It would be nice if evolving into the best version of yourself happened naturally without your having to do anything. Alas, this is not reality. Getting better, achieving more, and being perceived in a positive light will take work on your part. And much of that work should involve identifying not only new things you can do to push yourself to the next level, but also identifying the self-defeating habits that are holding you back. Here are three common habits you need to break if you want others to take you seriously so that you can achieve your goals.

1. Stop being modest and have answers about your competence on the ready.

Humility is typically viewed as a virtue, but when it comes to your career, being modest is actually self-defeating. Jack Nasher, in his book Convinced: How to Prove Your Competence and Win People Over, asserts that self-deprecating comments, made even in jest, damage the way others perceive your competence. To foster a confident state of mind (which influences others to believe you know what you're doing), Nasher suggests having answers to these questions at the ready:

  • What are you actually good at?
  • Why are you suitable for your job?
  • What was your greatest professional success?
  • What have you ever achieved for your company?
  • Why should you, of all people, take on the responsibility for an upcoming project?
  • Why should anyone be led by you?

If you don't have answers for these questions, get them. If you don't, it's unlikely you'll be seen as competent.

2. Stop using limiting words.

Words are powerful, and, according to Dave Asprey, author of Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life, they affect your nervous system, not to mention your trajectory toward or away from success. Using biohacking and neurofeedback to increase his abilities, Asprey began paying attention to the words he spoke and found that they send messages to the brain and body regarding a person's capabilities. He also says certain words give people "wiggle room" to avoid doing the things they should. Words he says you should stop using include:

  • Can't. It steals your power. Instead of "I can't do it," it's more likely true that you need help; you don't have the correct tools; you lack knowledge; or you really don't want to do the task in question.
  • Need. Water, oxygen, food, and shelter are in the list of the few things humans actually need. Everything else is a choice.
  • Bad. Tragedy aside, it would be more honest to reframe many of the things people label as "bad" in the light of what they prefer, or don't prefer. When you label a rainy day or a certain kind of food as "bad," you're sending a stress-inducing message to your subconscious, which has negative biological and psychological effects.
  • Try. A chance of failure is baked into this word. Why would you want to give your brain an excuse to not succeed?

The beauty of being intentional with your words is that the people around you will consciously and unconsciously see you as more trustworthy.

3. Stop engaging in mindless small talk.

Unless you work alone, small talk is a natural part of being in contact with other people at your job. So, instead of blathering on about innocuous topics like the weather, or the stuff your kids are doing, elevate your small talk so that you leave a good impression. In Mastering the Game: Strategies for Career Success, lawyer, diversity consultant and author Sharon Jones suggests:

  • Have an elevator pitch prepared that you can use to describe the compelling work you do. It should be a catalyst for further conversation.
  • Share weekend plans that build the image you'd like people to have of you. On Friday afternoon, when everyone's talking about what they'll be doing on Saturday and Sunday, make sure your interesting plans inspire your co-workers to ask you on Monday how those plans went.
  • Stay updated with industry and global news so that you can include this information in your conversations. Sounding thoughtful and well-read can only help you.

It's important to understand that you can manage your image by curating the information you communicate about yourself to others. "If you are repulsed by the idea of self-promotion, you may have an easier time thinking of yourself as a celebrity who is building his or her personal brand," Jones writes. "That is really what you are doing within your organization. You are creating the image of the person you want people to think you are."