Very few people are immune to bouts of insecurity at work. Even the most capable, talented people second-guess themselves from time-to-time, or have a crisis of confidence over their abilities when facing a challenge.
In times of stress or anxiety, it becomes harder to ignore that nagging voice telling us our work isn’t good enough — or that we don’t know what we’re doing.
The last 12 months have been extremely difficult for many, which has had a huge impact on our confidence. Since the onset of working from home in March 2020, the Life Coach Directory has noted a 74% increase in users searching for information on “confidence.”
And it’s not just the new ways of working that have triggered a crisis of confidence among workers. The economic upheaval caused by COVID-19 has led to a huge number of people facing redundancy and job insecurity — leaving them questioning whether their jobs are safe and if not, what they will do in the future.
According to a recent survey of 2,000 jobseekers by Indeed, more than half (51%) of jobseekers do not believe there is a job out there for them, while a similar number (52%) don't believe they’ll be successful. Overall, more than a quarter (26%) of jobseekers currently rate their self-belief levels as low.
Kirsty Hulse, a confidence coach, says she has seen a rise in people struggling with their confidence since the pandemic began leading to a mass shift to home-working.
“It's no surprise really — research has shown that humans are more likely to be excited by intrinsic rewards, such as collaboration, team work, play and creativity rather than extrinsic rewards, such as money,” she says.
“We know that not having novel physical and social stimuli can dampen our ability to create and studies have shown that being bored in our leisure time has a negative effect on how we feel about our careers. Now we're working from home, we've lost that sense of connection that can be both uplifting and reassuring.”
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At the end of last year, Hulse carried out market research with her clients to find out more about how this drop in confidence is affecting us at work. She found 94% had turned down work opportunities because of nerves and more than a third — 38% — had said no to a promotion because they lacked confidence. A further 29% had avoided putting themselves forward for opportunities because of low self-esteem.
It’s normal for a sudden transformation to impact the way we feel about work. Almost overnight, we went from working shoulder-to-shoulder with people to communicating almost exclusively over video.
While working from home can bring greater autonomy and freedom, being isolated from your colleagues can also be difficult. It can be harder to get that reassurance from your colleagues that you are doing the right thing, or to feel driven when you’re working alone.
“It's hard for us to feel excited, motivated and confident in our abilities when we're experiencing a global pandemic that has been shown to be having a negative impact on our emotional and mental health,” Hulse adds.
“We need to feel secure, stable and in control of outcomes in order to feel fully confident and these are things that are ideas that are hard for us to grasp right now.”
Confidence isn’t something we can turn on with the flick of a switch, but there are some steps we can take to gradually build it back up.
“The most important thing to acknowledge is that this is completely normal at the moment,” Hulse says. “If you are someone currently experiencing a dip in confidence, know that this is normal. We can often feel as though a lack of confidence is our fault, as though we are doing something wrong or we are not as good as we used to be.
“Try to take a moment to acknowledge there's nothing unique or irrational in your confidence being a little wavering during these times. Instead, take a moment to acknowledge yourself for all that you are holding, achieving and accomplishing against all the odds.”
Writing down your achievements can also help you think about your successes and strengths. “We often focus on what’s ahead, forgetting to reflect on how far we have come. Acknowledge and integrate your growth by consistently logging wins and reminding yourself when you need it,” Hulse explains, adding that asking for positive feedback can give you a boost too.
“Sometimes, we just need reassurance. Ask those that you can trust around you: ‘What do you think I do well? What are my talents?’ The answers will often surprise you.
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