How to Fake Confidence at Work (Until There's No Need to Fake It Anymore)
Don’t fake it ’til you make it—fake it ’til you become it.
Some people are simply born with confidence. They advocate for themselves with ease. Decision-making comes as naturally as breathing. They make their opinions known without a second thought. And because of this, the workplace is where they thrive, because, as many managers will tell you, confidence is an invaluable trait (or is it a learned skill?) in any career or industry.
“Confidence is crucial because it overcomes fear,” says Kim Perell, an entrepreneur, angel investor, national bestselling author, and tech CEO. “This will allow you the ability to take on new things, whether it’s a new project at work or starting your own company. Confidence gives you the power to make [something] a reality.”
But what about the professionals with a higher tendency to self-doubt? Those talented, yet insecure individuals under the influence of impostor syndrome, prone to second-guessing their ideas, abilities, and worth in the workplace? Whether you’re a shy new hire, a young post-grad new to the working world, or just a low-key employee who’s ready to boost their confidence and be taken seriously—let it be known that confidence can be learned.
If you’re what’s holding you back, internalize these self-confidence tips from Perell. Slowly but surely, you’ll start to see a shift in both the way you see yourself and the way others see you. Trust us, this is the last time you’ll be passed over for a promotion due to a lack of confidence.
When people have faith in their own abilities and personal value, this foundational self-assurance will manifest in the way they conduct themselves at work. Their energy, communication skills, and body language will exude confidence that sets them apart. “[Confident professionals] speak clearly and professionally,” Perell explains, adding that “body language is also key: Carry yourself with confidence, great posture, a solid handshake, good eye contact.”
Anyone trying to fake confidence can start small by making physical and verbal changes. Try striking verbal crutches, apologies, needless qualifiers, and disclaimers from your vocabulary. Filler words dilute your message and prevent people from taking you seriously. Catch yourself before crossing your arms in front of your body. Make a conscious effort to speak loudly and clearly. And when you’ve finished saying your piece, stop speaking (aka no, “so, yeah…” or “...but maybe I’m wrong…”
It has to come organically from you. “Confident professionals believe in themselves,” Perell says. “They’re able to see past any doubt they, or anyone else, may have.” She says one of the best lessons she’s ever learned is this: “Your confidence has to be greater than everyone else's doubt.”
It’s your choice to listen or brush aside others’ uncertainties about you. “Choose to trust yourself. Choose to have faith in your skills and ideas. Believe that you have what it takes to accomplish your vision,” she says.
It can be as simple as “I deserve this,” or “Be brave,” but a small, inspirational message can make all the difference in the world. If you don’t believe in yourself quite yet, focusing on an empowering mantra every morning—or any time the work day gets rough—is an easy place to start. Perell’s personal favorite? “Don’t blink.”
“What that means to me is ‘don’t stop, keep going, it will get better.’” she says. “If I were to stop and dwell on the negative, I would prohibit myself from moving forward.”
“Often, the only thing certain in life is uncertainty,” Perell says. “No matter how perfect your plans are, no matter how well you may have prepared, sometimes, life's going to throw you a curveball.” Change and uncertainty often leave a vacuum that's easily filled by doubt and self-blame. However, “learning to be present and adapt accordingly and not just blindly following your original plans” can help you realize you're not actually failing, or confused, or unintelligent—your approach just needs to change.
“A person with a fixed mindset believes in limitations—they resist change, believing it’s painful and difficult,” Perell says. “On the other hand, a person with a growth mindset recognizes that change is a driver in creativity and success. They believe that in any situation, good or bad, there's an opportunity to learn and see things differently. Stumbling blocks turn into stepping stones.”
It sounds clichéd, but every professional failure you experience really is a learning opportunity. Don’t let setbacks kick you in the you-know-what (for long). Instead, use them to your advantage. “Resilient people understand that failing doesn't make them a failure,” she says. “They fail forward and thrive in the process of change.”
Perell insists this is the biggest mistake you can make at work—and in life.
“It’s imperative to focus on being the best you can be and embrace what makes you different and unique,” she says. “If you’re always comparing yourself to someone else, you’re competing with someone with different capabilities and talents. Everyone is unique—the key is to find your talent and execute on what you are good at.”