is it due to being in a new position, in a new leadership role, not feeling competent at your job, a leader above you having a negative impact on you, or limiting beliefs that have affected you for a while
  2. The next step will be to seek support from a safe, neutral, and trained professional to work through and overcome the challenges you are facing with confidence. This may be a counselor, a certified Confidence coach, or possibly a mentor or leader you trust.
  3. Confidence improves when we take action and with every action we take. Determine what those action steps are for you and keep stepping forward with them.

Confidence at work requires a combination of inner work and managing the dynamics in the work environment including communication with others. Presenting oneself confidently goes way beyond just our thoughts and beliefs as it incorporates body language and our executive or leadership presence. This then demands that we not only have a confident mindset, but that we also embody the emotions of it as well. This is exactly why leadership, communication, and confidence are the powerful trio I coach on because applied together, they make a winning combination.

If you have been told you need to improve your confidence and would like support in becoming confident, reach out to learn more and for a complimentary coaching call. I am an ACI certified Confidence coach and would love to support you in feeling and being more confident.

Also, if you are a team or have an Employee Resource Group that would like to support your colleagues with greater confidence, we have a team learning program developed by the American Confidence Institute (ACI) which is endorsed by Harvard. For more details, contact [email protected]

In closing, lack of confidence is momentary and situational; it does not need to be life long, but it does need to be attended to so you can feel great and be confident in any situation.

Your coach for Confidence.

Jody Kennett
ICF PCC, Women’s Leadership, Confidence, and Communication Coach

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