In the previous blog, I discussed how a person can pretend (or I used the term, “fake it”) to feel confident even when he or she does not actually feel that way. I noted that, sometimes, you will not feel confident but that should never be a reason NOT to do something.
Remember the young conductor who looked terrified before walking onto the stage? Remember how he transformed when he stepped onto the stage? He became the epitome of confidence, control, and even arrogance. His transformation happened was quick and complete.
I concluded that, if he could make this transformation, “trick” the audience, and step onto the stage and conduct a brilliant symphony, then every can do it.
I can do it.
You can do it, too.
But how?! How can someone look and act confident even when they feel the exact opposite
*Obama quotation on confidence
There are steps that are nearly proven to help someone to feel more confident or, at least, control the stress and anxiety that are the mortal enemies of confidence. (I say “nearly proven” because every one is different and not all of these strategies will work for everyone. But some of them will work. You have to find the strategy or strategies that work best for you.)
The first step is to reduce or control the stress and anxiety. The second step is to replace the fear/stress with confidence.
Let’s get started.
1. Deep breathing
I hope that you’re not rolling your eyes and dismissing this technique. It works. Really!
Deep breathing is one way to calm down the nervous system. When a person is feeling anxiety, the breath becomes shallow and irregular. This shallow breathing simply adds to the stress and anxiety, causing physiological reactions like sweating, trembling, dizziness and other symptoms. In extreme cases, it can lead to fainting.
Deep breathing puts a stop to those reactions and to the feelings of panic.
Many forms of meditation focus on deep breathing because it clears the mind and body—and creates calm. It is also easy to do.
Here’s how to do it: Take a long, slow breath in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Force your belly to rise and fall when you inhale and exhale. Make sure you take your breaths slowly, counting to five, if necessary. Repeat until your breathing is controlled.
In my previous post about the conductor, I watched him do this deep breathing exercise while he was backstage. And that helped him to control the panic that was quickly overtaking him.
2. Chant or say a mantra or affirmation
Again, I hope that you don’t roll your eyes and reject this technique, thinking that is too religious, contrary to your belief system, or just plain weird.
Chanting or repeating an affirmation can be done in many, many different ways. So, everyone can find a method that feels comfortable. One can say anything that feels comfortable, uplifting, or relaxing. Say something in a different language, something from the Bible or Talmud, or just a positive sentence like “I can do this!” Louise Hay has a wonderful affirmation that I use in nearly every situation that says, “All is well.” But the point is to say your mantra, chant, or affirmation to help control stress and anxiety.
Two quick tips: (1) Be sure to keep your mantra or affirmation prepared and accessible so that you can use it when you start to feel the stress. It is too difficult to think up an effective chant or affirmation when you are feeling anxiety; (2) This method works well with the deep breathing method mentioned earlier.
3. Use Visualizations
We use visualization techniques without even realizing it. In fact, it is one of the causes of stress and anxiety. We are visualizing the “worst case scenario” of an event. Okay, perhaps not the worst, but a bad or difficult (maybe even embarrassing) outcome. Suddenly, your heart is pounding, your palms are sweaty, and your breathing becomes shallow. Your mind and body are reacting to the visualization. This can be changed.
Visualizations can be used in two ways:
- Visualize a “good scenario.” Picture yourself as confident. Picture everything as going well and that you are self-assured and collected. Visualize yourself having fun or just having a great time.
- Here is another technique. It is a bit more difficult. Visualize yourself in the situation that is causing you stress but not the best nor the worst scenario. Just the most likely scenario. Picture what you are wearing, what you see, who is there, what you are doing, etc. Picture as many details as you can. Do this several times until you can almost feel like you have done the task. I recommend combining this strategy with deep breathing if you start to feel symptoms of stress.
These three techniques can work well together or separately.
So, these are three techniques that can help you to control the stress or anxiety that might interfere with your feeling (or looking) confident. Now, let’s move on to methods to show or “fake” confidence in any situation
4. Be prepared!
I have said it before and I will say it again: Nothing can replace preparation. Preparation is a major key to confidence. Without preparation, most people will not feel confident, nor will they look it. A lack of preparation is a major stress inducer.
Preparation requires practice, but also more than just practice. A great pianist is not borne of just hours sitting at the piano, playing scales. Preparation is a focused form of practice. It is the practice that is intent on learning and achieving mastery and greatness.
Many people erroneously believe that the people who are truly great at a skill, business, sport or other activity, are not subject to the same rules as mere mortals: they were special and gifted. It is partially true that they had a gift. But it was developed through a devoted focus on mastering their craft.
Confidence is also a result of preparation. Take Steve Jobs as an example. I was just reading a book about how he prepared for his product announcements at different conferences. As a speaker, he was confident, relaxed, and self-assured. He was also extremely prepared! It is reported that he would start practicing his speech months before the fateful day. He would practice the presentation, refine it, change it, critique it, and practice it even more. He made it look effortless and easy. But, there had been, in fact, an enormous amount of effort given to make his presentation look effortless. And to make him appear and feel confident even when things went wrong onstage. I highly recommend watching one of his presentations; you will not be disappointed. But don’t be fooled into thinking that it was easy. He was prepared.
Preparation and practice are essential to feeling and looking confident.
5. Act like a confident person
We have all seen people who look confident at their craft like speaking, performing, conducting, or whatever they need to do. Follow their lead. Act like them.
Sometimes, confidence is just an act. It is a performance. Like the conductor in Belgium who was clearly nervous, when he took a deep breath and stepped out onto the stage, he became the “poster boy” of confidence. He stood taller, looked the audience in the eye, faced the orchestra with ease and self-assurance, put on a cocky smile, and held up his baton. He had the control. And, once he stepped into that confident role, he became the confident conductor. All was well.
Anyone can put on this same performance. In fact, it is done every day. But it takes practice and a fearless attitude.
So, practice acting like a confident person. You can start this practice in the privacy of your own home. You can practice it around trusted friends. Then you can “take it to the stage” like the conductor in Belgium. Or Steve Jobs.
Put on a confident face and the world will believe you.
So, these are the five necessary steps to faking (or even genuinely feeling) confidence. With practice (again!), it will feel very natural and easy. Soon, you will become that confident, well-prepared, easy-breathing person that you visualize yourself to be.
Get ready to take the stage!