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Published November 8th 2021

7 Ways To Shut Down Negative Thoughts And Build Your Confidence At Work

Read the next article on Self-care and burnout

While it would be ideal, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sail through your career and the working world without having your confidence knocked a few times. 

And having chosen a career in journalism, a notoriously tough industry with no shortage of pressure, I’ve had my fair share of knocks. 

However, if these negative experiences and thoughts are left to fester and grow, you could soon find yourself struggling to be productive or achieve your full potential at work. 

So, instead of allowing your past experiences to shape the future of your career, it’s time to start reframing your mindset and realize just how brilliant you actually are! 

Building confidence at work doesn’t come overnight, but I’ve gradually learned a range of ways to keep those negative thoughts and doubts at bay. 

The human brain is like a muscle, and if you regularly refer back to these seven tips and methods for boosting your confidence and self-esteem, you’ll soon find yourself growing and evolving.

1. Write down your achievements

Normally, we wait until it’s time to refresh our résumé to do this. 

However, ahead of a review in 2019 I began noting down all of my work achievements and wins on my personal Trello board. 

No matter how big or small they were, I racked my brains for every positive achievement both personally and for the company and listed it. 

This could be things like changing team strategy following a suggestion made during a meeting, or even going out of your way to help others in the company.

I gradually got into the habit of doing this and soon started noticing how many little things I was doing that made a difference. 

It’s natural for us to overlook these things in the monotony of the day-to-day. 

Yet, when you actually take a step back to analyze how small things add up, it can be quite astonishing to see just how much you’re evolving and helping your team or company, as a whole.

Start right now with just five things from the past month

As an easy way to start incorporating this into your routine, force yourself to write down five small or big things you’ve achieved at work within the past month. 

This could be anything from being confident enough to speak up in a meeting and share your thoughts or advice, to helping a colleague put together an email to a client or even helping your agency to win a new client.

2. Capture the highs

Another tip I learnt far later in my life and career than I would’ve liked to is writing down, screenshotting, and keeping a record of all the good moments. 

This could be something as small as a colleague messaging you to thank you for helping them with a task, or a company-wide message praising you for your efforts on a particular task and achievement. 

Get into the habit of revisiting these comments and filling a folder with them

Ideal for the moments where you feel like you are "messing up" or are worried you aren’t doing well enough, these comments are great to look back on. 

Not only do they serve as literal evidence of the fact that your work is "good", but they can also reiterate how valued you are within the workplace. 

And while it can be so easy to screenshot these messages and forget about them, set a reminder in your personal calendar to go through them on Monday morning before you start work – it’ll definitely kick off your week on a good note! 

You should also try to get yourself into the habit of looking at these when you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming meeting or review.  

3. Back it up with facts

If kind words and smaller achievements aren’t working for you, take your reassurance to the next level with measurable achievements. 

A failsafe way to build confidence at work is to take some time out to look back at your work in the past six months, or even since you joined, and start analyzing the ways you have measurably improved or helped your company. 

This could be financially, statistically with metrics, or with attributed strategy changes you’ve made.

Find anything from your output that is measurable and review these during low points

For example, when I was a Digital PR I’d look at the number of pieces of coverage I’d landed, or the number of pitch templates I’d written or the number of emails I’d sent that month. 

This stopped me in my tracks instantly when my mind went down the route of making me feel as though I didn’t add enough value to the team. 

I had facts and figures in front of me and there was no arguing with that! 

This is also ideal for situations where you’re hoping to negotiate a promotion or pay rise, and need as much help convincing yourself as you would your management team.

4. Force yourself to justify your worrying

If there’s a niggling voice in your head telling you:

  • "You’re not performing."
  • "You’re in trouble and your manager is annoyed with you."
  • Or, in extreme cases "You’re on the verge of getting fired."

Pause for a moment. 

Try and find solid proof other than “because I just know” or "I just have a feeling". Break it down, whether that’s in your mind or in a notepad. 

Write down where this worry stemmed from. This could be if your manager was short with you that morning or had been a bit "off" with you that week, or if you hadn’t hit target for several weeks. 

Break the cycle down and get to the bottom of it 

Now, make yourself break down the logical reasons for this – thinking about it from the perspective of what you’d say to a friend in the same situation often helps me. 

For example, your boss could be having a bad week and filled with (personal or professional) worries of their own, or may be overwhelmed by their own workload. 

If you’re worried about not performing, remember there are times where you’ve probably overachieved and hit target consistently for months. 

And remember: you’re human. Everyone has good and bad days/weeks/months. 

Also, realize that there are multiple factors affecting your performance and that it doesn’t necessarily stem from just you. 

Go to the source of your worry for closure or reassurance

If you’re still worried, try to remember if there was an urgent issue it would probably be addressed rapidly and if not, as tough as it sounds, it hasn’t happened yet so you can’t do anything to change it. 

If it’s been several days and you’re still concerned to the point of not being able to focus on anything else at all, consider having a chat with your manager to clarify how they think you’re performing, and whether you could be doing anything differently. 

Try to nip this worry cycle in the bud as early as possible as, if you allow it to continue to grow, it could stop you from actually performing.

Learn from and hold on to the positive outcomes for future panics

However, if you do opt for that approach and are reassured by your manager that everything is fine, learn from it. 

Use it as a crutch in future for constant assurance.

Realize you worried to the point of feeling unable to focus on anything else, when nothing was actually wrong. 

5. Enjoy every win

We can all be guilty of worrying we’re underperforming or not doing well enough at work. With life’s fast-paced nature, we’re all so quick to dismiss our wins and great moments. 

I’ve been guilty of this throughout my career. 

However, one of the ultimate ways to build confidence in the workplace is by also celebrating the wins, too. 

Whether you’ve been working hard to complete a project, land that first piece of coverage, or even get a promotion, you’ll know it’s been an uphill struggle at times. 

However, when you finally achieve it, it can be so easy to feel relief for a moment before moving on to completing the next task or goal. 


Take some time to recognize all the obstacles you’ve overcome to get to this place.

Whether it was late nights, pure focus and dedication, learning new skills, or anything else you did along the way.

It’s important to recognize that all those times you didn’t think you could do it, you actually conquered it.

Think of yourself as you would a colleague or friend, and allow yourself to feel proud and happy. 

Over time, and with the help of friends reminding me how much I’ve achieved, I’ve learnt to slow down and actually appreciate myself and how hard I work. 

This instantly helps me to tell the negative voice in my head that it’s unfounded and being unfair. 

6. Adopt the "Why Not Me" mindset

Those with low self-esteem in the workplace will be very familiar with the disheartening feeling of seeing others get promotions or jobs you wish you’d gone for. 

It could even be things as small as presenting a pitch to your team or even taking ownership of a team task. 

You’re probably too afraid to put yourself forward in those situations or, if asked directly, are too quick to turn it down. 

If it’s the latter, remember managers need their work done and done well. 

It’s as simple as realizing they wouldn’t have asked you if they didn’t believe you couldn’t achieve the best outcome.

If it’s the former, it’s time to adopt the "Why Not Me" mindset.

Don’t say "no" to yourself before even trying. If anyone’s going to say "no" let it be someone else.

Remember, everyone is vulnerable to an extent when it comes to putting themselves forward for opportunities of any form. 

No one is guaranteed to get that job or be chosen for that pitch.

But by not putting yourself forward, the only thing you’re guaranteed is a disappointment. 

If you work in a team, understand that you’re all carrying out similar tasks daily. 

So when you figure out that the only thing separating you from them is your mindset, you’ll soon realize you have just as much of a chance at success as them.

And the next time an opportunity presents itself, take time to go back to points one to three in this article. 

Then remember the very worst thing you can get is a "no".

And, even if you do get one, it’s certainly not time to shut down and avoid ever putting yourself forward for things again. 

Look back at all the things you have achieved by stepping out of your comfort zone. 

And as cliched as it may sound, some of the most successful people in the world have had multiple knocks and faced the lowest of lows before seeing success.

7. Work in a nurturing environment

One of the key reasons many of us suffer from low self-esteem at work is because we are working in or have worked in unhealthy, or even toxic work environments.

I’ve had managers in the past tell me my work was terrible simply due to a single typo in an article.

I’ve also had managers who have manipulated me to work late nights by making me feel as though I’ve not worked hard enough. 

And, until I began working in a healthy environment, I didn’t realise things could be different.

In 2018 I joined Verve Search, a Digital Marketing agency. 

From day one, I was nurtured and made to feel as though no question was too silly. 

We were encouraged to celebrate our wins and my manager regularly praised the work I did. 

He also learnt to identify when I was feeling anxious about my performance, and would indirectly reassure me with a quick message or comment in passing. 

I was 27 when I joined and didn’t need a pat on the back for every piece of work I did, but after several years of working for companies that didn’t praise any work at all, it made a huge difference to my confidence. 

You’ll find yourself feeling more motivated in an environment that allows you to thrive

The career move also allowed me to see just how low my self-esteem and confidence was in the workplace. 

Within months I was finding myself feeling positive about the work I did.

This motivated me to work harder, and even consider ways to help improve strategies or the way things worked. 

When you feel appreciated and valued by your employers, it’s far easier to perform daily and with that comes achievements that you can look back on to build your confidence even further. 

Don’t be afraid to leave toxic workplaces behind. There’s always a new job out there for you!

So, if you feel like your workplace could be harming your mental health and confidence – while it can be daunting – it could be time to start looking for a new job. 

Because your confidence has been knocked, you may feel as though you aren’t "good enough" to land a new role. 

To that, I would say: remember you were good enough to be hired in your current role, and there are hundreds of thousands of other roles out there. 

If you don’t try, you won’t know. And trust me when I say: taking that leap pays off. 

Since 2018, my workplace confidence has only grown – to the point where I felt confident enough to take the leap to go freelance in 2020!

I of all people know that confidence isn’t built overnight. 

However, you should also know that the people you most look up to also have moments of low confidence and a lack of self-assurance.

You have to start somewhere or you’ll be sleeping on your potential for years to come. 

A change in confidence can start right now

Take just five minutes after reading this article to action the very first tip. 

From there, work your way towards following the rest of the tips.

Whenever you remember, re-read this article whenever you’re feeling low and unsure of yourself. 

It really is in your hands to turn your confidence around.

And you’ll be surprised just how quickly things start falling into place once you do!

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