Most of us are born relatively confident. I have a clear memory of being about five years old and treating an entire – poor, suffering – train carriage to a series of pop songs, performed loudly down the aisle with a plastic mic. If I did that now, I’d probably be kicked off for disturbing the peace – and rightly so. But that isn’t the point – the point is that we don’t enter the world with embarrassment or hangups. We develop them, our confidence slowly whittled away until we’re awake at night as adults, sweating over having to speak out loud for a bit in the office tomorrow.
Some are more confident than others, obviously – and those who are tend to reap the benefits. Others feel more relaxed around them. They’re able to try new things, and don’t care as much if they fail. They’re more attractive (when’s the last time you heard someone say their romantic type is “easily embarrassed”?). Indeed, while a lack of confidence might be a protection mechanism, it ironically often holds us back from properly fulfilling our potential. Obvious stuff, I know – but it bears repeating. To that end, here are some ways to activate confidence mode so you can level up for the year ahead.
Step out of your comfort zone
A lack of confidence is essentially when we allow our fear of the “what if?” to take over. What if everyone thinks I’m a freak at my new job and I’m shunned forever? What if I send that risky text and the recipient blocks me on the basis of being cringe? What if everyone sees my new hair and actively gags, in a bad way? An easy way to battle the “what if?” is to just do the thing, and see what happens, so that it no longer holds power over you. The more you realise that there was actually nothing to be afraid of, the more you’re likely to lean into new experiences.
“I personally developed my confidence by feeling the ‘fear’ but doing it anyway,” says Dr Mahrukh Khwaja, a psychologist, founder of wellness group Mind Ninja. “The more times I said ‘yes’ to opportunities that I felt a bit stressed about initially, and they went much better than I anticipated, I created a bank of positive experiences which really spurred me on.”
Pretend to be confident
The great thing about not being able to read each other’s minds is that nobody can tell whether you’re truly confident or just pretending – it looks the same. Use that to your advantage by acting like a confident person – matching someone’s gaze, speaking loudly and clearly, putting yourself forward – until you actually become one. Most people are too busy paying attention to themselves to notice the minutiae of your behaviour anyway.
Former Olympic athlete and professional ice skater Colin Grafton swears by this technique. “There have been many times in my life, whether it be in my skating career or personal life, where I felt I was diving into something way out of my league,” he says. “Each time I jumped into the deep end and succeeded. I may have been uncomfortable at first, but in turn realised I could accomplish anything. Even if I did not succeed immediately, I learned what I could do better and eventually was able to achieve the end goal. This same principle applies to self confidence. The more you practise, the better you become.” Which brings us to our next point…
Practise and practise again
You might think that some people are just confident, and others aren’t, and that’s just the way of the world, but… you’d be wrong. Confidence is a skill like any other, and skills can be developed and honed. “The more you practise being confident, the better you become at it,” says therapist and life coach Danielle Baron.