How to have more confidence and self-confidence
Do you lack confidence in yourself?
Does your fear of failure make you lose opportunities again and again?
I know what it feels like. Lack of confidence is a terrible traveling companion. It paralyzes you. It causes you not to even try to fight for what you want, and ends up locking you in a tiny comfort zone.
During one stage of my life I also lived this way, avoiding any situation in which I could fail.
I was so afraid of failure that I missed several opportunities to go abroad to study. I resigned to continue my research career, and I even pretended to be sick so I would not have to face challenges like public speaking.
Not to mention all the sentimental opportunities that I let slip.
Fortunately, all that has been forgotten. Yes, I still feel insecure, but after years studying the science of emotions, I know what I should do. And I’m going to tell you everything here.
In this article, I will first reveal the golden rule of trust, and then I will show you ten techniques that have been scientifically proven to increase your confidence when you need it most.
I hope you find them as useful as they are to me!
The golden rule of trust
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, eighteen of them in the terrible Robben Island prison.
As a black political prisoner, he received the most degrading treatment possible. He spent the day breaking stones in the sun, with little food and constant beatings. To make matters worse, during his imprisonment he also contracted tuberculosis.
However, Mandela did not collapse. Every morning he went down to the patio and walked proudly wearing his wounds, spreading courage and hope to the inmates. It became his inspiration.
How is it possible that he felt so confident in conditions capable of shattering any man?
The answer is that he did not feel confident.
As he confessed later, Mandela was hiding his fears. He lived with fear, and of course he never felt sure of himself.
But Mandela had one thing clear: if he stayed in his cell until he had enough confidence, he would never have gone down to the patio to inspire the prisoners.
This is one of the great lies that we have believed. We think it is necessary to feel prepared and confident before facing a challenge. But Mandela did not wait to feel confident: he acted despite not being sure, and that’s why he managed to win.
The real problem is not that you do not feel confident before doing something; The problem is that you think you should feel confident to do it. But you do not need to feel anything to do it. Your actions can be independent of your emotions, as Mandela did.
So the golden rule of trust is that you should not wait to feel confident.
Do not wait to feel prepared before starting your own business or give your first talk in public, because you will be waiting for your whole life. Act without confidence, and trust will come later.
I’m not proposing to do anything you have not done before. If you learned to ride a bicycle, I imagine that at first you would be afraid of falling. But you did not wait to overcome that fear and feel totally safe before getting on the bike: you rode on it and little by little you were feeling more confident.
You will never feel ready to face a challenge, so do not wait to feel confident. Act, because feelings of trust only come after the acts.
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How to trust more in yourself: 10 scientific keys
In addition to the golden rule of trust, the following techniques have shown in several scientific studies their effectiveness in increasing your confidence when you need it most.
Some are simpler than others, but in any case they are invaluable tools to feel safer in any situation. Use them wisely.
#1. Stop pursuing trust
Before I start I would like to remind you of something fundamental, but one that we often forget:
It is impossible to always feel confident.
Our level of confidence fluctuates. The same person can feel very sure of herself when she finds the job of her dreams, and totally depressed if she is fired. And it is normal.
So do not try to be always confident and sure of yourself. It has been scientifically proven that the more you pursue it, the more insecure and sad you will feel.
To this effect it is known as the law of the effort invested, and that is that many people have such a great need to always feel good that this adds pressure and ends up depressing.
Assume that you will live difficult moments like everyone else. Accepting it will make suffering hurt you less than if you rebel against it.
#2. Start small
Bednar and Peterson, two psychologists specializing in self-esteem, observed a strange phenomenon in their patients.
They verified that their self-esteem did not depend on the outcome of their actions. When one of them did not show up for an exam for which he had been preparing, he felt much worse than if he tried and failed.
In other words, the pride of having tried it overshadowed the disappointment of not having approved.
This is the true virtuous circle of trust: your security increases when you simply act. And acting is what allows you to feel more confident.
Remember: the origin of trust is to start acting, no matter how small the first step is.
Take some small decision that does not involve a big commitment, but that brings you a little closer to something you have been wanting to do for some time.
For example, if you want to improve your ability to speak in public you can sign up for a course. But you do not have to go yet! The simple fact of signing up will increase your self-esteem and make the challenge to go to class seem more affordable.
#3. Find the reasons to trust you
Many people have a habit of belittling their achievements.
This is known as the imposter syndrome. They attribute their successes to luck, and convince themselves that they are a fraud and do not deserve what they have achieved.
If you think that is your case, you should be more aware of your achievements and the personal qualities that made them possible. That will help you to value yourself more.
To do this, make a list of 3 successes that you have achieved in your life, whether in the workplace, academic or personal, and identify the quality you need to achieve each of them.
If for example you ended a career while working, surely that means that you are determined and persevering, right? Well, do not forget it.
Identify what values and qualities have allowed you to achieve your successes, because those are the reasons that will help you overcome the imposter syndrome and trust more in your abilities.
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#4. Remember your values
According to some currents of positive thinking, our mind is capable of creating the reality we tell it.
Supposedly, repeating mantras like “I am strong and I have nothing to fear” or “I am someone extraordinary”, our mind will internalize it and we will get the confidence to achieve everything we set out to do.
The idea is beautiful and you want to believe it. But it is false.
One study wanted to prove once and for all the effectiveness of this type of positive affirmations. And the result was that those participants with low self-esteem who used them not only did not manage to increase it, but they felt worse.
The reason why these messages do not work is because the brain is not naive. If we say we are or wonderful, our mind immediately raises a question: what reasons do I have to believe that?
And if he is not able to find the answer, he will not believe it.
These kinds of affirmations only work when you know that what you are saying to yourself is true.
And there is no truth more indisputable than your values.
This is what they found in a study conducted at the University of California. The participants had to improvise a speech in front of a jury, and at the end they were ordered to start a countdown at intervals of thirteen, starting with the number 2083!
At the end of the study their cortisol level was measured, a hormone that increases in anxiety situations. But there was a small detail: before the experiment a group of participants had written a reflection on one of their personal values.
This group had significantly lower cortisol levels than the rest of the participants. The pressure affected them much less.
From now on, before facing a challenge, think about your values and remember why they are important to you. Your confidence will increase and you will reduce your anxiety.
#5. Forget about setting goals
On May 10, 1996, eight climbers died frozen while trying to descend the summit of Everest, trapped by a huge snowstorm.
The explanation of Dr. Kayes, an expert in behavior of organizations that day was in the area, is that the climbers were dragged to death because of the obsession with their goal.
The goal of crowning Everest had become part of his identity. They could not imagine themselves aborting the mission a few meters from the top and, therefore, ignored all the warning signs that advised them to return immediately and went ahead.
The objectives have a very dark side. Although the belief that defining objectives is the secret of success has become popular in recent years, the reality is that setting goals is a serious problem if you can not accept that you can fail.
That’s why it’s better to be guided by something different that at this point should already be familiar: your values.
Your values define the principles on which you want to live. And besides, you will hardly fail in them. If you wanted to climb Everest but you were guided by the courage of perseverance, you could feel proud of yourself for trying even if you never reached the top.
Using your values to focus on the process, you will avoid worrying about those goals on which you make your happiness depend.
Use your values as a guide instead of setting objectives. Unlike these, your values will always be there for you to fulfill them and feel proud of you.
#6. Use a triumph pose
The Dr. Amy Cuddy found to adopt a pose for 2 minutes of power increases testosterone levels and lowers cortisol, the stress hormone.
The consequence? You feel more confident and willing to take risks.
Cuddy’s explanation is that there is a two-way communication between the mind and the body. When you are proud, your posture reflects it. But if when you are sad you adopt a triumph pose, little by little you will feel more confident.
Note: The poses of power are those that expand your body, like those that athletes do when they win (arms raised, chest swollen and chin up).
Subsequently it has been proven that its effectiveness depends on many variables, but I recommend that you check it for yourself when you need to feel more secure.
Before facing your next challenge, try to maintain a position of power for two minutes.
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#7. Reinterpret your fear
Did you know that, in reality, fear and excitement are caused by the same substance?
Yes, it’s about adrenaline, and although psychologically both emotions are different, biologically your body responds in exactly the same way to both.
That means that, theoretically, it would be possible to use it to feel excitement instead of fear.
In an experiment, Dr. Alison Brooks separated several students into three groups. To generate anxiety, he ordered them to make an individual presentation while a jury evaluated them.
The first group did not give any previous instruction, while the second and the third group had them repeat aloud “I’m calm” and ” I’m excited”, respectively.
The result was that students in the third group, those who tried to interpret their nerves as enthusiasm instead of fear, did much better.
The next time you face a challenge, try to imagine that the nerves that fear causes you are, in reality, nerves of excitement produced by your enthusiasm. You will feel more confident.
#8. Take smaller decisions
In the same way that starting to act is the source of trust, making decisions is also a great reinforcement.
It has been scientifically proven that making a decision, however small, activates your prefrontal cortex, reducing your worry and increasing your safety.
If you make decisions regularly, you will feel more in control of your life. Starting with small daily decisions is enough, for example:
- Choose the movie you will see with your partner.
- Decide the restaurant where you will dine with your friends
Little by little you will feel able to make more difficult decisions that are important to you, such as joining a choir when your partner thinks it is a waste of time.
Do not avoid making the small decisions that appear in your day to day. Doing so will increase your confidence for bigger challenges.
#9. Use the mask technique
Remember when you disguised yourself in Carnival and you did not stop doing pranks?
Why did you behave like this if in your day to day you were introverted and reserved?
Because you were playing a role.
This phenomenon I call the technique the mask, and is a powerful psychological tool to achieve more confidence.
The technique of the mask is what helped Beyoncé overcome her fear of going on stage. He created Sasha Fierce, a sensual and charismatic alter ego, whom he interprets every time he has to act in front of thousands of followers.
This technique consists of creating another personality, a character that allows you to leave your reality to dare to do things that you would not normally do. This protects you against failure, because you will stop living it as if you had failed: your character has failed.
When you feel that fear paralyzes you, put yourself in the shoes of some brave and reckless character, and start acting like him.
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#10. Treat yourself like a friend
What do you say to yourself when you fail?
You’re probably hard on yourself, right? I am sure that sometimes you have crossed your mind messages such as “You are a failure!” Or “You are useless!”
But what do you tell your friends when they fail?
You tell them they’re useless? Or do you try to comfort and encourage them so they do not get depressed?
What would happen if you started treating yourself as a friend every time you failed?
This concept is based on a scientific method that is revolutionizing the scientific community thanks to its impressive results. It is able to reduce insecurity, anxiety and stress and increase the amount of optimistic thoughts.
This method is called self-pity.
Self- pity does not mean to feel sorry for you, but to treat you as you would treat a friend when you fail or something bad happens to you. It means supporting and forgiving you instead of criticizing you. Comfort yourself to try again instead of punishing you when you make a mistake.
The next time you fail or feel bad about something that has happened to you, ask yourself the following question:
«What would you say to a friend who told me that he is going through the same situation?»
And tell yourself.
Learning to trust yourself is essential to leave your comfort zone and live a fuller life.
The first step is to understand the golden rule of trust. Stop trying to feel confident before facing any challenge, because that is impossible. You will only feel confident afterwards, once you have acted.
Remember: first acts, and then feelings of trust. It is something that you already do several times a day.
Then, there are several tools that can give you an extra boost of self-confidence when you need it most, such as remembering your values, reinterpreting your fear as enthusiasm or maintaining a pose of power, but above all, avoid turning trust into an objective in itself.
All this will free you so that, finally, you can get the best out of you.