In all of my conversations about leadership and success, confidence is a must have with presenting, communicating with both managers and direct reports, and engaging in personal relationships. It can accelerate shifts, leading to increased happiness at work, at home, and all over! No matter what the subject, confidence is a key component to success.
However, the definition of confidence can be quite varied. It’s defined as the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust. It seems simple, yet many of us struggle with confidence. Why is it so hard to have “firm trust”, especially in ourselves?
Research has shown that although confidence may be partly influenced by genetics it is not a static psychological state. You won’t discover it by thinking positive thoughts or repeating prescribed positive messages. You won’t find it either by adjusting your posture, power posing, or “faking it till you make it”. It requires a choice: less worrying about people-pleasing and perfection, and more action, risk taking, and fast failure.
So where do we find this sometimes elusive trait? How do we build it in ourselves? Why is it that small life events can shift our confidence so far one way or the other? Here are my top seven ways for you to increase your confidence!
1. Command Presence
When a fire chief arrives on a scene, they do not know everything about that particular episode, no matter how seasoned they are. However, showing up and taking control - “commanding presence”, as my favorite fire chief will tell you - is a total necessity. This means you need to have good posture; stand up straight and meet people’s eyes; have the look of one in charge. What are you wearing? Wearing something that makes you feel good about you can totally increase your confidence. Tone of voice can also really affect your confidence. Practice saying confident phrases in private so that you feel more comfortable bringing it out in a crowd. Is there a scent that makes you feel more confident? Perhaps just a shower can shift how you portray your confidence. All of these play into your specific method to command presence. Build it and practice it.
2. Fail Fast
So cliche right? Especially in the startup/entrepreneurial world. But this really is one of the best tools. We walk around thinking we know what is right, and what holds us back the most is being afraid to be wrong. I have found that the most successful leaders have no fear of failing or being wrong. Getting something wrong is the only way to eventually get it right. Our greatest opportunities are in the things that don’t work. What can you learn from them? Confidence is not something you are just born with. You need to try things out, practice, and hone your craft.
Take some time in every day to take note of what you are grateful for, even if it’s small (I am alive). It doesn’t need to rock your world. Cherish a compliment. Stop yourself from saying, “oh no, not me, that’s just because...” and just say “THANK YOU”. Celebrate the small wins! Things like “I just made her laugh”, or “I made my calls today”. We have such an easy time talking about what didn’t go right, so celebrate what did.
Exercise, with two definitions. Get out there and move. The chemicals released in your body from exercise can replace the fear chemicals that keep us from trying new things. You can (with exercise or an increased heart rate) trick your body away from fear and into confidence. Also try the exercise of looking at leaders you admire. What qualities do they use to show confidence? How do they take command? Practice trying those qualities on for size and see how they feel. (Remember that this takes practice...just like walking).
5. Breathe (4,7,8)
This is simple. Sit still, get comfortable, breathe in for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, exhale for eight seconds. Do it again and again until you can feel it.
When I was working doing tons (I MEAN TONS) of cold calling, a smile could make the difference in how I came across, even on the phone. I have actually listened to my recorded voice when frowning and when smiling and you could really hear the difference. Try it, it will amaze you.
There is comfort in routine. Who knows where it came from, but if you wash your hair before you shave, man the whole day is off. Create rituals for the situations you need to be confident in, Like listening to a favorite song before walking into every staff meeting. This also goes back to practice. If you have repeatedly said to yourself in a mirror, “I deserve a raise because of x, y and z: it will feel much different coming out of your mouth than with no practice at all.
What other methods have you tried to increases your confidence? Reach out and let me know if you try any of these and how they work for you!
As an executive coach with proven success in the finance and sales industries, Brenda Loan Baker empowers individuals to reach their full leadership potential. While she serves leaders at all levels and across a broad range of functional roles and industries, she has a special interest in partnering with women and minorities in normally male-dominated industries like STEM, finance, and law, to help them become more confident, visible, and influential leaders. She is an ICF- PCC Certified Coach.