Ah, confidence. That one word you’ve undoubtably heard over and over your entire life as to what you’re suppose to be. “Just be confident.” As if there’s a confidence switch in your brain that you can just voluntarily turn on when you feel like it. Confidence, the word that’s suppose to help you accomplish so much, yet often just hearing the word causes you to feel smaller and usually makes you realize your lack of it.
Telling someone to “just be confident” that isn’t confident, is like telling someone who’s depressed to just be happy, someone who’s anxious not to worry, to relax. The very acting of trying to do most of these things, usually ends up doing the opposite. Often by trying to be confident, we realize our lack of confidence.
This is the conundrum of confidence. How can you be confident in something that you’ve never done or have done before and failed? How do you feel confident in social situations when you are routinely bad at socializing, how do you feel confident in a new relationship when you have had countless failed ones, how do you feel confident in a new job that you’ve never done before?
It’s like when you first graduated college and you apply for your first job, but get rejected because you don’t have experience. You somehow need experience to get experience. To which you reply “mother fucker how I am suppose to get the experience for this job, if I can’t get the experience?
It’s a bit of a catch 22.
So the question remains how do you become confident, when you’re not confident?
Confidence around others
There are actual techniques and things to practice to increase your confidence, but there are two major realizations that you need to have first.
1. A large reason you are not confident around other’s is that you are more highly invested in other’s opinions of you, then you are of yourself.
You’re often so caught up in worrying about what someone else thinks of you. It causes you to act different, filter yourself in ways that you hope makes other’s think highly of you, and constantly worry how other’s see you. And ultimately, it stems from not being invested enough in yourself.
Have you ever noticed that people with a lot of confidence tend to say and do pretty much whatever they want, despite what other’s may react? It’s usually not to get a reaction out of other’s, but it’s because they are more highly invested in themselves then they are in the opinion of other’s. It’s not that they don’t care what other’s think, but they value their own thoughts more then the thoughts and opinions of others.
Now that may sound a bit selfish and egotistical, but really, it’s the most honest and true you can ever be. If you’re highly invested in yourself, you will express yourself far more open and honestly. Filtering yourself and say things you hope other’s want to hear is actually far more dishonest and deceptive.
2. “You’ll stop caring about what other’s think of you, when you realize how seldom they do”
Read that quote again. It’s an incredibly powerful realization when you think about it.
A very large part of your anxiety and lack of confidence comes from worrying about what other people think of you. And the generic response you’ve undoubtably heard for this is “don’t worry about what other’s think,” but that is shit advice.
If you’re someone with a lot of anxiety and lack confidence, you can’t simply stop that thought. It’s not a light switch in your mind that you can just turn off.
Instead, the key is not to not worry about what people are thinking about you, but realize they are not thinking about you.
When you go to the bar, interact with strangers, go on dates etc. everyone else is often way to caught up in their own thoughts, their own insecurities, and ironically, are usually worrying about what YOU are thinking of them.
So next time you’re out and worrying that other people are looking at you, thinking about you, judging you, recognize that no one is actually paying attention, and that’s fucking great news!
Techniques to increase confidence.
Once you’ve grasped the first two realizations, make sure you are constantly reminding yourself of them, as it takes practice to have them full engrained in your mind. Those two things alone should greatly reduce your anxiety around other’s and increase your overall confidence.
But those are just the beginning. The initial building blocks if you will.
From here there are things you start to do today, to start gaining more confidence.
1. The power stance – this is more of a “quick fix” for boosting confidence and reducing stress levels. (I used this before every phone and face-to-face interview I had this year, it really works).
In just two minutes you can increase your testosterone by 20% and reduce cortisol levels (chemical in your brain that causes stress) by 25%!
It’s fairly simple, there are a few different positions you can use as see in the picture below. The most common is standing up straight, putting your hands on your hips for 2 minutes.
If you’re at a bar or somewhere where you don’t want to stand there looking like a weirdo, try one of the other poses. Most of them come down to taking up space and not being closed up.
2. The eye contact game – this is one of my favorite.
Eye contact is huge and very under-rated. People who lack confidence often look at the ground, or basically anywhere except the eye of the person they are talking to. The other person will usually notice this and it comes across very unconfident.
Intro, the eye contact game. It’s simple. When you are walking down the street you make eye contact with someone walking towards you. You cannot break eye contact with them until they break eye contact with you first. Once they have broken eye contact with you, feel free to look at someone else.
This game can sometimes feel awkward and make you feel uncomfortable, but that’s the point. The process of gaining confidence is going to make you feel uncomfortable at times, but that discomfort is progress, so embrace it.
And once you start doing it more, it’s actually a lot of fun. Sometimes you’ll get someone who will just not look away and that will really push you. Don’t worry nothing bad will happen. I once had a fucking stare down for what felt like forever with a HUGE dude. I was sure he was going to fuck me up, or at least say something to me. We even both looked back and caught eyes again after passing each other.
Once you get the hang of it, keep pushing. Smile at the person, even a casual “hey how are you?” as you walk by. Will it feel a bit weird and the other person may wonder what you’re smiling about? Maybe, honestly, who the fuck cares? This this isn’t about them, this is about you, and making you more confident.
After practicing this for a while, you’ll notice eye contact come more naturally and will increase your overall confidence.
3. Positive affirmations – this is something I’ve talked about a few times to help cope with panic attacks and anxiety. It’s the practice of what you tell yourself when confronted with an uncomfortable situation, and more specifically in this case, a situation where you lack confidence.
This is hard, takes a long time, and lots of practice, but I can’t stress how powerful this can be if you stick with it and practice it a lot. Entire books and studies have been written about this so it’s very hard to conceal in this in a few steps, but here’s the general idea of it.
The first thing your brain will start doing when trying something you lack confidence in, is telling you negative things, that you can’t do it, remind you of failed past attempts, of the potential negative outcomes.
So you need to learn how to “re-write the script,” in your head.
1. Recognize and listen closely to what your mind tells you when you feel a lack of confidence. What is your brain actually telling you, what does it fear, how does your body feel, listen and pay as close attention as possible. This is arguably the hardest part because you are rarely paying attention to the actually thoughts that are constantly going by, so this often takes a lot of practice and close attention to get good at. Practicing meditation is an excellent way to get better at this.
2. Recognize those thoughts are complete bullshit. Im serious, it’s bullshit. Your mind is a master of drama, worry, and deception. It creates a small seemingly plausible worry and snowballs it into a harrowing nightmare. The key isn’t to get to stand in front of that runaway snow boulder and try to stop, but just let it pass by. Look at it, recognize it’s pointless, stupid, and untrue (even laugh at it and it’s ridiculousness, and let it pass.
3. Now re-write the script immediately. Once you’ve recognized the passing stream of bullshit thinking. Take mental action. Tell yourself positive affirmations. That you can do it, that you’re confident, that you’re the fucking shit. Even if you don’t fully believe it, that’s okay! Re-writing the script (your brain) takes a long time and a lot of practice. The words might feel hallow and you may not fully believe it at first, but as you do it more and more, it will be imbed in your mind and soon, your auto-pilot mind will go from spewing worry-some bullshit, to confidence.