“With confidence, you have won before you have started.” ~Marcus Garvey
It’s not a great feeling.
Whether it’s meeting new people, speaking in front of a crowd, or learning a new skill, that inner knowing that you just aren’t feeling strong enough to competently complete the task ahead festers inside you.
I’ve had this feeling on numerous occasions.
As a kid I developed a fear of speaking out which emerged from a deep discontent with my body image, which translated later into a fear of socializing and public speaking.
I would have thoughts running through my mind such as “what if they don’t like me?” and I was constantly worried about my physical appearance.
I noticed this limited my ability to maintain friendships, as I couldn’t hold a natural, genuine conversation for long periods.
As the years went on, however, I realized that a lack of confidence is something that we unconsciously acquire, not something that’s inherently built into our DNA.
This spurred me to want to know how I can remove what I had accidently learned as a child.
I also realized that confidence is not just a matter of being larger-than-life in the way we stand and speak.
It’s a deeper level of a much simpler state: comfort.
Comfort in your own skin, in your own body, or whatever the situation is.
As an introvert, I still to this day prefer to avoid busy social situations or speaking with new people, but there’s not a fear or anxiety attached. It’s simply a preference.
And one thing I know for sure is that confidence is not a matter of luck. It is, as many things are, a matter of mindset.
Take the following simple, proven steps I took to become much more confident in all situations:
1. Get crystal clear on the worst-case scenario.
Popularised by Dan Gilbert in his book Stumbling on Happiness, our ability to predict accurately how good something will feel when something goes right, as well as how bad something will feel when something goes wrong, is vastly inaccurate. This is known as affective forecasting, and we are all prone to it.
So instead of guessing, try writing down in words what would be the worst-case scenario if what you wanted to be confident in went completely wrong.
You’ll notice that it’s never that bad. Life will still continue, and you can grow from the experience.
Knowing this can put you at ease and prevent you from overestimating the consequences of taking that first step.
2. Ready, fire, aim!
Overthinking is the enemy of confidence. You’re better off jumping into the deep end and correcting errors rather than treading cautiously around the situation trying to pursue perfection, which is nothing other than an excuse for procrastinating.
Show yourself you can be confident by doing the most confident thing of all: beginning.
Take that first step and adjust accordingly afterward. You’ll make mistakes and feel a lack of confidence initially, but you’ll have laid the foundations for long-term inner strength and true confidence in the near future.
3. Respect the law of excellence.
As we all know, a few fundamentals are necessary to succeed in anything. We can all agree that repetition is one of them.
If you want to gain confidence in something, you must do it over and over again.
Why is practice so effective? Because confidence has a direct correlation with competence.
Think about it; when you’re able to complete a task easily, don’t you naturally feel confident doing it?
For example, when I wanted to develop more confidence talking to new people, I would simple practice talking to strangers as often as possible. With time, I realized that the worst-case scenario was never that bad, it’s better to say something before my mind could put me into fear, and I should repeat this as many times as possible.
4. Watch your posture.
Although confidence is not exclusively about the posture you hold and the gestures you make, as often stereotyped, posturing your body for confidence is important.
Amy Cuddy, associate professor at Harvard Business School, became famous for her research that showed how standing and sitting confidently for a couple of minutes changes our biochemical layout in our brains, and thus actually affects how we feel.
The takeaway: Our internal physiology responds to our bodily movements, including our posture and facial expressions. To instantly feel more confident, make your body first look as it would look if you felt confident. Simple, fast, free, and very effective.
5. Maintain optimism, no matter what.
When a situation makes us feel insecure, it’s really because we’re picturing an extremely negative outcome.
The essence of being confident is to imagine a positive outcome instead of a negative one.
Easier said than done, right?
I agree! In my experience, however, the more you do this consciously, the more it becomes a habit, and eventually it becomes natural to think this way.
In addition, the more competent you become in a given situation, the more you naturally develop a thought process where you imagine a positive outcome, every time.
6. Step out of your comfort zone regularly.
You’ll never know what you’re capable of until you touch the edges of your comfort zone on a regular basis.
Once you reach the edge, you’ll have expanded your capabilities, and the circle of comfort will increase.
This helps greatly because what you had previously felt was uncomfortable becomes second nature, and you have a new level of discomfort to challenge you to grow and expand your level of confidence.
7. Remove all distractions.
We want to know we can develop confidence not only authentically, but swiftly too. Like any skill, the more we remove unnecessary distractions, the quicker we can become better at it.
For example, when I wanted to become more confident with public speaking, I regarded it as a new skill I was learning and developing, and thus I consciously decided to put everything else on the back burner so that I could focus solely on this one skill.
In addition to harnessing your focus for faster improvements, removing distractions also creates extra time, which, as we discussed in tip #3, allows you to pursue excellence by increasing the frequency of practice.
8. Be mindful of negative thoughts.
This is by far one of the most virtuous habits to adopt for confidence.
As mentioned before, a lack of confidence most often has its basis in thoughts that are unhelpful. To be able to step back and watch these thoughts, the moment they arise, causes an immediate release of negative emotional energy.
It’s human nature to be self-critical at times: What if he doesn’t like me? What if she notices this flaw about me? Why do I always act this way?
But none of these thoughts have power to bring us down without our belief in them. To reduce our attachment to them, we must first be aware of when they arise.
From here, we can use the beautiful gift we have been given—our thought—to challenge these negative assumptions and eventually turn them around.
With time and resilience, these thoughts will not even arise, and confidence will be a natural by-product.
9. Exercise regularly.
Our scientific understanding of neurophysiology proves that exercise has a beneficial effect on our moods.
What many people don’t know, however, is that exercise has a direct impact on our confidence too.
What’s even less known is that it’s not about how frequently you exercise, nor is it the intensity with which you exercise. It’s simply the mere act of exercising versus not exercising that can affect our levels of confidence.
Researchers from the University of California reviewed fifty-seven case studies on how exercise influences mood and mental health, and they found that with the release of endorphins in the brain during exercise, we can develop a sense of increased self-confidence.
So no need to enter the gym. Go for a pleasant walk every day. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.
10. Feel the bass.
Music is one of those universally loved forms of art. It can make us feel heightened states of emotion, both positive and negative.
You can also use music to increase your confidence. Researchers from the Kellogg School of Management found that the right type of background music can be hugely effective in making you feel powerful and confident.
Specifically, bass-heavy music can make us feel a boost in confidence. We often see this in stadiums before large sporting events, or when athletes or musicians psyche themselves up for an important performance.
So don’t be afraid to get your headphones on and blast your favorite jams before your next event.
Remember, above all, you have the strength and intelligence within you to overcome any obstacle that’s in your way of living the life you truly deserve.
Confidence is an attribute you can develop within yourself using these simple steps.
Before you know it, you’ll be ready to take on the world with an unbeatable inner strength and power.
And remember, never let anything get in your way.
I think I can image via Shutterstock