Want to develop more self-confidence? Want to build long-term self-confidence? While confidence takes time to develop (because true confidence is based on incremental, steady success), there are definitely ways to be more confident--which means you can more easily overcome any anxiety or nervousness and perform well.
Add the following to your daily routine for quick bursts of self-confidence. In time, you'll gain the kind of confidence that comes from accomplishing more, achieving more, and performing at your best. After all, confidence is the result of a virtuous cycle of effort...that leads to achievement...that leaves you feeling good about yourself--and ready to put in the effort the next time.
So let's get that cycle started.
1. Cross your arms when you need a boost of determination.
I know. Crossed arms signal to other people that you're closed-minded or anxious. It supposedly sends a negative signal.
On the other hand, crossing your arms will make you stick with an "unsolvable" problem a lot longer and will make you perform better on solvable problems. That's definitely cool, because persistence is a trait most successful entrepreneurs need in abundance.
In addition, crossing your arms can help calm you down if you feel anxious or stressed. (But if you don't want others to pick up on it, do that in private.)
Whenever you feel stuck, try crossing your arms. And then keep pushing ahead.
2. Stand like Superman or Supergirl (why isn't there a Superwoman?) to feel more self-assured.
Harvard professor Amy Cuddy says two minutes of power posing--standing tall, holding your arms out or toward the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on your hips--will dramatically increase your level of confidence.
Before you step into a situation where you know you'll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated, strike your pose. (Just make sure no one is watching.)
3. Smile to reduce nervousness and stress.
Frowning, grimacing, and other negative facial expressions signal your brain that whatever you are doing is difficult. So your body responds by releasing cortisol, which raises your stress levels.
Stress begets more stress, begets more stress, and in no time, you're a hot mess.
Here's the cure: Make yourself smile. You'll feel less stress even if nothing else about the situation changes.
And there's a bonus: When you smile, other people feel less stress too. Which, of course, will reduce your stress levels. So kill two stresses with one smile.
4. Move more and burn off chemical stress.
When you feel anxious or stressed, your adrenal glands secrete cortisol, one of the chemical triggers of the instinctive fight-or-flight reflex. High levels of cortisol heighten your emotions, limit your creativity, and reduce your ability to process complex information. When you're "high" on cortisol you get tunnel vision, just as you do when you're startled or scared.
So: Burn off excess cortisol with exercise. Take a walk at lunch. Work out before you leave for work. Hit the hotel gym before your meeting.
Don't think it will help? Remember a time when you were totally stressed and decided to work out. I'm sure you felt a lot less anxious and a lot more grounded when you were finished exercising. The perspective you gained came at least in part from lowering your cortisol levels.
5. Eat right to boost mental sharpness.
Dopamine and epinephrine are two chemicals that help regulate mental alertness. Both are found in tyrosine, which is an amino acid found in proteins.
So: Simply make sure you include some type of protein in the meal you eat before you need to do something stressful. And don't wait until the last minute to fuel up--the last thing most of us want to do when we're nervous is eat a healthy meal.
6. Think through some "what if?" scenarios and gain perspective.
Say you're giving a presentation later today. If you're like me, the "what if?" stuff is your biggest worry: What if my PowerPoint presentation crashes? What if someone constantly interrupts and screws up my flow? What if my time gets cut short?
Fear of the unknown is a confidence killer--and can quickly spiral out of control.
So: Think about a few of the worst things that could happen and create a plan to deal with those things. You'll feel more confident because you will have transformed "what if?" into the much more positive "OK, then I will...."
Plus, simply going through the exercise of planning for different scenarios will make you better prepared to think on your feet and adapt if the unexpected does occur.
7. Adopt a "superstition" that actually helps.
Superstitions are a vain attempt to control uncertainty or fear. Wearing lucky socks doesn't really make you perform better.
So: Instead of creating a superstition, create a pattern that helps you prepare and emotionally center yourself.
For example, I like to walk the hall before a presentation to check audience sight lines. Maybe you will decide to always do a run-through of your presentation an hour before you go on, even though you're sure you can do it in your sleep. Or maybe you will decide to run what you plan to say one last time before every client meeting, even though you've delivered a similar sales pitch dozens of times.
Pick certain actions you will perform--actions that are actually beneficial and not just based on superstition--and do them every time. Comfort lies in the familiar, and so does confidence.
8. Create a secondary goal.
Say you're speaking to an industry group and your goal is to convince members to donate time to a worthy cause. Pretty quickly you realize almost no one is listening, much less cares.
What do you do? Any confidence you once felt is gone. So then you try too hard. Or you give up and go through the motions. Whatever you do, you walk away feeling like you failed.
Whenever you know what you really want to accomplish may be hard to achieve, always have a secondary goal in mind. Plan for success...but also plan to turn total failure into partial success. If you can tell you won't succeed with your primary goal, be prepared to plant seeds for another attempt down the road.
Say you're pitching a VC and can tell you won't get a yes right away (after all, you almost never will). Be prepared to shift to laying the groundwork for future meetings. Explain what you've done and what you're doing. Lay the foundation for potential investors to see a consistent story and consistent growth over time. Lay the foundation for investors to develop a level of trust with you and your team.
Sure, you may want them to say, "Yes, we'll fund you today!" Shoot, you may need them to say, "Yes, we'll fund you today!" But you should still be ready to turn a one-time meeting into a series of meetings.
Whatever your primary goal, establish a secondary goal, and instead of losing all faith in yourself and your mission, be ready to transition to that goal. If things aren't turning out the way you hoped, you'll still be able to stay confident--and keep moving forward.