It might feel like everyone around you is confident and capable and you’re the only one wandering around completely lost, but if you could read their minds, you might find that they feel just as lost as you. Honestly, the biggest trick to gaining confidence and becoming a total badass is pretending you already are one. The more others see it, the more respect you’ll earn even while you’re still learning and the easier you’ll reach the top.
Give yourself tough love. Sometimes you need to be brutally honest with yourself, even if that means being real about the fact that you need to pull it together. It’s easier to assess things around you when you take your emotions out of it. For example, if you’re about to walk into a meeting and you’re afraid you’ll get shot down, you probably aren’t thinking as rationally about the situation as you were yesterday. Think about what your calm self would say to your slightly-panicked self and follow your own advice. Don’t make excuses for yourself!
Accept criticism but don’t get stuck in it. This is huge. Remember that everybody gets criticized and you’re not special in any way for getting your share. When it happens, see above and move on. The world won’t collapse and you’re not a failure. It’s normal to feel down for a while, but don’t let it affect the rest of your day. Most of the time, criticism is just fuel for self-improvement.
Give yourself positive affirmations. Write sticky notes for statements like “I am intelligent” or “I can do anything” and cover your mirror in them. Put them on doors and around your computer screen and on your steering wheel even if (maybe especially if) you don’t believe them. When you see them, try to think of an example of how you know the statement is true. The more often you have these thoughts, the more naturally they’ll come and the more they’ll come out in how you present yourself.
Speak authoritatively. Cut words like “kinda” and “maybe” out of your vocabulary. These words come across as if you don’t fully own what you’re saying. Indecision isn’t a good quality for people wanting to be leaders. Change “I think we should maybe consider…” to “We should.” It’s simpler and it means the exact same thing, only with more muscle.
Apologize for nothing. There might be times you’ll need to apologize, but save your apologies for when you’ve really screwed up. Asserting your opinion in a meeting or saying no to extra responsibilities when you’re already overwhelmed are not things to be sorry for. Saying sorry makes others think you aren’t sure of yourself, or worse, that you’re someone they can take advantage of.
Don’t be afraid to say no. Some think that the way to impress people is to show them you can handle way more responsibility than they can. Maybe you’re a rock star with the working capacity of five people. Or, if you’re like 99% of the population, you’ll overwork yourself and get burned out. It’s important to observe your limitations and focus on giving 100% to those responsibilities which really are yours.
Share your ideas. It doesn’t matter if you don’t really know what you’re doing yet; if you have something to contribute that you think is worthwhile, go for it! This is a great way to show you’re really motivated and confident enough to put yourself out there. Even if it ends up not working out, people will respect your initiative.
Learn as much as you can. Ask lots of questions and take on tasks you might not feel 100% prepared for but can figure out along the way. Asking questions shows you care about getting it right and taking on tasks shows you’re willing to learn as you go. Hopefully, no one expects you to magically have all the answers immediately and will help you out if you’re willing to figure some things out on your own.
Smile even when you’re feeling anything but thrilled. There’s actually a science behind smiling: it tricks your brain into thinking you’re happy and releases dopamine. It feels pretty silly at first, but it’s far from the worst thing you could try if you’re in a pinch and need to make it through the rest of the day. Plus, people will see you rocking that smile and assume you’ve got everything under control.
Remember you’re at the start of an adventure. Take a step back from whatever setback you’re facing and look at the big picture: you’re doing something new. You were brave enough to take on a challenge. You should feel damn good about that, no matter what. You’re going to come out stronger for having struggled a bit, and when it’s all said and done, you’ll have the strength to handle anything.
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