When it comes to boosting confidence, we hear the same pieces of advice all the time:
- “Be strong.”
- “Believe in yourself!”
- “Just think positively.”
The problem with these phrases is that they assume people can simply build up courage on their own to achieve their goals. It makes us think that if we just put in the effort and try hard enough, we can become confident.
A lot of the times, we can’t.
Conventional wisdom states that we need to believe first, then act. For example, if we recognize our self-worth, then we can go talk to that person. If we recognize all the great ideas swimming around in our heads, then we can speak up in meetings, and so on.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get stuck on that first step. We spend so long trying to believe in ourselves that we never feel quite ready to get to the next stage of acting on our thoughts.
But what if I told you that the steps take place in a different order?
According to the behavior-attitude principle, we align our actions and beliefs by changing one or the other to maintain consistency. So instead of modifying your beliefs to change your actions, try reversing the two. Act first, and then believe in what you do.
When you change the way you act, you get different feedback from yourself and the people around you.
Gradually, these responses change your mental self-image. Together, your appearance and your internal thoughts form a positive cycle that feed one another.
Let’s look at three things you can do to start feeling and acting more confident.
1. Strike a power pose.
When you change your posture, you change the way you think. Posing in a way that denotes confidence can make you feel more powerful on the inside.
High-power poses include raising your chest, lifting your head and placing your hands on your hips or up towards the sky. Lower-power poses involve making yourself appear smaller by hunching, crossing your arms and curling up.
2. Listen to the way you describe yourself.
Photo by Tanja Nikolaenko/Shutterstock.com
Every time you have a thought, a synapse fires a chemical to another synapse to transmit the information that you’re thinking about. When this happens repeatedly, the synapses grow closer together, making it easier for your brain to trigger this thought automatically. In a way, your brain rewires itself to match what you tell yourself.
Imagine constantly saying “I can never be as good as that person” or “I don’t have what it takes.” Your brain will build a shortcut for these thoughts. Your self-esteem gets pushed down, and you give up easily on things.
If you catch yourself having negative thoughts, rephrase those sentences. For example:
- You’re not terrible at a skill. You simply need to put in the work to become better.
- Someone’s criticism doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person. There will always be negative opinions regardless of what you do, so keep doing what you believe is best.
- Things are not hopeless. You’ve hit a temporary setback that you will figure out how to get past.
Stop focusing on things that are outside your control. Concentrate instead on improving what’s within your control.
3. Evaluate how you dress.
Not only does dressing better change others’ perceptions of you, but it changes the way you see yourself.
A study found that wearing formal clothing increased someone’s feeling of power, along with increased long-term strategizing and creativity. It increases testosterone levels, which gives you the confidence needed during important moments such as negotiations and meetings.
Of course, wearing business attire all the time isn’t practical. But it does raise the point about awareness of your appearance and the relationship between clothing and perception. Seeing is believing. That applies to how you perceive yourself, too.
Act Confident, Then Believe It
Many of us like to say that it’s the inside the counts. While that’s true, it’s important to note that the way we act and dress externally can change how we feel and think. Being confident isn’t just about having that belief planted inside your head. It’s about changing what we think by changing what we do first.
When you start behaving like a confident person, the rest of you follows and you eventually come to believe it.