Self-doubt is one of the top obstacles that hold many of us back from achieving the quality of life and success we seek.
As someone who has regularly struggled with self-confidence (don’t we all?) and because my mission is to help others live more confident and connected lives, I am constantly pulling from a toolkit of quick self-confidence boosts.
Following are several simple, immediately applicable ways you can increase your confidence. You may have heard of “life hacks” and “productivity hacks” which are easy ways to make life better. The tools below are “confidence hacks” to quickly raise your confidence. Apply these hacks to take yourself to the next level in your communications including having more control in your career path, negotiations, speaking up and challenging yourself to pursue what you really want for your life.
Interspersed within the hacks are several resources with research that examines how women and men are challenged with self-confidence in different ways. There are links throughout for learning more. My call to action is that we become more aware of not only how we hold ourselves back but how we inadvertently hold others back when we don’t participate in and foster working environments that support confidence.
The following Confidence Hacks are organized under these 5 Cs:
- Core (mind and body)
To download a sheet for taking notes, click here >> Claim Your Confidence Notesheet
Clarity (knowing what you want, figuring out how you’ll get there)
- Do your research (e.g. what qualifications are required for a higher level position)
- Gain experience (how could you gain experience, mentor type connections, help on a project)
- When you are sufficiently prepared, the more confident you’ll feel. Note that I said sufficiently. Over-preparation and waiting until you feel 100% prepared can become procrastination. Remind yourself that if you wait until 100% ready, you won’t ever take action because there is always more you could do. (Note that women tend to underestimate their qualifications and therefore unnecessarily hold themselves back.)
- Informational interviews. Find out what you want to know to help you determine what you aspire to for the next steps of your career.
- Practice making quicker decisions, gradually getting bolder as you go. A trait of many confident people is to not obsess over making decisions. They make a choice and then course correct as needed. (This one has been challenging for me. I’m better but I continue practicing. Menus are an easy way for me to practice. Instead of obsessing over the myriad of choices, I give myself a small window of time to make a decision and then assure myself that it didn’t have to be the perfect decision.) Click to learn more about how the length of time for decision-making affects confidence.
- Self-reflection. Gain a better understanding of your key motivational drivers, values, strengths. Knowing what makes you tick can help you to make better decisions and to speak up on the things that matter. Understand your uniqueness vs comparing yourself to others.
- Pangs of jealousy can be used positively. Instead of harboring ill thoughts about the situation or person, see envy as a clue to what you really want. Be happy for the situation/person and pay attention to what you can learn from it. Tell yourself this is an important clue and to investigate further. For more on how to replace envy with mudita (“rejoicing in the good fortune of others”), read Envy at Work, Harvard Business Review.
- Future projection: Consider what words of advice or encouragement your “future best self” would share with you. (Tara Mohr has a great visualization exercise for tapping into you Inner Mentor in her book, Playing Big )
Communication (speak up, focus on other, articulate, enunciate, pause)
- Claim your voice. (Work Redux: Voice shares soundclips and summaries from a panel of women sharing the importance for women to claim their voice and step into their confidence, Pollen Midwest)
- When you focus on others, it helps you to get outside of your own worry mind.
(Resource: Marie Forleo has a great video explaining this.)
- Think about “what’s in it for them” just as much or more than WIIFM (what’s in it for me) so you can frame your request or suggestion from a place of confidence in how it will positively affect them.
- Embrace silence (Don’t always tried to fill the voids with conversation. Purposeful pauses also increase perception of confidence. It gives you space to think.)
- Self-fulfilling prophecy: By increasing the perception of confidence, it triggers you to feel more confident, which in turn further increases others confidence in you (and so on).
- Be articulate in your communication. Take time. Don’t feel that you need to rush through. (Practice by stating your name in an introduction with someone.)
Composure (state of mind, “the state or feeling of being calm and in control of oneself”)
- Take a deep, focused breath (or try this breathing technique specifically geared for building confidence)
- Get into a centered state of mind (take some alone time, avoid distraction).
- Listen to a power song and immediately feel more powerful.
- Concentrate on a mantra or quote that helps you feel centered (“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” One that I often use is “Just when the caterpillar thought its life was over, it became a butterfly.”)
- A phrase that helps boosts your confidence (e.g. “You’ve got this.” “We’re all just human.”) Imagine hearing this in the voice of someone who is encouraging to you.
- Give yourself a pep talk. Jasmine Brett Stringer, author of Seize Your Life includes a link to a great “fill-in-the-blank”pep talk template in her blog post on self-confidence. For a fun example of how Jasmine seizes her own life and what she learned from meeting Oprah for the first time (there have since been many times), click here.
- Affirmations help create a confident state of mind. Who remembers Stuart Smalley from SNL? He (Al Franken) went on to become Minnesota’s Senator. Coincidence? 😉
- Declutter your work environment to feel more focused and therefore more confident.
- Encourage others confidence. Not only will you feel good about helping others but you’ll boost your own confidence, too. When you notice someone isn’t acknowledged for a useful comment or great idea they shared, help them to be heard. Examples of ways to do this:
“Jane made a good point. Could you reiterate that, Jane?”
“I think Joe had something he wanted to say. “
“Jill has mentioned an idea I think we should consider.”
“Jim always has helpful insights. Jim, what do you think?”
(For additional perspective: Attitudes and the Karma of Confidence)
Core – Mind:
- Practice presence. Concentrate on the here and now. Don’t dwell on the past and don’t skip the present moments by having your mind fast forward to the future.
- If your mind ruminates on something, acknowledge it once and then tell yourself you can pick back up on it later if it ends up being a real issue. Much of what we ruminate on is our imagination going wild on worst case scenarios.
- Identify your values. Being clear on what you believe in gives you stronger resolve for the decisions you make and the opinions and ideas you express.
- Remind yourself of the skills you already have
- Embrace past successes. Notice what you did that contributed to the success.
- Take time to celebrate and document your successes. Too often, we “go, go, go” always striving for the next thing and don’t realize how much we have already accomplished.
- Collect uplifting encouragement, cards and commendations you’ve received “kudos” file. Look through this file when you want to remember how you’ve influenced others positively.
- Learn from and move on from failures vs getting stuck there– “fail forward”
- Instead of getting stuck in regrets, determine what you will do differently next time.
- Remind yourself of times you experienced perceived setbacks that actually ended up serving you better.
- Reframe your perceived “weaknesses” for how they can be perceived as strengths (Strengthfinders is a great tool)
- Re-interpret the feeling of nervousness as excitement. Our minds and bodies feel those emotions in similar ways so you may as well experience it in a positive way that serves you. (Resource: Bloomberg Business)
- Imagine how you’ll feel when you succeed at a challenge and have a great outcome. Allow yourself the feeling of success instead of getting mired in the feeling of self-doubt.
- Try new things and adventures to get practice pushing outside of comfort zone
- Create a Claiming Confidence list. It’s like a Bucket List but of things that will increase your confidence by trying new things (Some things that have worked for me: Going to a trampoline park and doing a flip for the first time in my life, experiencing a Zipline, traveling and even simply dining alone) Include three sections on your list: Things I have done, Things I am doing now and Things I want to do (or click here to download and print the Claiming Confidence List.) Seeing what you have done already reminds you of what you are capable of doing.
- Practice things you are already good at to remind yourself of what you are great at already.
- Emotional awareness. Notice how you are feeling and if it changes depending on time of day or circumstances. If you see patterns, take them into account. For example, I tend to feel less confident on Mondays. When possible, I try to avoid making big decisions or having important meetings on Mondays.
- Think in new ways and break patterns of thinking that result in low self-confidence. (For example, ask yourself how someone you look up to would think through a situation.)
- Practice mindfulness. Consider lapses in confidence with a tenderness and curiosity. “Hmm, isn’t that interesting? Well, it won’t last forever. What can I do at this moment to help boost my confidence?” Remind yourself that confidence ebbs and flows over time and that you will get through it.
(Listen to Amy Poehler’s great advice on confidence for teenage girls — it applies to anyone.)
- Use confident language in your communications. Practice reviewing your writing before you share it to make sure you aren’t diminishing yourself. Notice what the confidence level is like in your verbal communication (For example, I noticed I was often apologizing and for absolutely nothing. I asked others to point this out to me when they heard it. I was astounded and have gotten much better.)
Core – Body:
- Practice presence physically (being in the present moment, eye contact, noticing what is around you, listening)
- Posture (imagine a balloon pulling your head and spine up)
- Self-care (enough sleep, time to relax, meditation, yoga)
- Exercise (being active helps you to feel good and strong in your body)
- Stand up for important phone calls (you’ll feel more confident and voice will sound more confident). Click for more tips for better and more confident phone meetings.
- Select attire that helps you feel confident (and get rid of items that you don’t feel good in)
- A talisman that boosts your confidence (e.g. wear a ring or put a special coin in your pocket that reminds you of someone who encourages you)
- Power pose (Resource: Amy Cuddy Ted Talk, and her Harvard research)
- Personal space. It’s OK to take some space. Stand balanced on both feet. (Practice. And while standing, also try out power pose from previous bullet point)
Women tended to make themselves small, holding their wrist, wrapping their arms around themselves. Guys tended to make themselves bigger. They’re leaning back, stretching out, draping their arms around chairs. We know from studies of facial feedback that if you smile, you fake yourself into feeling happier. We wondered whether just asking people to spread out would help them feel more powerful, and it did. -Amy Cuddy
- Hone what you are known for to become more and more expert
- Continued learning (e.g. reading, trainings)
- Be a resource and pay attention to WIIFT (what’s in it for them) vs focusing solely on WIIFM (what’s in it for me) shifts self-awareness
- Foster connections that support and challenge you to be your best
- Pay attention to the company you keep. Spend more time with people who lift you up and as little time as possible with people who try to pull you down. For people who do try to pull you down, remind yourself that their actions say more about them than you. (Resource: The Power of People: Four Kinds of People Who Can Change Your Life, Dr. Verna Cornelia Price)
- Be uniquely YOU. Stop comparing yourself to others.
- Cultivate a realistic higher perception of self. Women especially feel they need to exceed vs meet qualifications. for new challenges and it holds them back. (Resource: The Confidence Gap)
- Claim your successes. Women often diminish their successes in fear that it will be seen as bragging.
- Procrastination makes you feel worse about yourself. Do a thing you dread first and the rest of the day you will feel better about yourself for the accomplishment. (Resource: Eat that Frog, Brian Tracy)
Too often women overestimate the risks and underestimate themselves. Only by doing the very things we’re afraid of can we come to realize how little reason we ever had to fear. The only way to build confidence and courage is by acting with it. – Margie Warrell, author of Brave
Luckily, human brains of both sexes have one great feature: They’re highly trainable. …studies by neuroscientists at M.I.T. and elsewhere that suggest the surest way to get past an overactive cingulate gyrus and build confidence is to spend some time each day doing things we’re good at. – Anne Fisher, Fortune
Make a commitment to yourself and others on how you will support a culture of confidence.
Which of these Confidence Hacks spoke to you? Which ones will you put to use?
About Teresa Thomas
Living up to her reputation as The Win/Win Networker, Teresa Thomas creates energizing connections through networking events, workshops, speaking and writing. In 2007, Teresa took on the leadership of MN Women In Networking (WIN) to provide welcoming networking and professional development events for authentic, motivated women in business to lift each other up for success. Membership grew ten-fold under her leadership.
Teresa has been a professional connector for over 20 years. She has facilitated hundreds of networking events, presented for countless groups and helped thousands to connect, learn and re-energize to grow professionally as well as growing business through networking. As someone who has struggled with shyness and confidence, she knows first-hand that networking is a skill that can be learned and developed. She shares her tried and true insights to help others to effectively network with confidence.
Teresa believes networking is really about seeing the interconnectedness between all of us. It is about listening and noticing the ways we can lift each other up.
For more in-depth tips, techniques, templates and checklists to help you with your networking, order a copy of Teresa’s book, Win/Win Networking: Your Guidebook for Confident and Effective Networking (available through Amazon and www.winwinnetworking.com). The book’s interactive style will help you to get clear about why you are networking and how to get the results you seek. For speaking, workshops or consulting to have better results in your networking, Teresa can be reached at email@example.com.
Additional references and resources on self-confidence including the gender gap in confidence:
- The Confidence Gap, The Atlantic, The Atlantic
- The Confidence Quiz, The Confidence Code
- How women can gain confidence at work (and elsewhere), Fortune
- A real confidence gap between confidence gap between men and women? (A look at the Confidence Canyon in mid-career outlook), Chicago Tribune
- For Women to Rise We Must Close “The Confidence Gap”, Forbes
- Do You Have Imposter Syndrome?, Entrepreneur
- The Imposter Phenomenon, Behavioral Science Research Institute
- Confidence, Now Is Your Time, Elizabeth Hagen
- Playing Big, Tara Mohr
- Seize Your Life, Jasmine Stringer
- Win/Win Networking: Your Guidebook to Confident and Effective Connections, Teresa Thomas
- You are Worth It, Louise Griffith
“People with low self-confidence are constantly trying to find themselves rather than creating the person they want to be.” – Harvey Mackay
From StatisticBrain.com 2015 research study:
|Average salary for people with low self-esteem||$50,323|
|Average salary for people with high self-esteem||$78,927|