You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Fake it until you make it.” Maybe you’ve even thought that “faking” confidence is all you need to do to finally be able to travel the world, get that killer promotion or ask out the cute guy you keep seeing at your local coffee shop. Unfortunately, increasing your confidence is much more complicated than just plastering on a fake smile and pretending you’re Beyonce.
If you’re a natural introvert, increasing your confidence might even feel impossible. After all, society often seems designed for extroverts from the need to network to find a job, to having to date a ton of people in order to find “Mr. Right.” As a result, introverts often feel overwhelmed and at a unfair disadvantage, and one of my past clients, Michael, was no exception.
Michael came to me feeling super frustrated about the job search process. “I hate all these networking events,” he told me. “It’s just not who I am. I love having long, deep, one-one-one conversations with people I really get to know, not ‘working a room’ and making jokes.”
What Michael was overlooking, though, is that not all confidence has to be exactly the same. Plus, showing people your authentic confidence will always be way more effective than just acting the way you think a confident person “should” behave.
So what can you do to increase your confidence and finally become the person you know you’re meant to be – whether that’s an international traveler, a business executive or just a cute coffee guy’s new girlfriend?
You can start by adding these three powerful practices to your routine:
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How to Be Authentically More Confident
1. Grow your appreciation bank.
Have you ever been walking down the street and noticed someone who looks so poised, put-together and, well, confident that you can’t help but think, “If only I was as *insert adjective here, ranging from gorgeous, rich, daring, successful, etc.* as her. Then I could be confident and really achieve my dreams!”
It’s easy to compare ourselves to others, feel like we’re lacking and think, “Why should I even try?” However, it’s important to remember just how awesome you are. This is what I mean by growing your “appreciation bank.”
Here’s how it works. Start by making a list of all of your achievements. Don’t just include the big stuff like graduating summa cum laude or putting a downpayment on your first house. Write down the small stuff too, like mastering your mom’s famous veggie lasagna or finally nailing a headstand in yoga class. Because of our inherent negativity bias, it’s easy to forget all the things we’ve done that we’re actually super proud of. It’s even easier to focus on our mistakes (and I know you think about those all damn day long).
But if you look back on your life and actually focus on the positives, you’ll realize that there is already so much for you to be proud of and confident about right now – without needing to change or ‘become’ anything else. You achieved these things as your authentic self. So why would you “need” to change to continue achieving awesome things?
1.5. Remember why others appreciate you, too.
You’ve written down all of your accomplishments. Now, turn your attention to all your contributions. Start a list of of all the times you’ve helped other people. And, no, you can’t take the easy way out and say, “I’m a horrible person. I never help anyone but myself.” If you can’t think of any good deeds you’ve done lately, try looking through your emails and texts, or even old papers from professors. What positive feedback or words of encouragement have you been given through the years? Whose lives have been positively impacted just because you were in them? Write out these answers and use them to regularly remind yourself that you are loved and appreciated and a powerful influence on those around you.
In other words: giiiiirl, of course you’re amazing! Look at all you’ve achieved! Revisit this list of accomplishments and contributions everyday, especially if you’re about to do something you feel nervous about. You do have authentic power and gifts – and you deserve to feel confident about that fact!
2. Stand tall.
Now, I know we said we aren’t “faking it till we make it” to find confidence. However, there are ways that you can actually use your body language to positively influence your thoughts. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, talked all about this phenomenon in a 2012 Ted Talk. In it, she reported that changing your posture for as little as two minutes can skyrocket your confidence.
Think about it: how are you standing (or sitting) right now? Are your shoulder hunched? Is your head down? We often think about how our body language impacts how others perceive us. Yet, we rarely consider how it impacts our own emotions. Increasing evidence is showing, though, that the mind-body connection is so strong, the way we hold ourselves physically can influence our thoughts and feelings. In fact, an experiment by Cuddy found that holding a “high-power pose” (like the “Wonder Woman” with your legs spread and hands on your hips) changes the levels of hormones that are involved in feeling powerful and dominant.
Now, even Amy Cuddy struggled with the idea that by choosing a more powerful pose, she was “faking” her confidence. However, she believes using confidence hacks like standing tall or assuming power poses is actually part of “faking it until you become it.” In other words, you don’t have to – and shouldn’t – abandon your core identity or beliefs to “act” confident. Instead, make these postures a regular part of your routine. Then, you can actually increase the chemicals in your body that make you feel strong, happy and overall bad-assy. This shift in biochemistry then makes those power poses come naturally. No more thinking or planning required!
Also, just because you want to be a corporate Wonder Woman doesn’t mean that you have to look like Wonder Woman in every moment of your professional life. You can do “power posing” in private right before you give an important presentation. That way, you get a confidence boost but retain your authentic presentation style. Plus, you can watch Cuddy’s Ted Talk to see five different power poses you can choose from to increase your confidence. Pick the power pose that feels most natural to you.
The biggest takeaway from this confidence tip? You have control over your posture, and, as a result, your own confidence levels. So keep experimenting until you find the right fit for you!
3. BE YOU!
Perhaps the biggest reason I’ve found for clients’ lack of confidence is the supposed “need” to “play the game.” You know this feeling. When you’re desperately trying to impress someone on a date. Or kiss up to your boss. Or manage the perfect social media image. Whatever the scenario, in this mindset, somebody else has made up the “rules,” and the only way to succeed is by mastering and applying those rules to your behavior and daily life.
But what happens when your own values and identity don’t match the “rules” you think you need to follow? Well, if, for instance, you’re someone who values collaboration and you work in a competitive sales environment, you’re not going to enjoy the work, and consequently, you won’t do as well. As a result, you’ll think, “I’m a horrible salesperson!” and your confidence will stay super low. Think of following these fake “rules” like trying to fit in with the jocks when you’re a theatre kid, or trying to be a night-owl when you’re really an early morning person.
Don’t try to portray whatever form of “confidence” you think is “right.” Instead, the most authentic road to confidence is knowing who you are, what you value, and intentionally standing by those every day.
That’s exactly how I helped Michael discover his own authentic confidence. We spent time strategizing how he could use his values of creativity and deep connection to find a new career on his own terms. So instead of reading books on how to build confidence or going to networking events, Michael started writing long, personalized emails and having long coffee conversations with people whom he admired professionally.
As a result, he was able to feel confident about who he was and boldly present his unique ideas in a way he wasn’t able to at all those buzzing conferences. This not only allowed Michael to get the job he really wanted, but also let him show up as himself from day one because they’d hired the “real” him, not some “confident” facade.
How to Apply These Tips to Your Own Life
If you’re reading Michael’s story and thinking, “That’s awesome for him! But I have no idea how I can do the same thing for my life on my own,” don’t worry. Check out my online workbook, Your Personal Happiness Formula, for help discovering your own personal values, identifying where your values don’t match your current lifestyle and creating a personalized action plan for bringing that all into alignment. By the time you finish filling out the last page, you would have learnt how to build confidence (authentically) to reach your goals! Learn more here.
The truth is, there are a ton of people out there competing to appear the most “confident,” but there is no competition in destiny. The best part? You were born with all the natural talent and intuition required to fulfill your own destiny…so stop trying to turn yourself into the “perfect fit” for someone else’s destiny!
Instead, create your own rules for life, and know that the only rules you have to follow are the ones you choose to believe in.
The Bottom Line of Increasing Your Confidence
If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it’s that confidence isn’t cookie-cutter. It must be personalized and tied to your own individual values, beliefs and goals. By taking time to recognize just how awesome you are, using the mind-body connection to your own advantage and always being YOU, you can grow your confidence in a way that feels natural and helps you achieve your goals without losing your sense of self.
Regardless of what your goals are, they can rarely be achieved without real confidence. Once you discover what authentic confidence feels like, you’ll have the inner power to chase and achieve whatever you desire.
What’s your favorite way to feel more authentically confident? Tell me in the comments!
Have you ever felt out of sync with your real self? Like you’ve hustled hard to follow all the guidelines you’ve been given for living a happy life, and yet some deeper part of you still feels rudderless or unfulfilled? This workbook will put an end to all your doubts and distresses.