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The Impact of Confidence on Professional and Personal Success

Confidence is an attractive trait to have. Confidence is an asset that shines through your own relationship with yourself, your personal relationships, and your professional relationships in the workplace. It helps to put others at ease, creating an effective first impression, it helps you to deal with pressure, and it helps you to tackle personal and professional challenges with assurance as it enhances interpersonal skills, professionalism and enthusiasm. Confident people view challenges as opportunities for growth and development, rather than problematic issues that are overwhelming, helping them to believe enough in themselves to persevere through difficulties, and to have the resilience to overcome these challenges, learning lessons from the experience. 

There are many definitions of confidence; one of the most comprehensive and meaningful definitions is: 

Confidence is a belief in yourself, the conviction that you have the ability to meet life’s challenges and to succeed, and the willingness to act accordingly.

Confidence comes from the Latin word fiducia (trust), and derives from the Latin word fides, which had the meaning of confidence, but also that of courage and security. Confidence is having trust in yourself and your abilities. It also means having trust in your future self as well, believing that you are able to accomplish tasks and attain goals in the future.

Confidence continuously tops the list of desirable traits looked for in a romantic partner and was named by Forbes as one of the top three traits employers look for in prospective employees.

confidence on professional success

Confidence in Professional Settings

The workplace is one place where you need to be confident, and to trust yourself to successfully handle any challenges that you may encounter in your everyday tasks. How you perceive your skills, abilities and judgement will obviously affect your confidence and self-belief, as well as your personal assessment of how likely you are to succeed at any given task. As the saying goes, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

In a professional setting, confidence requires having a realistic and secure understanding of your capabilities, and the motivation to continually develop and hone your skills, which will increase your confidence, ultimately leading to success. Confident people have greater motivation, giving them the drive to start things or get things moving. They are able to overcome any obstacles in their path, simply because they believe in their ability to handle any of life’s hurdles, because confidence gives them the skills, resilience and coping mechanisms to succeed.

Confident people in the workplace display several unique traits that set them apart from others. These include:

  • Decisiveness – confident people set aside doubts or hesitation and commit to a course of action. This requires not only having a solid sense of their own capabilities and skills, but also having the ability to weigh the pros and cons of different options, and consider the potential consequences of each decision. Decisiveness is a critical quality for effective leadership.
  • Risk taking – confident people take more calculated risks. They expect their actions to produce successful outcomes because they have confidence in their decision-making, and in their abilities; they are comfortable, or at least not anxious, operating outside their comfort zone.
  • Assertiveness – being assertive simply means being confident enough to clearly and effectively express your feelings, opinions and needs, while still valuing those of others. Assertiveness involves being clear about what you feel, what you need and how it can be achieved. This requires confident, open body language and the ability to communicate calmly without being confrontational. Confident assertive people are able to say “yes” when they want to and “no” when they mean no, rather than feeling that they have to agree to something just to please someone else. They decide upon and stick to clear boundaries and have the confidence to stand by their position even if others disagree.
  • Flexibility – being flexible is one of the key components of emotional maturity, and of being confident. Confident people do not need to dig their heels in on things just to prove a point. Overcoming obstacles becomes easier when you have the confidence to be flexible, embracing any setbacks as learning and resilience building opportunities. Confident people do not view failure as a personal reflection of their abilities, they see it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Problem solving – confident people have the ability to step forward and take control of situations when problems arise. Confidence in their abilities enables them to look around and identify when a problem exists, to evaluate relevant information, assess alternatives and impacts and to act decisively. Others will look to those showing confidence in problem situations to lead them to a solution. Having the ability to deal with problems also promotes confidence.
  • Communication – confident people recognise that good communication is a two-way street, that it involves clearly getting their message across through their speech or writing, but also listening to the views of others and reaching a common understanding of the task at hand. Even if they are nervous and outside their comfort zone in some situations, they are confident in their own abilities, and usually have prepared in order to showcase their knowledge and expertise more effectively. Confidence comes hand-in-hand with believing in your own skills, knowledge and ability, and this shines through when you communicate. Confident people are also able to process and respond to feedback without taking it personally. They learn from mistakes, as opposed to internalising any difficult feedback as a comment on their self-worth.
  • Leadership – confidence involves the ability to confront challenges, make tough decisions, and inspire others to follow suit. A person does not necessarily need to be in a leadership role to display confident leadership qualities. They take the time to listen to the ideas and concerns of others, showing that they are open and willing to work with others to achieve common goals. They take responsibility for their actions; if something does not go as planned, they do not blame others. They are fully aware of their strengths, limitations and vulnerabilities, and are not afraid to show them. They are perceived as honest and trustworthy, which can strengthen others’ confidence in them to take the lead.

When it comes to career growth and overall job satisfaction, confidence can have a considerable impact. When someone judges themselves to be capable, their confidence is noticeable to others, and this greatly increases their chances of achieving advancement in their careers. Employers benefit from confident employees because they are more positive contributors, more productive, good motivators, and make great role models.

At interviews, confident people are able to display positive body language and maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s) which expresses trustworthiness and professionalism. They coherently talk about how their skills and experience can contribute to the role and are able to provide thoughtful responses to challenging or unexpected questions because they know and have confidence in their own abilities. All this signals to the interviewer(s) that they believe in their abilities and are capable of carrying out the responsibilities of the role. By showcasing confidence in their capability, a confident person makes themselves a more attractive candidate to a potential employer.

On the subject of confidence, Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company once famously said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right”. 

Many successful professionals have cited confidence as a key factor in their success, such as:

  • Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has often highlighted the importance of confidence in his entrepreneurial journey. From starting Amazon as an online bookstore to transforming it into a global e-commerce giant, Bezos’ confidence in his long-term vision has been a driving force behind his success. He has said: “I didn’t think I’d regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all.”
  • Oprah Winfrey, a media mogul and philanthropist, attributes much of her success to self-confidence. Despite a challenging upbringing and numerous obstacles, her belief in her own abilities helped her build a media empire and become one of the most influential women in the world.
  • Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, has often emphasised the role of confidence in his entrepreneurial journey. His willingness to take risks and his belief in his ventures have led to the creation of over 400 companies under the Virgin brand.
  • Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and electric car maker Tesla, has often spoken about the importance of confidence in achieving his ambitious goals. Despite facing numerous setbacks and criticism, his unwavering belief in his vision has driven him to revolutionise industries from electric cars to space travel.
  • Deborah Meaden, best known for her role on the TV programme Dragons’ Den, is a successful entrepreneur and investor who has invested in numerous businesses. She attributes much of her success to confidence and frequently discusses how confidence in one’s decisions and the ability to present ideas persuasively are crucial for success.
  • Karren Brady, the vice-chairman of West Ham United and former managing director of Birmingham City FC, is another example of a UK businessperson who credits confidence for her success. She is often referred to as the First Lady of Football, and has broken many barriers in a male-dominated industry, attributing much of her achievement to her self-confidence and determination.

Building Relationships and Networking

Networking has become crucial for personal and professional success; however, networking is not just about exchanging business cards or making small talk, it is about creating and developing meaningful professional relationships. Networking is a tool used by professionals to get to know the right people, to build professional relationships, to expand their knowledge and to gain access to opportunities. 

One of the fundamental aspects of effective networking is the power of first impressions. As we have previously noted, confidence is an attractive trait to have, which creates an effective first impression, helping to put others at ease. People are more likely to engage and collaborate with those they feel at ease with and have a connection to.  

When taking the first step in initiating conversations with new people, confidence is a real asset as it helps you to break the ice and start meaningful conversations. Confident individuals tend to communicate more clearly, and to be themselves, which encourages genuine connections. They feel confident to ask questions of others, and to actively listen to responses, all of which shows other people that they are genuinely interested in them, their ideas and opinions. This provides opportunities to explore shared interests, experiences, or goals that creates an immediate bond and makes the conversation more enjoyable. 

Authenticity is crucial in networking. People can sense when someone is being insincere or trying too hard to impress. Confident people remain true to themselves and express their genuine thoughts and opinions, which allows others to connect with the real them. They offer genuine assistance to others such as sharing knowledge, or making introductions, establishing themselves as a valuable connection. 

There will be times during any professional networking event that you may receive rejection or indifference to your approach. Confident people handle these situations gracefully, without taking them personally. Their resilience enables them to move on, and to engage with others who are more receptive.

After an event, a confident person will always follow up on the connection that they have made. They let the other person know that they enjoyed meeting them, which helps to develop the connection into an effective professional relationship. 

Building effective relationships in the workplace makes our jobs more enjoyable; the more comfortable colleagues are around one other, the more confident they feel in voicing their opinions, collaborating and engaging with new ideas. This confidence makes it easier for people to be more creative, to innovate and to embrace change. Confidence enables people and teams to be more motivated and productive and to focus on achieving their goals. Good work relationships develop confidence, as they are cooperative, trusting and empowering.

One of the most challenging aspects of professional relationships is negotiating, whether this is as part of working in a team, in procurement or sales, in establishing terms, fees or salary or in problem solving or decision-making. In negotiations, confident people have faith in their own value and their chosen position. This enables them to take a strong negotiating stance and to negotiate successfully as they trust and believe in themselves.

Although it can be challenging to ask for what you want, successful negotiation requires having confidence in your own goal, empathy for others’ views and understanding their perspective, flexibility to compromise, and resilience to move forward. The key to successful negotiating is to stay calm and confident during the conversation.

Personal Empowerment and Resilience

There is a strong connection between being confident and having resilience. As we have seen, being confident involves having belief in yourself, including your abilities, worth and potential. These qualities directly impact on a person’s ability to be resilient; resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change, and maintain a positive mindset in the face of adversity. 

Confident people have an inner strength that enables them to take risks and face challenges, and to come out the other side more knowledgeable and feeling stronger. This in turn helps them to build their resilience which then helps them to build their confidence as they can draw on these experiences to reinforce their belief in their abilities and in themselves. This self-belief or self-confidence is incredibly empowering.

Empowerment means people having power and control over their own lives. It enables a person to make positive decisions, and to take action that will bring them closer to achieving their goals and ambitions. Being and displaying confidence makes empowerment possible, making a conscious decision to take charge of your life, making positive choices, taking action to advance, and being confident in your ability to make and execute decisions. People who consciously decide to take control of their lives are often less stressed, happier, more fulfilled, and more satisfied in their careers and lives.

Confidence, resilience and empowerment are key aspects of mental wellbeing. Links between depression, anxiety, stress and low confidence are well established, although it is still unclear whether low confidence is the cause of these conditions or a symptom of them, or even both. Many researchers allude to thinking poorly of yourself makes you more vulnerable to depression.

People with low confidence tend to shy away from challenges. However, conversely, they may also tend to accept whatever is thrown at them without pushing back as they don’t have the confidence to do so. The effect of this can cause anxiety and stress, and when a person thinks they cannot do anything about a situation, their stress can get worse. Taking care of your wellbeing can help you feel more able to manage stress and to feel more confident. Confident people have a number of strategies to manage stress which enables them to bounce back quicker and feel more self-assured.

Confident people don’t assume every mistake is their fault. They take the right amount of responsibility without allowing it to impact on their confidence, and they identify solutions to amend the situation. They believe that there are good solutions to problems. They stay calm, which enables them to see their potential choices clearly and to actively implement them. These positive expectations facilitate them in getting their problems solved and help to build their confidence in their abilities. 

Confident people have a positive mindset; they tend to assume that things will work out. They do not allow themselves to be rushed into decision-making. Feeling rushed can be quite stressful, may cause anxiety and can often result in bad decision-making. Confident people are able to wait for a good option to arise rather than rushing into decisions that are less than ideal, which may cause problems at a later date.

Confident people know themselves, their abilities and their knowledge well enough to know when they need to ask for help or additional information, and they have the confidence to ask. They are also able to raise concerns, or to express their dissatisfaction in a way that is fair and reasonable. They remain objective, and raise issues before they have the chance of becoming unmanageable. 

Confident people tend to be less anxious, because they are more decisive. They tend to act rather than putting things off until the last minute which can lead to rushing, and in turn can cause stress and anxiety.

Confidence on personal success

Pursuing Goals and Taking Initiative

Taking the initiative and being proactive are terms that are synonymous with having confidence. Showing and taking the initiative means to do something without being told, to take it upon yourself to act based on your own conclusions. Being proactive means looking out for and taking advantage of opportunities. Proactive people have the confidence to make changes, take action and avoid passive acceptance of their circumstances.

When people are proactive and take the initiative, they tend to thrive at work and they tend to be more satisfied with their jobs and their careers because they take action, and experience more growth in their careers. 

Research suggests that being proactive involves self-initiated, future-focused, and change-orientated behaviours. In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, author Stephen R. Covey identifies proactivity as his first habit of highly effective people. 

A confident proactive person uses initiative and action to pursue their goals. They take responsibility for their future and acknowledge the fact that although others can, and will, support them, they cannot succeed for them, only they can do that for themselves. They use the acronym SMART to set ambitious goals for themselves:

  • Specific – The wording should leave no doubt about what is required
  • Measurable – The goal or objective should be readily measurable, and the results should be available quickly and regularly
  • Achievable – The goal or objective should be reasonable and within your ability to accomplish for you to agree
  • Realistic – If the goal or objective offers poor chances of success then it will rapidly turn into a de-motivating force
  • Timed – How much, how soon? A goal or an objective without a time constraint is little more than a wish list

And they hold themselves accountable for achieving their goals. The level of accountability for completing goals is really important. When or if things go awry, they use their resilience to bounce back, to reset and to move forward again, learning from the experience. Being successful is about taking steps every day to be better than you were the day before, by moving in a positive, forward course towards your goals.  

Fear of failure is a common issue faced by many people who set out to achieve success. When it becomes so severe it is known as atychiphobia. Someone with this condition may procrastinate or avoid any situations where they don’t feel they will be completely successful. They may set unrealistic goals for themselves, which only increases the possibility of failure. 

Changing your mindset and building upon your resilience will help to put a fear of failure into perspective. By setting realistic goals based upon your skills and abilities means that you will experience successes that you can build upon and grow, increasing your confidence. If, and when things don’t go to plan, use your resilience to learn from it and move forward. View obstacles as opportunities, and plan strategies to overcome them, in doing so you will add to your skills and abilities, and experience a sense of achievement which will enhance your confidence. As the saying goes “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. This means replacing “What If” doubts with “I Can Handle It” positivity.

If you are feeling a fear of failure, use proactivity to look at the situation as it really is. Ask yourself:

  • What are the likely outcomes?
  • What can I do if the worst outcome happens?
  • How can I plan for dealing with any challenges as they arise?

This proactive planning will give you the confidence that you are equipped to deal with any challenges along the way.

Some other practical ways that you can develop your confidence by being proactive and taking the initiative include:

  • Not waiting for someone else to deal with a problem or issue. If you have an idea that can improve a situation, either share it with those in authority or, if you are empowered, implement it yourself.
  • Look out for inefficiencies or areas for improvement in your current work processes and suggest practical solutions to improve them.
  • Actively seek feedback on your performance and abilities, and use the feedback as a stepping stone for personal and professional development.
  • Offer your assistance to colleagues who are struggling or overwhelmed. This can foster a stronger, more cooperative team environment, and can build your own confidence levels.
  • Try to accurately anticipate the needs of others and address them before being asked, for example by providing relevant information for a report you know is being compiled.
  • Be proactive about sharing information, updates and concerns as this can pre-empt problems and foster a culture of transparency and trust.
  • Continuously seek opportunities to acquire new skills or knowledge that can benefit you personally and professionally.

Cultivating Confidence

Struggling with confidence can be challenging and can impact your mental health. There are a number of things that you can do to be proactive in working on your confidence and to take charge of your mental health.

It is helpful to remember that others have been in the same position and made it through to the other side. Finding yourself a mentor can help, someone you can speak to about your feelings of low confidence who has been there before. They can help you to focus on career development, and give feedback on strengths, achievements and areas for improvement. They can assist with goal setting, clarifying vision, direction and purpose, as well as tracking progress and celebrating achievements. 

An effective mentor will challenge and support learning and growth. As well as expanding skills, knowledge and perspectives, testing and challenging limits and potential. They will help you to move outside your comfort zone, and to identify and pursue opportunities that match your interests, needs and readiness. Mentors are able to offer resources and advice, based on their own experiences of becoming confident, as well as much needed encouragement along the way. 

You could start by first checking to see if your HR department has a mentoring scheme in place. If they don’t, they may be able to offer suggestions. LinkedIn is a great tool to consider when looking for a mentor. Try searching by sector and look for any connections that you may already have, or ask your current connections for introductions to people in their networks. Networking is a good way to identify potential mentors.

Once you have identified a potential mentor, if you propose a meeting either in person or online, then ensure you are very clear about what you need from them and when. It is very important that your potential mentor clearly understands your needs and priorities. Explain to them what you hope to gain from being mentored and what your aspirations are. This allows them to determine whether they can provide you with the guidance that you are looking for. Explain why you chose them in particular and let them know that you would like to ask them some questions about their professional experience. Be prepared for the possibility that they might appear uncomfortable with the idea or uninterested; show resilience, thank them for their time and keep looking. You could ask them if they could suggest someone who might be willing to mentor someone like you.

Confident people are often organised people. Being organised means you will be facing each day and any challenges each day holds, feeling prepared. Feeling on top of things gives you confidence because you are giving yourself the headspace to take on more, implementing time management skills such as list making, and clearly identifying the difference between what is important and what is urgent in order to prioritise effectively. Good time management skills enable you to stop feeling overwhelmed, reduce stress and help you to become more confident and capable. 

We all have negative thoughts from time to time, but negative thinking can be really bad for your mental health and, specifically, your levels of confidence. Try to replace negative thoughts such as “I can’t do this” with more positive affirmations such as “I won’t know unless I try”. By looking at a situation through a more positive but realistic lens, you might realise that you actually can do what you want. A little positivity goes a long way. Keep doing it, and you can rewire your brain to think more positively in everyday life.

It is a useful exercise to create a worksheet for yourself to explore your thoughts and feelings about your confidence. First think of a situation in which you felt confident and experienced a sense of self-worth, and answer the following questions:

  • What is the situation?
  • What do you say to yourself about the situation (self-talk)?
  • How do you feel physically?
  • What sensations and feelings do you have in your body?
  • What do you do as a result of this?

Next, think of a recent situation in which you felt lacking in confidence and answer the same questions listed above.

Use the information from the first two exercises to answer these questions:

  • What positive statement could I say to myself to be reminded of my abilities?
  • What could I do that would help me feel differently? For example, create a visualisation in which you remember how you felt in Part One.
  • What could I do differently next time I am in this situation?
  • What actions would empower me?
The impact of confidence

This final exercise will give you information to come up with an action plan for the next time you experience a lack of confidence.

To develop a growth mindset and increase your confidence levels, start by embracing challenges. Stepping out of your comfort zone and confronting new situations enhances your ability to navigate uncertainties and build resilience. View each challenge as a chance to expand your abilities and test your limits, whether it is learning a new skill, taking on a project, or looking for tasks or roles that demand more from you. Each challenge that you overcome not only increases your abilities but also your confidence. And remember that when things don’t go according to plan, these are opportunities to learn, analyse what went wrong, what could be done differently, and how to improve. Through reflection, valuable lessons can be learnt to add to your experience. 

Confident people ensure that they operate at their optimum and that means taking care of themselves, and their physical and mental wellbeing, ensuring that they integrate structured habits into their daily lives. Routines that include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Quality sleep
  • Participating in enjoyable activities and hobbies
  • Making time for socialising with friends and family
  • Engaging in interesting conversations

Decide what self-care routines are important to you and work them into your schedule, and prioritise them.

There have been many books written on the topic of confidence for success. As previously mentioned, one of the most well known is possibly Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

The Daily Telegraph published the 15 best self-help books for 2024 which includes numerous titles covering improving confidence.

Other books on the topic of confidence for success can be found at, for example:

Amazon

Waterstones

WHSmith

CPD Online College offers online courses that can help to develop skills to build confidence, including but not limited to:

Conclusion

Confidence enables individuals to take on challenges, learn from mistakes, and to achieve success in their careers. This confidence spills over into other aspects of an individual’s life, as happiness contributes to fulfilment as a human being and can positively impact your health, mindset and relationships in particular. 

Confidence, as we have seen in this article, is a trait that can be learned and developed. Self-confidence is not something that you are born with, it is something that you can learn and develop over time. Developing confidence starts with understanding and accepting who you are as a person. This means recognising your strengths and weaknesses and being comfortable with both. When you accept yourself for who you are, you can start to build on your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses.

Developing confidence is a process that takes time and effort, but surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people will help you to feel confident and motivated to pursue your goals.

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About the author

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Lily O'Brien

Lily has worked with CPD Online College since November 2023. She helps out with content production as well as working closely with freelance writers and voice artists. Lily is currently studying towards gaining her business administration level 3 qualification. Outside of work Lily loves going out and spending quality time with friends, family and her dog Mabel.



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