This morning I went live on Facebook to talk about how to be more confident. I’ve struggled a lot with my own confidence, and over the last few years I’ve really improved on where I used to be. I thought I would share some tips to help people who are struggling with their own confidence:
I have never been what you would call a “confident” person; I was always terribly shy when I was younger. In fact, I probably didn’t start to become confident until well after S was born and I was in a position where I had to just get on and do things for myself. In the video I tell a story about the point where I knew that actually I was a good mother, and I think the confidence I now feel stems from that point.
In the video I share four basic things you can do to improve your confidence:
Step out of your comfort zone
It’s really easy to just stay where you feel comfortable; to never test your boundaries, to never move forward. I think as adults we have to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, otherwise we risk that little area of comfort shrinking. You might feel okay-ish going to the park every now and then, but if you leave it too long between visits, it becomes a little less than okay-ish and suddenly what was once just inside of your comfort zone is outside of it.
When you do something that you don’t feel one hundred percent confident about, it boosts your confidence. You get a buzz from doing something you weren’t sure you could manage. Many years ago I abseiled off the top of the local college. I am not a fan of heights, and didn’t sleep for about a week before the event; I was terrified. But I did it, and once I got to the bottom I felt fantastic. I still regularly say to myself: Come on Vicky; you abseiled off the top of the college and this is nothing in comparison!
Stepping out of your comfort zone is a great way to boost you confidence, but also to make your comfort zone a little wider. I’m sure if I’d gone back and abseiled off the college again the next day, and the day after and the day after, within a couple of weeks abseiling from a height would have become no big deal.
We’re not all about to do something quite that big, but even things like going to a networking event, saying hi to someone you don’t know or making a phone call you’re a bit nervous of, can all help you to increase those self imposed boundaries we all have.
Act as if the other person is the shy one
When you walk into a room filled with people and you’re terrified, it’s easy to focus on that feeling; and when you focus on it, it becomes bigger. When we pay attention to a bad feeling, it amplifies it, and we can end up turning around and running back to where we feel more comfortable.
A great way to avoid this happening is to focus your attention elsewhere. When I say we should act as if the other person is the shy one, I don’t mean we should do that thing where you put your head on one side and ask if the person is okay all the time. Instead, if we focus on making the other person feel at ease – whether they look like they need our support or not – it moves our attention away from how nervous or scared we feel. It also helps to put them at ease.
When you’re shy and nervous, it doesn’t always look that way from the outside. Sometimes when you’re shy and scared to talk to people, you actually just look aloof and a bit rude. When a child refuses to make eye contact and stands in the corner, we assume they’re shy. When an adult does it, our first thought is never, aww, she’s shy, how cute! Instead, we tend to assume that person is a bit of a bitch, too aloof to speak to us. If we want to avoid having people react like that, we have to find a way to join in the conversation and a great way of doing that is moving our focus away from how nervous or shy we feel.
Tell yourself you can
I don’t think any of us pays enough attention to how we speak to ourselves. If a friend spoke to me the way I speak to myself, I would have told them to get lost long ago. Instead, I’ve started telling that negative little voice in my head to get lost. (check out this post about being your own best friend)
When I’m nervous of going to a particular event or doing something, I don’t even allow that negative voice to pipe up. As soon as I’ve said, yes, I’ll go to that I start telling myself how great it’s going to be: I bet I’ll meet loads of cool people; I bet everyone will love what I have to say; I bet I’ll find at least one new client; this is going to be so much fun. Even if I don’t believe it to begin with, I keep saying it to myself so that the usual omg what was I even thinking, agreeing to do this, it’s going to be so awful thoughts don’t creep in.
Earlier this year, I pitched to a very successful business woman. I wanted to work with her, and I knew I could help but it was absolutely terrifying to essentially invite someone who is well known for being direct and unfalteringly honest, to critique my work. But I know I am good at what I do, so I took a deep breath and did it. And when she asked me to do a sample piece for her, I got on and did it. It was terrifying, but rather than think oh, there’s no way she’d want to work with me; she must get nobodies pitching to her all day every day I just got on with it and thought, what’s the worst that could happen! As it turned out, she was impressed and considers me to be quite talented. And now I work with her. If I had allowed that negative, whiney voice to creep into my head, I never would have sent the inital email.
Visualising sounds like one of those airy-fairy hippy things that only bonkers people do. I guarantee though, that if you ask any hugely successful person they will tell you they visualised their way there. So often when we’re thinking about something a bit scary in the future, we end up inadvertently visualising all the bad things that can happen. We don’t think to ourselves, right; now I’m going to visualise the terrible time I’m going to have but that’s what we end up doing, when we’re in the queue at tesco or on the bus or waiting for the kettle to boil.
Instead of allowing that to happen, consciously make the effort to squash that down any time it comes up, and replace it with a positive visualisation of what will happen. See yourself shaking hands with people and smiling; see yourself making new friends; see yourself getting a hearty round of applause after that presentation you agreed to give.
Many people (myself included) believe that by visualising something you can make happen; but even if you don’t believe that, just replacing your negative thinking with a more positive possibility can make you feel more confident about what’s coming.
Being more confident is an ongoing thing; it’s not like you can just flip a switch and hey presto, you’re Little Miss Confident. It’s something that always requires a bit of work and determination, for me at least. There are lots of things you can do to be more confident; these are just four that I find most useful right now.