“I wish I was more confident.” It’s a sentence that we’ve probably all uttered at some point in our lives. I know I have. There’s no denying that confidence is a pretty key component to success in life. And yet, understanding how to be confident remains an elusive element for many people, particularly for women.
The evidence of this is all the more pronounced in the office. Studies show that the gender pay gap is partly because women simply don’t ask for raises. And when they do, they request up to 30% less than their male counterparts!
It’s not because of a lack of competence. But the reality is that competence alone isn’t enough.
The good news is, there is a way to take control of your self-confidence. But to learn how to be confident, we need to first examine where it comes from.
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What exactly is confidence?
It’s easy enough to say that confidence is an assurance in yourself and your actions. So perhaps a better question is, what is confidence made of?
Is it genetics? A choice? Or a skill?
According to Claire Shipman and Katty Kay’s book, “The Confidence Code,” it turns out to be a little bit of all these things.
There is definitely a physical aspect to it. Some people are genetically wired to be more confident, particularly in men. Female brains are actually structured a little differently too. For example, everyone has this small, almond-shaped section in the brain called the amygdala. This is our brain’s centre for emotions, memory – and survival instinct.
Guess what? Women’s amygdalas tend to be bigger than men’s. This means us ladies are more prone to worry, anxiety, and second-guessing ourselves.
But our genes and gender are just the foundation. You can build on that foundation by taking action.
Here are a few strategies on how to be confident in any area of your life:
There needs to be a process behind what you’re doing. For example, if you’re feeling anxious about a presentation you have to do at work, preparedness can boost your confidence. Practice in front of your friends or family, or watch Youtube tutorials on effective presentations. The more prepared you are for something, the more self-assured you’ll be when the time comes to act.
Fear of failure holds so many people back from ever trying anything. But the reality is, you can’t build confidence without taking action. For many people, getting started is arguably the hardest aspect of building your confidence.
But taking baby steps is totally okay! Set yourself up for success by taking small steps and enjoying every small win. You’ll find that it has a snowball effect; the small successes turn into big successes.
Successful people fail. And smart people struggle. That is 100% the truth. I truly believe that it’s through struggle that people are able to forge confidence. Because when you finally overcome that great obstacle, the feeling of achievement that is born from that simply doesn’t compare to something that was obtained with ease.
Indecisiveness is a total confidence killer. The longer you waffle on making a call, the more you damage your self-confidence. That’s not to say you should be making rash decisions. Weigh the pros and cons, but then make a choice and stand behind it.
This is particularly important in the business world. Even if it’s the wrong choice, in most cases it’s better than making no choice at all. At least when you make the wrong choice you can learn from it!
Attempting, struggling, and making decisions can all end up in failure sometimes, and that’s totally normal. In fact, I recently listened to a podcast where they define entrepreneurship as failing over and over again until you learn what works and what doesn’t. The key to learning how to be confident is not giving up when you fail. The most confident people have tons of failures under their belts!
Okay, yes this sounds a little bit silly, but there’s some legitimate science behind this. Some studies show that taking a broad stance with your hands on your hips (a al “wonder woman pose”) for two minutes a day can boost your confidence. You can try this pose before a presentation or meeting to fire yourself up for success!
Self-care is pretty crucial to keeping that amygdala quiet, and a big part of that is just getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can not only have a negative effect on your physical and mental health, but it also increases your irritability and sensitivity. Not exactly conducive to being our most confident self.
You knew this one was going to crop up here, right? Another form of self-care is taking care of your physical health. Exercising keeps the serotonin flowing, boosting your mood and outlook.
Personally, I credit exercise more than anything else for helping me learn how to be confident. When you achieve a feat of fitness – whether it’s running a race or mastering your first push-up – the rush you get really does make you feel like you can do anything.
Spending quality time with friends is shown to boost your confidence. True friends are your personal cheerleaders and your support system when the going gets tough. They may also be able to see strengths in you that you can’t see in yourself!
I never really did like the term “fake it til you make it”, and The Confidence Code reinforced my views on this. Trying to pretend or “put on an act” is more likely to have the opposite effect.
Personally, I like to think of it more like, “Do it before you overthink it.” Don’t let your fears prevent you from acting, but your efforts should always come from a genuine place. Authenticity is the key to success!
Kay and Shipman’s book summarizes that confidence is something that has a lot of moving parts and how your confidence manifests may not look like someone else’s. Some people’s confidence seems to be larger than life while other people emit a more quiet type of confidence that is equally dynamic in its own way. So don’t stress about what confidence is “supposed” to look like because there’s no “right” or “wrong” way.
Your individuality is what makes confidence an art!
If you’re struggling with how to be confident in any area of your life, I would strongly recommend reading The Confidence Code, along with these other personal growth books I reviewed earlier this year. Almost all of them address the matter of confidence and are extremely valuable reads!