Confidence, we know when we have it and we know when it is absent but have you ever given thought to how ‘it’ arrives and disappears?
Academics will tell you confidence comes from self-efficacy, quite simply the self-knowledge you can do something based on past success with doing the task or facing the situation before. Hence confidence can be built by deliberate practice, exposure to certain situations and previous successes.
On the other hand, experiencing a situation where things do not go as planned can undermine confidence and over a period of time this uncertainty can even lead to levels of anxiousness. While there are some schools of thought that say we need to ‘fake it until we make it’, there are some easier ways to ensure that you can feel good and look confident facing even the most daunting experiences.
To start with you will need to do some observation. You are trying to find the following things in your arsenal of confidence boosting:
Find a song that when it plays makes you feel happy and strong. This song can uplift your spirits and essentially shift your state. Make sure you have it on your phone so you can listen to it before you present or go to a meeting as your power song.
Have two or three go-to outfits. One for work, one for play and one for dinner/going out. Why? Because being comfortable in your own skin is important and clothes are also our armour in the world. Feeling uncomfortable or wearing something for the first time can make you appear less confident. The same can be said for shoes and bags. Never wear a new suit to an interview, you will come across as less confident. If you are going to wear something new, sit in it the day before at least.
Standing tall, running a few stairs, power poses all work. Amy Cuddy* famously taught the world about power poses and you can do these in a bathroom cubicle. There are other ways to get your energy up too. Run up the last few stairs as you go into a building, go for a run or to the gym the morning or lunch before that important event, you will feel better.
Control your environment before the important event. This is one of the most critical components. Plan how you are getting to the place you need to be. Make sure you are not distracted along the way. Turn off your phone or at least don’t check emails. Have you ever noticed how that one complaining email can derail your day? Do not check your socials either (the former Australian swim team knows all too well how this reduces performance). If someone says “Can I talk with you”, tell them you can do it later, because you have to manage your confidence.
That’s right, manage your confidence, take control of it, have a person or two who can be the voice of reason. Make sure you are aware of those situations and people who ‘eat’ your confidence and steer clear of them. You can manage and own your confidence and the difference will show!
* Your body language may shape who you are, Amy Cuddy, TEDGlobal 2012