How to Be More Confident
Confidence isn’t a personality style, it’s a skill.
Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, loud or quiet, excited or even-keeled, having confidence is vital to succeeding in business, in entrepreneurship and in life.
My mom, Darlene, is a great example of this. She’s confident enough to speak up for herself and stand for what is right. Her confidence fuels her big goals. It also keeps her going when she gets knocked down. Mom really believes she can do whatever she sets her mind to. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”—and with mom, there’s always both.
Because of her, I’ve become a self-assured, confident woman myself—and that doesn’t mean I never experience self-doubt! It just means that, like Mom, I am willing to go for it and give it a try—regardless of what it is. But even if you don’t have a Darlene in your life, you can still learn how to be more confident.
We all know someone who seems naturally confident. The way they can sway a room, carry on a conversation, or follow their gut is something we all admire. But the truth is, they weren’t born with some predetermined “confidence gene.” Confidence isn’t a personality style, it’s a skill. And, lucky for all of us, it’s a skill that can be learned.
So how do you become confident?
Three Areas to Cultivate Confidence
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford
At the 1952 Summer Olympics, a British athlete named Roger Bannister broke a world record for running a mile in under four minutes. Prior to that, sportscasters and experts agreed that running a mile in under four minutes was impossible—but guess what? Once Bannister did it, it only took 46 days for someone else to beat his time and set a new record! Since then, many have broken the record and have actually shaved 17 seconds off the fastest mile.
So what happened in 1952 that changed what was possible?
No external factors had changed. The way he trained wasn’t even unique or revolutionary from what anyone else was doing. The only difference was that Bannister set his mind to overcoming what he described as a “psychological barrier.”(1) He said, “It is the brain, not the heart or lungs, that is the critical organ.”
And once that psychological barrier was removed, everyone felt confident that they, too, could beat a four-minute mile. He redefined “impossible” by sheer willpower.
Whether you realize it or not, the words you speak shape your beliefs about yourself—and what others believe about you.
Here’s a scenario we’ve all been part of: Someone kindly says, “I love your dress. You look great!” And my reaction is, “Oh, this old thing? I got it at Target on the clearance rack.”
If I’ve done it once, I’ve done it a thousand times. Someone gives me a compliment, and I downplay it. Someone says something nice, and I dismiss it. Someone encourages me, and I simply shrug it off.
But if I’m being honest with myself, really honest, that dress does look great—that’s why I bought it!
I know I’m not the only one that does this—I watch my friends, family and coworkers do it all the time. Why is our response always in opposition to the nice thing that the other person said?
For many of us, it comes down to insecurity and a lack of confidence.
We are our own worst critics. And our dismissive responses are partially, if not fully, what we really believe about ourselves. That’s unfortunate, because our insecurities are so obviously exposed through our responses.
Of course, we also always want to be gracious and humble, so we often shrug off the praise in an effort to keep our egos in check. The only problem with this is it’s not real humility. Rick Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Life, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
It might help to think of it this way: When we downplay compliments, we aren’t just dismissing the truth in their statement; we’re dishonoring the person saying it. We’re ignoring their efforts to encourage and, at the same time, doing real damage to our own sense of self.
This lack of confidence in the words we use spills over into every area of our lives. For example, we apologize when there’s actually no reason to. Have you ever apologized for:
- Speaking up in a meeting? “I’m sorry, I just wanted to say . . .”
- Charging what you’re worth in your small business? “I know it’s kind of pricey, sorry . . .”
- Asking a server at a restaurant for a refill? “Sorry to bother you, but when you get a chance . . .”
If we apologize when there’s no reason to, it demonstrates a lack of confidence.
Additionally, studies show that women are more likely than men to apologize for trivial things like these.(2) The problem is that while we’re saying sorry all the time, we’re planting a seed in someone else’s mind that we have something to be sorry for when, more often than not, we actually don’t. And whether we realize it or not, the words we speak form our beliefs as well as what others believe about us. Using weak, insecure words damages not only how others view us, but also how we view ourselves.
Your body language “can significantly change the outcome of your life.” – Amy Cuddy
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has this amazing TedTalk (below) where she explains how animals express power and dominance by making themselves larger. They stretch out, get bigger and literally make themselves take up more space. But when an animal feels powerless, they do the opposite: They scrunch up and make themselves small.
We do the same thing as humans. “We close up,” Amy says. “We don’t want to bump into the person next to us.”
In her research, she found that confident people (as well as animals) have higher levels of testosterone. She conducted experiments to see if people could cause their levels of testosterone to rise simply by exhibiting a “high power pose”—basically, making themselves bigger instead of smaller. So think shoulders back, arms and legs relaxed, confident in their space. They held this pose for just two minutes.
What were the results?
After just two minutes of posing this way, the participants’ testosterone levels went up by 20%!(3)
We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it,” and this is a great, proven example of how you really can do that through body language. If you want to cultivate confidence, change your mind, change your words, and change your body language.
Five Ways to Get More Confident
Get secure (in who you are).
That means that you might make a mistake or fail, but you are not a failure. It means that someone might disagree with you, but it doesn’t shake you up or rattle you.
For example, let’s say that I’m in a meeting with the Dave Ramsey (a-hem, #1 best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio-show host and very big personality) and we don’t agree on something—a project, event, decision, whatever. I am confident enough in who I am and whatever ideas I’m presenting that I’ll make a case for them, even if he doesn’t agree. Now, my idea or input might not ultimately win, and that’s okay. I still contribute it with confidence. And I never walk out of a meeting like that (and there have been lots by the way!) thinking that he doesn’t like me.
Why? Because I’m secure in who I am.
When you know who you are and you’re secure in your identity, you’re more willing to speak up, take risks and try new things! Self-confidence is knowing that if it doesn’t go well, it doesn’t take away from who you are.
When you’re secure in who you are, the people around you can’t help but notice. And they’ll like you more and respect you for it. See what I mean in the video below.
In any situation where the rules aren’t clear and the path isn’t marked, you have two choices.
You can assume that you can’t—that you’ll get in trouble, it’s breaking some rule somewhere, or it’s not allowed.
Or you can assume that you can. You don’t know if you don’t try, and what’s the worst that can happen? Someone corrects you and tells you no?
I’ve always been a person that assumes that I can. I’m an optimist to a fault, and I see rules as suggestions to be followed most of the time. In fact, all of the things I’ve ever achieved in my life happened because I had the nerve to ask for it and go for it.
Confidence doesn’t mean you’re positive that it’s going to turn out perfectly—it just means you’re positive you’re going to try. Believe the best and assume you can.
It’s perfectly natural to be nervous in a new environment or to feel overwhelmed when taking on a new challenge. After all, you’ve never done it before!
Combat the fear by faking it ‘til you feel it. Use the principles Amy Cuddy talked about: Put your shoulders back and stand up tall. And don’t forget to dress for success, because studies show the clothes you wear have a direct effect on how secure and confident you feel.(4)
Until you feel like you belong, just act like you belong. Eventually you’ll actually feel it, too.
You know when it’s really easy to not feel confident? When you just don’t know what you don’t know.
A few months ago, I was writing a script for a training video in the Business Boutique Academy. The topic of the video was inspired by an Academy member who wanted to know how to determine whether her business should be a nonprofit or for-profit company. And to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what to tell her.
But I had access to someone who would.
So I went to my leader, Dave Ramsey, and asked for his advice. He unpacked the whole thing for me, breaking down the pros and cons and giving me a wealth of new information. Once I was equipped with that, I was confident in my ability to answer that woman’s question.
And the next time someone asked me about that topic, I nailed the answer. Sometimes all you need to do to gain confidence is to get help!
Nothing builds confidence like experience.
Education is theory, but experience is real-life application. Education is classes, books, conferences and certifications—and those are great. But nothing will be as valuable for you as gaining experience in whatever area you lack confidence in.
After you’ve done the thing once—led the company meeting, published your first blog, coached your first client—your confidence in your ability to do it again soars. Just do it scared, and then your confidence will take off.
The Benefits of Being More Confident
It probably comes as no surprise that people who are more confident see more positive results in their life. High self-acceptance and self-esteem are directly related to overall happiness, and our level of self-confidence heavily influences the decisions we make about our careers and even our relationships. (5, 6)
For example, several years ago there was this guy in my running group who pursued me tirelessly. I repeatedly told him that nothing was going to happen between us, ever. Even when he would directly share his intentions to date me, I was always very clear in my response that it wasn’t going to happen.
“In fact,” I assured him, “I am going to marry someone else.”
I thought that this direct announcement, strange as it may sound to say out loud, would surely get my point across. But to this day, if you were to ask that guy how it made him feel, he would say, “Oh, I felt great. I knew it was going to happen.”
Call it extreme confidence or plain delusion, but this guy was onto something. After seven months of hanging out nonstop, becoming best friends, and turning him down repeatedly, something in me changed.
And today, that guy is my husband, Matt.
(And by the way, Matt is an introvert who is quiet, steady, practical and patient. And you know what? He’s insanely confident. Like I said, confidence isn’t a personality style—it’s a skill!)
The Confidence Muscle
If you only take one thing away from this topic of confidence, I hope it’s this: Confidence is not something you’re either born with or you aren’t. It’s not even something you can only have if you had a perfect childhood, were popular in high school, or have been groomed your whole life for leadership.
Confidence is a skill you can develop over time. It’s like a muscle: If you never use it, it’s weak at first. But with some practice and exercise, that muscle will become stronger and using it will become easier. Remember, fake it ‘til you feel it! Before you know it, the feelings will be authentic. You’ll feel better, stronger, and—most of all—more confident.
Developing and projecting confidence is easier than you think—and a big part of that begins with how you present yourself. We feel our best when we look our best!
In one of my podcast episodes, How to Present Yourself and Dress for Success, I’ll teach you how to dress for success with intention. You will be amazed at what you can (and will) achieve!