I was talking with a friend about asking for a raise at work – telling her she deserved it, and it wouldn’t hurt to ask. After all, the worst they can say is no, right? Her response, “It’s easy for you to do, you’re so confident.” Another day, another friend said, “It seems like you’ve been killing it lately – what’s your secret?” It made me stop and think.
Sure, I have an awesome apartment, and a job I dreamed about as a little kid, but was it really confidence or some special secret? What was it that helped me get what I wanted?
Because the truth is, when I go into a salary negotiation, I might seem calm and collected, but on the inside, I’m shaking in my pumps. And when I call my landlord to try to talk them down on my rent, it takes me a little while to work myself up to dialing the number. But somehow, I do it anyways.
Here’s what gets me over the I’m-so-nervous-I-can’t-do-it hump.
1. Don’t Quit
I have lived in neighborhoods of NYC that were less-than-ideal. My apartment was farther up town, or up a few more flights of stairs than I wanted. I had soul-stealing jobs that involved serving up food and beverages to strangers when I would rather have been penning a great American novel. Did I let it get me down? Sure. I was straight-up bummed out about my life circumstances for some long-ish periods of my life. Did I let it crush my dream? Nope.
Even when things aren’t how you want them to be, you have to remind yourself that sometimes, it’s not you, it’s them. It takes waaaay longer to get what you want than it seems like it should, but the only way to find out if you’ve got the right stuff is to keep your hat in the ring – especially when it seems like the odds are against you. (If we’re going with this whole gambling metaphor, that’s when the biggest payoffs come, right?)
2. Do the Work
Because no one likes it when someone has all these big life goals for themselves, but never does anything to move them closer to them, right? Right. If it’s a life partner you’re after, suck it up and go on 1 million OKCupid dates. Sure, a lot of them will suck, but you’re not going to meet anyone watching Netflix alone. If you just can’t get the job you want, find a side hustle that moves you closer to that dream. Do it in your free time, on your weekends, do it for free until you have the experience to make a move towards getting paid in that direction. If you’re asking for a raise, you had better do some research in advance and have cold hard facts that demonstrate why you deserve it.
3. Have a Dress Rehearsal
Public speaking used to make me queasy. I would start most presentations by just telling the audience my face was going to turn bright red, so just expect it. I would be in a full sweat pretty much the entire time, and black out while I was doing it. Then, I had a job where I had to stand at the front of a room and teach groups of people. And the first few times? I would finish the class wondering what happened, happy I managed not to sweat through my shirt. But after I did it over and over again, I got better at it.
When I had to teach new material, I would say my presentation, out loud, while I was folding laundry at home. I asked my colleagues to let me do a practice run. When I had big interviews, I would call my sister and ask her to faux-interview me over the phone the night before. When I had my annual reviews, I would make a plan with an experienced aunt to present my goals and hopes. In short, I practiced what I wanted to say over and over and over so that when I inevitably got nervous the hope was I would go on autopilot and fall back on what I had rehearsed. Those actors who do this for every dang play are onto something.
4. Pretend You’ve Got This
I’ll never forget when I was out to dinner with a dear friend of mine who had been working for a couple years while I was still finishing up my Master’s. She said, “I have no idea what I am doing half the time. I just say OK, and then go figure it out!” When I started working, I tried to follow her advice- don’t be afraid to take something on because you’re not sure. Go for it, google the heck out of it, and ask questions as you go along. Most people prefer someone giving it a try than saying no out of the gate. When I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, or that I’m not good enough, I just pretend that I do and that I am. Everyone else is doing it anyways!
5. Feel Entitled
Ok, so recently, entitlement has gotten a pretty bad name with all of the “Rich kids of X” shows, Instagram feeds, and celebrity coverage floating around. I’m not telling you to go out and demand a Ferrari that you didn’t earn, or brag about that expensive trip you had given to you.
But as a concept, feeling entitled to…[fill in the blank] is really what confidence boils down to – that feeling of “I deserve this.” (Just circle back to number 2 first, and make sure you’re justified in that feeling.) When I go after something I want, I remind myself – I’ve worked hard for this, I went to school for this, I put in the time dating all those weirdoes for this, I did the research for this, I followed a 10K training plan to do this. Now, it’s time to get what’s mine. You’d be surprised at how good it can make you feel asking for what you want when you start off by thinking you deserve to have it.
Now get out there, and start killing it already!
Image by Jennifer