From the witty raconteur who holds court at the party to the assertive colleague who breezes through presentations – life is full of confident people. And because confident people make life look so effortless, it’s easy to assume they were born that way. But confidence isn’t a genetic trait – and you don’t need to be wealthy, good-looking or naturally extroverted to harness its powers.
“It’s a popular misconception that confidence and self-esteem are based on luck. But luck doesn’t have anything to do with it,” clinical psychologist Rhona Clews tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. “Confidence is something we build, and like a muscle it strengthens with practice and simple (preferably daily) consistent actions. With dedication, even those starting with low self-esteem are able to create a healthy sense of confidence.”
And if you can crack confidence, the rest will fall into place, according to Clews: “Confidence is like the floorboards underneath your life, affecting every area: relationships, finances, career, creativity, romance, home life, relationship with self, body confidence. When you increase your confidence, you transform and improve every area of your life. Confidence is magnetic, it creates ease and flow; it is the antidote to struggle and worry.”
Here are a few simple tips for overcoming self-doubt and boosting the inner confidence that lies in all of us.
For many of us, ingrained self-critical thought patterns (“I’m no good at this”, “I’m bound to fail”) are the biggest stumbling blocks to inner confidence. But neuroscientists have found that with regular mindfulness practice, we can rewire these negative neural pathways and learn to be kind to ourselves.
“One of the key principles of mindfulness is a kind and non-judgmental attitude towards our thoughts and experiences, which can help loosen the grip of self-criticism that undermines our confidence,” says Autumn Totton of The Mindfulness Project. Find out more about how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life in The Mindfulness Project's book 'I Am Here Now'.
Strike a pose
We’ve all seen the Alpha-male boss who leans back in his chair, hands clasped behind his head – a vision of cocksure confidence. But according to research, striking a ‘powerful’ pose not only makes us feel more confident psychologically – it can also work on a physiological level. Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy and Columbia University’s Dana R Carney found that standing with your hands on your hips and your feet wide apart or sitting in an expansive pose (leaning back with open limbs) for just two minutes, can alter hormone levels in the brain making us more confident and less stressed.
Be a public speaking pro
Even the most confident among us can be reduced to gibbering wrecks at the thought of speaking in front of a crowd. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Most speakers are nervous because they’re focusing too much on themselves,” says Sarah Lloyd-Hughes of Ginger Public Speaking and author of ‘How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking’. “Because everyone’s looking at you, it’s natural to think that they’re all critiquing you, waiting for you to screw up. In reality people aren’t really thinking that much about you, they just want value for themselves. So when you focus on serving your audience you’ll find your nerves slide away.”
Stop trying to be liked
Next time you find yourself obsessively refreshing your phone to see how many ‘likes’ your latest Facebook post has garnered, think about what it is you’re really hoping to gain. “Be mindful of ‘other esteem’ (our sense of worth being dependent on others’ views of us) vs ‘self-esteem’ (knowing we are inherently worthy),” says Clews. “Many of us are caught in the trap of people-pleasing and codependency, thinking that if we please others enough, we will feel good about ourselves. Social media can easily lead us back into this trap, thinking our sense of worth is dependent on how many ‘likes’ we have.”
Don’t sweat it
Putting on deodorant is a daily ritual most of us do on autopilot. But if you’ve ever dashed out of the house only to realise (as you board that hot, packed commuter train) you forgot to put yours on – you’ll understand the effect a decent antiperspirant can have on your daily confidence. In fact, scientists have found a direct link between body odour and self-confidence. Researchers at Liverpool University found that male participants who wore a spray containing fragrance and active ingredients had an increase in self-confidence so pronounced women ranked these participants as more attractive. The lesson: find an anti-perspirant deodorant you can trust.
Go for a park run
If you enjoy keeping fit, you’ll be familiar with the confidence-boosting effects tof regular exercise. But one study has found that where we exercise could further enhance this lift in self-esteem. The research revealed that participants who exercised in a pleasant environment (whether it was rural or urban) saw a greater improvement in mood and self-esteem while unpleasant rural or urban environment environments reduced the positive effects of exercise on self-esteem. So, grab your running shoes and head to your nearest green space if you want your send your confidence soaring today.