Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, quiet or loud, even-keeled or excitable, having confidence is vital to succeeding in every area of your life.
My mom, Darlene, is a great example of this. She’s confident enough to speak up for herself and stand for what is right. Her confidence fuels her big goals. It also keeps her going when she gets knocked down. Mom really believes she can do whatever she sets her mind to. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And, with mom, there’s always both.
Because of her, I’ve become a self-assured, confident woman myself. But that doesn’t mean I never experience self-doubt! It just means that, like Mom, I am willing to go for it and give it a try—regardless of what it is. But even if you don’t have a Darlene in your life, you can still learn how to be more confident.
We all know someone who seems naturally confident. We admire the way they can sway a room, carry a conversation, or follow their gut. But the truth is that they weren’t born with some predetermined “confidence gene.” In fact, confidence isn’t a personality style at all—it’s a skill. And, lucky for all of us, it’s a skill that can be learned.
Confidence isn’t a personality style, it’s a skill.
So, how do you become confident? I want you to start by focusing on three areas of your life that influence many others.
Three Areas to Cultivate Confidence
1. Your mind.
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford
At the 1952 Summer Olympics, a British athlete named Roger Bannister broke a world record for running a mile in under four minutes. Prior to that, sportscasters and experts agreed that running a mile in under four minutes was impossible. But, guess what? Once Bannister did it, it only took 46 days for someone else to beat his time and set a new record! Since then, many have broken the record and actually shaved 17 seconds off the fastest mile.
So, what happened in 1952 that changed what was possible?
No external factors changed. The way Bannister trained wasn’t even unique or revolutionary from what anyone else was doing. The only difference was that he set his mind to overcome what he described as a “psychological barrier.”(1) He said, “It is the brain, not the heart or lungs, that is the critical organ.”
And once Bannister removed that psychological barrier, everyone felt confident they could also beat a four-minute mile. He redefined “impossible” by sheer willpower.
You too can cultivate more confidence in your mind. Instead of immediately assuming you can’t accomplish something, believe you have what it takes to figure it out. Like Marie Forleo always says, “Everything is figureoutable.”
2. Your words.
Whether you realize it or not, the words you speak shape your beliefs about yourself—and what others believe about you.
Here’s a scenario we’ve all been part of: Someone kindly says, “I love your dress. You look great!” And my reaction is, “Oh, this old thing? I got it at Target on the clearance rack.”
If I’ve done it once, I’ve done it a thousand times. Someone gives me a compliment, and I downplay it. Someone says something nice, and I dismiss it. Someone encourages me, and I simply shrug it off.
But if I’m being honest with myself—really honest—that dress does look great. That’s why I bought it!
I know I’m not the only one who does this. I watch my friends, family and coworkers do it all the time. Why is our response always in opposition to the nice thing that the other person said?
For many of us, it comes down to insecurity and a lack of confidence.
We are our own worst critics. And our dismissive responses are partially—if not fully—what we really believe about ourselves. That’s unfortunate because our insecurities are so obviously exposed through our responses.
Of course, we also always want to be gracious and humble, so we often shrug off the praise in an effort to keep our egos in check. The only problem with this is it’s not real humility. Rick Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Life that, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
It might help to think of it this way: When we downplay a compliment, we aren’t just dismissing the truth in the statement; we’re dishonoring the person saying it. We’re ignoring their efforts to encourage and, at the same time, we’re doing real damage to our own sense of self.
This lack of confidence in the words we use spills over into every area of our lives. For example, we apologize when there’s actually no reason. Have you ever apologized for:
- Speaking up in a meeting? (“I’m sorry, I just wanted to say . . .”)
- Charging what you’re worth in your small business? (“Sorry, I know it’s kind of pricey . . .”)
- Asking a server at a restaurant for a refill? (“Sorry to bother you, but when you get a chance . . .”)
Additionally, studies show that women are more likely than men to apologize for trivial things like these.(2) The problem is that when we say we’re sorry all the time, we plant a seed in someone else’s mind that we have something to be sorry for when, more often than not, we actually don’t. And whether or not we realize it, the words we speak form our beliefs—and what others believe about us. Using weak, insecure words damages not only how others view us, but also how we view ourselves.
3. Your body.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy says your body language “can significantly change the outcome of your life.”
She gave this amazing TED Talk (below) in which she explained how animals express power and dominance by making themselves appear larger. They stretch out, get bigger and literally make themselves take up more space. But when an animal feels powerless, they do the opposite: They scrunch up and make themselves appear smaller.
We do the same thing as humans. “We close up,” Amy said. “We don’t want to bump into the person next to us.”
In her research, she found that confident people (as well as animals) have higher levels of testosterone. She conducted experiments to see if people could cause their levels of testosterone to rise simply by exhibiting a “high power pose.” Basically, they make themselves appear bigger instead of smaller—shoulders back, arms and legs relaxed, and confident in their space.
What were the results?
After just two minutes of posing this way, the participants’ testosterone levels went up by 20%!(3)
We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it,” but I love how Amy took this a step further and said, “Fake it ‘til you become it.”
You have the power to cultivate more confidence within yourself. You just have to work on changing your mind, your words and your body language.
But, we’re not done just yet. I’ve got five more ways you can practice being more confident in your day-to-day.
Five Ways to Practice Confidence
1. Get secure (in who you are).
Being secure in who you are means that, although you might make a mistake or fail, you know you’re not a failure. It means that someone might disagree with you, but it doesn’t shake you up or rattle you.
For example, let’s say that I’m in a meeting with the Dave Ramsey (ahem, the #1 bestselling author, nationally syndicated radio show host and a very big personality). Say we don’t agree on something—a project, an event, a decision or whatever. I am confident enough in who I am and the ideas I’m presenting that I’ll make a case for them, even if Dave doesn’t agree. Now, my idea or input might not ultimately win—and that’s okay. I still contribute with confidence. And I never walk out of a meeting (and there have been lots!) thinking he doesn’t like me.
Why? Because I’m secure in who I am.
When you know who you are and you’re secure in your identity, you’re more willing to speak up, take risks, and try new things! People around you can’t help but notice that kind of confidence. They’ll like you more and respect you for it. See what I mean in the video below.
2. Get positive.
In any situation where the rules aren’t clear and the path isn’t marked, you have two choices.
You can assume that you can’t—that you’ll get in trouble, you’re breaking some rule somewhere, or you’re not allowed.
Or you can assume that you can. You don’t know if you don’t try. And what’s the worst that can happen? Someone corrects you and tells you no.
I’ve always been a person who assumes I can. I’m an optimist to a fault, and I see rules as suggestions to be followed most of the time. In fact, all the things I’ve achieved in my life happened because I had the nerve to ask for them and go after them.
Confidence doesn’t mean you’re positive it’s going to turn out perfectly—it just means you’re positive you’re going to try. Believe the best and assume you can.
3. Get nerve.
It’s perfectly natural to be nervous in a new environment or feel overwhelmed when taking on a new challenge. After all, you’ve never done it before!
Combat the fear by faking it ‘til you feel it. Use the principles Amy Cuddy talked about: Put your shoulders back and stand up tall. And don’t forget to dress for success. Studies show the clothes you wear have a direct effect on how secure and confident you feel.(4)
Until you feel like you belong, just act like you belong. Eventually, you’ll actually feel it, too.
Until you feel like you belong, just act like you belong. Eventually, you’ll actually feel it, too.
4. Get help.
Do you know when it’s really easy to not feel confident? When you just don’t know what you don’t know.
A few months ago, I was writing a script for a training video in the Business Boutique Academy. The topic was inspired by an Academy member who wanted to know how to determine whether her business should be a nonprofit or for-profit company. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what to tell her.
But I had access to someone who would.
So, I went to my leader, Dave Ramsey, and asked for his advice. He unpacked the whole thing for me, broke down the pros and cons, and gave me a wealth of new information. Once I was equipped with that, I felt confident in my ability to answer that woman’s question.
And the next time someone asked me about that topic, I nailed the answer. Sometimes all you need to gain confidence is help!
5. Get Experience.
Nothing builds confidence like experience.
Education is theory, but experience is real-life application. Education is classes, books, conferences and certifications—and those are great. But nothing will be as valuable to you as gaining experience in whatever area in which you lack confidence.
After you’ve done the thing once—you’ve led the company meeting, published your first blog, or coached your first client—your confidence in your ability to do it again will soar. Just do it scared, and watch your confidence take off.
The Benefits of Being More Confident
It probably comes as no surprise to you that people who are more confident see more positive results in their life. High self-acceptance and self-esteem are directly related to overall happiness. And our level of self-confidence heavily influences the decisions we make about our careers and even our relationships. (5, 6)
For example, several years ago, there was this guy in my running group who pursued me tirelessly. I repeatedly told him that nothing was going to happen between us—ever. Even when he would directly share his intentions to date me, I was always very clear in my response that it wasn’t going to happen.
“In fact,” I assured him, “I am going to marry someone else.”
I thought this direct announcement, strange as it may sound to say out loud, would surely get my point across. But, to this day, if you were to ask that guy how it made him feel, he would say, “Oh, I felt great. I knew we would get married.”
Call it extreme confidence or plain delusion, but this guy was onto something. After seven months of hanging out nonstop, becoming best friends, and turning him down repeatedly, something changed in me.
And today, that guy is my husband, Matt.
(And by the way, Matt is an introvert who is quiet, steady, practical and patient. And you know what? He’s insanely confident. Like I said, confidence isn’t a personality style—it’s a skill!)
Building the Confidence Muscle
If you only take one thing away from this topic of confidence, I hope it’s this: Confidence is not something you’re either born with or you aren’t. It’s not even something you can only have if you had a perfect childhood, you were popular in high school, or you’ve been groomed for leadership your whole life.
Confidence is a skill you can develop over time. It’s like a muscle: If you never use it, it’s weak at first. But, with some practice and exercise, that muscle will become stronger. Using it will become easier. Remember: Fake it ‘til you feel it! Before you know it, the feelings will be authentic. You’ll feel better, stronger and—most of all—more confident.
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