A Short Guide To Self-Confidence - Mark Bowden

A Short Guide To Self-Confidence

Advice

Oct 02
A short guide to self-confidence
Reading Time: 12 minutes

A Short Guide To Self-Confidence

We admire self-confident people. These are the people who walk into a room and simply inspire confidence in others. They do not waiver when facing a problem, but tackle it head on instead. Many people believe self-confidence is an inherited trait but that’s far from the truth. Studies have shown that we can improve our self-confidence. In the following article, I will present scientifically-proven ways to become more confident.

I. Be The Master Of Nonverbal Communication

You might be wondering why we started this list with nonverbal communication. Well, scientists believe that nonverbal communication constitutes up to 70% of what we communicate to others. And since most of our daily interactions are brief – buying coffee, talking to a customer, passing someone on the street – mastering our nonverbal communication skills will improve the way people see us.  There are four types of nonverbal communication elements you should be aware of – kinesics, proxemics, chronemics, and paralanguage. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.

Kinesics

Kinesics studies body movements. Our gestures, facial expressions, posture, and eye behavior say a lot about who we are.

Gestures express how we feel. We gesture more when we are excited, energized, or enthusiastic. We gesture less often when we’re nervous, demoralized, or concerned about the impression we’re making.

Facial expressions provide valuable clues about how we feel. The look on our faces and the way we hold our heads can show approval, disapproval, and even disbelief. Most cultures can recognize the look of happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust on another’s face.

Posture is a good clue to our attitude. Leaning toward a person conveys a favorable attitude while leaning backward communicates the opposite. Slouching is usually interpreted as a lack of self-confidence while standing erect is seen as a confidence indicator.

Eye contact is an important nonverbal cue. Eye contact signals the beginning and the end of a conversation and it reflects our interest and attention. Our eyes also communicate our emotions and it can reflect on the type of communication between the speakers.

Proxemics

Proxemics studies the way people perceive and use space. This might not seem important at a first glance, but the way we use the space around us can say a lot about us. Space is often used to indicate social status – people who are willing to pay more for an airplane ticket get to enjoy a comfortable ride, office managers have better offices than employees of lower status, and so on.

Chronemics

Chronemics studies the use of time as a nonverbal communicator. Being late for a meeting could convey different messages depending on the context. A person might want to arrive late to reaffirm their superiority in front of subordinates. Another person might arrive late due to carelessness or lack of ambition.

Paralanguage

Paralanguage studies speech variation as a nonverbal communicator. The way we talk can leave a lasting impression. Our voice quality, pitch, volume, and tempo can communicate more than our words do. Saying something while laughing can communicate a different message from saying the same thing while yawning.

Improving our nonverbal communication can improve our self-confidence

Our body language lets people know how we feel

 

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How To Master Nonverbal Communication

Now that you know what you should be aware of, let’s take some small changes that will change the way people perceive you.

1.     Improve Your Body Image

You’re surely aware you shouldn’t judge a book by its covers. Well, that saying exists because people actually judge books by their cover. The truth is, we can’t help it. Humans are visual creatures. We value our sight, and up to 30% of our brain is dedicated to our vision.

This concept is also true on how we react to people. We are more interested in attractive people.  Attractive people are considered more positively by their peers, and this is especially true for males. But we don’t just judge people on their looks, we also judge them by the way they present themselves. And that is something we can control. Here’s how:

  • Grooming – Grooming doesn’t only affect the way people perceive us, it also affects the way we perceive ourselves. You would be surprised to learn how much of a difference a shower and a shave can do for your self-image. Women who had their hair dressed felt more confident in themselves. Small changes can be very effective, so do whatever it takes to make you feel more confident. Trim your beard, paint your nails, do your hair and face the world with more confidence.
  • Use Perfume – Our self-perception can be affected by our smell. But the best part is, people react differently to the way we smell, as well. A study found that men who used fragrance thought better about themselves. The same study found that women were more impressed by the men wearing fragrance than by those who didn’t use any. You don’t have to invest a lot of money to buy a good perfume. The people around you will perceive you in a better light if you’re confident you smell good.
  • Dress Nicely – Even though most of us wouldn’t admit it, we are constantly judging people based on how they dress. And we also judge ourselves based on what we wear. Studies have shown that what we wear can influence how we feel about ourselves even as children. Dressing nicely will make people look up to us, and it will also strengthen our self-confidence. Now, dressing nicely is different for everyone, but one thing is clear – we don’t need to wear expensive clothes to look presentable.
  • Improve Your Posture – The way we stand and walk can communicate a lot about ourselves. The great thing about standing tall is that it will make us feel more confident in ourselves and make other people perceive us in a better way. There are some high-power poses that can help us with this
    • Superman Pose – The Superman pose is probably the most famous power pose. Standing with our backs erect, heads held high, and our hands on our hips for two – three minutes can improve our self-confidence.
    • The Principal – Standing with our back straight, leaning forward while resting our hands at a shoulder-width distance on a table is perceived as a power pose.
    • The Boss – Sitting in a chair with our feet on a desk or table and our hands behind our heads can do wonders for our self-confidence.
    • Laid-back – Sitting in a chair with our hands behind our heads and one foot on top of the other can boost our confidence.
    • The Communicator – Sitting with our feet at a shoulder-width distance while stretching our hand on the chair’s backrest or on the backrest of the chair next to us lets people know we’re confident.
Different poses can improve our self-confidence

Assuming “The Principal” pose can do wonders for our self-confidence

While power poses can improve our self-confidence, there are some poses that can make us feel powerless. We should avoid slouching, hugging ourselves, or sitting with our hands between our legs, as these poses are most likely to lead to insecurity.

  • Smile – Smiling is probably the most recommended advice people offer in an attempt to boost our mood. The good thing is, people recommend smiling because it’s effective. Even science agrees we should smile more. In fact, we value our smiles so much that most of us seek orthodontic treatment only when we notice our smile is not as lovely as it once was. Smiling lets the people around us know we’re in a good mood, and it increases our self-confidence.
  • Stay Fit – Remember when we said we are more interested in attractive people? Well, physical fitness plays a major role in our attractiveness evaluation. A study discovered that we prioritize physical fitness when looking for a possible mate. But you shouldn’t worry about not being as fit as the magazine cover models. Doing some simple exercises two or three times per week can keep you in top shape, which will improve your self-confidence.

2.     Improve Your Communication Skills

Good communication skills improve our self-confidence

Improving our communication skills will improve how people perceive us

Understanding and applying some principles of paralanguage can significantly improve the way other people perceive us. Since more of what we communicate comes from how we speak and how we act while speaking, we should improve our communication skills to ensure we convey the right message. The easier we communicate with people, the better we’ll feel about ourselves. Here’s how we can improve our communication skills:

  • Speak Slowly – This is a simple advice that can go a long way. Nowadays, all of us are bombarded with information. We rarely get to talk to someone in complete silence. Most of the times, our dialogues happen in crowded environments that have loud back noises. People often find it difficult to follow our speech if we talk quickly. In addition, speaking slowly conveys authority. When we speak slowly, we communicate we’re confident enough in what we’re saying to fully engage our audition. People often speak quickly because they feel they’re not worthy of listening to – so avoid doing so. However, there’s a fine line in talking slowly and taking too long to convey your message. You should practice speaking slowly to determine the right tempo for your speech.
  • Make Eye Contact – Maintaining eye contact when talking to someone is lets the person know we’re interested in what they’re saying. Many people find it difficult to determine the appropriate eye contact duration. As a rule of thumb, you can maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. This shows attentiveness and interest, and it can improve the dialogue. It’s interesting that we associate increased eye contact with credibility and dominance. A lack of eye contact and blinking are interpreted as submissive behaviors – so we should avoid them. However, we should also avoid staring, as it communicates hostility.
  • Have A Positive Posture – We should mind our postures when talking to someone. Keeping our backs straight but not rigid while maintaining our shoulders relaxed convey we’re interested in what the other person is saying. Aligning our body with the person we’re conversing shows we’re engaged in the discussion. Keeping our legs apart and leaning in a bit shows we’re listening to what the other person is saying.
  • Use Gestures – Using our hands to gesture as we speak improves our credibility. In addition, it seems that using gestures can also improve our thinking process, which might help us deliver the intended message with ease.
  • Nod And Smile – Nodding and smiling at appropriate times show our approval. These gestures let the speaker know we are listening and we agree with his or her opinions. We can also try mirroring the speaker’s facial expression at key moments in the conversation to convey we agree with their opinion.

II. Habits That Improve Self-Confidence

Mastering nonverbal communication can improve our self-confidence and influence how others perceive us. But we can also engage in certain habits that can train our self-confidence.

1.     Stay Positive

This is probably the best advice anyone could offer. Many people have confidence problems because they are surrounded by negativity. Sometimes, our friends and family can have a negative influence on how we see ourselves. If you feel that one or multiple people are pulling you down, try interrupting your relationship. Even a temporary break from a negative influence can improve our self-confidence.

We should stop focusing on the problems we face in life, and start focusing on their solutions. We should come up with plans that can make positive changes in our lives.

Staying positive is often easier said than done, but it can be very rewarding. People can easily identify positive enthusiasm, and they perceive it as a confidence marker. When it comes to positivity, those who fake it until they make it will most likely succeed.

Positivity helps improve self-confidence

When it comes to positivity, those who fake it until they make it usually succeed.

2.     Never Accept Failure

Everything has a solution. True, some things do not have easy solutions, but they have solutions nonetheless. Nobody wants to be remembered as the one who threw in the towel, so don’t do it. Don’t throw it in. Instead of giving in, make a detailed plan on how to overcome your adversity.

Negative thoughts often lead to a low self-confidence because we repeat them in our heads until they become a sort of mantra. We are constantly bashing ourselves over our failures. Instead of preaching our failures, we should preach our plan to overcome them.

Learn everything there is to know about your adversity, whether it’s related to your job or your personal life. The knowledge will allow you to make a detailed plan on how to overcome it. And once you do, your self-confidence will soar.

3.     Achieve Something

Our brains are wired to reward us when we achieve something. When we tick something off our to-do list, our brain releases dopamine – a neurotransmitter – into our bloodstream.

Dopamine has multiple roles in the human body, but it’s often called “the happiness molecule” because of the role it plays in our reward-behavior mechanism.

When we achieve something, our brain releases more dopamine to reward us. But the interesting thing is, our brain doesn’t discriminate. It will release dopamine whether we wash the dishes or win the Olympics.

So, the best thing we can do for our mental health is to tap into this feel-good resource. One of the best ways to do it is to create lists. We enjoy lists. When we create lists, we can visualize our goals, no matter how small.

Set a goal you know you can achieve – to do 30 crunches, to take out the trash, to wash the car – anything really, and achieve it. You will feel good about it. Now, create a list of 20 small goals you can achieve in a day. The more you achieve, the better you’ll feel.

The best thing about this technique is that it teaches us that nothing is impossible. We start by setting small goals, and then we set bigger ones until we manage to achieve something we’ve always wanted. Achieving small goals might seem insignificant at first, but it will actually build our confidence so we can try something more important.

achiving something can improve our self-confidence

Achieving small goals is a shortcut to self-confidence

4.     Make Small Changes

No matter how much we enjoy our lives, we can always improve something. Most people are aware small changes can drastically improve one’s life, but they fail to see how they could benefit from the same changes.

Try making a small change once in a while. Drink a glass of water instead of a sugary drink after dinner. Wake up 10 minutes earlier than usual. Read before sleep instead of browsing social media. Do the same thing for a month and see how you feel.

We don’t need to make drastic changes to improve our lives. Small changes will do, as long as we make them consistently. And when we accomplish something, we’ll feel like a million bucks.

5.     Be Active

Being active improves our self-confidence

Being active helps with our self-confidence

Inactivity is harmful to our self-confidence. Our brains are wired to release dopamine when we achieve something, so doing nothing is not stimulating. We should always try to get involved in as many activities as possible.

Most people avoid doing new things because they’re afraid of failure. But making mistakes is what makes us human. Just think about it, life is actually a series of mistakes and improvement.

We don’t know how to walk when we come into the world, but every time we fall we get up and try again until we learn. Everything we know – walking, eating, reading, calculating, and maybe even kissing – started as something we didn’t know how to do but improved over time.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the unknown. Only when learning can we discover the true limits of our potential.

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6.     Be Generous

Kindness can improve our self-esteem. Studies have shown that people who engage in acts of selflessness are often the ones who benefit the most from it.

Over the years, generosity has been shown to help with depression, improve our physical health, and even increase our lifespan.

But it seems that generosity can do wonders for our self-esteem. Generosity is a confidence booster because it reassures us we can do good and have a positive impact. When we focus on what we give, we create an outward orientation toward the people around us.

By switching our focus from ourselves to those around us, we become more self-aware of our problems and sensitivity. This leads to an increase of positive thoughts which act as repellants for self-hatred.

Being generous diverts our attention from our critical inner voice and creates positive arguments against it. By seeing someone else benefiting from our actions, we realize we’re worth more than we had previously believed.

Generosity makes us realize we're better people, which improves our self-confidence

Generosity improves our self-awareness and our self-confidence

There are even some scientifically-backed guidelines we could follow to make sure we benefit from our generosity:

  • Be Sensitive – Generosity is most effective when we offer something sensitive. Instead of offering a monetary gift, we should think about what the other person needs or wants. Sometimes we don’t even need to spend money to make someone’s day. Spending some quality time with them might do the trick instead.
  • Accept Gratitude – We should always accept the gratitude of other people. Gratitude is their way of thanking us, and we shouldn’t brush it off like it is nothing. We should thank them for their gratitude, and let them know it’s important for us.
  • Accept Generosity – Generosity is often a two-way street. When you start sending out gifts, you should expect to receive some in turn. Some of us might not enjoy receiving gifts, but we shouldn’t rob other people of the opportunity to experience the joy of giving.
  • Show Gratitude – We should always show gratitude for the generosity directed at us. This might make us feel uncomfortable at first, but we should let the other people know how much their generosity meant for us.

Being generous and accepting generosity can significantly improve our self-confidence. By making a lifestyle out of generosity, we can improve ourselves and the world at the same time.

Improving Our Self-Confidence

Improving our self-confidence is not only possible, it’s also easy. If we want to be more confident, we have to be willing to put in the work. However, we should keep in mind that taking small steps in the right direction is always better than not heading there at all.