Life Hacks: Confidence

8:00 AM

Fake it till you make it. 

Little bothers me more than a woman who lacks confidence. A woman who can walk through a crowd without cringing, who can make eye contact and smile, who can sit alone at a table without fiddling with her phone, who can tell a joke without petering out with embarrassment -- I admire her.

Confidence makes life easier for everyone. It relieves people of feeling uncomfortable when you open your mouth. It stops people from expending pity when you get to the front of the room. It keeps people focused on the song or speech or youness you have to share. And it helps you focus on the task at hand instead of distracting yourself with untimely introspection. 

I like quiet confidence the best -- not brazenness but just holding your ground, not saying anything unless you need to say it. That sort of confidence.

Some confidence tips I've picked up throughout the years:

01. When you're walking to the front of a room, never try to hide yourself, shuffle your feet, or in any physical way apologize for your presence. Walk up there firmly. And yes, the high heels can click.

02. If you're trying to bring as little attention as possible to your cough drop wrapper, tear them open quickly instead of slowly. They make the same amount of noise regardless of the rate you open them, so get it over now. (Who knew?)

03. Ask for things. If you need the tissue box in class, get your classmate's attention and ask for the tissue box as if it's no big deal. Because it's not. 

04. Always walk like you're going somewhere. It's the best way to draw zero attention to yourself.

05. If you're embarrassed about being recognized for an award or don't want to look snooty, don't apologize or groan or eyeroll or anything melodramatic or "humble." Just stand up, acknowledge the clapping with a simple thank you, and then sit back down.

06. Analyze your performance after your performance. If you start thinking about how stupid you sound, you're going to sound even more stupid. Ignore your inner critic until the end of the presentation. Panic averted.

07. Don't rush to fill silences. Let the silence sit for a second before you dig around in your brain for something more interesting than small talk about the weather.

08. Remember that if you take the lead, people think you know what you're doing. If you're there at the social scene when they arrive, you must know what you're doing. If you initiate the conversation, you must know what you're doing. Confidence inspires confidence. Take the lead and people will follow. 

09. If you're the center of attention, don't pretend otherwise. Brides, smooch that new husband of yours. Speakers, speak your mind. Singers, sing out. The audience came to see you. Don't be worried about making yourself look better than other people when they made you the center of attention. Thank them for their kind attention by giving them what they came to see.

10. FAKE IT. If you have no idea what you're doing, fake it. Ad lib. Make it up. My boss swears that all his professional success comes from faking it when he needs to do something and has no idea what to do.

As a girl who botched two Shakespearean monologues back to back, I can attest to this.

What confidence tips do you use?

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16 impressions

  1. "04. Always walk like you're going somewhere. It's the best way to draw zero attention to yourself."

    Yes! Even if you end up walking in two different directions in the same two minutes. Not that I would know what that's like...

    I never thought about the noise of a cough drop wrapper, but that makes total sense and could be applied to similar things.

    And I completely agree with "Ask for things...as if it's no big deal. Because it's not." I know that I'm tempted to think that my existence just causes problems for everyone, and I often try to go without rather than ask, even for little things like tissues.

    My tip would be: Don't apologize for being yourself, whether you're smart, not-so-smart, funny, boring, weird, strange, etc. Over and over, I find myself telling a specific friend, "Don't apologize for being weird. Embrace your weirdness." I wrote to a different friend the other day, "Don't apologize for being strange. Strange people are my favorite." I'm strange/weird/different and I'm proud of it! (Most of the time...)

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    1. Weird people unite! There's nothing wrong with anyone existing and going about her daily life, just like you said!

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  2. 02. Is basically going to change my life. All these points are so valid. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I know, right?! My theology professor passed out candy during our final and then told us that pro tip in quietly opening them. :)

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  3. These are great tips. The only thing I would add is a caveat to #10 - FAKE IT in social situations, meetings, etc. Don't fake it if doing so will cause a disaster that could potentially destroy your confidence in yourself and other people's confidence in you. In that case be up front and ask questions and do so confidently - it shows confidence to be secure enough to ask for help when you really need it.

    Adele

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    1. That's a great caveat! You're absolutely right.

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  4. Excellent points here.

    I've learned that if I feel awkward, then I should just act like I'm not, and then I eventually won't be. :P Recently at an event, people had gotten a room set up for dancing. There were guys along one side, maybe a few girls, and the middle of the room was empty. I basically walked across the room like I was totally comfortable with it, which is something I probably wouldn't have done five years ago. XD

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    1. Good for you! Social situations are always so awkward. :P

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  5. These are terrific! Amen about the cough drops... When my brother tries to unzip his Bible case in church, he takes it click by click. I am that older sister who squirms and hisses as quietly as possible, "Do it all at once or not at all!"

    I used to feel very socially awkward, but most of my awkwardness stemmed more from my fear of being stupid than anything else. I had a lot of shyness to get over, but the main thing I had to learn was that everybody else was as clueless as I was, and that even though many people looked like they had it all together, when you really talked to them and got to know them as a person, you would hear them express the same kinds of insecurities you dealt with.

    The final stage was when I got a job at the library and saw adults sometimes make mistakes, get confused, and do things incorrectly in a working environment -- it always made me feel better about myself, not because I felt a sense of superiority in their mistakes, but because it assured me that everyone makes them... and that it's okay. Instead of feeling like I had to apologize for my existence every time I did something wrong, it became possible for me to embrace imperfection as an inevitable part of life. You can impress people by looking all put together, but you only make friends and connect with people on a deep level over shared weakness. I used to think that I could never be confident because I would remain perpetually aware of my own flaws; at an older age, I learned from life experience that knowing that you can succeed and make it through something despite your flaws is the stuff of authentic confidence.

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    1. Wow, what a beautiful response....you're right that looking put together is not the way to make true friends.

      And I relate to everything you said about outgrowing shyness and a fear of stupidity. :D

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  6. On a related (but slightly different note), this Atlantic article http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/06/why-it-pays-to-be-a-jerk/392066/
    made me think of your post. It examines the relationship between confidence and success (and being a jerk and being successful), surprisingly (ok, not really), found that those who were more confident were also more successful, even if they were jerks. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on it!

    --Annika

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    1. I read a little bit of this article. (I'm in the middle of a big work project + family vacation. Worst combination EVER. I have no time.) Personally, I don't understand why ANYONE would respect or prefer a jerk over a polite boss who plays by the rules. I've only worked for incredibly efficient, hard-working, and extremely kind and respectful bosses. While I don't know if their kindness necessarily made them successful, it certainly earned my respect and encouraged me to work harder at my job.

      I don't respect bullies, successful or no, even if I am intimidated by them. Sorry that this isn't a more thoughtful response...I'm just bewildered at their statistics on people picking jerks over nice guys. Isn't there a difference between being a jerk and being confident?! What did you make of that??

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    2. I was baffled by that too--I can't think of anyone who'd truly WANT to work for a jerk, even if said jerk was only a jerk part of the time. But one of the interesting motivations the article brought up was that hanging around jerks and being part of their social circle may get you more benefits, the kind that nice people wouldn't dream of asking for. So maybe that's part of the reason? Still, there's a difference between having a jerk for a "friend" and having him or her as your boss!

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    3. I think I'm too much of a people person and not career ambitious enough to ever try to hang out with the jerks in order to get ahead, but that does make sense.

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  7. I read a line from a book this morning (*Midnight in Austenland*) where the main character said, "Confidence is 90% posture."

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    1. That does not bode well for me then. #sloucher

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