The more people I coach, the more fascinated I become with confidence, and the part it plays in how we relate to ourselves and others. Coaching can be a really valuable tool for developing personal and professional confidence on a permanent basis. It can also be highly effective as preparation for a particular event like an important conversation, performance, interview or speaking event. Here are my three other favourite ways to boost confidence:
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s theory initially sounded far-fetched to me, but her research has proved that just a few minutes of the power pose raises testosterone levels (making you feel more powerful) and reduces cortisone levels (making you feel less stressed). Most people accept that body language plays a larger role in communication than the actual words we say - we just didn't know that a few minutes of powerful body language in advance of a situation could have such a big impact. This discovery is brilliant for building confidence generally, and for specific situations such as job interviews and public speaking. I’ve tried it myself (mainly in the privacy of my own home, you’ll be relieved to hear) then continued to be consciously aware of how much space I am taking up as I walk into a room and sit down. Just being bold, strong and open with my physical gestures really does make me feel more confident.
You can also try taking a few minutes to envisage yourself in your most powerful pose - what position are you in? What are you wearing? Where are you? You can keep this powerful ‘superhero’ version of yourself in mind and draw on the image and feeling whenever you need it.
2. Read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
I first came across Brené Brown in another TED talk, on the power of vulnerability. Daring Greatly is essentially about having the courage to be vulnerable, and what can happen when we embrace our imperfections. The way Brené Brown sees it, vulnerability and being imperfect are not weaknesses, but an expression of courage. She argues that vulnerability leads to authenticity, and to what she describes as 'wholeheartedness'. Reading this book enabled me to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone and take some risks. It gave me a new perspective on failure - that it's not only ok to fail, it might even be good for building resilience.
3. Trust your inner confident self (or get an inner diva)
A few years ago I realised that however nervous I got before public speaking, however concerned that I might dry up and stand in silence, or freak out and shout rude words, there was a part of me that would make sure I didn’t fail. That part would ignore the churning stomach and nervous internal chatter, walk me to the front of the room, look out at my audience, and say what I wanted to say, while still being myself. The more I realised I had this grown up, self-assured, authentic, inner confident self that wouldn’t let me down, the more I could rely on it and the easier speaking in public became.
I recently learned that I’m not the only one to have this idea - apparently in her early days of performing Beyonce created an alter-ego called Sasha Fierce to give herself the courage to project attitude on stage. And on Desert Island Discs last week Kylie Minogue talked about being introduced to the concept of wearing an 'ego jacket' by Michael Hutchence. My inner confident self isn’t quite diva-ish enough to have her own name or clothing yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying dreaming up possibilities...