A 7-step guide on how I improved my self-esteem in only a few months.
For most of my life, I felt under-confident. And I have never been comfortable when meeting with other people or talking to them.
When I went out with my first girlfriend for the first time, I almost bailed on her, and my face was so red she thought I was feeling sick. And years later, when I had my first job interview, I almost puked in front of the interviewer.
But things have changed now.
A couple of years ago, my historic soulmate left me. We had many shared friends, but I wasn’t comfortable seeing them, so I was forced to meet other people to rebuild my life. In those days, I realized I couldn’t be shy and uncertain. Meaningful connections required me to change my personality. So I had to become confident and talk to people with ease.
This is how my self-improvement journey started. And here, I will give you the complete guide on looking confident, even if you are not.
Confidence is an elusive trait
The first thing I did when trying to build up confidence was to collect information about self-confident people. In particular, I was interested in talking to women, so I read Models by Mark Manson, which taught me the fundamentals of confidence.
However, while reading, I noticed how elusive this trait was.
Appearing secure to others is enough effort to be recognized as a strong person. This behavior can boost your confidence even further, but it can crumble at the same speed.
Yet, if you can mimic it far enough, you can reach higher standards in your life and achieve glorious success.
“I am not who you think I am. I am not who I think I am. I am who I think you think I am.” — Thomas Cooley
So it becomes fundamental to convince yourself about being confident to create this type of image in your brain first and then in your peers.
Once you establish this position, there are many benefits you could enjoy.
For example, strong and independent people are more likely to succeed in human interactions and reach higher social statuses.
Many studies have shown the correlation between confidence, or self-esteem, and higher career successes. A study led by Justin Barclay found out how self-esteem has more impact on the career progress of a person than job satisfaction. Also, another study by Kathryn Hilgenkamp correlated confident threats such as independence, leadership, and competitiveness with higher career results.
However, faking confidence is not that easy, and you need a lot of training before throwing yourself in the middle of the crowd.
How to look confident and enhance your success rate
My path towards self-esteem took a couple of months. And the beginning was harsh, as it would be for everyone. But the level of confidence I reached is worth all the pain I felt when I was trying something new and failed.
So if you want to take this path seriously, renounce external opinions, and focus on yourself. Become self-centered for a moment, or at least try to. Take judgments out of the equation, and pursue what you think is good for you.
Did I convince you?
Then, here are the seven steps I used to leave my comfort zone and improve my self-esteem and confidence in only a couple of months.
1 — Practice power poses
In high school, I felt so much social anxiety I forgot how to walk many times. Some mornings, when I was going to the classroom, I had to analyze my walking and question myself if I was doing it correctly or not. I was so terrorized about others’ opinions of me that I even questioned my walking style.
However, until I practiced power poses, I didn’t care anymore about these things because I observed myself in the mirror and noticed nothing was wrong with my behavior. And I know it might seem lame, but power poses are the first step to feeling more confident with yourself.
I didn’t believe it, but the position of your body can influence your self-esteem and confidence positively or negatively. For example, poses with your body open to external stimuli will make you more confident, while those closed and protective will make you more insecure.
When interacting with others, an open body position is more reassuring and inviting. However, if you protect yourself, they will perceive you in defensive mode and be less interested in interacting with you.
If you want to learn how to power pose, you can watch Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk or check the exercises I linked to you below.
2 — Make eye contact
When you talk with someone, look them in the eyes. This was the best lesson I ever learned about confidence.
If you retain eye contact when you talk with people, they will perceive you as confident. Also, if you keep looking them in the eyes when they speak, they will feel listened to. So they will enjoy spending more time with you.
One exercise I was doing when improving my confidence was to initiate eye contact with anybody that would cross my eyes trajectory. I was commuting a lot by train at the time, so I had many chances of exercising while getting back home.
Each time, I tried to be the last one surrendering. And even if it was arduous for the first tries, I got used to it, and I had no problem maintaining eye contact.
3 — Think about moments of confidence
Most times, our confidence depends on the environment and the situation we live in, instead of our general level of self-esteem. Even the most confident people will have moments in which they feel like an outsider.
In these moments, having flashes of confidence becomes fundamental because it labels our feelings as temporary. And feeling unconfident in one situation doesn’t mean you always have low self-esteem.
So when you live in these situations, remember about moments in the past in which you were confident. This will reduce your stress level and make you enter a state of self-confidence that reflects your memory.
Many studies have shown a correlation between reliving positive moments and their reflection on the present. For example, CC van Schie discovered how vivid autobiographical memories enhance mood. In particular, individuals with lower traits of self-esteem can increase their parameters by using autobiographical memory.
4 — Change your style and try new things
A perfect exercise to test your confidence is to buy new clothes or accessories that you have never worn before and use them. This way, you will attract external attention to yourself and test your level of self-esteem when they compliment or criticize you.
Also, nothing speaks more self-confidence than seeing someone who doesn’t care about judgments and keeps wearing what pleases them.
For example, I remember buying a pair of circular sunglasses a few years ago. The first time I got out wearing them, I felt like everybody was observing me. And even if my closest friends did not support me, I fearlessly left my comfort zone and wore them habitually.
After a few iterations, they accepted my style, and some of them even appreciated me more. So I tried more things I found fascinating but never dared to wear. And in a short time, I became a flower shirt-dresser, and I bought 20 different shirts with unique motives to attract attention.
Nowadays, if somebody talks to me about my style, I feel confident. I am the only one wearing those things, so they cannot hurt me, not even if they criticize me. And I assure you, people love when you resist their opinion.
Studies have shown that what you wear has a direct impact on how people perceive you. So wearing shirts exposed to criticism and enduring them gives you an upper hand on this social contract.
5 — Speak clearly and slowly
A couple of years ago, I spoke so fast that nobody could understand me. I was so troubled when talking that people would hardly follow my stream of thoughts, which gave me many problems.
However, I worked on slowing down when speaking and now I talk more clearly and make myself more understandable. Unluckily, I didn’t master this part of my self-confidence as I wished, and sometimes I still rush words, but I have for sure improved.
Some fascinating exercises I remember doing for this type of improvement linked closely to diction and depth of voice. For example, I worked on the depth and slowness of my voice by learning to use my diaphragm. Also, I improved my diction with a simple exercise in which I took a pen in my mouth, bit it, and kept repeating an arduous word. Then, after a couple of repetitions, I would try the same exercise without the obstacle.
Surprisingly, my ability to repeat that word improved.
6 — Be supportive of your progress
Another helpful exercise was to recall how much I have improved and convince myself with my words. Besides strength poses, I repeated in front of the mirror emphatic affirmations addressed to my person.
For example, these are some of the sentences I wrote, mixed, and repeated.
You are stronger than anybody else.
Nobody can move you.
Your soul is a mountain.
And even if it seems stupid now, they made me powerful at the moment, where nobody was telling me those things.
7 — Use yours hands
As an acquired Italian, I learned to use my hands to explain concepts and emphasize my speeches. However, a couple of years ago, I didn’t know where to put them when speaking to people. I was so fearful of making the wrong gesture that I ended up moving them unnaturally and scared people away.
But how to place your hands is very important, as it is you pose. In What EveryBODY Is Saying, Joe Navarro analyzed how people kept their hands while talking and discovered those with low self-esteem tried to hide them. So we perceive them as unconfident. On the other hand, we perceive people gesticulating as more competent, and we trust them more.
So if you want people to perceive you as competent and confident, use your hands while talking.
A few years back, I never thought I could talk to an unknown person without someone forcing me. I didn’t even imagine I could enjoy spending time with people I do not know already. However, after a couple of months of trying these self-confidence techniques, I became one of the most talkative people in the room.
One thing that helped me the most in fighting my fears was eye contact and understanding nothing could have stopped me. Then, I learned how to speak clearly and deeply to deliver the correct message. But it was not enough, so I also exercised my power poses and gesticulation. This way, I became aware of my body language and that of the people around me.
So when I felt confident enough, I also tried to change my style to attract more people. I needed something unique to show, and style was the easiest way of making them realize I was worth speaking to.
Finally, I kept my motivation high by supporting my progress and thinking about my confidence overall. This is how I learned how to look confident, even if sometimes I was definitely not.
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Article first published on Mind Cafe.