I used to have this problem – not being confident. In fact, I did not acknowledge that I was not confident but if there was a challenging situation, whether involving talking to a new person, introducing myself, presenting something at work or even speaking up – I would try to avoid it. And, if I would do it, it would be very painful, for both myself and my audience.
However, I no longer feel the same way. I can confidently say that today I am feel more confident than I was 7 years ago. Now I can begin conversation with anyone anytime and anywhere (although I still do not like small talk), I can and I do present many things at work for various audiences (for example, on Friday I delivered 2 presentations – one to 30 people and the other one to 20 but audience included directors from multiple departments) – without preparing, and I did it without even worrying or stumbling, I can also clearly communicate with anyone and speak up about my likes and dislikes.
It does not mean it takes 7 years to become confident, but here are some tips that can help you feel more confident and actually become more confident in life – both at work and in your personal life.
- Begin learning something new. It can be a new skill or a new activity and may not be even related to your goal. For example, learning to drive made me confident at work even though it has nothing to do with what I do at my job. However, I would arrive at work full of energy and having a can-do attitude – after all, I just drove on a highway! And that had a spillover effect on other things in my life. What it actually does is that it expands your comfort zone and, as you learn new skills or try new things, the world around you does not look as threatening anymore.
- Increase your expectations of others . One of the reasons why I used to be ‘shy’ is the fact that I would not see myself as someone who should be treated with respect by everyone around me, at all times. I mean, of course, I would assume that my standard was for everyone to treat me with respect. But what about people of higher rank at work/higher social status/elderly/celebrities/etc.? Once you assume equality regardless of who these people are, you begin standing up for yourself – your voice will change, your posture will change and you would not allow others to talk down to you. Do not be a pushover. I used to allow others to put me on hold when speaking on the phone, or to make me wait…now I would hang up, keep walking, do other things – because my time is as valuable as theirs. Also, if a woman does not respect herself – men feel it and think that they have no reason to respect her either (not all men but men of a questionable character).
- Develop new, higher standards for yourself. To be confident you need to have higher standards of yourself. Expect more of yourself and sooner. If you expect to buy your first property in ten years, or get the promotion in five years – this is how long it will take you to achieve these goals. The issue is, if the goal is too far in the future, I do nothing – after all, what is the point of saying no to myself today and begin saving if the house purchase is for future me – the one who would be much older and may not even need a house?
- Always have goals and know what you would like to achieve. I do it not only because I like to have a list or a vision board – I do it because it adds meaning to my life. I am not someone who ‘floats’ through life and takes whatever life offers. Once you know where you are going, you take control over your life and you set the direction of your life. Yes, things do not always go according to the plan but if you are doing all you can to achieve your goal then the universe will also play along.
- Begin making small talk with strangers. Of course, this applies to safe situations, For example, I challenged myself to always make small talk to strangers when taking elevator to and from work. It was 15th floor so it took some time to get there. However, the most interesting thing happened – strangers became friendly people, awkward silence in elevator became an opportunity to learn something new about places to visit, and I finally stopped feeling like I am imposing on others by approaching them first.
- When presenting – focus on the message. This point is relevant if you have to do presentations at your work or deliver speeches. This may not apply to everyone. However, at my work this happens almost daily. I used to read off the slides completely. Then I used to write notes for myself and read only notes instead. Now I deliver effective presentations while engaging my audience without preparing. I do this because I know why I am delivering the presentation, every part has a point. Instead of thinking about my voice or what people will think of me, I focus on the message I am trying to communicate across. As Chanel said, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.”
- All fears and worries are in your head. This one I learned at the interview. I would answer the questions and in my head it was chaos- panic, all kinds of negative voices like ‘this is all wrong!’, or ‘not the right point!’. Then, I got feedback (after getting a job) where I was told how everyone was impressed with what I was saying and that I always deliver good presentations. I almost wondered if they were talking about the same interview. This is all to tell that the fears and worries are in your head – they are not visible to others! So, next time you hear a negative voice in your head – challenge it to something positive. Know that most often than not, your anxiety is not even visible to others.
- Do not hold yourself back. The biggest ‘win’ for me was to learn to say when and what I like and dislike something. Being able to speak up is the most freeing feeling in the world! The way to do it – just begin doing it! You can start it with people you trust the most – e.g., your partner/spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, relatives… People that need to be in your life will respect and value your feelings and will not make you uncomfortable on purpose. It is also a good test of healthy relationship. Now, I do not even have a problem to tell someone at work if I do not like something they do. That may not sound like a lot but that’s something the old me would never do, not in a million years! However, when I did it the sky did not fall, and the person just recognized the error and thanked me for the feedback. Now, imagine, if I would not communicate what I did not like. It would continue bothering me but I would not let it out, keeping it inside and lowering my self-esteem every time…and then I would regret not speaking up and would begin feeling even worse! This cycle needs to be broken because it is not a healthy thing to begin with.
- Write down all your achievements and experiences, all the wins and kind words. Whether you got an award in grade 3 for being most creative, a nice birthday wish from a friend or you make the best salad – write it down, everything counts! All those great small and big wins make you who you are – cherish them! You will instantly feel better.
- Become happy with who you are. Lack of confidence can be there if you are not happy with parts of your life, your appearance or lifestyle. Whatever it is, identify it and address it – it will change how you perceive yourself.
- Put effort in your appearance. Knowing you look good will instantly add confidence to your voice!
- Find your inspiration. Who is your role model? Is there a celebrity or someone you admire who behaves in the way you would like to be? Find a picture of that person and add them to the vision board and imagine yourself being that person. Just project it. For example, let’s say you like how Beyonce behaves. When you are in a situation that requires you being confident – think about what would Beyonce do in this situation? Would she allow someone to talk down to her? Would she allow someone to treat her a certain way? No? Here is your answer – channel your inner Beyonce and show them your new standards! At first you will find some people shocked. However, soon they will get used to the new you – and will treat you in the way you see yourself.