How to Build Your Confidence at Work

Don’t just fake it ‘till you make it. With these three tips on how to be more fearless at work, you won’t have to.

Photo by Amy Neunsinger

A version of this article originally appeared on

Wish you could always feel calm—and ooze competence—at work?

Surprise! Even your boss sweats sometimes. In fact, Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist in New York City, specializes in working with what he calls “the last people you would expect to be afraid.”

They include high-ranking executives who, while they might exude confidence, are just as worried about the impression they’re making as anyone else.

“With work-related fears, as with any fear, people’s imaginations tend to run wild,” explains Alpert, psychotherapist and author of ‘Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.’”

Even the most experienced executive’s confidence can falter when she’s faced with a challenging task, like negotiating a deal or making a big presentation.

And if they can get nervous, so can we. Because confidence at work leads to promotions, raises and general awesomeness, we spoke to Alpert about how you can become fearless on the job.

Overcoming ‘Negativity Bias’

Alpert explains negativity bias, or “the tendency to notice and remember negative events and information over positive ones” as a deep-seated habit we all have. That bias, he says, has been programmed into our minds for thousands of years, from a time when our world was teeming with danger rather than Youtube channels.

But the potential for a negative outcome can scare us into stasis, and one bad experience can color all those after it … if we let it.

All fear is based on uncertainty, but you can take a three-fold approach to ensuring it doesn’t stop you in your tracks.

1. Embrace Excitement
You know that feeling when your boss calls you into a meeting? That heart-thumping, palms-sweating, hyper-focused feeling? You might call it fear, but fearless people call it excitement. Fear and excitement have the same physiological symptoms, Alpert explains, based in the body’s “fight or flight” response. Whether you’re excited or fearful, your body is poised to act. The difference between the two is how you interpret it.

Try this: The next time you’re called in for a job interview, meeting or performance review, recognize your quickly beating heart as a symptom of excitement. Instead of worrying about how it will go, get excited to share your experiences, ace the presentation, get promoted. Reframing your outlook can make the same sensation positive instead of negative—it’s all in how you interpret the signals your body is sending.