If you’re self-assured, believe whole-heartedly in your abilities, know your judgements to be sound, and feel prepared for any of life’s challenges, congratulations! You are one flawlessly confident individual.
Odds are, though, you have self-doubt, guilt, or shame in your perceived inadequacies tumbling around your brain. Don’t worry—you’re human. These things happen.
And this list of confidence-boosting tips and tricks will help inspire you to pursue a more complete, more confident you.
1. Try Out Power Poses
Our body language speaks volumes about how we feel about ourselves and our abilities. You’ve likely heard many ways body language influences others—closed arms signals others to stay away, for instance. Taking this research one step further is Harvard Professor Dr. Amy Cuddy whose research into “Power Poses” in the business world applies to many life situations. High-power posing is about “opening up,” taking up as much space as possible, while low-power poses require taking up as little space as possible (fetal position, hands in pockets, etc.). Her research found that after 2 minutes of high-power posing, testosterone levels increase and cortisol levels—the stress hormone—sharply falls. For a quick boost of testosterone to gear yourself up for many situations where confidence is key, practice some high-power poses.
2. Take Risks
If you don’t give yourself new challenges to tackle or jump on opportunities to grow, you’re liable to get stuck in a self-defeating low confidence rut. Take the initiative to take risks. Even small everyday risks (let me take a new route to work) can have a cumulative effect on your overall level of confidence. You have to be willing to risk failure and systematically ignore the mantra that failure means you are worthless. In truth, failure is a sign of incremental growth. Accept this, and you’ll no longer be self-conscious about admitting failure—you’ll actively seek it out, one risk at a time. That’s some serious confidence!
By now you’re probably sick of hearing how vital to our mental health exercise is. It’s not a cure-all, but it’s as close as we’re likely to get, especially where confidence is concerned. Our self-image is intimately linked with our sense of self-confidence. Research shows that light exercise of any kind boosts self-image, and boosts it more than in people who rigorously work out 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week. This result holds true for older people, as well. Killer workout routines aren’t the deciding factor, here; the key to a confident body image, and more confidence, in general, lies in frequent, low-intensity workouts.
4. Dress Well and Groom
Another surefire way to boost your self-image (ergo self-confidence) is to treat your body like a temple. Exercise is important, as is eating right, but our outermost layers—grooming, clothes, self-presentation—can really make a difference, too. Make a routine out of healthy grooming habits. Brush your teeth, comb your hair. Look your best to feel your best. The goal is to present your best at-a-glance side, and this starts with the simple habit of cleanliness and dressing well.
5. Be Resilient
Everyone is familiar with big disappointments or situations that drag their confidence to new lows. One way to swim against the depths of low confidence is to activate your resilience. Resilience is the innate human quality of rebounding from tough, even devastating life events, and being flexible enough to adapt and not let our short-term failures leech our confidence dry. The best ways to be resilient include setting realistic expectations for yourself, rewarding yourself for jobs well done, and being curious and self-compassionate enough to examine your failures without being overly critical. Practice is key; the more resilient you are, the more confident you will be when life throws you a curve ball.
6. Be Optimistic
Pessimism—thinking that the worst is always in store—plays the role of the thug in our mental lives. Both pessimism and optimism are both free outlooks to use, but only the latter is linked to self-confidence benefits. Thing is, it’s very hard to think the best of yourself, or even recognize when you accomplish something big, if you keep your nose to the ground instead of to the sky. Being optimistic doesn’t mean you have to be naïve, but adopting a mindset that says “I feel I’m good enough to do this” scrubs your self-perception clean, makes success sweeter, and failure more manageable.
Much of our stress and anxiety comes from feeling or being underprepared. These feelings cling to our sense of self-confidence like vampire bats, sucking our resolve dry. Better to be prepared, then! Preparation and forethought are natural antidotes to the worst thoughts fear, stress, and anxiety can muster. Even better, no matter what your personal style, there are always ways to cut down the time it takes to do necessary things. It may seem like preparation takes too much time—but being prepared actually increases the time you can put toward building your confidence, instead of being stressed you still have so much to do.
8. Use Positive Affirmations
That little voice in your head? The one telling you what a lousy person you are? Guess what? Using positive affirmations gives you the discipline to fire the negative man in your head and get a new mental coach. The things we say to ourselves before, during, and after a goal or event have wide-reaching influence over how we think about ourselves and behave. Practice giving yourself affirmative feedback, even if (and especially if) you fail. Make your affirmations unique to you and take time out of your day to focus on them. They’ll seep into your unconscious with routine use and become automatic sound bites in your life. Follow this link to get some affirmation ideas.
9. Set and Achieve Small Goals
Often people setting out on the road to enhance their confidence feel overwhelmed. It seems like too many factors are involved, that there are too many things to consider and spend time and energy managing. Luckily, you can always break down these mental mountains into smaller hills of success. Make a list of short- and long-term confidence goals you want to achieve. Actively think about how success at this or that goal, or failure at other goals, still helps you in the long run. Be sure to set goals that are meaningful, not the ones you feel you have to meet to appease some imaginary audience. Make your goals personal, bite-sized, and realistic—you’ll dedicate yourself to them more and not be so distraught if things shouldn’t work out the first time.
10. Know Your Values and Live By Them
Do you know what you stand for? Knowing what your values are, and sharing those values with other people, is an underlying method to use to live with confidence. At any moment you can ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing/thinking in line with what I believe? How I want to behave?” Your values help you plot out what is most important in your life; things not on your value list can be easily deflected from awareness. Though this tip takes quite a bit of introspection, the greater your conviction in what your guiding principles are, the tougher your skin becomes to outside forces and opinions set to squash you under inadequacy. Know who you are, strive to be that person every day, and watch your confidence soar.
The simple smile has a wealth of research to back up its effectiveness as a confidence-boosting tool. People take more notice of you, and think more positively of you, when you smile. And since smiling in groups is “contagious,” each social encounter you enter with a smile increases your odds of feeling positive about yourself and your abilities. You feel emotionally and psychologically better after a good smile. Plus, laughter and smiling have health benefits—upticks of testosterone and lowered blood-pressure to name a few. Even “fake smiles” put us in a better frame of mind. Don’t underestimate the power that smiles have on your own sense of confidence and worth.
12. Know What You Can/Cannot Control
Not everything that happens to you is directly under your control. Pretending that external factors are all knowable, or that there is always something you can personally do to turn a situation around, can be self-destructive. Self-blame is a confidence killer, so it’s best to pay attention to and accept situations outside of your direct influence. The less guilt you feel about not reacting in such-and-such a way to a situation that’s indifferent to our actions, the more self-confident you’ll become. Know what’s under your responsibility and what is beyond your grasp. Your self-confidence will thank you later.
13. Try Mindfulness Exercises
It’s easy to let our insecurities wash over us. We only have so much attention to spend, and if we don’t spend it wisely—worrying about missed opportunities, blaming ourselves for not being “good enough”—we have nothing left to contribute toward positively increasing our confidence. Mindfulness is a hyper-focused mental state wherein you focus solely on the present moment. Practicing mindfulness techniques, even for as little as 10 minutes a day, is a way to safely confront lingering feelings of fear, doubt, or low self-worth. Through mindfulness exercises, you’ll learn how to gently allow these emotions and feelings to enter your awareness, and without judgement let them pass you by. You’ll also learn how not to get bogged down by the negative records that skip in your head, which clears your mental schedule for more important exercises—like building self-confidence!
A relaxed mind is a mind best armed to defend itself against the demons of thought that strip confidence of its wings. When you’re stressed, your inherent negativity bias is on overload. Things you used to do with confidence and ease suddenly turn into immovable objects. Stressed minds aren’t just pessimistic—they systematically peel back the layers of your self-worth and agency to do what you dream of doing. Regular de-stressing sessions are a must for anyone in need of a confidence boost. Your mind, body, and sense of confidence all work their best on foundations of unstressed belief.
15. Work on Your Posture
We’ve talked about Power Poses, but even something as rudimentary as your posture has a rippling effect on your self-confidence. Most people think their thoughts of confidence and worth come from inside their own minds; really, the way we carry ourselves (literally) informs our self-perceptions. When you pay attention to your standing and sitting postures, you tend to believe in your opinions more, whether positive or negative. Slouchers are indifferent about their opinions and beliefs, which is not a conducive attitude toward setting confidence goals. If you want to experience greater confidence in your own thoughts, simply adopt a confident can-do posture to create a mini-feedback loop of positivity.
16. Find Your Confidence Idol
We humans are visual creatures. When we watch someone perform in a way that speaks to us, we have the ability to not only learn from their examples, but actually behave like them and see how it feels. You may lack the confidence to follow through to their abilities now, but just as even fake smiles prime our minds for positivity, “faking” a higher form of confidence can seed the idea that, actually, yeah, I can do this! Look over the aspects of your life in which you’d like to be more confident, find a mentor or coach to model, and you’ll instill the small, powerful idea that someday you can do the same thing.
17. Do What You Enjoy
This advice can seem pat or cliché, but when it comes to confidence, we all do our best and want to succeed at the thing we love most. Pursuing the things that inspire us leads us to meet like-minded people who encourage our development, keeps our minds goal-directed and excited to work, and gives us the exact right amount of success-to-challenge ratio researchers call “flow.” When we find our niches, we have ample opportunities to increase our self-confidence doing, discussing, and sharing the things that drive us wild.
18. Have a Great Support Network
Let’s face it: that confidence-building trail can seem long, arduous, and lonely. That’s why the greater your support network, the more likely you are to succeed in your goals. Find people who you feel comfortable sharing your journey of growth with. Ask them to help keep you accountable. Let them join you on some of your confidence-building exercises, and seek outside advice or join groups of people all trying to do the same thing. Connection is key to maintaining any gains in confidence.
19. Get Creative
The act of creation—whether writing a story, dancing the tango, playing the clarinet, or making epic meals—is the act of confidence. Despite the widespread stereotype that only “certain people” are creative, research shows that humans use creativity like a Swiss Army Knife. What’s more, gaining confidence in creative endeavours has the potential to spill confidence over into other areas of life. If you haven’t doodled in a while or tried to do a handstand since middle school, remember that achieving even a minor creative act can act as a catalyst, and give you confidence, to try other important things.
20. Don’t Be Overconfident
Oh, the irony! While many of these tips advocate “Fake It Till You Make It” behaviours, you should know that there is a cap to this mantra. In your quest to gain true confidence, remember that overconfidence can be your undoing. Overconfidence comes on the scene when we believe we have more accurate information about ourselves, other people, or the ability to do important things or make important decisions, than we really do. At some point—the point of no return—your overconfidence will unravel. You’ll start a negative spiral of shame, guilt, and doubt (justifiably so) that can then infect your mind, deterring you from ever trying to put the time and work into building confidence again. Don’t be an Achilles; use these confidence-boosting tips, as well as this handy infographic, to gain confidence the honest (and long-lasting) way.
Photo credit: cyclist, smile, mindfulness, vegetables.
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