Although some people might seem to have far more than others, confidence is actually not something we are born with – it’s very much nurture, rather than nature.

The amount of confidence that you grow up with can be influenced by a broad range of factors, from whether you learn to ride a bike, to how quickly you learn to feed yourself, what your school experience is like and whether you go on to further education. Not only does your confidence grow, stall or fall according to factors like these but it’s not set in stone either and will continue to change throughout your working life.

In fact, the business world is probably one of the harshest environments when it comes to confidence. Whether your confidence grows or falls at work will depend on many factors, from how you make decisions, and what kind of decisions you make, through to the way that you accumulate knowledge and assimilate experience. Your ability to deal with feedback and criticism, your attitude to goals and your commitment to achievements will all have an impact.

With all that in mind, here are seven key steps to take if you want to turn all of these random factors into one solid result: increased confidence at work.

  1. What are your strengths and how can you maximise them? This is basic, but key. We are all programmed these days to look for faults and even to apologise for ourselves. While some self-assessment and constructive criticism is essential for your growth you also need to be able to accept your faults and not dwell on them. Instead of focusing on the negatives, work out what your strengths are –what are you naturally good at and what can you learn fast? If you’re confident then you can look at yourself as a whole and accept everything. This will make it easier to spot the opportunities to shine.
  1. Dump the negativity. Some of us feel like negativity is a defence against things going wrong – pride comes before a fall right? Well, there’s a difference between being confident and looking at things positively and being so full of yourself that you trip over your feet. Avoid indulging feelings that the world is your enemy – we all get them. A pattern of ‘bad’ experiences – missing the bus, spilling your coffee etc – is just a series of coincidences. To be confident you need to look at problems as the chance to change something, or to learn. If you decide to handle whatever happens then you can always be confident that you can deal with any outcome.
  1. What needs work? If you have ongoing issues that are affecting your confidence then make a plan to deal with them. You don’t need to punish yourself or be obsessive but look for practical weaknesses in your character or approach that might sabotage you at work. Remember that everyone has faults so you’ll never be 100% perfect but you might find that when you start to examine your attitude there are entrenched problems that are really holding you back. Once you identify these you will most likely already know what to do about them – it’s often quite instinctive. Improving yourself and overcoming the obstacles you put up for yourself will be a big confidence boost and if you know you’re not lying to yourself about the way you do things you can have complete confidence in your abilities.
  1. Constantly learn and educate yourself. The more you know, the more your confidence will rise – ok this might seem like an obvious step but it really works. Knowledge will give you tools to deal with situations that others might struggle in. It will give you the ability to have a broader range of experiences and to start contributing to the development of others too, all of which will help boost your own confidence levels.
  1. Let it go. Yes, criticism is depressing and can make you feel low. And yes you do need to see if there’s anything to learn from constructive criticism. However, once you’ve identified any potential positive learning experiences then just let that criticism go, don’t dwell or carry it with you. If you can hear it repeating in your mind then block it, reject it or just think about something else. Don’t allow this kind of negativity to play on repeat in your brain, as it will damage your confidence.
  1. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot. We all have different coping mechanisms and for some of us it’s easier to be the joker or the one who always causes trouble than to face up to fears of failure or to actually fulfill potential. You will only undermine yourself by taking these roles on and they will damage your confidence because there’s no positive progression, no career development and you will mostly likely alienate your support networks too. Throw away the disguise and just be you.
  1. Be a smiler. It’s true that you tend to smile more when you feel confident but what if you could reverse that process and trigger confidence with the smile? Try it and see how you feel when you’re the one delivering smiles, confidently asking about someone’s day or allowing yourself to be happy and positive instead of pretending everything is ‘boring’ because you’re at work. A smile will show the people around you that you have a positive outlook and that is a great way to get noticed and to motivate your colleagues too.

Bio: James Gouge is chief executive officer at Unity Recruitment, a recruitment agency serving candidates & businesses across North London & the surrounding areas.