Life’s too short to ‘fake it till you make it’, so let’s hear from the pros on how to boost your confidence.
Ah, confidence. Some of us think we have it, others we know we don’t. Or we’re pretending hard to believe we have it. The truth is, most of us swim in a daily sludge pool of doubts. And with the ever-changing Covid-19 situation, there’s so much to feel unsure about. This state of relative chaos is becoming ‘normal’, and it challenges us to adjust so we can keep confident and calm in the midst of everything. But believing in yourself, trusting your own judgement, and embracing the attitude that you can deal with difficult emotions are some things you can control. So let’s take a dive and figure out how to be more confident with top tips from the experts.
How to be self-confident
Tip #1: The opposite of confidence is not zero nerves
Let’s get down to the brass tacks here. We know the physical repercussions of not feeling confident: sweating profusely, shaky voice, flushed cheeks. Hands up if you’ve ever wished you didn’t experience all this in front of your colleagues!
Enter Victoria Mintey, a trained theatre actor who runs ‘Presence and Impact’, a virtual and in-person training in Singapore. It’s designed for teams and individuals to build their confidence in the workplace, especially when it comes to presentations and public speaking. That’s why she’s adept at digging into why someone lacks confidence at work. Most of the time, it’s because of panic from being asked a question they may not know the answer to.
“In their opinion, [that] will make them look silly in front of their peers, which can trigger catastrophising and worry. A survival instinct kicks off and they have nervous reactions,” she explains. ‘We often attribute those nerves to how capable we are about the subject matter, which is not the case. People have this unrealistic belief that, to be branded as good and confident at work, we need to feel no fear. I’m here to remind them that’s never going to happen. You can still be confident and have nerves!’’
Tip #2: Confidence = Evidence + Validation + Self-belief
Imposter syndrome is so real. Rachel Service from The Happiness Concierge explains it as a phenomenon where, despite all evidence against it, you’re convinced you’ll be exposed as a fraud. Or you think you don’t deserve what you’ve achieved, so you dismiss any proof of success as luck, timing, or a result of tricking others into thinking you’re better than you really are.
To calm your inner critic and better manage the imposter syndrome experience, Rachel suggests asking yourself three core questions.
1. How can I grow my own confidence in clarifying what I want?
2. How can I develop my self-belief in believing that I can do it, or that I can find the resources or mindset to figure it out along the way
3. How can I develop my own self-worth and marry the idea that what I desire is something I am ‘allowed’ or ‘deserve’?
These three elements, when built and reiterated, can manage feelings of ‘impostordom’ and separate unhelpful thoughts by replacing them with new ones to drive them forward. It’s clarity that gives us confidence; self-belief tells us it’s possible; and self-worth ensures we make decisions that support our version of success.
Tip #3: Embrace clarity and self-compassion
The best thing about self-confidence? It’s not a genetic or fixed personality trait. It’s a state of mind we can train ourselves to develop and nurture over time. So says Jamie Reyer-Keet, a systemic psychotherapist who’s trained in Singapore and Australia and works with people all over the world (you can contact [email protected] for virtual appointments).
“There’s nothing more important in the development of self-confidence than to gain more clarity about yourself. Just like getting to know a new friend, start by being open and curious about yourself. Once you know your strengths, skills and talents, nurture and strengthen them,” Jamie elaborates.
If you’re having a hard time identifying them, get someone who knows you well to put a list together. This positive feedback encourages feelings of social acceptance and reinforces self-belief. Plus, the list makes a perfect pick-me-up whenever insecurity creeps in!
Next, adopt a growth mindset to help you cultivate your abilities through effort and persistence. It also decreases anxiety and insecurity. Inner strength is important, too. That includes a ‘can-do’ attitude, positive emotions, integrity, wisdom, inner peace, determination and a warm heart. “Confidence is not an all-inclusive, one-size-fits-all trait. Just knowing you have the inner strength to deal with setbacks and unpleasantness is crucial to gaining and maintaining a confident attitude.”
Tip #4: Physical exercise can help soothe nervous energy
Want to ease your fears? Try exercise! It can be as simple as using your voice in a different way, talking about feelings, experimenting with facial expressions, using breathing techniques to calm the mind or obtaining the right posture. These are all tips Victoria has perfected from her training in theatre.
There’s also the mental remedy. “Stop thinking about yourself and who’s going to judge you and question you. Instead, think about your audience’s needs and wants, and how you want them to feel,” she says. “Shine the spotlight on them to reframe an experience like speaking publicly.”
Tip #5: Quiet your inner critic
Develop a positive inner voice by recognising the tone of your inner critic. “Notice what it says to you and how it affects your thoughts, behaviour, and your physiology, then challenge it,” Jamie elaborates. “The voice may manifest in several ways: ‘You’re a failure. Who do you think you are? Everyone else is better than you, why even bother to try?’ As anxiety levels rise, self-limiting thoughts overwhelm our psyche, our self-esteem plunges, our shoulders droop and confidence vanishes.”
Practice responding to negative thoughts with self-affirmations and call on your past accomplishments. It’s like a mental workout. Your emotional resilience muscle grows stronger as you challenge limiting beliefs and identify habits of mind that hold you back.
Tip #6: Choose real friendships and set healthy boundaries
Surround yourself with people who genuinely want the best for you, not the thousands of virtual ‘friends’ you have on social media. Self-confident people tend to nurture, mentor and motivate others, Jamie explains. This boosts their own self-esteem and feelings of self-efficacy. It’s a win-win situation for all!
Be appreciative and learn to say ‘no’ without feeling the guilt that comes with rejection. Communicating assertively with colleagues (not too passively or too aggressively) will gain you respect. Do this by being clear and direct. Start with a compliment, insert a gentle negative or opportunity for improvement, and wrap up on an affirming note.
Tip #7: Step out of your comfort zone and take risks
“Before your confidence journey can begin, you need to start with fear,” declares Melanie Schilling, a coach, TV presenter and speaker. She hosts The C-Word, an online membership confidence programme specially designed for women to boost resilience and self-esteem.
“Fear is not a bad thing. But it can act as a roadblock to your progress, a force that inhibits your development. So, we need to learn how to put it in its place,” she explains. “Before you can build confidence you must start taking courageous action. Expanding your comfort zone and taking risks will lead you towards confidence.”
Tip #8: Walk the talk
Dress to impress yourself and wear your confidence in your posture. You may not always feel confident, but you can project it through your speech, behaviour and actions. Be aware of your contribution, know your value and what you bring to your workplace. People will notice your self-assured manner and react to you accordingly, Jamie says.
Emulate top athletes and CEOs: slow down, breathe and use goal visualisation, mental rehearsal and positive imagery techniques to envision yourself achieving the outcome you want. Plot your path to success, then take the steps to get there.
Tip #9: Have a clear vision and set goals
To keep up those feelings of confidence, Melanie advises it’s best to have a vision of your future self. Setting goals is the way forward! By combining your values, strengths and deepest desires into your challenging goals, you’ll build a strong model for your action-focused steps. This will make you feel poised and confident about the new life you’re creating.
Speaking of her years as a psychologist, corporate consultant, and personal and career coach, she says every new chapter starts with ‘one courageous step’. That can include breaking old patterns and doing things differently. Naturally, she experienced resistance from those around her. But that just strengthened her resolve to prove them wrong.
“Over years of mistakes, failures and knock-backs, I learned these things are just feedback. My view of myself became one of clear, comfortable capability and I began to calmly believe I could actually achieve anything I wanted to,” she says. “These lessons enabled me to build an air-tight positive mindset, a healthy relationship with risk-taking, an unwavering self-belief and a dream career.”
So the next time you’re feeling self-doubt, refer to this list of tips on how to be confident and smash your goals!