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5 Ways to Overcome a Confidence Fail at Work


Even if you love what you do, and you KNOW you’re great at it, everyone has a bad day at work from time to time. A call with an angry client, a boss with unrealistic expectations, or a passive-aggressive coworker…these work pitfalls not only derail your day, but they can even make you question your brilliance. It’s okay to briefly wallow, but once you’re done, brush it off and brush up on how to maintain your self-esteem with these handy tips.

Save your fan mail.

lisa simpson

You know you’ve gotten an email before that’s made your day. Create a “fan mail” email folder, drag that juicy self-esteem nugget there, and watch it grow! When it’s time for your performance review, simply open the folder and remind your boss how awesome you are. If you’re a manager, create a fan mail folder for your team members as well. It will make writing performance reviews easier, and it will remind you of your own leadership and coaching abilities.

Remember that it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

leave the gun take the cannoli

Even “The Godfather” has teachable moments. Criticism is inevitable at work, but don’t let criticism of your work equate to criticism of YOU as a person. If you have a manager or client that seems impossible to please, they probably are. That’s not about you. The upside of high expectations is that they push you to be your best. The process can be frustrating at times, but think of it as a challenge that can give you fantastic results that you can be proud of – and might even reframe your work relationship with that difficult colleague.

Phone a friend.

dogs on the phone

Your work friends aren’t just your lunch buddies. They’re also your gut-check. They know the people and politics at play in the workplace, and they’re the best ones to talk you off the ledge, or to call you out if you’re being too negative. Find those supportive and positive colleagues in the workplace and make them your people. While you’re at it, BE one of those supportive and positive colleagues for someone else. You’ll feel good about it too.

Go to an industry conference.


It’s a great feeling to be among like-minded people. Travel to an industry conference or attend a local networking event to meet other people in your profession and compare notes. It’s amazing how much more interesting these events can be when you self-select (as opposed to mandatory attendance). Bonus: Fantastic education sessions to make you even more awesome at your job, plus credit for your motivation.

Get outside of your comfort zone.


The best way to build yourself up is to take on new challenges and hit them out of the park. Are you a word person? Take on a tech challenge. Data-driven? Try guest blogging! Nothing feels quite as fantastic as trying something that’s hard for you and completing the challenge. Not to mention the compliments that come in when your hard work gets noticed!


Work can often be tough, that’s why it pays! But keep your cool, work hard, and be the best you can be. The bad days won’t disappear completely, but it is possible to check your stress (and your ego) at the door and leave the bad stuff at the office at the end of your day.

Last Updated: May 20, 2016
About the author

    Samantha Smith

    Sam is a former Washingtonian who spent the first 10 years of her marketing career working in the science, nonprofit, and publishing fields. She moved to Austin in 2015 for the thriving tech scene, abundant breakfast tacos, and beautiful swimming holes.