Fake It and You’ll Make It: 10 Tips to Build Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is an essential inner quality in any career, but in many areas (for example, in tech where I work) just because you are a woman, your abilities might be questioned before you even start your job.

I used to hate interviews; they really scared me. To help me get through them with less fear, I started picturing the way one of my colleagues handled interviews and pressure in general. I thought about how he responded to questions he didn’t know the answer to, how he stayed calm even when he felt like the interview wasn’t going well, and how he stayed positive and poised even when he felt he was being treated poorly. I’d mentally go through the whole interview at home, imagining myself displaying that same cool demeanor.

What did I learn from this and how do you go about building self-confidence and faking it until you become more brave? Everyone experiences a lack of self-confidence now and then, but for the sake of your career, it’s important to consciously work on this trait.

The Importance of Self-Confidence

Self-confidence leads to better performance, as well as good feelings about yourself and what you can achieve.

When you lack self-confidence, you can fall into traps that can hold you back. For example, when you’re a junior and learning at a company, you might get into the habit of taking the blame when things go wrong. As a result, you may start thinking you’re stupid or not capable of handling the position. But it’s not on you. You’re not supposed to understand everything from the beginning.

A lack of self-confidence can also lead you to be too modest and hide your success or to let someone else take credit. You might think that your managers will see what you’re doing and promote you without you speaking up, but it usually doesn’t work that way. You might feel too shy to do your own PR and hope a coworker will notice and spread the word. You can’t rely on that either. If you aren’t naturally confident, you need to fake it by sharing your successes, and doing your own PR.

At the same time, self-confidence doesn’t mean you never make mistakes. Everyone does, no matter how confident they are or how long they’ve been in their career. Don’t get stuck on being perfect. Remember: better done than perfect.

Lack of confidence is the number one issue I see in the women I mentor. The good news is that self-confidence can be learned. Overcoming self-doubts happens when you honestly and truthfully assess your abilities and work on areas that need improvement.

“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.” –Cicero

Here are ten tips to get you started:

  1. Work on building self-confidence by reading a self-help book or by getting help from another person. Find a therapist to analyze your negative patterns. Get a coach to help you practice being brave. Find what triggers your lack of confidence and the beliefs that limit you. For example, you might think, “I am not smart enough,” or “I didn’t finish my project on time, so I am not a competent worker.” Once you recognize these thought patterns, you can work through them in therapy, coaching, or speaking with other women. Stop yourself when you notice these negative thoughts, and ask yourself what you would tell a friend who spoke to herself in this harsh way. Also, look at the things you say to yourself and evaluate whether or not they’re true. Maybe you tell yourself you’re too slow at producing work, but when you reflect, you realize you deliver a good job consistently. If it helps, write down the truth about your skills so you remember next time self-doubt creeps in.
  2. Try things you don’t think you can do. Start a blog. Give a lecture. Present at a conference. Try something that is harder than your current skill level. You might think something like speaking at a conference takes a lot of self-confidence, but it’s really a matter of preparation and practice. Building diverse professional skills is one of the best ways to build confidence in your abilities.
  3. Engage in meetings even when you don’t feel 100 percent sure about the topic. Ask questions. Share your perspective. The more you do it, the more confident you’ll become.
  4. Even if you fail when you take a risk, learn from that experience. Separate yourself from failure. You did something, and it failed. You are not a failure. Learn from the situation and then move on.
  5. Believe you’re worthy of a promotion. Aim high. Ask yourself what you need to do to make it to that next position. Look at the steps and start taking them.
  6. Look for a supportive community. Find a buddy within your team, someone you can learn from in those areas where your current knowledge and skills are limited.
  7. Ask people who appreciate you to encourage you. Find people who can help you calm down when you’re feeling nervous, like before a big presentation. When you share how you’re feeling, these friends can show you how valuable you truly are.
  8. Change your goals. If you’re worried about finding a new job, change the goal from “finding a new job” to “getting as many interviews as possible.” If you succeed in getting interviews, then you’ve already won. Eventually you will get a job.
  9. If you have a huge task, break it down to small tasks. Small steps are usually easier to handle, practically and emotionally, and little wins can boost your confidence.
  10. When you’re scared, imagine someone who has confidence— just as I did when I was scared to interview. Envision this person doing what you need to do. How does she handle herself? How does she speak? Notice the small details and then try to imitate them in your own situation.

Fake It and You’ll Make It

Don’t wait until you have confidence to do big, meaningful things. Instead, set big goals and work toward them. It’s time to revise the old refrain “fake it till you make it, and commit to the idea that when it comes to building self-confidence and getting the career you dream of, the catchphrase is “fake it and you’ll make it!”

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