Reach for the stars
Reach for the stars

How to be more confident

Self-confidence may feel like a gift at times, but is a skill that anyone can learn

Matty Edwards
Friday 29 December 2017 13:09

Even in the age of self-help books and cheesy motivational videos revealing the secret to overnight success, many people still lack self-confidence.

The Independent has sifted through the seemingly endless lifehack listicles and expert advice to find basic principles to help you understand low confidence and tackle it.

Everyone would agree that increasing your self-confidence without becoming an arrogant so-and-so will help get what you want in life, but how do you go about it?

Believe in yourself

American poet E.E Cummings once said: “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

Believing in yourself and overcoming the self-doubt that the majority of us feel is the first step towards improving your confidence.

It’s difficult to believe in yourself without getting to know yourself first. Think about your strengths and values. It also helps to listen to people who believe in you and ignore people who put you down.

We all get doubts and negative thoughts, but replacing these with positive self-affirmations can help self-belief.

Dr. Ivan Joseph, a former football coach and motivational speaker, even wrote a letter to himself congratulating himself on his achievements to date.

He would then read it to give him a boost when his confidence was low. “Nobody will believe in you, unless you do.” he says during a TEDx Talk.

Embrace your inner idiot

Low self-confidence often stems from fear of how other people perceive us and the ongoing battle to keep our dignity in tact: ”What if I do something that makes me look stupid? What if people think ill of me?”

According to The Book of Life, the biggest step towards greater self-confidence is instead of clinging onto our skewed sense of dignity, we need to embrace the “inevitable nature of our ridiculousness”.

Once we realise our own foolishness and everyone else’s, we become less frightened to make a fool of ourselves in front of others.

Only then will we be able to throw ourselves head-first into things rather than hesitating while filled with doubt and anxiety about what will happen.

Feeling sceptical? This has been an argument made by some of the greatest ever thinkers, philosophers and artists, including Erasmus, Breugel and Montaigne.

Another crucial step to better self confidence - getting out of your comfort zone and facing your fears and anxiety - also plays a part in this.

Strike a pose

Harvard psychologist, Dr Amy Cuddy, gave a simple tip about how body language can bring more confidence in the workplace during a TED talk in 2012.

She says assuming so-called ‘power poses’ or taking up a lot of space will alter hormone levels in your brain and make you feel more confident, more powerful and less stressed out.

An example of a power pose is the ‘wonder woman’ where you stand with your feet, wide and your hands on your hips.

By contrast, low power poses such as folding in on yourself and taking up a little space as possible are both caused by low confidence and will make you feel even more powerless.

Dr Cuddy advises that those with confidence issues should work power poses into their daily routine - particularly women who are more likely to adopt this behaviour because they often feel less powerful than men.

This advice comes from scientific research that found that subjects who struck power poses saw a 20 per cent increase in their levels of testosterone, or the ‘dominance hormone’. There was also a 25 per cent drop in their cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone.

High testosterone and low cortisol levels are associated with high power alpha males and effective leaders, Dr Cuddy says.

On top of better body language, most people recommend taking pride in your appearance to build confidence, from dressing nicely to grooming yourself properly.

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