8 easy ways to improve your confidence
Find out how confident you really are. Then take action with these eight simple strategies for enhancing yourself.
If I could give a present to every person who wrote to me, what would I choose? No contest. I’d give everyone more self-confidence because I don’t know anyone who couldn’t do with feeling a little better about who they are and what they can do.
Read the following statements to identify how self-confident you are. Answer each question honestly.
1. I’ve always lacked confidence, even when I was a little girl
Confidence is learned, not inherited. So if you lack confidence, it probably means that you were criticised or undermined as a child. Don’t panic – this lack of confidence isn’t permanent; you can still change.
Think back. What negative early messages were you given? ‘I’m no good. I can’t do things.’ Then take each message and contradict it. If your message was ‘I’m not popular’, remind yourself of the friends you have and stick a message on your mirror saying ‘People like me’. Act as if you are popular.
You can rethink the past. You can reinvent yourself.
2. I see myself falling flat on my face – and then I do
What you think, will happen. If you think you’re a failure, you’ll fail. Confident people think themselves successful and they find success. They literally run a kind of internal ‘home movie’ where they are doing well.
So, before something nerve-wracking, run through a positive internal ‘home movie’ of yourself. If you’re going for a job interview, imagine just how well you’ll do and tell yourself you’re going to succeed. Even if you don’t get the job, you’ll naturally do better than if you had imagined the worst.
3. I typically feel so nervous inside that I sabotage myself
Though stage-fright ‘butterflies’ are useful, by reminding us to give our best performance, they can make us so physically nervous that we fail. The answer is simple – by faking it, you can often end up feeling confident quite naturally.
So just before that important piece of work or that big date, relax, then stand tall, hold your head up, relax your shoulders and stand with your weight evenly balanced over each foot. Smile to raise your spirits. If your mouth is dry, bite your tongue to release saliva. Take a deep breath – and go for it!
4. However good I feel, I often look nervous to other people
If you act as though you lack confidence, other people will react to that – often badly.
Use the ‘SET’ plan – smile, eye contact, touch – which picks up on the three elements confident people typically demonstrate.
1. Smile, and you’ll seem relaxed.
2. Hold eye contact and you’ll seem sure of yourself.
3. Touch – with a firm handshake or even just a pat on the arm – and you’ll seem in control.
5. I often feel unsure when I’m doing something new
This statement sounds negative. Isn’t it bad to feel unsure? But actually, this is a positive strategy, because it’s no good feeling falsely confident. With something new, feeling unconfident is your mind’s way of alerting you to your lack of experience.
You can solve this problem by gaining the relevant experience (or at least, as much as you can). So with anything new – that speech, those interview questions, that new skill – get background information and practice ahead of time. Rehearsal will raise your performance and, in turn, raise your confidence.
6. I worry that other people will laugh or disapprove of me
The secret here is that almost everyone feels like you do. Which means that while you’re busy wondering what other people think of you, they’re busy wondering what you think of them.
Work with that. Help other people feel better: approach them, be friendly, ask questions, compliment them. Then, not only will they like you, you’ll also be too busy concentrating on them to worry about yourself.
7. I’m confident in some areas, but I feel unsure in others
If there’s one thing you can do with confidence, it’s being able to transfer it across to ‘nervous’ areas.
So when you’re facing a new situation, imagine it’s one you’re familiar with. When you meet people you don’t know, imagine they are people you know and like. If you know you can be self-assured about some things, you can imagine being self-assured about everything.
8. If something feels too big for me, I just collapse under the weight
What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The moral here is it’s usually easier to do things in small chunks. So break down a project into smaller goals. Or try a ‘practice run’ and then build up from there.
There is an exception to this ‘one bite at a time’ approach. Sometimes, doing the outrageously risky can boost your confidence – because it makes everything else seems easy. My friend Barbara decided to do a charity walk – up Mount Kilimanjaro. She not only raised over £4000. She also gained enormous confidence in her own ability.
A final tip
All these routes to confidence involve you alone. But other people can help, too. So find a mentor – someone who is confident in the area you’re not. Hang out and learn from their knowledge, their experience. They’ll be flattered and you’ll gain useful tips.