Research suggests that boosting your confidence can boost your career.
I felt like a fraud. I was leading my first meeting back from maternity leave, presenting to a boss I had never met, a new employee and other colleagues who I believed were judging me. I felt dumb, powerless and out of the loop. I fumbled the meeting. I am sure at the time I blamed my lack of practice and sleep, but the root cause was a lack of confidence. This story points to one my biggest career mistakes: not focusing on building my confidence.
Insecurity made it hard for me to be the type of leader I wanted to be. I was too focused on pleasing people and being in control, and I felt more comfortable keeping quiet. I was suffering from imposter syndrome, the belief that you’re a fraud.
Impact of Imposter Syndrome on Happiness and Career Growth
An estimated 70 percent of people experience imposter feelings at some point in their life, according to research from the International Journal of Behavioral Science. If you are among the 70 percent, please learn from my mistake and address your confidence challenge now.
“You can do everything right from other professional standpoints, but if you don’t build your confidence, it may all be for nothing,” says Dana Galin, chief executive officer at Imprint Leadership Partners. “People can tell when you are not confident, and if you don’t believe in yourself, they won’t believe in you.”
That’s what I experienced. I was fulfilling most of the responsibilities of the job I was eyeing, but the feedback was that I needed to work on my gravitas before being promoted. So I did. I researched confidence, I commiserated at networking events and I got coached. After months of introspection and awareness, I was able to challenge the voice that held me back, questioning, “Who do you think you are?”
Team meetings are now about sitting back and listening to others, not about me presenting or leading. I knew that I had really come far after delivering some challenging news to leadership with relative ease and no apologies — and with my boss sharing that I exuded gravitas.
“When you shrink in the face of challenges, co-workers, bosses and employees can feel it,” says Allison Weliky, coach and founder of Blooming Edge Therapy and Coaching. “But, when you genuinely build self-esteem and confidence from the inside, they can also feel it. When you radiate true confidence, people trust you. That leads to career growth and to life growth.”
It’s not just the experts who extol the confidence career boost. Research backs it up as well. For instance, a paper in The Journal of Economic Psychology suggested a positive association between self-esteem and higher earnings. In addition, a paper in The Journal of Vocational Behavior found a connection between self-esteem during university studies and permanent employment, high salary, high work engagement and job satisfaction, 10 years later.
Building Confidence Starts With Self-Awareness
So how do you build confidence? “It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Just be more confident,’” says Galin. “It takes investing in deepening your self-awareness so that you can become present to the stories you tell yourself about yourself and others that undermine your ability to success. Ask yourself, ‘What do I believe, and how can I be wrong?’ whenever you catch yourself repeating narratives that limit you.” While it takes practice and deliberate attention, Galin says that you can literally change the neuropathways in your brain that hold your confidence hostage by writing new scripts.
So what is the secret to success? By all means, strengthen your skills and build your network, but also take a look in the mirror to make sure that you like who you see. If you don’t, talk to a coach, read up on confidence and consider using mindfulness to build your awareness.
Find the courage to do a little soul searching, address your insecurities and confidence may help propel your career. As Peter Pan said, “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”
Learn how to boost your confidence with the power of mindfulness in Arielle’s upcoming webinar, “Mind Over Meanie: Boost Your Confidence Dealing With Tough Personalities With Mindfulness” on Dec. 18 at noon CT.
Arielle Lapiano is the director of communications and public relations for Paul Hastings and the founder of Shattered Glass Tees, a social enterprise to empower women and girls and to raise money to support charities that support girls.