Throughout my professional life, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of great people. People that I’ve learned from and grown professionally. Some of them were my colleagues, some reported to me, some were my bosses, and still others were my clients. Regardless of their role or my relationship to them, though, I’ve noticed that their success was rooted in their confidence in themselves. Confidence to persevere and to thrive, even in the unknown. As you continue to grow your career, building your self-confidence is foundational to success in all things. Let’s make 2023 the Year of Self-Confidence!
Each successful person I’ve met has believed in their abilities and skills enough to forge ahead into uncharted waters full of unknown challenges, unclear risks, and unpredictable outcomes. Nowhere is this uncertainty more evident than in the big decisions that can make (or break) careers.
I know firsthand how significant those moments can be. In my own professional life, I have made multiple major career changes. After spending eleven years at Rolls-Royce Aircraft (where I started as a mechanical engineer and later expanded into public relations roles), I made a 90-degree turn and left that company to spend a total of twelve years heading up operations for two starts-ups (both of which hit it big during my time there!): first I spent a few years at IAC (where I worked for Barry Diller), then I helped found the Oxygen Channel (where I worked for Oprah Winfrey). Fifteen years ago I took my biggest leap yet when I decided to hang up my own shingle, and since then I’ve been on my own as a keynote speaker, trainer, and coach focusing on leadership.
Was I scared each time I made a big change? You bet! Each time I was leaving something secure and stable to head into the unknown. That kind of uncertainty can fill anyone with trepidation!
But I acknowledged that fear and decided to move forward anyway. I took those leaps of faith because I was confident in my abilities. I knew that I was likely to encounter obstacles. But I also knew that I would land on my feet and could use my skills and knowledge to find a path to success and help my career.
You, too, can take that kind of leap! If you want to advance your career, you need to be willing and able to stride forward into uncertainty. Here are the how to’s for building your self-confidence to make big leaps.
Ignore the Negatives
I don’t want to speak negativity into existence.
If you’re entertaining thoughts about career advancement, then you already have some belief that you’re ready for those next steps—and that you deserve to take them, too. Lean into those feelings and do what you can to shut out the negative voices that tell you otherwise. Visualize your success and keep that image in your mind.
Don’t be too self-critical. Sure, there’s room for improvement (there always is—for everyone!). But don’t be fooled into thinking that being mean to yourself is some kind of “tough love” or that “being real” with yourself will motivate you to step up your game. All it will do is crush your confidence and bring you down.
While you’re quieting your inner “Negative Nellie,” be sure to tune out external negativity, too. Remember: well-intentioned and well-informed feedback and constructive criticism are actually positive things that can help you grow. Groundless complaints or comments that are fueled by personal issues rather than professional concerns, on the other hand, fall squarely in the realm of the negative. Don’t even give those the time of day!
Focus on the positive! Remind yourself that you are capable. And when you get compliments and positive feedback from others, accept it gracefully without any “aw, shucks—I don’t deserve this” comments. You do deserve it!
Get Your Ducks in a Row
Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.
When identifying the traits of highly successful people, right next to “confidence” you’ll find “the ability to Get Stuff Done.” We are constantly barraged by attempts to grab our time and our attention—both of which are incredibly precious commodities. Therefore it’s critical that you are extra vigilant about distraction so you can conserve your resources for what matters.
How do we do that?
First, prioritize. Identify what’s truly important to you, then make it a priority for where you put your effort and engagement. When you fulfill those obligations and see the tremendous impact they can have, you feel even more confident in your ability to deliver (and to excel!) and even more prepared to take on additional responsibility. (If you find yourself getting distracted, check out my post “Top 10 Tips for Defeating the Time Thief” and my blog series on time management (part 1, part 2) to help you stay on track and focus on the important stuff.)
Second, be prepared. Pursue development and learning opportunities. Assemble the resources you need to succeed (e.g., skills, knowledge, professional relationships and connections). That way, when it’s time for you to move forward, you’ll be ready to take that next big step. You’ll build confidence in yourself because you’ll already know that you have the tools you need to deal with whatever comes your way next!
Generosity and kindness always feel good to give, and it never feels good to give grief or negativity.
When people feel insecure or uncertain about themselves, they frequently lash out at others. Focusing on the positive in others can help you feel more positive about yourself. So don’t hold other people back. Be generous in your mentoring and in the help you offer others. Give people credit and praise when it’s merited. At the same time, though, be sure not to compare yourself to others, because your self-confidence arises from your own abilities and accomplishments, not from what other people do.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
So often we hold ourselves back because we don’t want to move forward unless we are absolutely certain that we will succeed. But guess what? Nobody’s perfect, and failure is part of life!
Failure won’t stop your forward momentum—but fear of failure will. If you never take risks, you might think that will protect you from failure. But the reality is that never taking any chances means never being able to succeed at anything. If you take that route, you’ll actually be failing by default.
Stop Waiting to Live Your Life
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.
If you want to make a change, then do it!
Obviously, you don’t want to charge in blindly. You definitely need to take steps to create the circumstances that will help you achieve success in your endeavors. And you want to have confidence in yourself and in your ability to meet your goals.
At the same time, though, it’s important to recognize when it’s time to make a change to advance your career. Stop chasing perfectionism, because if you wait for everything to be “perfect,” you’ll never get anything done. At some point you must recognize that you’ve done what you can and now you are as prepared as you’re going to be. Being able to identify and follow indications that it’s time to quit hemming and hawing and instead move forward is itself a sign of confidence, too.
When your confidence lags, remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished so far. You couldn’t have gotten to this point without being capable. Once you embrace that realization, your confidence will skyrocket!
What have you done that has helped when building your self-confidence? Help others by sharing here!