"Fake it 'til you make it" might help you get ahead in the short term, but science suggests it'll also make you pretty miserable. A certain degree of bluster is probably essential when starting out in any field, but if we're forced to sustain it for any length of time, being inauthentic is an exhausting distraction.
What you want then, really, isn't to appear confident. It's to genuinely feel confident. How do you manage that? On the TED blog recent, psychologist Guy Winch offered a handful of powerful suggestions, including these:
1. Be smart about affirmations.
Positive self-talk can be highly effective, Winch explains, but this sort of affirmation is also tricky to get right. Those with already pretty high levels of self-esteem can simply give themselves a rousing pep talk -- for instance, by telling yourself "I'm going to be a great success!"
But for those struggling with their self-worth, a rather grand pronouncement like that, which feels dishonest, will probably backfire. In that case, modify your affirmation until you have something that sounds actually plausible to you. For example, Winch offers, "I'm going to persevere until I succeed!" as a possible alternative.
2. Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend.
Those who lack self confidence often talk to themselves in unkind ways they'd never think of using with other people. So when your own inner critic starts badgering you for your perceived shortcomings, "ask yourself what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation... and direct those comments to yourself," Winch suggests.
3. Use writing to boost your confidence.
When your confidence is really flagging, you need to take slightly more dramatic action and actively re-affirm your positive qualities. Winch recommends you do this in writing by listing the relevant good qualities you possess in a certain area. Then choose one and write a few paragraphs about why this characteristic is important.
Confident people are kinder.
As a side note, it's also worth mentioning that taking the time to develop true, deep self-confidence won't just make you happier and help you succeed in life, chances are it will also make you a nicer person. "The need to 'outshine' everyone is actually born of fear and weakness, not strength," one wise voice has pointed out.
And the opposite is probably also true: being kind to others and taking the time to really see their full humanity isn't just the result true of self-confidence, but also a great way to cultivate it too.