Many people view confidence as something you either naturally have or don’t have and may believe that there is little you can do to become more confident.
While it’s true that some people are naturally blessed with a tremendous amount of confidence, can this be developed, and if so, how can you do that?
This blog post will provide you with 3 simple and practical steps you can apply in your life to do just that.
A Miss World’s Take On Confidence
Can you teach yourself to be confident? A former Miss World and a globally renowned actor certainly thinks so.
She was bullied in school as a teenager and by her own admission had very low self-esteem and no confidence growing up.
She planned on becoming an engineer, however, unbeknownst to her, her mom entered her into the Miss India pageant, which she ended up winning. Later that same year, at the age of 18, she was crowned Miss World.
After her victory, when she asked the judges of the Miss World competition as to what gave her the edge over others, they unanimously answered that it was undoubtedly her confidence.
The actor was Priyanka Chopra who now plies her trade in both Bollywood and Hollywood. Here’s what she had to say about confidence in an interview,
“I don’t think confidence is something that you were born with, I think confidence is a skill set which you can learn. I pushed myself to be confident, I taught myself how to be confident, I faked it till I made it. I was just like “I’m not gonna let anyone see but I’m scared. I’m not gonna let anyone see that I’m affected.”
Today, Priyanka Chopra is admired for her confidence by the media and fans alike, and her strategy truly paid off.
The Magic of ‘Act as if’
“Act as if you have unmatched confidence and then people will surely have confidence in you.” – Jordan Belfort, Author of Wolf of Wall Street
Whether Priyanka Chopra consciously realised it or not, she was tapping into the wonders of ‘acting as if’ when she referred to faking it till she made it.
The ‘act as if’ principle was popularized more than a century ago by William James, an American psychologist and philosopher.
The ‘as if’ principle suggests that if you act ‘as if’ you are a certain way, you'll come to feel that way.
We usually smile when we are happy or frown when we are sad, the ‘as if’ principle suggests that the opposite is true as well. That is, smiling can make you feel happy, and frowning can make you sad.
Now, this may seem like we are kidding ourselves and faking it, but the very same physiological changes occur when we act as if we feel a certain emotion. Your pulse, respiration, temperature, perspiration, all begin to change.
A study by Harvard psychology professor demonstrated the remarkable powers ‘acting as if’ can have on our mind and body.
In 1979, Ellen Langer conducted a week long retreat for men in their 70s. She had them act as if they were 20 years younger. Before the study started, Langer tested the mens’ strength, posture, eyesight and memory.
They were surrounded by various objects from the 50s, including a black-and-white television and a vintage radio. Langer informed the participants that no conversation must mention anything that happened after 1959.
Amazingly, within a few days, the retreat participants began to walk more briskly, with some putting aside their walking sticks. They also experienced improvements in dexterity, memory, blood pressure, eyesight and hearing.
Simply by ‘acting as if’, they were able to make concrete changes in the functioning of their mind and body.
And this very same principle can be applied to boosting confidence.
If you want to be more confident, act as if you’re already a confident person. When you act as if you are confident, you project confidence to your mind and the people around you.
To apply this, here are a few questions you can ask yourself.
How would I carry myself if I were already confident?
What would I do differently?
How would I interact with people?
How specifically would I think and talk to myself (in my mind)?
What would I stop doing? (eg. fidgeting)
The 2 Minute Confidence Hack
One of the biggest factors influencing our levels of confidence is undoubtedly body language.
Research has shown that spending time in a power pose increases testosterone, risk-taking, pain tolerance, and belief in one’s own leadership abilities. Power poses also open up your breathing, calming any nerves. And it only takes two minutes!
Here are a few power poses given in the top row,
In a study, participants that did a power pose for two minutes before their interviews came through with vastly increased ratings on passion, enthusiasm, authenticity, comfort and confidence compared with the control group.
These participants experienced actual biological changes in their hormone production including increased testosterone levels (linked to confidence) and decreased cortisol levels (linked to stress and anxiety).
The study led by social psychologist, Amy Cuddy on body language revealed that we can change our body chemistry as well as change other people’s perceptions by adopting power poses.
Let Go Of Any Limiting Stories Or Labels
We all have stories in our head about how we see ourselves that keeps playing like a tape recorder.
You behave in line with how you see yourself. Therefore it’s important to become aware of any limiting and negative stories and labels you may be subconsciously telling yourself.
An example of limiting label may be identifying yourself as shy, which is something I used to do, for the longest time. And this was crippling since it would stop me from speaking up for myself, expressing my thoughts and opinions or sometimes cause a little friction while meeting new people.
So once you identify these limiting labels and stories, how do you begin to change them?
One way to do that is to take action in the direction of who you want to be.
Suppose shyness is limiting you, start by acting in line with how a confident person would behave in a given situation. As you slowly make a habit of doing this, your mind starts to receive a new message, and you begin to rewrite a new story in your mind.
If you are lacking in confidence, it is important to cease looking at past instances and using them as an excuse as to why you cannot become confident. Don’t let your past define you.
Priyanka Chopra could have chosen to do that and see herself as a person who got bullied and had low self-esteem. Instead, by taking conscious and deliberate action, she was able to rewrite and let go of her limiting self-talk and become confident.
When you are trying to build confidence, placing emphasis on external validation or feedback seldom helps. Instead, it helps to think of confidence like a mirror.
When you are facing the mirror, you need to smile, before the reflection in the mirror will smile back at you.
In the same way, when it comes to building confidence, you need to stop looking for external feedback and act confidently before people start perceiving you as confident. It doesn’t happen the other way round.
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