The secret to feeling valued at work

RollercoasterWe all want to feel valued. It’s a universal human desire. We hope to be appreciated, acknowledged and accepted in all areas of life, including the workplace.

When we receive praise or recognition, we gain a spring in our step, a burst of confidence, the energy to tackle the next challenge with gusto.

But when we receive criticism or perhaps worse, no feedback at all, it can leave us feeling the opposite – deflated, unheard, unseen, and unappreciated.

Looked at in this light, work can be an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you are on top of the world, the next you’re questioning your worth.

But ask yourself this: who is steering the rollercoaster?

Do you rely on external validation to feel appreciated in your workplace? Is your self-worth dependent on how your boss/colleagues/peers treat you?

If the answer is yes, then your ‘self-worth rollercoaster’ is being steered by events outside of your control. This places your feelings of value in the workplace at the mercy of other people, and this can have a huge impact on your confidence.

It’s time to take hold of the steering wheel. The only person who can determine your true value is you.

I believe that feeling valued in the workplace starts from within. Of course other people will play a part in your professional journey – that can’t be helped – but they shouldn’t be in the driver’s seat.

Instead of waiting for your boss or colleagues to acknowledge your efforts, instead try asking yourself the following questions:

  • Am I happy with the way I am conducting myself at work?
  • In what ways do I feel valuable to my team?
  • If I were to ask for feedback, what would be the most likely responses?
  • What tasks do others regularly trust me to do?
  • What am I already doing better than before?
  • What achievements am I proud of?

Regular, honest self-reflection will help you maintain a sense of calm and integrity. It’s important that you value yourself and your efforts, even if no one else appears to have noticed.

The more your self-esteem grows, and you begin to recognise your own value, the less you will rely on external validation. Your confidence will no longer be at the mercy of other people – it will only be at the mercy of your own mindset.

Remember, the only person who can determine your true value is you.

Failures on the way to success

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAlXAAAAJDdjMzk1MDQ4LTVkODMtNDg1MC05ZDE4LTlmZDA3Mzc0MTNiYwThat’s me on the right of the photo. I attended an Outward Bound course last week and this was my very first time rock-climbing. I was really worried about how I would do, and about how I’d look compared to the others. I kept reminding myself that I didn’t have to be the best climber out there, I just had to try. I tried, I got stuff wrong, I kept trying (and failing) and when I eventually got to the top I felt a huge sense of achievement. The experience reminded me about the things that sometimes hold us back when we’re in situations where we’re not sure of the outcome.

One of my favourite quotes is by Olin Miller who said: “You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do!” How often do you hold yourself back because you’re worried about what other people will think?

Could it be that we’re more afraid of being judged than we are of failure? Could it be that we’re not scared of failing, but we’re scared of what people might say if we fail?

Let me digress for a moment to note the difference between mistakes and failures. A mistake is when we do something wrong even though we know the right way to do it. Failure is when we’re trying something new and we don’t know ahead of time how to make it successful. Where possible we should try to avoid mistakes but in reality there are times this can be hard (such as when we’re under high levels of stress, or we’re tired). Sometimes you are going to make mistakes, and that’s okay. And if you’re trying new things, pushing yourself, or taking action you are almost certainly going to experience failure.

Find peace in the fact that people aren’t judging you as much as you think they are. And even if you do have some critics, do you want to spend your time satisfying them at the expense of your own growth?

Failure is a powerful way to learn. We learn about ourselves, and we learn where we went wrong so we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Failures are not meant to be buried, forgotten – they give us the opportunity to reflect and can be used to help us decide our next steps.

Instead of living in fear of your failures, you could use them to your advantage. Start ‘banking’ your failures – imagine they are sitting in a high-interest savings account of all the things you have learned over the years. You can withdraw these important learnings any time you need them.

It’s natural to try to avoid looking bad in front of others, but try to fight through this fear and allow yourself to take the action you need to make in order to grow. People aren’t actually paying that much attention.

When you do experience failure, be gentle on yourself. Instead of using all of your energy to feel embarrassed or frustrated, use your energy to focus on what you can take from this experience, and what your next step should be. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. Remember, you did the best you could with what you knew at the time.

Stop looking at your failures as a bad thing. Start embracing those moments for what they have added to your knowledge, your career, your growth. It’s amazing what can result from this simple shift in perspective.

Small steps to build your self-confidence

Do you sometimes feel anxiety, fear or low self-confidence in the workplace? I’ll let you in on a little secret: most people do.

We all have an inner voice of self-doubt that tells us we can’t do something, or that we might fail. It’s part of being human.

But that doesn’t mean we have to listen to it. Most of the time this voice is ruled by fear and should therefore be gently acknowledged, and then firmly ignored.

Self-confidence is about living beyond fear.

Think of some of the things that make you feel vulnerable or anxious at work. Some common examples include asking for a promotion or a pay rise, delivering a presentation or dealing with conflict.

Now think about the one thing all these challenges have in common: fear.

The best way to improve your self-confidence at work is to employ techniques to overcome your fears, so you can act with purpose and clarity as opposed to anxiety.

I’m not suggesting that this is easy, or that it will happen overnight, but remember: small steps can reap big rewards. I believe we can all overcome our fears if we are kind to ourselves along the way.

Try small things until you feel more confident.

Some people overcome their fear of heights by parachuting out of a plane. While this ‘quick fix’ has been known to work for some, I’d suggest a gentler, more long-term strategy for improving self-confidence in the workplace.

You don’t have to walk straight up to your boss and tell him you want a pay rise! Or deliver an impromptu presentation to a large group of people, just to test your fears.

Instead you can try small things each day or each week, and see what helps you personally to feel more confident and centred.

Here are some tried and tested strategies for success:

  • Be kind to others: Support and appreciate their work. This is great for your own soul and happiness, and your colleagues will notice you for all the right reasons.
  • Be kind to yourself: Listen out for compliments and record them in a notebook so you can refer back to them on tough days. Make note of your achievements and the things that make you feel proud of your work. Celebrating what you are good at is so important.
  • Be open: Talk to trusted colleagues about your own fears and ask them what areas they struggle with. You might be surprised – most people aren’t as confident as you think.
  • Be curious: Ask for feedback about your work and look for opportunities to learn. Show that you are willing to improve and grow. This will help you make a good impression as well as discover what people already appreciate about you.

These are just some of the ways you can make small adjustments to your confidence. Remember, self-confidence isn’t about being the loudest or the brightest; it’s about awakening your calm inner strength. It’s amazing how much we can flourish when we be kind to ourselves and others.