By Ali Hale
There are lots of ways to improve your self-confidence over the long-term – but sometimes you need an instant boost. You can’t walk into an important work meeting, (or a class at college or a room full of strangers at a party) whilst frantically re-reading a self-help manual, or making a last-minute phone call to your life-coach. So here are ten secrets to boosting your self-confidence in just a few seconds…
10 Secrets for Instant Self-Confidence
The one-second tip for when you’re feeling nervous and unconfident is simply to smile! You don’t just smile because you are happy and confident – you can smile to make yourself feel better. The act of smiling is so strongly associated with positive feelings that it’s almost impossible to feel bad while smiling.
“Smiling is much more then just a facial expression. The simple act of smiling releases feel-good endorphins, improves circulation to the face, makes you feel good about yourself in general and can definitely increase your self confidence. … you will also appear more confident to others while you’re smiling.” (5 Easy and Effective Ways to Improve Your Self-Confidence, LovnLivin.com)
2. Make eye contact
As well as smiling, meet the eyes of other people in the room. Give them your smile; you’ll almost certainly get one back, and being smiled at is a great self-confidence boost. Like smiling, eye contact shows people that you’re confident. Staring at your shoes or at the table reinforces your feelings of self-doubt and shyness.
This tip is particularly useful for work-related situations – make eye contact with interviewers, or with the audience for your presentation:
“Eye contact helps take the fear away from the speaker by getting the audience closer to him. Stress is mainly a result of being with the unknown and uncontrollable. Eye contact gives the speaker a picture of the reality that is the audience. It also helps in getting the attention of the audience.” (Confident Eye Contact, Unlimited Confidence)
3. Change your inner voice
Most of us have a critical inner voice that tells us we’re stupid, not good enough, that we’re too fat, thin, loud, quiet… Being able to change that inner voice is key to feeling self-confident on the inside, which will help you project your confidence to the world. Make your inner voice a supportive friend who knows you fully but also recognizes your talents and gifts, and wants you to make the best of yourself.
“You still want to be able to hear the message, so don’t make it so chilled and laid back that you never take any notice of it. You can even choose 2, 3 or as many voices as you want for different occasions. Your voice should always support you, always be helpful, never aggressive and it never puts you down.” (Shut the Duck Up, Pick the Brain)
4. Forget other people’s standards
Whatever the situation that’s causing you a crisis of self-confidence, you can help yourself immeasurably by holding yourself to your own standards alone. Other people have different values from you, and however hard you try, you’ll never please everyone all of the time. Don’t worry that people will think you’re too overweight, underweight, too feckless, too boring, too frugal, too frivolous … hold yourself to your standards, not some imagined standards belonging to others. And remember that commonly-held values and standards vary from society to society: you don’t have to accept them just because the people around you do.
“People’s values define what they want personally, but morals define what the society around those people want for them. Certain behaviors are considered to be desirable by a given society, while others are considered to be undesirable. For the most part, however, morals are not written in stone, or proclaimed by God above, but instead reflect local sensibilities. Different societies have different ideas about what is acceptable and not acceptable.” (Values and Morals Clarification, MentalHealth.net)
5. Make the most of your appearance
Even if you’ve only got a minute or two, duck into the bathroom to make sure you’re looking your best. Brushing your hair, giving your face a good wash, retouching your makeup, straightening your collar, checking you’ve not got a bit of parsley stuck between your teeth … all of these can make the difference between feeling confident in your physical appearance and feeling anxious about an imagined flaw.
“Perfect your physical appearance: There’s no denying that one’s grooming plays a crucial role in building confidence. Although we know what’s on the inside is what truly counts, your physical appearance will be the first to create an impression.” (Building Blocks to Self-Confidence, Complete Wellbeing)
6. Pray or meditate briefly
If you believe in a higher power, whether God, or another spiritual force, it can be a real boost to self-confidence to say a silent prayer. (You could also meditate instead of praying.) This helps you to take a step back from your immediate situation, to see the wider picture and to seek help from something or someone greater than yourself. This is a Christian prayer, but you could write something similar that fits your own religious beliefs or spiritual tradition:
“Dear God, thank you that you love and accept me as I am … please help me to do the same … and help me to grow to become the person you want me to be so that my God-confidence and self-confidence will increase greatly—all for the glory of your name and not mine. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Amen.” (Daily Encounter, Strengthen Your Self-Confidence, Acts International)
If something unexpected happens, it’s easy to let it knock your fledgling self-confidence. Perhaps you spill your drink on someone, you arrive late for the big meeting because of traffic problems, or someone who you wanted to speak to gives you a cold brush-off. Try to “reframe” the situation; put it in the best possible light: often, events are only negative because of the meaning we attach to them.
8. Find the next step
Keep your self-confidence up by taking gradual steps forwards, rather than freezing when faced with what seems like a giant leap. If you’re not sure what to do, look for one simple step that you can take to make progress. That might mean making eye contact at a party, introducing yourself to a stranger, breaking the ice in a meeting, or asking a question of your interviewers that shows your knowledge of their industry and company.
“Start taking action even if you don’t have a clear idea of what needs to be done. Start moving towards your goal. Make corrections later.” (6 Keys to Develop the Action Habit, Illuminated Mind)
9. Speak slowly
An easy tip for both seeming and being more self-confidence is to speak slowly. If you gabble, you’ll end up feeling worse as you know you’re being unclear to your audience or to the person you’re in a conversation with. Speaking slowly gives you the chance to think about what you’re going to say next. If you’re giving a talk or presentation, pause at the end of phrases and sentences to help your audience take in what you’ve said.
A person in authority, with authority, speaks slowly. It shows confidence. A person who feels that he isn’t worth listening to will speak quickly, because he doesn’t want to keep others waiting on something not worthy of listening to.
(25 Killer Actions to Boost Self-Confidence, Zen Habits)
10. Contribute something
Have you ever sat through an entire class at college or meeting at work without saying a word? Have you had an evening out where friends chatted happily while you sat and stared silently at your drink? Chances are, you weren’t feeling very self-confident at the time – and you probably felt even worse afterwards. Whatever the situation you’re in, make an effort to contribute. Even if you don’t think you have much to say, your thoughts and perspective are valuable to those around you.
By making an effort to speak up at least once in every group discussion, you’ll become a better public speaker, more confident in your own thoughts, and recognized as a leader by your peers.
(10 Ways to Instantly Build Self Confidence, Pick the Brain)