Boost your Self-Confidence

Boost your Self-Confidence

Some of us were born with an amazing amount of self-confidence… and for those of us who were not there is hope:

Research has shown that self-perceptions are easy to change. In fact, during an experiment for my Master’s thesis, I was able to significantly change my participants’ self-perceptions regarding their attractiveness. What did I do? I just got them to write about their physical appearance in a positive way for 30 minutes! Bang!

In a similar vein, the new Mind Gym book on Relationships quotes an experiment where one group of people was manipulated into thinking of themselves as university professors. Another group was asked to think of themselves as hooligans. The amazing results: In a subsequent knowledge test the “professors” outperformed the “hooligans” dramatically.

Theses changes in self-perceptions are expected to be temporary… but what do you think would happen if you did an exercise like this every day?

Below, find my tips for boosting your confidence. By the way, don’t worry about putting all of those into practice! Choose one or two that are suitable for you. Then choose one or two different ones another week. Careful: if you are currently feeling very low or depressed, these exercises may have the opposite effect – in which case you should stop challenging yourself and seek professional help.

  1. Boost your confidence regularly. Improving your self-perceptions is like going to the gym: if you only do it once a year, it’s useless. So do something every day. Also, put some structures into place to ensure you hold yourself accountable to do your regular exercises (set aside a certain time of the day, tell your partner to remind you, set your alarm etc. etc).
  2. Self-acknowledgement journal: Every evening, write down three things you did well during the day. It could be something small you achieved (finally doing the dishes), something you learnt (how to use a new feature in Excel), a situation you feel you handled well at work or a random act of kindness (helping Julie with her presentation). Note that you may sit in front of your self-acknowledgement diary with a blank mind for the first couple of days. It doesn’t matter… keep going! Acknowledging yourself will become easier and more natural after some time.
  3. Find an acknowledgement-buddy. Research has shown that self-perceptions are more likely to change if you don’t only write about your wins, but talk about them with someone else. Do you have a friend with crappy self-confidence? Buddy up! Every evening, send each other emails with 3 situations you did well. An amazing exercise!
  4. On the tube practise the ABC of what you like about yourself: “I am attractive, bright, creative, dependable, effective… ” A similar exercise: While still in bed in the morning, reflect upon 10 things you like about yourself. What a way to start your day! Note that writing this down will make this exercise more effective! And talking about it will increase the effectiveness even further!
  5. When someone says you have done a good job at something, don’t play it down. Smile and say “Thank you!”
  6. Stop beating yourself up. Everybody makes mistakes or says embarrassing things from time to time. One of my best moments was calling Beethoven’s third symphony “Erotica” instead of “Eroica” in front of a large group of 15-year old students – a classic 8) Laugh about yourself and then move on!
  7. Observe the behaviour of confident people and then do as they do. How did they just approach the “big boss”? How did they introduce themselves? How did they shake their hand? Your confident colleagues can be your greatest teachers. Psychologist call this method “model learning”.
  8. Look at everyone, pause and smile! This is a trick a friend of mine told me. No matter whether you need to start a presentation or have run out of arguments in a discussion. This strategy will make others assume that you are REALLY confident. And it gives you time to relax and think.Try it – it works!
  9. Challenge yourself! According to the new Mind Gym book on “Relationships” Albert Ellis, one of the founders of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, practised talking to random women in a park to overcome his shyness. He is reported to have followed this exercise 130 times!!! Not in a desperate attempt to find a friend or the love of his life but to prove “to himself that rejection, though unpleasant, was not unbearable. There was no need to “awfulise” it. “Nobody vomited and ran away, ” he wrote. “Nobody called the cops.” (p. 67)
  10. Take a break! Have you ever experienced high levels of self-confidence after a great holiday? This is no coincidence. Make sure, you get enough sleep and enough breaks. Also ensure that you so something pleasant every day/ every week that makes you feel good about yourself. Life is too short to miss out on that.
  11. Find positive thoughts to replace the negative ones. If you notice that a thought is damaging you self-confidence, stop and ask yourself: “Is this thought useful? Is this thought really “true”? What could I be thinking instead that will make me feel more confident?” Get a coach to help you with this.
  12. Study and prepare. If you are not feeling confident when talking to others, prepare yourself for how to start and how to end a conversation. If you are going to an event, check who is coming and what they have done previously. Below are some suggestion for starting a conversation. Remember: others are also nervous. You don’t have to appear super-confident. Try one of the following:
  • Introduce yourself with a smile!
  • Say something neutral or positive.
  • “Hi, I’m John. Nice to meet you! I’m new to this event… do you know anyone?”
  • “This is a nice place, isn’t it?… Have you been here before?”
  • “Did you have to travel far to get here?”
  • “How did you hear about this event?
  • For further suggestions refer to the “Art of Conversation” chapter in Steven D’Souza’s book “Brilliant Networking”
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