There is a study recently out that says when it comes to math, girls say they are worse at it than boys, even if that is not true. The gist of it: "Boys are significantly more confident in challenging mathematics contexts than otherwise identically talented girls. Specifically, boys rated their ability 27 percent higher than girls did." That's a lot! There are a lot of elements at work that make this so, but what we want to focus on today is confidence. The girls in this study rank their ability low even when it's high, and what that comes down to is confidence (and in this case probably a lot of gender discrimination in the subject area).
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All that said, what we can control on the daily is how we think about ourselves, and there is no doubt that we all have crises of confidence in the workplace from time to time. Here are a few tips for plowing through those feelings, and making your confidence level match your ability.
1. If you don't understand, speak up.
So often we think asking a question reveals a weakness: that is entirely not the case. If something is being explained to you — particularly a task you need to complete — and you don't understand, ask a question. Not asking is definitely worse than asking, and not understanding can lead to a lot of stress. Avoid it; ask the question.
2. Ask for what you want.
Similarly, ask for what you want. If you want a raise, to take a vacation, to plan a meeting with someone — you need to ask for it. No one can read your mind, and keeping these requests to yourself eventually leads to feelings of disempowerment which of course then leads to waning confidence. Don't get in your own way, ask for what you want.
3. Feel empowered to say no.
There are some things you have to say yes to — requests from your boss, for example. But if someone asks for a favor, you really don't have to do it, especially if it puts you out. You also don't have to go to events outside of work hours if it's not a part of your job description. Saying no is a powerful tool and too often we forget to do it — but taking on too much makes everything suffer which again is another confidence killer.
4. But also say yes.
Especially if you want to! If you think you're up to the task but are too nervous to raise your hand — take the leap of faith! If you want to go to the office happy hour but are afraid you won't have anyone to talk to — just go! Saying yes when you want to rather than opting out from fear will definitely boost your self-confidence. Try it.
5. Use criticism as a learning tool.
It's hard not to take job criticism personally but you really can't. Use it to learn, grow from it, adopt it into your professional practice, and move on. Don't beat yourself up over mistakes made because everyone makes them. And don't think a conversation about how to improve your performance is any sort of referendum on your personality. If you can use criticism as a tool for learning, you will undoubtedly feel better about yourself and your work.