Working can be a challenge. On average, Americans work almost 2,000 hours a year. Even if you’ve only been working full-time for 20 years, that means work has taken up 40,000 hours of your life. That’s a long time…and it can feel even longer if you’re unhappy at work. Sometimes if you’re feeling unhappy at work, the answer can be improving your self-esteem. How? Self-esteem gives you the power to change your negative environment, to stand up for what you believe in, and to work to your full potential. A professional coach can help you set manageable goals to improve your self-esteem at work. Here are just three examples of how to improve your self-esteem in a challenging work environment:
1. Decrease Your Negative Self-Image
Sometimes when we think of negative self-image, we mistake it for negative body image. While body image is loosely defined as, “your perception of how your body looks to you and to others,” negative self-image is defined as how “we focus on our faults and weaknesses, distorting failure and imperfections.” Both can negatively impact our quality of life, but negative self-image can become so ingrained in our subconsciousness that it actively impacts how we perceive our abilities in all situations. In workplace situations, negative self-image affects what we think we deserve at work and how we allow other people to treat us. For example, if you are being actively assigned work that is below your pay grade or rarely praised or appreciated for your good work, a negative self-image may convince you that you shouldn’t expect better treatment. Worse, negative self-image is a cyclical problem. Those who don’t believe they should be treated better project that image to others, who in turn do not treat them any better. NBC News reports, “People notice low self-esteem right away and, unfortunately, coworkers, bosses, customers and clients make negative assumptions about people who exhibit behaviors of low self-esteem. For some reason, there’s a belief that low self-esteem goes hand in hand with incompetence and apathy.” The only way to break the cycle of negative self-image is to work on improving your self-image. That looks different for each person because self-image is so personal and often developed from a young age. A professional coach can help set achievable goals for improving self-image, confidence, and self-worth to change how you perceive yourself both in life and in a work environment.
2. Let Go of Imposter Syndrome
What is Imposter Syndrome? Time magazine says, “Impostor syndrome—the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications—was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes,” and reports that Imposter Syndrome affects 70% of people at some point in their lives. Imposter Syndrome affects people at work in a variety of ways, but the main way it harms one’s career is “The fear of not succeeding may cause a person to hold themselves back and avoid seeking higher achievements. This, along with the fear of doing things wrong, can affect their overall job performance.” Again, this negative impact on self-esteem leads to the self-fulfilling-prophecy cycle of poor work-life. If you believe you shouldn’t be in a senior position you’ve been given, you could perform poorly as a senior and be demoted. If that happens, it only justifies your negative perception of yourself and continues to hold you back professionally and personally! Ironically, the people who most frequently experience Imposter Syndrome are perfectionists and experts. Imposter Syndrome is difficult to recover from alone because it is a mindset perpetrated by one’s own experiences. However, a professional coach can put you on the path to acknowledging your achievements in a healthy way that opens doors for further growth you may not have imagined could be possible.
3. Understand the Neuroscience Behind Behavior Change
In tandem with negative self-image and Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that one is simply not good enough. This is a much more complicated issue that many people experience daily, affecting almost every area of their life in unconsciously negative ways. Psychology Today says, “Experiencing feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, worthlessness, and just not feeling “enough” can be immensely challenging and painful. Whether these feelings are elicited by periodic situations or involve more ongoing challenges that might accompany a history of trauma or mental health challenges like depression, these feelings are experiences that many people face.” In many ways, the feeling that we are not good enough stems from a critical sense of self and hidden core beliefs developed over time. Those who feel they are not good enough will struggle to accept compliments for their accomplishments at work, but also over-internalize their failures. This leads to a negative work experience. Still, feelings of inadequacy are difficult to change because they are often so deep-rooted: “For some of us, these encounters echo earlier occasions in our lives when we felt like our value as a person was determined by other people — usually adults — and fluctuated depending on what they thought of our latest grade, game, performance or accomplishment.” However, just because change is difficult does not mean it is impossible. Positive affirmations help to instill new messages to overwrite the old ones that cause harm to your sense of self. A therapist can help you do the work to challenge the messages you learned in life and a professional coach can help you take control of your daily progress towards achievable goals to improve your self-esteem in workplace environments.
Ultimately, you are in control of your self-esteem—even if sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. A professional coach can guide you on the path to greater acceptance of yourself so that you can achieve your highest potential in life and the workplace. You can do so much more than you may imagine for yourself. The first step is understanding how negative self-esteem is holding you back from all that you can be.