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(Note: This article is a part of our 31-day series, “31 Days to a Whole Body Makeover“.)
We all have our off days when we are feeling anything but confident. And sometimes we can actually have off-years, am I right?
Believe it or not, but most people have to muster up courage every single day. Not only that, but we have to do it multiple times a day, including situations at work, scenarios of asking for things we need, many different social situation, and the scariest of all: making small talk with someone you hardly know. Social anxiety is crippling to many people, so if this describes you, know that you are not alone.
With some forethought and practice, you can master actually being the person you want to be perceived to be.
Here are ten tips for how to be confident.
Tips for Having More Confidence:
1. Stop with the “analysis paralysis”. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others, thinking we don’t measure up. We become paralyzed in moving forward in our goals when we think there is someone else already doing it, and doing it better. We think things like, “They are more experienced than me,” “He is better educated than me,” or even, “She is prettier than me.” People want to speak to you and hear what you have to say because it is you. They want to hear your perspective based on your unique strengths, knowledge, and personal background. Someone may be better educated, but they can never be you. So next time you are giving a speech, or if you are just speaking to someone one-on-one, realize that you have a captive audience because they want to hear from you. They want to know what you know!
2. Go without judgment. Have you ever had an experience where you were getting ready for an event and you ran through so many scenarios of “what-ifs” that you talked yourself out of going because of the fear of the worst happening? But what if the best thing of your life might happen at that party? You wouldn’t know because you have been obsessing over the worst case scenarios. If you can say to yourself, “I have no expectations or judgment for what will happen, because I do not know.” If you have no expectations for going to an event, you are going to enter in so much more relaxed and able to be yourself and enjoy the moment.
3. That said, do prep some! If you are going to a party or event where you know you will be socializing, catch up on current events so you will feel informed. Write down favorite jokes when you hear them so you always have a good joke at the ready. Tuck that paper in your purse where you can add to it at a moment’s notice, because who remembers jokes in the long-term? Everyone loves a good joke, and it’s the perfect ice breaker.
4. Do it as a service. If we are going out and doing something difficult, re-frame it in your mind that you are doing it as a service to someone else. I am going to this PTA function as a service to my kids’ school. I am teaching this lesson at church because I am being of service to my audience. I am going to the gym as a service to my aerobics instructor whom I support. Doing it as a service takes off so much pressure because you are not thinking of those who might judge you, but those who need your help and support.
5. You do not have to be perfect to be confident. You need to stop focusing on your imperfections and focus on the things that are good about you. Everyone has a past full of mistakes and regrets, but none of those mistakes define who you are today. If you find yourself thinking about your imperfections, stop immediately and start listing the things that you are good at doing. Celebrate your successes, and stop discounting your positives.
6. Fake it until you make it. The funny thing is, chances are very high that everyone at that party felt just as much anxiety coming in as you did, but you are still going to come in with your head up, shoulders back, and a big smile on your face. Many times you will read men say that confidence is the most attractive part of a woman. It doesn’t matter what you look like, the way you carry yourself, along with your demeanor and your smile, already will make you appear more attractive and more intelligent.
There is the coolest TED Talk about this by social psychologist Amy Cuddy. She talks in-depth about how body language is life-changing!
The most powerful point she makes, in my opinion, is that our body language doesn’t just affect how others perceive us, but it changes how we perceive ourselves!
One of her tips is to stand in front of a mirror and for two full minutes in either in a Wonder Woman pose, with fists on your hips, OR put your arms up in a V, like a cheerleader pose. Holding these power poses for two full minutes really does trick your mind into feeling more confident.
7. Smile and make eye contact. You would be amazed at how much better you feel if you are the one greeting passersby in public with a smile and a “good morning!” Even if they don’t respond, you will still feel more confident in yourself. We cannot put too much interpretation on someone else’s reaction; you may have just made them feel so much better about themselves knowing that someone so charming and kind such as you would wish them a good morning!
About a year ago, I started going to a boot camp class. When it comes to the gym, it is so common for people to just come to exercise, not speak to anyone, then leave. I made it my mission to take my spot near the door, and I always smiled and said hi to everyone who came in. Believe me, it was awkward, but to my great pleasure, it wasn’t long before we were all friends who started exchanging texts, arranging play dates with our kids, and meeting together for dinner as a group, along with the class instructor, of course! Yes, it will always take someone by surprise when we say hello, because our culture is so plugged into our smartphones that that once common courtesy is now antiquated, but I say, dare to bring it back! It feels great being acknowledged in a room full of strangers! Be the one who acknowledges.
8. Ask questions. People love you when you are interested in what they are doing, but making small talk is difficult. The key to making good small talk is showing interest in the other person. It’s so easy to get tongue tied when speaking to someone new, but if you practice at the grocery store, post office, anywhere you are receiving one-on-one customer service, then small talk will become second nature. Think ahead of time some questions you can ask, and then go from there. As they talk, show genuine interest and ask a follow-up question. Just like in #7 above, you never know who your next friend will be, and friends are major resources for expanding the good in your life. If you are stuck not knowing where to start, start by introducing yourself with a handshake. “Hi, I’m Laurie. What is your name? … Oh, hi, Rebecca, nice to meet you. How long have you been coming here? How are you enjoying this event/party/gathering? What do you do?” Small talk takes practice, but it does get easier and easier.
Now, remember, if they ask you questions, refrain from giving them only one-worded answers. Tell stories, expand on your answers, offer information. It will make you much more charming, because one-worded answers make others think you don’t want to talk to them.
9. Don’t fall prey to if/then. “If I lost the weight, I could do this.” “If I had more money, I would be happy.” “If I had more education, I would be qualified.” We have to learn to be happy in the NOW. Our future is not guaranteed. All we have is this very moment. How sad would it be to be at the end of your life realizing you had so much good in your life, but you couldn’t see it until it was too late? Stop waiting for conditions to be perfect, or you will never be happy.
10. Confident people are not cocky people. Confident people do not think they are better than everyone else. In fact, cockiness will push people away, not attract them. They take risks, but instead of saying that it is going to be the “best thing ever!”, they say, “I am going to pursue this goal, and give it everything I have. If it works out, great! But, heaven forbid, it fails, I will be OK. I am resilient and I will bounce back.” Confident people recognize their fear, face it, and then do it anyway!
Remember, being confident is not about being perfect and having it all together. Confidence is being able to appreciate who you are right now, stepping out of that fear and into the possibility of making connections that will make your life richer for it.