Dressing the part is actually a proven way to perceive yourself as being self-confident. Image courtesy of iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net
To have confidence is to “be sure” (Collins Essential Dictionary and Thesaurus) . So, what does it essentially mean, “to be self- confident? “Self” is defined as one’s individual identity or nature (Collins Essential Dictionary and Thesaurus). So it means you have an assurance about your own being, and aspects associated with it – your thoughts, feelings, opinions – with respect to having a belief that they are valid and your own.
Self-confident people have the advantages of not having to ask others to a great degree than is wise or advisable about their own selves, or courses of actions: right or wrong – it does not mean we are cocky. We just don’t seek reassurance more than is necessary.
I think deep down, we all have an inner voice, or intuition that speaks to us, a ‘quiet voice of self-assurance’.
I know that I don’t have a lot of self-confidence. Here are some thoughts that I intend to act upon and I feel may assist with developing a greater degree of self-confidence.
Don’t ask more people than is necessary about their opinion. For example, if you ask ten random people ‘what should I do with my life?’, you may be surpised at the variety of answers you may get. You won’t be surprised by the fact that it is very unlikely they will fully resonate with what you know deep within to be your purpose.
Remember, and this seems self-evident but is easy to forget – only you know the most about you.** How can anyone give you extra information, with any more confidence than you can give yourself?
Only you are fully cognisant of the life experiences that have shaped you. People may say ‘why’ or ‘why not’ but without explaining your whole life story, they will not be in the position you are in to know ‘where you are at’ with a particular purpose. For example people may say ‘why’ I could not be a Zumba instructor.
I would like to be, but I know certain life circumstances have rendered me shy, and they are not going to change overnight. Notice self-confidence doesn’t mean you are not shy – it means you are sure of this personality trait!
However, if you wish to become more sure of your ability to talk to people without excessive anxiety, I believe anyway that gradual steps build confidence. In psychology, we learned that people who were afraid of spiders overcame their fear best when they did so in baby steps. First of all they looked at the spider without backing out. Then they observed someone else handle in. Then they held it in a jar, until finally they could build the confidence to hold (the non-venomous) spider in their own hands.
If you are afraid of public speaking and get out there and talk to a hundred people all at once, and suffer stage fright, your confidence may suffer because you tried to do too much too soon. When you attempt changes you are not sure of yourself about in small steps, success is more likely. Success reinforces the fact that ‘you can’ and therefore is the best way to increase your self-confidence.
I believe there is some truth in ‘fake it until you make it’. For example, I have been surprised to hear from seemingly super-confident individuals that they really do not feel sure of themselves on the inside. To some degree, self-confidence can be helped, therefore, by the recognition, that it is likely a lot of people out there ‘are faking it’ to some degree. The experience gained from this ‘diving first in’ approach (akin to the alternative technique of just holding the spider without the intermediate steps) can be a fast-tracking to self-confidence.
There was a researcher called Bem who came up with “self-perception theory” - basically this means when we act a certain way we perceive it’s characteristic of our ‘self’. It puts forth the concept that essentially we are ‘watching ourselves’ . This sounds odd, but it means we are watching our self behave a certain way in a situation by being conscious of ourselves in it.
So, if we act self-confident at a party, we self-perceive we are self-assured kind of people. Bem’s theory has scientific studies backing it’s validity, and is an analytical way of explaining the ‘fake it til you make it’ observation.
Self-perception theory would also suggest if we dress smartly, hold our heads up high, stand tall, smile and speak confidently, we can actually ‘fool ourselves’ into believing we are self-confident for we are acting this way. Dressing the part for a job-interview can help self-confidence during the process. We 'feel the part'.
The reinforcement we receive for acting confidently, for example, reciprocated smiles, greater success meeting people for the first time (we are more likely to get a positive response if we act confidently) can act as a positive feedback loop, increasing self-confidence further.
Self-confidence can also be gained in areas we are not sure of, by using our positive qualities (for example a winning smile) to at first compensate for perceived deficits, for example being unsure talking to people. If we think “I don’t have anything to feel confident about” then that’s how we may act. But if you think “well I will smile”, then you get a positive response. Your smile then can become an anchor to push forth qualities you are not so sure of.
Finally, remember, even the seemingly most-confident people out there are just the same as you – they are people, just like you. They may not feel self-assured inside, or it may have taken them a lot of work to be confident, or they could just be putting on a front because they, too, feel insecure to some degree.
Make a list of things you already know you are good with – for example you may be confident you can write well, are good with animals…use this as another kind of 'anchor' to give yourself the courage to gain confidence in areas of your life your are not so self-assured with.
Remember no-one is good with everything but you can be self-assured that you are doing the best you can do. And that’s a confidence that you can carry anywhere.
Anything that you are unsure of, if repeated mindfully, will improve. Therefore, self-confidence in a particular situation will get better the more you expose yourself to it. So most importantly remember “practice makes perfect” – practice anything and your self-confidence will improve.