Contrary to common beliefs, neither confidence nor self-esteem are traits we are born with.
This means, they can be developed and improved.
Self-esteem and confidence are not the same thing, but they are closely linked. Self-esteem is the way we feel about ourselves, and confidence is how capable we feel of our performance. Having high self-esteem can help you become more confident about the things you can do.
There are many ways in which you can train your confidence, including the following:
1. Gear up for it!
Self-esteem is a state of the mind. ‘If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will’ – this may be a cliché but it comes with tonnes of scientific evidence to support it.
One of the best ways of overcoming your insecurities is to face them and understand where they originate from.
Write down a list of your worst insecurities or anxieties, and analyse each one separately:
- What are the chances of it happening to you? (Try to be realistic.)
- How exactly would it affect you?
- How can you prevent it?
- If it did happen to you, how could you resolve the situation?
Write down a simple step-by-step solution guide next to each problem.
If your anxiety is caused by something that happened in the past, an in-depth analysis of the problem will help you put it behind you and establish ways of preventing it from reoccurring in the future.
By verbalising your insecurity and finding a solution for it, you give yourself a clear message: the problem can be solved! There no reason to feel insecure. You can do it!
Discuss your insecurities with someone else you can trust, like a friend or your partner. The support of family and friends is crucial to boosting your self-esteem. After all, we perceive ourselves through the eyes of others.
If your low self-esteem is caused by someone close to you, you may need to work together to resolve the problem. Seek professional help from a psychotherapist who will advise you on how best to tackle it.
Alternatively, distance yourself from this individual. While it will not solve your problem at the root, it should keep it at bay, allowing you time and space to look at it more objectively.
Facing a new challenge or a difficult situation can also make people anxious and doubt their capabilities. If you analyse your skills carefully, you will probably find a few that are transferable and can be applied to the new situation. Make a list of those skills and how you can use them. This will help you improve your confidence.
Whatever you do, circle yourself with positive people who appreciate you, and draw energy from their enthusiasm and optimism.
Positive actions bring positive reactions. If you do something kind, you make a positive change to somebody’s life, and that in return will improve your self-esteem and confidence.
Every day, wake up with three positive things to do, and go to bed with three achievements. These achievements do not have to involve back-breaking challenges. Simple things, like telling your tired partner that they are still fabulous, buying a Big Issue mag from a homeless person, cooking a meal you have never made before, calling on your lonely elderly neighbour for a quick chat, or supporting your selected animal charity will do just fine.
Make sure to talk yourself through your achievements before you rest your head on the pillow and drift off.
2. Strike the poise!
A confident person’s body language says: ‘I’m here. I have the solution. Follow me. Without questioning.’
Striking the right balance is a difficult task. People will notice it if your body language does not reflect your words or actions.
If you try too hard, you may come across as cocky, bizarre or absurd. Being too shy or laid-back will not attract sympathisers either, especially in business.
Here are a few basic dos and don’ts:
- Walk decisively: give each step a purpose. (Avoid stomping!)
- Stand up straight, with your shoulders back, but remain flexible.
- Keep your legs slightly apart, with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
- Put your arms down; rest your hands at the hip level, or hold them together behind your back.
- Keep your head up and your eyes forward.
- Look directly at the individual, but without staring at them. If there are more people involved in the conversation, share your attention with everyone. Maintaining good eye-contact is important in many cultures, particularly across Europe and both Americas. However, in some middle-eastern or Asiatic cultures direct eye-contact is deemed inappropriate. Iranians, for example, will do everything to avoid direct eye-contact.
- Show interest in what the person is saying, and smile when it is appropriate.
- If seated, keep your back straight and your hands cupped together on your lap.
- If speaking on the phone, assume a standing position, speak clearly and smile. Although the listener cannot see you, they will hear the smile and confidence in the tone of your voice.
- People usually react positively to smiling and optimistic individuals and tend to avoid those burdened with grief or troubles.
- Slouching suggests sloppiness, lethargy, lack of interest or submission.
- Looking down, scratching or touching your face or hair, or biting your nails gives the impression that you feel uncomfortable, unsure or nervous.
- Assuming a fixed, straight-up position, with your legs wide apart and arms crossed, will make you look bossy, opinionated and unapproachable.
- Holding your chin up too highly has a similar effect; it makes you look condescending and patronising.
- Manspreading is another no-no. You do not look ‘laid-back’ and confident, but rather careless and arrogant.
- A poker-faced expression does not show your confidence, either. It is likely to make people feel uncomfortable in your presence rather than want to follow your lead. Expressing and reading emotions allows us to make decisions about the intentions of our others. A stony face is unnatural, and makes the person seem disengaged and distant.
- Keeping hands in your pockets is not good either, so sew up those pockets.
However obvious these guidelines may be, we rarely follow them. Body language is a deeply rooted natural behaviour, and controlling it is not as easy as it seems.
It is a good idea to practise your posture and physical responses in front of the mirror, especially before an important event like delivering a business presentation or going to a job interview.
3. Say the right words.
No one likes wafflers or righteous buffoons. That’s a fact.
Saying the right words at the right time is a precious gift, and a perfect way to demonstrate your confidence.
Here are some tips for you:
- Believe in what you say. If you do not understand or believe in something, do not say it.
- Use relevant but simple vocabulary. Complicated and superfluous words will not make you look clever.
- Use logic and reasoning. Dry facts and evidence are hard to dispute.
- Avoid filler words and waffling. They will make you seem nervous and weak.
- Use commanding and assertive language, like ‘Let’s do it now!’, ‘I recommend you do this…,’ ‘I will complete this report for you today.’
- Be polite but firm. You do not have to and should not agree with everything others say. Express your opinion politely and clearly.
- Do not justify your actions or excuse yourself continuously. You have the right to say ‘No, thank you.’ – and people need to accept your decision.
- In a discussion, voice your arguments clearly.
- Be consistent in your responses. Changing your mind frequently is a sign of a weak mind. It can destroy your credibility. If you decide to change your mind, make sure there is a clear rationale behind it.
4. Scrub up well.
Good personal hygiene is important for endless reasons. Self-confidence is one of them. A hot shower or bubble bath, manicure, haircut, nice make-up or a wet shave can work wonders! You will feel refreshed, relaxed and positive about yourself, and have the confidence to face the world.
5. Dress for success!
Wearing the right clothes and make-up can boost your self-esteem and confidence hugely.
The difficulty lies in deciding on the right level of dress for the occasion. There is a fine line between looking stylish and ridiculous. While some have a knack for classy outfits, to others, achieving a naturally polished look comes with utmost difficulty.
Gather as much information as possible about the event, the workplace or the people you are to meet. Search for the information online. Speak with the people involved. Whatever you choose to wear, avoid loud colours and frills – unless you are going to a dress party.
In fact, make ‘dress for success’ your life motto. Wear clean, smart casual clothes even when popping out to a shop or to pick the kids up from school. Do not hide behind dark-coloured, baggy, dirty or worn-out clothes even in the privacy of your own home. Keep them only for cleaning or DIY.
Nice (not meaning expensive) clothes do not just make us look good. They make us feel good. They help create an overall positive image of ourselves, and make other people respond to us with more respect and consideration.
Building up your self-esteem and confidence is not an easy task. It’s a long process. It requires commitment, hard work and dedication – but it can be done.
Do not expect results overnight. Keep checking for improvements – in baby steps, and praise yourself for each achievement!
Believe in yourself and what you do – you will get there in the end!