How to be Confident at Work with Anxiety


how to have confidence at work when you have anxiety

I experienced so much anxiety at work when I was a new nurse on my first job. I cried every day on my drive home after work for six months.

This was the first “real” step in my career and I worked at Shand’s Hospital. I was twenty-five and terrified. The anxiety I was experiencing choked out all enjoyment of a new career for quite a while.

I didn’t know how to cope with this new level of stress and anxiety. I questioned my skills, my education and felt like I didn’t belong.

Somehow I managed the stress and anxiety that was plaguing me, but I always wondered what could have helped me feel more comfortable during the first season at a new job. So, I did some research and this is what I discovered. I hope you find it helpful.

So, how can you be confident at work with anxiety? Meet your anxiety with a high-level of acceptance. It is a signal that you are adapting to a new set of circumstances even if the job or work isn’t new. Anxiety is a byproduct of fear and doubt (often unconscious). Work to identify what you perceive as threats in your environment, and create a way to lessen the perceived risks.

Anxiety is like “bad” muscle memory. Once you have created a pattern in your mind that associates negativity with a situation, it can become a powerful loop.

If you want to escape the anxiety auto-play, you are going to need to interrupt the pattern. How do you do this?

First, let’s look at the types of anxiety that can be plaguing in the workplace. The anxiety can come from any of the following sources:

It’s important to understand that we live in a giant feedback loop. What we put off, we often get back. Let’s take the first source of anxiety, which is the sense that you have no friends at work and you feel isolated and alone.

What to do if you feel isolated, alone and like you don’t have any friends at work

We all experience the sense that we are alone at some point in our lives. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of a busy life. Occasionally most of us pick up our heads and question our existence or why we feel so isolated in such a “connected” world. The reality is that an innate part of being human is wrestling with the question, “Do I belong?”

I remember being new in this country. I came here when I was twelve. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t look like everyone else. I wanted to be white. I wanted to have a thin nose.

I wanted to fit in. I thought I could achieve some of this through athletics, but what I found was that it made people even more aggressive towards me when I beat them in a game.

“Way to go Kat,” I used to think. You just made it worse.

This is the feedback loop I referred to above. You desperately want things different that you do things you think will push in the desired direction, but they backfire.

One of the things I have discovered is that trying to fit in never really gets me where I want to go. So, stand out.

Be aware that you may be bringing your question to others. Rarely will others affirm you the way you want so that you know beyond any doubt that you belong.

Own the question. Own the sense that you don’t belong and it will do you some good in understanding how to cope powerfully with isolation at work.

How to deal with low self-esteem at work

Let’s look at this two ways. On one end of the spectrum you have how much you respect yourself and on the other end how much you feel others should respect you.

Don Miguel Luis in his book Mastering Love tells us that we won’t let others abuse us more than we will are willing to abuse ourselves.

When it comes to self-respect and others respect, it can be tricky. I secretly remind myself to love myself and to respect myself.

When I feel disrespected in a situation, I voice it or simply find a different place to spend my time.

It didn’t start out that way however. You have to make a conscious effort to begin working on your self-esteem. One of the best ways to do so is to work on your skill-set.

Since work life is a microcosm of the real world, you can select any area to work on, and it can help further your work life.

I recommend studying the personality types. It is agreed that there are 4 types of personalities. All of us will fall predominantly into one of the four.

In case you like to split hairs, I will take a second to mention that we may not fit squeaky Betty Crocker style into one type and we often display a mixture of a couple of personality types. But, I think you get my point.

Once you can reliably identify what personality types your coworkers are, you may suddenly find yourself more skillful in understanding what motivates them and how to navigate your interpersonal relationship with them.

Finally, you can go to work on the skill-set you use at work and improve the value you are for your team. As you progress in your abilities, you will see that your self-confidence improves.

How to deal with being self-conscious about your physical appearance at work

Wait till they get a load of me…

-The Joker

We’ve all had a bad hair day, but what about a bad hair month? I’ve oscillated between covering nearly every square inch of my being in makeup and rolling out of bed with the rogue rebel “wait till the get a load of me” attitude and just going to work.

Oddly enough in both scenarios self-image is at play. I have always wished I had the confidence to really own how I look, but the truth is, it is something I’m still working on.

So what do you do, when you have a fat day?

Recognize that the struggle is real, and it isn’t unique to you.

We are all dealing with it on some level. I like to poke fun at myself. Try to lighten how you see yourself. Smile at yourself in the mirror and say, “Wow, this is what is happening to me right now.”

Then, go to work on the areas that you struggle with. Realize that it will take time to deal with them. As they say, this body wasn’t built in a day.

If you feel like you have a weakness there are always resources to help you make progress in those areas.

I recommend working on your self-image. As your self-image changes on the inside, you will see the way you do life change on the outside. The way you feel, think, and act will start changing (on the inside.) Likewise, as you see changes on the outside, you will see changes on the inside.

Once again, we see the feedback loop at play.

Oh and if you have a mustard stain on your shirt, just point out how clumsy you can be and how awful it looks. Being real about how your feeling takes the sting out of the situation and can make it feel less significant.

What do you do if you are shy at work?

We should distinguish shyness from being an introvert. Being an introvert isn’t really as much about engaging with coworkers and customers as it is about how you recharge.

The point is: Are you recharging? If you are an extrovert, naturally you recharge by being “out there” with people. However, if you are introverted, you need healthy alone time. This is how you recharge.

My husband has to make sure that his battery is full before he goes out to be with people. His energy drains fast “out there.”

It’s normal to feel zapped at work. Work is demanding, and you may feel like you just “can’t” be with others. This can result in being shy around people.

So how can you cope? If you are here reading this then there is most likely a sense that you need to be more than you are.

Although the “More, Better, Different” train seems like it’ll take you to your destination, accepting yourself and not making yourself feel less of a person for the way you are, will go a long way to help you cope.

I recommend being honest about the toll “being shy” is having on you. If people want to experience the fullness of who you are, you are going to need to act in freedom.

Finding freedom at work is more important than trying to fake it. If you can’t work through your fear, you may need to find another position.

Personally, I want to do what others who inspire me have done, and being shy and quiet isn’t going to get me there.

Find what inspires you and don’t make the mistake of tiptoeing through life hoping to make it safely to death.

Most people tiptoe their way through life, hoping they make it safely to death.

Earl Nightingal

How to be confident at work with a lack of performance

Much of being at work is looking the part. Never let them see you sweat comes to mind. But if you are at it long enough, you are going to deal with setbacks and failures at work. I have a whole post dedicated to regaining confidence after failing on the job. You can read that.

If you are pressed for time, here are the cliff notes.

Harvest the good and discard the bad.

Failing is a normal part of life. (Read this article on what to do if you’ve failed at your job.) If you aren’t failing, well, you probably aren’t trying hard enough. It’s important to accept yourself and your falling short in your capacity at the workplace.

With a healthy dose of self-acceptance, begin to look at what you can do to improve your performance.

Invite objective criticism. Ask the tough questions, take the tough answers and let it mold you.

Just like an athlete’s course is filled with difficult obstacles, your career demands the same. Be okay with how others see you and get to work on personal growth.

How to remain confident at work with competing deadlines and loyalty demands

It’s easy to get caught between a rock and, well, another rock at work. So, what do you do if you find that you have committed to two different things that have competing deadlines or are competing for your loyalty?

The problem really isn’t in the loyalty or the deadline. The problem is your ability to communicate how you are feeling.

For some reason, you have deemed it virtually impossible to have a powerful conversation with the person that is unaware of the conflict.

As awkward as this can be, it is a great position to be in because it gives you an opportunity to distinguish where you can’t quite be yourself.

You can’t be self-expressed in powerful way for some reason within this particular scenario.

Chances are, this isn’t the only place in your life where you feel like you can’t tell people how you really feel or what is causing you anxiety.

Get honest, get free, own your self-worth through disclosing the one thing that you don’t want to tell your boss or co-worker.

I find it best to just throw it out there like jumping out of a plane with a parachute. Nike had it pretty right on this one. Just do it. You have got to force yourself to communicate what is going on for you.

If you have competing deadlines, you need to make a new agreement with the individuals relying on you. You may not want to let them down.

But I assert, not letting them down often more to do with not looking bad than fear of disappointing someone.

You are concerned that this is going to have a negative impact on your career. Reality is that it already has affected your career. It has you filled with anxiety, wondering how you will ever make it out of the situation.

The best policy is honesty on this one, and count it an opportunity to see a reflection of how you operate. It takes courage, but I have done this enough to know what a relief it is when you get this behind you.

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Kat Clukey

I am so glad you are here, and have chosen to spend your time reading my blog. For the past 4 plus years, I have been on an intense mission to read books, go to seminars, and generally turn myself inside out to find out why some people seem to feel good in their own skin while I've struggled with self-worth and low self-esteem most of my adult life. I hope you find insights that help you on your journey!

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