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.

By Real Simple
Updated January 27, 2014
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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.

2. Handle Rejection the Right Way
There’s a reason they call it “the sting of rejection.” Being told no, whether you’re pursuing a date or a raise, can be jarring. But thoughts like “I must be unworthy” can sink you, according to Alpert. “No doesn’t always mean no,” he says. “It might just mean that you need to find a new way to approach a person or a situation.” Fearless people, he says, see a rejection as feedback, springing into action rather than retreating in defeat. “Rejection is the only way to get acceptance,” Alpert explains. “If you don’t try at all, you definitely won’t get what you want.”

Try this: If you request a raise or promotion and your boss’ first response isn’t positive, try responding with: “What could I do to make this promotion a possibility?” Think ahead and be prepared to talk about not only your contributions to the company, but the ways which you could be contributing more. Actively solicit feedback on your performance from both your immediate superiors and any trusted colleagues. Take what they say to heart, work to meet the goals your boss has set for you, then revisit the conversation. You might find you get a different outcome next time around.

3. Know the Difference Between Preparation and Procrastination
If you’ve finished preparing for a presentation and are poring over your notes for the hundredth time, you might be creating an opportunity for doubt. When you find yourself asking questions like, “What if they hate it?” or telling yourself things like, “I’m terrible at public speaking,” you’ve finished preparing–now, you’re procrastinating.

“The longer you hesitate, the harder it will be to act. Don’t think,” Alpert says. “Just do.”

Try this: Give yourself a deadline. Whether it’s preparing for a presentation, or compiling information to ask for a raise, give yourself a set number of days to do your research (three days, maybe … not 30). Before you start, put an appointment on your calendar to make that phone call/send that email/visit that office, and get it done before you start second-guessing yourself.

-Written by Libby Kane

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