Increasing your confidence at work – A reading list

2017 was my year to get more confident at work. It’s always been a problem of mine – that even though I’ve never had much (if any) bad feedback about the work I do, and I’ve always been told that I’m a productive and useful team member etc, my work-related self confidence has always been very low. This is in contrast to confidence in other areas of my life, which I feel has never been a problem.

My feelings might commonly be known as imposter syndrome. Where you feel like you don’t belong, you’re not good enough, you somehow got where you are by fluke and you don’t deserve it. This is not a nice way to feel, so that’s why 2017 was my year to work on that particular problem.

Like all my New Year’s resolutions it’s just a very vague theme or goal for the year. So I wasn’t sure what achieving it would look or feel like, but I just knew it was something I had to focus on for the year.
An important part of it was that I had to get more aware of my thought patterns and then work on challenging them.

By the end of the year I was feeling a lot more confident, I had had two pay rises and I had finished the year working as a leader on a work project and getting a lot of good feedback from all the people on the team.

I did a lot of reading during the year and this is a list of the books I found that were most helpful for me in increasing my confidence at work. Other books I read were also great, but these ones really stand out as ones I will read over and over again.

The Daily Stoic – Ryan Halliday
I spent Christmas 2016 in Paris and in the Galignani bookshop there I bought Ryan Haliday’s The Daily Stoic which is 366 meditations on wisdom, perseverance and the art of living. So the idea is that each day you will read a short passage from one of the stoic philosophers, for example Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, and they would have an explanation of it. Reading these once a day really provided a reality check, got me out of focussing on the minutiae of the day, and thinking about what is fact, what is important and what is out of my control. The most important lessons from the book for me were about clarity of thought, fortitude and resilience.

Change Your Thinking – Sarah Edelman
Another book that was very helpful for me was a book called Change Your Thinking. This book is about CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, and it’s about learning to think in a more healthy way and learning strategies to overcome your negative thoughts and behaviours. I had a lot of ingrained thoughts and beliefs about myself and my work, and this book really helped me challenge those negative thoughts. It really drills it in with lots of examples of common negative thought patterns – e.g. ‘Mind Reading’, where you imagine you know what other people are thinking. It then gives scenarios like “Mike didn’t smile at Rachel this morning, so Rachel thinks she’s done something to upset Mike. In reality, Mike’s dog just died”. I was not super surprised to find out that I practice a lot of the negative thought patterns, and this book really helped me identify when I’m doing it.

Mindset – Carol Dweck
One of my best recommendations of the year is the book Mindset. I think it might be somewhat of a parenting book, because it has a lot about how to bring your child up to be more resilient and stuff like that, but actually it was really helpful for me as a person who suffers from imposter syndrome. This book teaches you about the two mindsets, growth and fixed, and helped me realise that I might have been suffering from a somewhat fixed mindset. It then goes on to teach you how to change that so that you can feel more comfortable with not knowing things, feel more comfortable facing challenges and trying new things. One of my private fears used to be that I was worried that I was the kind of person who would not try things out of a fear that I couldn’t do them. I didn’t want to be that person! This book helped me realise when I was in danger of being that person, and how to change my mind about it. The growth mindset person is not discouraged by failure, they don’t even think they are failing, they think they are learning!

Chaos to Calm – Shannah Kennedy and Lyndall Mitchell
At first this book seemed a bit too ‘self help’ and ‘life coachey’ to me, but let’s be honest, I really got into the self help books this year and I’m loving them. So, although I probably wouldn’t have read it a year ago, it’s one I’m going to keep going back to. The book helps you identify when you’re feeling low confidence – and gives you tips on how to ‘fill up’ your ‘confidence tank’ again. And I tell you, it really works for me. Every chapter ends with ‘power thoughts’ (… writing that just makes me feel weird), e.g. “Opportunities often come from challenging situations”, so that when you’re feeling low confidence, you can just go straight to those thoughts. As I said, it won’t be for everyone, and I understand if your sceptical, but this book really helps me, and I love going back to it for a refresh (…especially on a Monday morning when I’m not feeling so great….).

Beta – Rebecca Holman
The last book I’m going to give in my top 5 is called Beta, and this one is about what success looks like and what does a successful woman in the workplace look like. I guess I have always felt like I am too much of a pushover at work, that I’m trying to be too nice because I want everyone to like me, and as a result I could never be very successful in my career. (I’m not going to say ‘career woman’ because that is one of my most hated phrases, though that list is very long). I have always deep down thought I could never be super successful at work or in business because it’s just not the kind of personality I have. I’m too timid, and I’m too nice. This book was about being a leader when you’re a beta personality type, which I think is me. It talks about the beta personality traits that could be beneficial, but also the traits from alphas that you might want to temporarily utilise now and then. The book doesn’t recommend faking being an alpha for an extended period, because pretending to be something you’re not can be exhausting. This book was great at showing me that people with my personality type, can also be great leaders.

Not Just Lucky – Jamila Rizvi
I’m going to do an honourable mention for this book which I enjoyed because I suffer from imposter syndrome and I really think in the back of my mind that it was all by chance that I got the career I have, and the job that I have. Did you know that apparently this is a very common thing for Australian women to think at work? That their successes are pure luck or accident? This book was a really interesting study about the structural and cultural disadvantages that rob women of their confidence in the workplace without them even realising it. So many times I thought “Wow, that’s me” while reading this book. I liked it because it made me feel not so dumb for feeling this way and helping me to realise the reasoning behind my thinking.

Anyway I feel like my year of increasing my confidence at work has been very useful, and that these 6 books were a gigantic part of it. I know that it’s not going to be something I work on once and then never have to do anything about again, it’s something I’m going to have to constantly work on, which is why it’s so great that I’ve got these books to keep reading over and over again whenever I feel like my confidence at work is slipping.

Now it’s 2018 and I have started a new year with a new goal. I feel confident in my new goal, because I have improved the confidence I’ve got from my work, and grown to acknowledge all the things I’ve been able to achieve in my career space. It really makes me feel that I can do anything I set my mind to, and I guess that’s what confidence is.

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