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The Skill of Confidence & 5 Tips for Practicing

By December 27, 2019 No Comments

I have spent most of my life on some sort of stage.

Whether as a performer or teacher or coach, I have often but myself in front of others and very much at the center of attention.

After co-hosting (co-presenting? I mean, it wasn’t some nighttime talk show) my first nutrition seminar, I remember so many comments from others on my ability to present calmly and eloquently to a large group.

I think that Coach Sarah, that Sarah, that version of myself, is what most people think of with me. Feel free to email me later to correct me. But because of this, it generally shocks people when I mention my anxiety or feelings of self-consciousness or something along those lines. My goal in most settings, especially professionally, it to come across as confident. 

They didn’t know that in that nutrition seminar, I wore a black shirt specifically so you couldn’t see the ridiculous amounts of sweat under my arms.

I wasn’t just born with confidence or the ability to be more confident than others. It’s not a chromosomal mutation or extra gene that some people are born with and some are not. It’s a skill. One that you have to hone and if it is true, it is expressed in a way that is uniquely yours.

So here are 5 pointers or tips to help you become the master, the Mr. Miyagi, of confidence. 

1.Know that confidence is not a personality trait.

Many people hear of believe that they are ‘shy’. So much so, that they start to believe it is just their personality, but it isn’t.

In my brief stint as a college actor, we had to do an exercise where we read the same script two times through; once as though you were speaking to a parent and once through like you were talking to your best friend. And EVERY person read the two differently. We are different versions of ourselves with different people, in different scenarios. Think of how differently you act in front of your family, and friends than in front of a table of people in a board meeting. How confident you are completely changes depending on the situation and context. It is not set, and how you react to those situations can be adapted and developed over time.

2.Practice confidence like any other skill.

We generally know, the more familiar with a situation you are, the easier it becomes. The nerves that you feel on the first day of school, or first day of a new job, are rarely still there past the first few weeks. Once you see that your worst fears about a situation haven’t comes to pass then you relax, and become more confident in your environment.

Think of giving a speech- since you had to get ready to present your 5th grade science project, you know that in order to do your best, you must prepare before hand. We know that it’s a good idea to practice and prepare – rehearse your answers, have questions ready to ask, and stride to the front of the class (or boardroom) with your head held high. And guess what?  If it doesn’t go the way we expected, they are still good practice. We learn and we do better in the next one. So why don’t we apply this logic to the rest of our lives? If we know that each time we put ourselves into a situation, it is likely to improve the next time, we can count every large social situation, speech, board meeting, or presentation on Bohr’s model of the atom (yes, this was me) as a learning experience

3.You don’t have to be loud to be confident. (This might be my favorite.)

‘Those who shout the loudest often have nothing to say.’

You don’t have to enforce your point on others to be heard. But you do have to believe in yourself. Some of the most successful people in the world would not describe themselves as extroverted. JK Rowling is a self-proclaimed introvert and has said she was very much alone on a train when she started writing ‘Harry Potter’.

Confidence only works when it is genuine to you. If you are a quiet person, then it is probably completely out of character to start forcing yourself to be center of attention. Be confident in your own way – instead of speaking up in the meeting, maybe speak to your boss about your idea privately afterwards, but with conviction.

Remember that being a good listener is far more valuable than being a good talker, as a friend, employee, or all round good human.

4.Small changes go a long way.

Did you know that it is estimated that 55% of our communication as humans is non verbal? Which means that what we say to appear confident is actually less important than how we move and express ourselves.

Our body language goes a long way to signalling to others how we are reacting to situations. Small changes to your body language like pulling your shoulders back, uncrossing your arms, smiling more and speaking more slowly can all help you to feel and appear more confident to others.

5.Fake it until you make it.

If you grew up convinced that you are just shy, you may think that everyone else is just more confident than you are. At least they appear to be. 

Most times, the reason that other people appear more confident to you is because you assume that you appear unconfident. This may not be the case. You don’t know the way that other people see you, how can you unless you ask directly?

Prepare yourselves, but there’s a high likelihood that other people are faking it too. I bet you if you asked most people who have had to do a speech in front of lots of people how they felt while they were doing it, very few would say ‘calm and confident’. Most people are terrified or even just seriously uncomfortable, but some have practiced appearing confident more often than others, and got the faking it thing down to a tee.

I don’t know that I will ever LOVE giving speeches and I always get a butterfly or ten in my stomach before I step on stage to perform a piece for the first time, but by practicing confidence I have gained a lot of it and have some wonderful experiences under my belt. 

 

 

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