Miked-up public speaking in-front of 80 colleagues; the third interview for your dream job; a first date with a Tinder babe you’ve been texting for two weeks when you’ve just sliced your chin shaving. These are all typical scenarios to test the resolve of even the most self-assured men.
Confidence ebbs and flows on unpredictable, quick-changing tides. Our view of ourselves as being ultimately confident or not is rarely stable. Confidence is a bit like quicksilver: just as it comes close, it can flow away from us again at lightening speed.
Even the most blasé among us cannot avoid the occasional confidence-crushing moment: That barely stifled-yawn from the back of the hall; the interviewer’s steely, unblinking gaze; our date’s nervous smile as she sees blood on our chin and we’re floored. Our confidence bolts like a petrified colt leaving us sweaty palmed with a racing heart and dry mouth, our eyes darting around seeking a quick escape.
Yet it is possible to grapple back confidence even in the heat of these stressful moments, by using a few well-documented yet simple tools. Make them into a habit and you’ll embrace ever more nerve-wracking situations with quiet resignation knowing you can get your confidence back like a magician’s rabbit out of a hat. And what’s more confidence boosting than knowing that?
3 hassle-free confidence-boosters:
- Strike a power pose. Before or during a stress-inducing experience, if possible raise your arms above your head while lifting your chin and chest. This mimics the posture of leaders. When people win races they raise their arms above their heads. When faking a winning pose, our body’s chemistry starts to change to our advantage: cortisol, the anxiety-inducing hormone ebbs away and we get confidence-boosting hits of testosterone which helps us feel more capable and in control.
Even better: When we appear more confident, other people respond to us in ever more respectful ways. This has the added bonus of making us feel even more on top of things. Walk into a room with your head held high and others will defer to you.
- Just say stop! One of the negative results of losing our confidence is the internal dialogue we will have with ourselves. ‘I’m a terrible person’ we say or, ‘Of course I’m going to mess up, just like I always do.’ Consider a tip from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (C.B.T.). Among the many aspects of this practice, understanding that thoughts like these are the real cause of negative emotions such as panic and fear can trigger a low mood: the very opposite of the confidence we want to feel. By learning a powerful trigger word such as, Stop! or Enough! we can instantly cut through the white noise of our negative thinking, bringing ourselves back to the task at hand. These words give ourselves enough distraction to find something new for our minds to focus on.
Even better: for maximum benefit say Stop! or Enough! out loud whenever fear sets in and confidence fades. This is even more likely to shock the mind into new thinking patterns and finding new, more helpful neurological pathways. In turn, this new thinking can lead us to happier and more optimistic thoughts which automatically boost our confidence.
- And breathe out. Fear makes our breathing shallow and fast making us ready to run away. This has solid, evolutionary reasoning: that wolf looks hungry, let’s go! But this instinctive way of breathing keeps us in a state of high alert, scrambling our thinking and hindering our chances of being impressive during that scary presentation to the new boss. By training ourselves to breathe out on a longer count to our in-breath, we start to reverse this fight-or-flight response and thus calm ourselves down.
Even better: Keeping a simple paper bag handy can have real benefits to those prone to panic attacks. Hold the bag to your mouth and breathe in and out, ensuring sure your out breath is longer than your in breath. The sound of the paper expanding and contracting helps focus your mind on breathing rather than the racing thoughts your mind will be coping with. In less than a minute you will start to feel your panic ease.