Who’d have thought that singer Adele would get so nervous before she goes on stage that she frequently throws up, or that Wimbledon Champion Serena Williams grew up comparing herself unfavourably to big sister Venus? It can be so easy to assume that celebrities and public figures ooze confidence. Yet scratch beneath the surface of even the most outwardly confident person and you’ll find that often they’re just the same as us underneath it all. Hoping to be liked. Concerned we may get ‘found out’. Worried that we’re not good enough.
Whilst we may be born with different levels of confidence (just look at a room of toddlers and see how differently they all behave in social situations), one of the main qualities that confident people have is that they’ve worked on building their confidence and have strategies that help them cope.
Over half of the women that we surveyed at Mumager said that they felt less confident when returning to work from their maternity leave. So if you’re in need a confidence boost – whether its stepping back into work on the first day, delivering a presentation to your team or simply asking the waiter in the restaurant to put your salad dressing on the side here are our top tried and tested tips:
- Look good – feel good
There’s nothing like having a bad hair day or turning up at an event being inappropriately kitted out to shake your confidence. Taking time to plan an outfit and make an effort with appearance helps us to feel better about ourselves. This doesn’t have to mean full-on power dressing and face full of make-up. It can be as simple as making sure things fit well and that we look groomed – so no scuffed heels or chipped nail varnish.
- Avoid comparisons and focus on what you are good at
As Oscar Wilde said ‘Be yourself – everyone else is taken’. You have your own unique set of strengths and talents that make you who you are. Whilst it can be helpful to have a role model to learn from, comparing ourselves to others often leaves us feeling inadequate. Plus, we never really know what another person is thinking or feeling, or what else may be going on for them.
- Get perspective
When something’s making you feel nervous ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that can happen’? For most of us the chances are that no-one is going to die or get hurt. At worst someone might say ‘no’ or may snub us. Once you’ve faced the worst, anything else doesn’t seem that big a deal.
Smiling may be the last thing you feel like doing – however it’s worth the effort. Not only do you release the feel-good endorphins into your body when you smile, you also attract people towards you.
- Imagine yourself confident
Pick someone you admire and who you think oozes self-confidence. What do they say and do? How would they act in a given situation? Now see if you can replicate some of what they do and see how it feels. I once had to walk into a board room full of men and deliver a really tricky and challenging presentation. Taking a deep breath I thought of Samantha from Sex and the City and asked myself what she would do. Whilst I didn’t take on her full persona it definitely helped me to walk in with my head held high and feel like I deserved to be there.
- Ask for and take a note of feedback
Many organisations (and homes!) have a culture of only giving you feedback when something has gone wrong. If positive encouragement is in short supply – ask for it. You don’t even have to mention the ‘f’ word (that’s feedback by the way). Simply ask ‘how am I doing? What do you think is going well? What could I improve?’ Any time you get a nice email thanking you for something or giving you some positive praise – keep it in a special “Feedback Folder”. When you’re having a bad day or your confidence is lacking dip in and remind yourself of how good you are at your job.
- Prepare (and then prepare some more)
Walking into any situation feeling as if you’re well prepared is an instant confidence boost. Feeling like you know your presentation inside out or that you’ve thought about what you want to say helps you to believe in yourself.
- Power Pose
When we’re nervous our levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase and levels of the confidence hormone testosterone decrease. Harvard Psychologist Amy Cuddy has found that we can trick our bodies into feeling more confident by adopting what she calls a Power Pose and holding it for just 2 minutes. I’ve been using this tactic every time I stand up to deliver in front of a group or before a big meeting for over a year now – and it works. Click on this link here to watch her entertaining and informative TED Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en
At a recent IMAGE networking event Ann O’Leary (CEO of Vodafone Ireland) encouraged all of us to ask ourselves why we’re so afraid? Why we think we’re not good enough? She went on to say “you have to believe that you are good enough. No-one goes into a job being able to do it to 100%. Accept that there will always be things to learn. And if you get it wrong – what’s the worst that can happen?” As women our lack of confidence often holds us back -research shows that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. As Richard Branson said “if someone offers you an amazing opportunity but you’re not sure you can do it, say yes, then learn how to do it later”.
So – what are you going to do today to boost your own self-confidence? The more you do it the more you believe it – and the easier it gets. Let us know how you get on!