Walking with confidence, heads held high is something we all aspire to do, but for many of us it doesn’t exactly come naturally. Men are trained not to show weakness, but we often live in a critical environment, so maintaining confidence – either socially or professionally – can be a difficult thing to do. But the good news is that confidence can be learned and projected. For psychologist and life coach Dr Cliff Arnall, confidence is also something that’s actually hard to over-do.
‘Confidence as we understand it in adults is totally learnable’
Confidence Can Be Learned
‘There are some small, innate, differences between arousal and energy levels,’ explains Arnall, ‘but confidence as we understand it in adults is totally learnable.’ That, clearly, is excellent news for those of us who struggle with low self-esteem. Improving confidence is about taking practical steps to feel more capable, empowered and important as a person.
Some practical tips include using positive affirmations, such as “I can do this,” or “I am who I want to be”; reducing stress through things like exercise, meditation and sleep; taking the time to do things you enjoy, and crucially, purging your life of negativity.
Learn How To Give Zero Fs
Learning to not care what others think is, of course, easier said than done, especially in a world governed by popularity. Much of social media’s success can be attributed to the human need for the approval of others, but finding a way to prioritise your sense of self over the perception of other people is essential if you want to live with greater confidence.
‘The opposite of confidence is fear,’ says Arnall. ‘Being in fear is a common, and rubbish, way to live. The fear associated with low confidence often revolves around what other people think of you, so the goal here is to get to the point where you simply don’t give a fuck. What matters is what you think of yourself.’
Surround Yourself With Positivity
To create a better image of yourself, Arnall has some practical advice. ‘Start by making a list of your strengths and weaknesses and choosing your top three for each list,’ he says. ‘Then regularly remind yourself of your number one strength, and decide whether you are going to keep your number one weakness or change it. If you are going to change it, then change it properly with focused determination.’
His next tip, which he describes as ‘brutal but fantastically effective’ is not for the faint hearted. ‘Get rid of the toxic people in your life,’ he says. ‘This includes long-term partners, brothers, sisters and parents. If there has to be contact with toxic people while you make plans to remove yourself, then inoculate yourself by spending the least amount of time with them.’ His point being confidence can never be achieved if the people in your life put you down or create too much negativity – you have to block out the haters.
Fake It Till You Make It
In a work scenario, in particular – meeting a new client, or pitching to potential investors – confidence in yourself and in your product is paramount. If you’re not naturally confident, however, Arnall has a few tips to project confidence even if the reality is a little more reserved.
‘Pretending to be confident will result in some positive feedback and that, in turn, boosts confidence,’ he says. ‘Work on increasing the volume and tempo of your voice, if that’s something you want to do to improve your work encounters. It’s also a good idea to maintain eye contact with any new clients and offer a non-limp handshake.’
Of course, he points out that ‘it is equally important to be true to yourself.’ Projecting confidence, rather than making a concerted effort to improve it, is only sustainable in the short-term.
‘People with very high levels of confidence tend to be the quietest people in the room’
Don’t Confuse Arrogance With High Confidence
The distinction between confidence and arrogance is an important one, especially because Arnall says there is no such thing as overconfidence. ‘I think overconfidence is a misnomer,’ he says. ‘High confidence is a very good thing. Arrogance is a bad thing. High confidence is attractive and draws people closer. Arrogance is repellent and pushes people away. In my experience people with very high levels of confidence tend to be the quietest people in the room.
‘They are very good at preserving energy and speaking only when necessary. They don’t bother with ego or petty competitiveness. People who know themselves very well usually have very high levels of confidence, and a complete absence of arrogance. As confidence grows, so too does self awareness, emotional intelligence and self knowledge. Meanwhile, ego, defensiveness and fear all subside.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch this video from Practical Psychology explaining how to care less about what other people think of you.
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