I keep questioning myself about when to speak up, when to sit back! I know I’m capable in my job but sometimes I don’t feel certain about myself in work situations. And I don’t feel comfortable asking coworkers for advice in case it makes me appear weak or unprofessional. How can I change this?
First of all, you are not alone! Yes, we have this fantasy that when we reach a certain age, we should be more confident, more able to handle these situations. But no, not true. We all have moments — even periods — in our lives, when we question ourselves. So, no self-recrimination required!
Second, think about where that feeling comes from:
Just because you are over 45, or even 50 years old, it doesn’t mean that those inner demons aren’t still running around in the back of your mind.
What it does mean is that you have the experience to work through it. Here are some ways to do that:
Identify people (male or female) in the company you respect and feel safe with and start building a more interactive relationship with them. Even someone who is “above” you in position might be more open than you imagine to helping you! People love to feel they are valuable to others and are very likely to enjoy mentoring and assisting you in your growth. Find a way to talk about your concerns or fears with friends or colleagues in a way that shows you are working on personal development, not just complaining.
If mentoring isn’t enough, consider getting some form of coaching. Even a couple of hours with a paid business coach might be just what you need to propel you forward into greater confidence and a sense of your own strength.
At the same time, start a list of the contributions you have made to the company. Add to that the ways you have grown internally and valuable lessons you have learned. Keep that list handy for reference when you start feeling doubtful.
Make an additional list of accomplishments in your life outside of work to remind you that you are a whole person with talents and attributes. Notice that some skills you have exercised easily, like disciplining children or organizing your home, could actually be translated to your workplace in a different form.
Decide here and now that you deserve to have a good job in a good company and be successful at it. This is not something someone else can give you, it is up to you to create it and live it. Your positive mental attitude goes a long way in making this happen!
Stop making work your only identity! Find a group or activity outside of work that inspires you. The more rewarding your personal life is, the less likely you are to be frustrated at work.
What we’re really talking about is you being proactive. An excellent book from 1999 by Peter F. Drucker, Management Challenges for the 21st Century, maps out the proposition that in this era it is vital for you to be 100% responsible for your career. As we have seen, company loyalty is a thing of the past (both ways — from employer to employee and vice versa).
Your true loyalty must be to yourself. Not in a self-aggrandizing, egocentric way, but in being authentic and real in how you live and work. If you find your values don’t match the company you are working for, look for another company. If you feel the people in your department or work team could do with some personal development, look for ways to encourage that in the organization.
I just saw a team of songwriters on TV. The guy that writes the music is 88 and the lyricist is 102. Oddly, the older fellow seemed steadier and healthier than the younger one! When asked his advice to be in such great shape at his age, he said, “Find work you love to do and keep doing it! Stay busy! Feel like you have a purpose and something you care about.” I think that is great advice at any age.
Learning to speak up doesn’t have to mean you become an unpleasant disrupter. Look for ways you can bring new ideas to the table. As you keep working on yourself you may find that you are more relaxed and easier to be around. You may feel more on par with others because you are more certain of your value in the world.
The bottom line is this: You are the most important person in your life. When you value who you are, the talent and abilities you bring, are purposeful, you self-direct to utilize the strengths you have, you face your fears and manage your weaknesses, you are much more likely to show up at work with confidence, aplomb and poise. And it will be far easier to speak up, ask for what you want and get it! Wouldn’t that be nice?