Are you your own worst critic? Do you replay the day's events over and over again in your mind as you're trying to fall asleep - regretting something you said or did? Do you dread your annual review only to arrive and be surprised by the positive feedback? You might be too tough on yourself and failing to see the positive things that others see in you.
If you don't see how good you are at thing 'x,' then you won't be confident enough to ask for the projects you want, the team you want, and the opportunities that allow you to shine.
If you suspect you might be underselling yourself here's some ways to fix that.
- Get to know yourself a bit better. I've enjoyed the StrengthsFinder 2.0 and How To Fascinate that come with online personality tests. You get your data, the standard analysis, and then a book filled with insights that will help you find the appropriate professional words to describe yourself.
- Know that stating your strengths and accomplishments isn't bragging. Maybe you don't talk to your manager about how much you'd like to run the company one day, or climb the ladder and then ship out to a new company after a couple years. However, sharing your aspirations for bigger and better roles can give your manager the focus they need to help you build on your strengths.
- Fake it 'til you make it. Behaving as if you were already successful can work - though it takes keen observation and practice to know what 'successful' looks like to you. Find someone that has a set of traits you admire and watch them in meetings. No one embodies all of what you need to replicate, so pick a handful of people to borrow from and then practice acting like them. You'll fool others and, perhaps more importantly, fool yourself into being more confident.
- Establish a network of mentors. Mentors can be found in traditional places such as your or past workplace, referrals from friends or family, or other industry professionals you meet. The less obvious but often equally effective mentors can come from different industries, as well. Anyone who has faced challenges then worked to overcome them and is willing to share their perspective can be a great resource. When you lack confidence in your skills, you're not your own best career advisor. You need an objective third party to help you see things from another perspective. If you're able to put together a group of people - akin to a personal board of directors - that's all the better. That way, you get a range of advice and guidance from which you can begin to discern what will work best for you.
- Know that everyone lacks confidence from time to time. You're not alone. Know that going through a confidence rough patch is just that- a rough patch, nothing permanent. Get through it, dust yourself off, and keep going. It is really important that you get a handle on your emotions and chart a path to being the best advocate for your career that you can be.
- Pick up a new skill or two. Taking a course or even doing an online tutorial can help boost your confidence. Select something that you're already interested in and that requires a time commitment that you can make. If you're too busy for a night class, try something that demands less time. Opt for a 2-hour online module that is more realistic for your schedule. Set yourself up for success - but don't overburden yourself in the process.
- Start a running list of your accomplishments such as projects you've finished, articles you've published, client accounts you've secured, or technical problems you've solved in a journal - online or on paper, it doesn't matter. Review the list from time to time - especially before you have a meeting with your boss to discuss your performance.
To stop underselling yourself, you start by building greater self-confidence and a greater self-awareness of your skills and contributions. Know that articulating these truths is not bragging or inappropriate, but a very real and necessary part of actively guiding your career to a place of happiness and success. Being more confident can help you in your career in general and in particular work scenarios.