There is a certain aura around confidence, it’s something most people covet. I usually imagine myself as someone who is super confident in my daydreams. If you knew me when I was young, you would no doubt have described me as a happy-go-lucky kid. Maybe a little shy but pretty well balanced overall. But the word confident was, I believe, never used as an adjective to describe my appearance to the world.
Most people would like to be more confident, but as luck would have it, most people are going about it all wrong. You see, I always aimed to become confident in order to portray confidence. But that’s not how it works. Courage works in a similar fashion. We can only be courageous by taking action in the presence of fear, not in it’s absence. So fear is a prerequisite for courage.
The same can be said, in a way, about confidence. We become confident only by acting confident. I don’t mean to downplay the lifelong act of becoming comfortable enough in our own skin to have less of an anxiety while speaking in public, talking up a potential hot date, or going on a job interview. But acting confident is a much bigger part of being confident than most people realize.
So to get you started, since I imagine you ended up here searching for ways to become more confident, I’ve compiled a list of my top 7 tips on self confidence. These are all tricks that anyone can do without preparation, and more importantly, there is no excuse for not doing them.
Tip #1 – Smile!
Let’s dive right in with a good one to kick it off on a high note. It’s an easy one as well. I know what you’re thinking, “Smile? That’s the big surefire way to increase my confidence I came here looking for?” But see, if you’re looking for quick and easy ways to become more confident, nothing beats a nice, big grin. And with smiling, the bigger the better.
Now, we don’t want to look fake, so aim for the smile to be big enough to show across a small room, but not so big that you look like grandpa showing off his new dentures. Humans are also pretty good at spotting a fake, so it has to be as genuine as you can pull off. My secret trick to induce a genuine smile, especially if I don’t feel like it, is to think of something I genuinely love, like my kids. My profile picture has that kind of smile, my daughter took the picture so the smile is for her. I love that picture, and I’m pretty sure most would agree I look pretty confident in it.
Tip #2 – Stand up straight
I can hear you sighing in disbelief at this one as well, “Are you kidding me with this? Loose my hunched back and conquer the world with my exuding confidence you say?” But even science agrees with me on this one.
You might have seen a TED talk by Amy Cuddy in which she claims that so-called power poses change our hormonal levels to increase our confidence. And while Cuddy herself has since taken a more agnostic approach to that particular physiological claim, follow up studies have shown that our psychological and emotional states are improved for the better by a better posture.
Tip #3 – Put your shoulders back
When we pull our shoulders back, we also tend to straighten our backs and raise our necks. This makes us look taller, which makes us look more confident. But the real reason this works is the effect it has on ourselves. Research has shown that pulling our shoulders back signals the brain that it is confident and powerful.
This one is almost too powerful, at least depending on the situation at hand. I’m not a traditional male alpha, so I don’t naturally gravitate to the type of over-confidence where I look to “dominate” a room. But when I pull my shoulders back and straighten my entire posture, making the most use of my 6’3″ height (189cm), I feel arrogant almost. Like I’m showing off. But it’s great when I speak in front of a crowd.
Tip #4 – Look other people in the eyes
This one is hard, I completely get that. The eyes are the window to the soul, and looking into another person’s eyes can be quite, well, scary!
If you manage to do this, then the effect is strong both on you and the person on the other end of the gaze. It instantly creates a connection that is very intimate and human. But for the intents and purposes of gaining more confidence, that connection imbues us with more confidence. Be careful not to stare, though, that’s just creepy.
Tip #5 – Be grateful
Being grateful is a superpower. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m very preoccupied with my goals. And in being so, I am focused on things I don’t have. This is, in a sense, the opposite of gratitude. Looking at the things I already have, everything I’ve accomplished, and being grateful that has a very calming effect on me. It centers me, and brings me squarely to the present.
And being present takes confidence, and it shows. Both internally and for those we interact with. All of the people I look up to have the ability to be present, and when I speak to them they make me feel like I have their undivided attention.
This is a quality that is perhaps more noticeable for the people we speak to than ourselves when it comes to confidence, but it surely packs a punch.
Tip #6 – Speak slowly and clearly
I’m practically cheating here. If anything, my speaking is fast and slurred. So I’m not that good at practicing what I preach with this one. But it’s something that has always bothered me, especially the pronunciation. If I’m giving a public talk, I make a special effort to speak slowly, clearly, and in a loud enough voice to be heard by all those attending.
You might think that speaking slowly will give off the impression that you’re dim-witted or don’t know what to say. But it’s quite the opposite. Apparently, 190 words per minute is the sweet spot. I have no idea what my rate is, personally. I aim to go as slow as I can, since I always, always go too fast.
Tip #7 – Put your focus on others
This is the trickiest part, but the most rewarding one. My trouble is that if I’m too focused on myself, my self esteem goes completely out the window. Or I think I’m the bees knees and come off as an arrogant prick. Either way, the more appropriate way to frame our thinking is in the context of how we make others feel. There is a very distinct difference between being aware of how we come across in order to impress others, and having genuine empathy for how our actions affect others. Always aim for the latter.
By putting others first, and putting yourself in their shoes, the focus is on giving. Whatever the occasion, big or small, we are social animals who are surrounded by other people we interact with. Make sure you keep in mind how you can give back to each and every one of them whenever you can. If you smile and are polite and focus on giving back to the people you interact with, whether it’s the CEO you’re interviewing with or the cashier at the register, it’s going to come across as confidence. My promise from me to you.