As employees, entrepreneurs, executives or any role in between, women in business sometimes struggle with self-confidence in the workplace.
The confidence gap between professional women and their male counterparts is well documented. A summary of research by The Atlantic™ points out that women are more likely than men to underestimate their potential and performance, ask for less money during salary negotiations, and hold back from competing for opportunities they don’t feel fully qualified for.
Meanwhile, men are more likely to exhibit what researchers call honest overconfidence in their skills and abilities. Regardless of how their beliefs actually align with their performance, a highly confident person can reap the benefits of this mindset.
Misalignment between confidence and competence levels can prevent women from making their voices heard, stepping up when opportunities arise and advocating for themselves. But building confidence in yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone takes practice. Whether you’re facing imposter syndrome or just need a little self-assurance, read on for tips on how to boost your confidence as a woman in the workplace.
What does it mean to be confident in the workplace?
There are a lot of misconceptions about the nature of confidence that prevent women from embracing this quality.
To be confident, you don’t need to know exactly how to do something. You don’t need evidence of past success in that skill or area. And there’s not even a correlation between accomplishing more and gaining confidence. Some of the most skilled and accomplished professionals can suffer from a severe lack of confidence. Unfortunately, even if opportunities and support are plentiful, a lack of confidence can be a serious barrier to success.
To be a confident woman at work, you simply need to hold the firm belief that you are capable of doing something. You need to trust in and depend on yourself in order to exhibit true confidence.
For instance, if you’re looking at a job description, you might only have experience with 60% of the listed requirements. You might feel nervous, but if you believe that you’re capable of taking on that other 40%, you can submit an application with confidence. You don’t need to possess 100% mastery to put yourself forward. When you say you’re up for a challenge, other professionals will believe in you as much as you believe in yourself.
It’s important to remember that confidence isn’t a natural quality some people are born with and others will never have. Approach confidence as a skill that you can develop and refine over time and you’ll be well on your way to a brighter career and future.
7 ways to build lasting confidence in the workplace
Throughout your professional life, you can develop good habits that instill confidence — but you can also try quick ways to give yourself a temporary confidence boost when you need one. These tips can help you look and feel confident as a woman in business.
1. Craft your personal elevator pitch
Come up with a brief summary of who you are, including your strengths, values, aspirations and skills, then recite it when introducing yourself to others. According to a study cited in Psychology Today™, you can leverage this selling technique to build workplace confidence.
2. Replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk
The internal dialogue in your mind can help or hinder you. Identify disparaging messages and replace them with more productive, positive thoughts.
For instance, when your performance isn’t perfect, avoid blaming or shaming yourself. Instead, shift your mindset by acknowledging that the task is an objectively challenging one and that you’re growing as you work through it.
3. Give yourself positive affirmations
A helpful way to drown out negative self-talk and nerves is to recite positive affirmations and encouraging mantras to yourself. This works like a little pep talk to help you power through a project or overcome the fear that comes with trying a new thing at work.
4. Challenge self-limiting beliefs
If you feel the urge to downplay your skills or abilities or hear yourself saying “I can’t,” work to dismantle those self-limiting narratives. Look to replace them with more optimism and trust in yourself.
5. Dress in a way that makes you feel your best
There’s a reason people wear sharp, tailored suits to high-stakes meetings. They want to look and feel confident, not sloppy and stressed. If you’re going out of your comfort zone at work, put on an outfit that makes you feel strong and powerful. This can give you an extra boost of self-assurance and help you project confidence.
6. Focus on improving your body language
Your nonverbal cues can say a lot about your confidence level. Make your presence known; stand tall or sit upright and orient your body toward others. Start with a firm handshake and make direct eye contact with the people you’re speaking with.
If you’re prone to fidgeting, avoid pen-clicking or crossing your arms. Instead, you’ll be more comfortable if you bring along something like a sleek padfolio to hold onto calmly.
7. Learn by observing confidence in others
To see what confidence looks like in action, network with other confident, positive people at events like the 2021 Comerica Bank Women’s Business Symposium. If you watch a charismatic speaker or see someone make a great introduction, consider why they appear confident and try borrowing those tactics.
Remember, confidence can be infectious. As you develop your own skills, find opportunities to support and build confidence in other women around you.