Confidence takes time to build and means examining your strengths (and you have so many) as well as your weakness.
I remember standing on a stage as a little girl, staring at hundreds of faces as I danced around in a fuzzy Cookie Monster costume to the sounds of Hot Hot Hot. Even at the wee age of 5, I felt confident. Yet, as I’ve grown older, societal pressures, romantic hardships, and educational woes have challenged that confidence.
It’s from these trying experiences I’ve learned the secret to authentic confidence: realizing that it’s a process. As you embark on your search for confidence, be aware that it doesn’t happen over night—for anyone. As with all personal development, confidence is something that is constantly changing and growing within oneself.
Like most things, practice makes perfect. As you step out of your house each morning, keep in mind the following ways you can grow and strengthen your confidence.
KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
We’re all good at something. What is it you’re good at it? Is it making people laugh, singing in the shower, arts and crafts, or comforting friends in need? To figure it out and begin practicing the art of confidence, start by answering the following questions:
• What are my skill sets?
• What do my parents love about me?
• Why do my friends choose to spend time with me?
• What do I contribute to the world around me?
The answers to these questions are your strengths, and likely the things you feel most confident about. Seek out opportunities to show your stuff! Whether that’s getting on a stage or asking to make a presentation at work, look for opportunities to practice confidence by doing more of the things you’re good at. Keep in mind, this may seem “braggy,” but a healthy ego is important when practicing authentic confidence.
As important as it is to know your strengths, I also urge you to be honest about your weaknesses. Acknowledge the areas that need improvement. For example, I have a hard time speaking concisely to my boss when I am nervous.
Now, you try! Rather than harping on your shortcomings and constantly trying to improve that one flaw, acknowledge it and then move on. In time, your practice of building confidence will naturally address those weaknesses and you’ll find yourself improving upon those flaws without stress.
It’s a matter of balancing the good with the bad, and reminding yourself, that you’re human and building confidence in who you are overall is a process!
As an aspiring career women, we often find ourselves in rooms full of people. It may be for a networking event, a colleague luncheon, or a large meeting. I know those moments can feel overwhelming, and confidence is about the last thing you can muster from your emotional tool belt—but not to fear, there’s a way to overcome that overwhelming feeling.
Try switching perspectives. Rather than feeling like you don’t belong or you’re too inadequate, ask yourself “What do I have to offer these people?”
This takes us back to your list of strengths. If you must, keep a note of those positive attributes in your pocket or on your phone. It can be something as small as having a strong handshake or as big as the size of your developing network—but bring those things into the room with you. Imagine that those people need your expertise at Powerpoint or business etiquette.
By turning the tables, you will make the entire experience less threatening, and it will be an opportunity for both you and your audience to gain something. Chances are, the people in that room need you there.
FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT
I realize you’re here to learn about “authentic” confidence, but it’s helpful to keep in mind authenticity is the ultimate goal. There’s power in visualization. Maybe you’re not confident, but can you imagine your confident self?
The TED Talk of social psychologist and confidence guru, Amy Cuddy, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, has been viewed over 27 million times. Amy developed a technique known as “power posing.” The idea is to find a private place before a meeting or presentation and hold a power pose for two minutes. It can look like the quintessential “wonder woman” pose, with legs spread and arms open wide on your hips, a pose Amy calls “tall and proud.”
The purpose of these poses is to visualize confidence and power, even if you may not feeling your most confident. This will encourage an improved state-of-mind and promote positive self-talk.
SEEK OUT HELP
Let’s be real, sometimes we can’t do everything ourselves. It’s important to know when and how to ask for help. In the case of confidence, it’s not so much about asking, as it is about surrounding yourself with support. This can come in the form of friends or family, but coworkers can offer this support, too.
A supportive work environment can help build a substantial amount of confidence.
I found colleagues who are open to questions and feedback often reinforce my presence in the office. Seek out a work environment that encourages you to be vocal, whether that’s asking questions in a meeting or offering feedback.
If confidence still feels improbable, there are activities that can help you stretch your soon-to-be confident legs. Ever hear of the term “safe space”? It refers to a place where people feel comfortable being honest and vulnerable with the support of others in the room.
This may sound silly at first, but improvisation classes are a great safe space and a perfect place to practice. Attendees of the class are looking for an outlet to express themselves and build confidence in their quick-thinking abilities. You might also seek out a local theater program that will offer these classes. It may only take one or two to begin feeling a change, but it will certainly grow and spread to other areas of your life.
Developing authentic confidence is a process, no matter how hard you try. Even the most confident person in your life had to work to develop it, and continues to work to maintain that trait. I encourage you to ask them how they’ve developed their confidence! They might follow the techniques above, or maybe they have another trick to share. Either way, you’re embarking on a journey of self-improvement and there’s always something more to learn.
I may no longer have my Cookie Monster costume to wear, but with enough perspective, power poses, and support, I know I can walk tall—and so can you!
This article was originally published on (www.careercontessa.com/conversations/key-secret-authentic-confidence) written by Isabelle Miner.