There is a funny concept among the softly-spoken, the meek, the apologetic excuse-makers that there is some ‘kind’ of person who is confident, capable and calm in the face of adversity. The have-nots usually disempower themselves further by making an assumption that confidence is like a genetic trait, written into the DNA of some, and left out of the chromosomes of another. It’s not, it’s a lie.
Confidence is a con – it’s a lie to yourself that you can be whatever you want to be. The trick is that confident people have mastered the ability of self-delusion, and once deluded, the lie becomes real – for being confident is simply imagining yourself as already confident. That will spread a perception among others, who will react to your new-found power as if it’s you, which will reinforce your behavior and presto-change-o, you are one of the confident people.
One cannot imagine oneself taller, and no matter what ‘The Secret’ tells you – you cannot imagine yourself a new sports car, but you can imagine yourself being confident and become it, immediately.
- 1. Act. Stand up straight, sit up straight, look people in the eye and shake hands in a way that says: “I’m in charge here” – people will respond to your confidence and reinforce it, but that’s not all. Changing your physiology will break neural pathways that have maintained your previous patterns, abruptly disconnecting from your old posture will allow your brain to rapidly remap itself to a new, confident self. Ohio State University published a study that indicated job applicants who sat up straight while writing about their qualifications were more likely to believe the positive things they’d written about themselves than those who slumped while writing. So stand up!
- 2. Talk with words. When you’re speaking, listen to your choice of words, and notice how you sound. Confident people speak like this is written – with authority. I don’t, umm, kind of make excuses as to why this is sub-standard, vis-à-vis my inability to, ahh, convince you, if you know what I mean? Speak with a voice of authority. Even if you’re out of your depth, it is far more impressive to say: “I have no idea what that means, explain it to me” than to try to pretend you get it or shrink into the shadows. Ask, and you’ll end up learning something new, and people will be impressed by your ability to admit it (and they’ll appreciate the opportunity to share their knowledge with someone so impressive and confident as yourself).
- 3. Use your outside voice. More than the words you say, the power with which you say them is so important it almost deserves an article all of its own. Sit up straight, face forward and say something strange and untrue at the wall. Notice where the effort for is coming from – if you’re speaking from your nose, you’ll sound annoying, if you’re speaking from the front of your mouth, you’ll sound unsure and unconvincing, if you speak from your throat you’ll sound like an ordinary person, but: When you harness the power of your abdomen and fully utilize your diaphragm to speak from your stomach, your voice is resonant and commanding. The change is instant and very powerful, try it. Also concentrate on using a downward inflection at the end of sentences, the opposite to how you’d sound if asking a question. It has a hypnotic effect that causes people to react to your authority, which is why priests have been using it for millennia (think of The Simpsons). You don’t have to record your voice to do this well, just speak loudly from your stomach and keep going until you hit that sweet spot that feels confident – that’s when you’ll sound it.
- 4. Adjust your inside words. If you have self-defeating inner dialogue, change it. The first step is to accept that affecting it is within your control, after all, you put it there! Affirmations can work well (standing in front of the mirror repeating positive things to yourself daily) but can feel a bit strange for some. The idea is to supplant the negative self-flagellation with anything positive. My suggestion is to concentrate of things that empower you, when someone compliments you, really take time to take that on board, and thank them sincerely. Replay that to yourself, using your inside voice. Consciously make an effort to congratulate yourself for a job well done for every little achievement. For positive-reinforcement ammunition, follow step 5:
- 5. Learn and teach something new (Particularly something that involves speaking or interacting with other people). The links between developing new skills and developing self-confidence are well established. People who continually teach themselves new things are typically far more positive, happy and confident than those who have chosen to stagnate. Learning new skills will give you an open avenue for positive reinforcement, because the rate of improvement with new skills is so steep it allows you to constantly remind yourself of how good you are at overcoming obstacles. Teaching skills to someone else works even better, because an opportunity to share skills will cement your mastery of them, and the sharing will further boost your self-worth. Take time to compliment your students and other people around you (using your commanding outside voice) for anything they do well – they’ll appreciate it and feed back into this self-replicating cycle that is self-confidence.
- 6. Start right now. Don’t benignly sit around planning for that day when you’re going to start the journey towards the eventuality that might someday lead towards you pointing in a more confident direction; start behaving, speaking and interacting confidently with the world around you right now. It should take no time at all. It’s as simple as closing your eyes (not right now or you won’t get to the end of the instructions) and creating a real and lifelike vision of yourself being confident. Make the image bright, loud and engaging, with sound and colour and light. Notice how it feels, smells, looks and sounds, then make it even bigger, louder brighter and closer to you; let it affect your physicality, make it real and exciting and amazing, larger than life, then stand up step into your imagined, confident self and make it real. Wear it like a new skin. Now go off and teach someone else how to be confident like you are now.
Now you’ve given yourself the skills you need to make the change that’ll make the difference, be prepared: Some people might not like it. You may have some friends and colleagues that valued your old self-doubt for their own reasons, and they might find your newfound confidence objectionable. Be prepared for that, and know that if you come up against resistance it probably relates to self-worth issues with them, regardless of what they tell you. You may choose to take time to offer to guide them along your path towards positivity and happiness, or leave them be.
Every change has a cost and a payoff. The payoff is that your happiness and confidence will attract confident and happy people into your life, and will affect the people around you for the better. You owe it to your friends and family to be all you can, so be generous, sharing and caring.
Harry Key is an Australian Bollywood actor, personal coach and writer who lives in Mumbai, India. He is exceptionally talented at writing excessively long sentences in the third person. For proof, check out his blogs: http://www.harrykey.com/blogs He will also be hosting an NLP Master Class in Australia, teaching confidence through voice.