You, Only More Badass
Can-do, confident attitudes don't just happen. They're built—with these expert-backed steps.
Either you have confidence or you don't, right? Not exactly.
Contrary to what you might think, people who believe deep down that they've got what it takes, who come off as naturally self-assured, who seem to win at almost everything, weren't simply born with the swagger gene. They cultivated that certainty the same way you can, for example, train your body to sprint faster by doing squats.
Which training programme do they follow? Life. "Confidence comes from experiences", explains Jessica M. Goodnight, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Atlanta who specialises in anxiety. "Experiences of taking risks, putting yourself out there and finding out that things go all right sometimes. Inevitably, by doing this, you'll also experience failure, which—if you're resilient and bounce back from it—can also be used as an opportunity to bolster your confidence".
"Confidence comes from experiences. Experiences of taking risks, putting yourself out there and finding out that things go all right sometimes".
Jessica M. Goodnight
PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
In other words, it's pretty normal to doubt your abilities when you're a rookie, whether you're trying out a new sport, going on a first date or playing a different position. But the more you keep at it, winning and losing along the way, the more confident you'll start to feel. Practice and experience are what make you more capable, and that's what gives confidence solid legs to stand on, says Goodnight.
Still, taking that first step can feel scary. Start with these strategies you can use to give your confidence the jump-start you need to dive in—and begin building that deep, unshakeable self-certainty that comes with time. Start here.
01. Fake it 'til you make it.
Just standing or sitting up straight can make you feel stronger, more capable and less fearful, as can striking a "power pose"—meaning you push your shoulders back, puff out your chest slightly, lift your chin and make eye contact—according to a review of 55 studies. So take your parents' advice and stand up straight. "Slouching or sinking tends to restrict our breath and can make us feel sluggish or small. Psychologically, it projects inferiority", says Kelley Kitley, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Chicago who specialises in anxiety and depression.
Dressing the part can also be empowering. "Ask yourself, 'If I already felt confident, what would I wear?'" says Goodnight. That might mean splurging on a great outfit before you get the job, or investing in better hiking gear while you're still getting your trail feet under you. Research suggests that the right kind of kit can help you see yourself in a more positive light. And that can give you the mental edge to succeed, notes Kitley.
02. Take a chance.
Remember, "Confidence can be built through risk-taking", says Kitley. When you push yourself outside your comfort zone and realise that it actually feels quite nice, you develop more self-assurance you can apply to just about anything, she explains.
One low-key way to dip your toe into risk? Strike up a conversation with a stranger in a moment when you'd be cool with someone chatting you up. It's a small gamble (worst-case scenario, they look at you like you have two heads), but it still requires a bit of vulnerability, and the confidence pay-off of creating a new connection can be high.
Kitley and Goodnight suggest giving a simple, genuine compliment to that person you see at the gym or in the lift every day. "Begin a habit of thinking about what you appreciate about the people around you. This helps you offer compliments more easily and in an unpressured way in your daily interactions", explains Goodnight. "When the person makes eye contact with you or smiles, that's your cue to dish the compliment", she says.
03. Put pen to paper.
Stoke your inner fire by writing down examples of when you've hit a home run in the past, literally or figuratively. "It's evidence that you've already done hard things, which you can use to create a foundation to build on", says Kitley. Keep the list in a place where you'll see it often, like on the bathroom mirror or next to the coffee maker, or make it the background of your phone's lock screen.
Note the wins you're racking up in real time too. Each week, add one or two things you did really well, particularly during trying times, such as acing a project during exam season or finishing a HIIT workout after a night of poor sleep. Seeing the list grow is a tangible way of tracking your successes and showing yourself that you're making progress, says Kitley. It'll remind you that, even when failures happen, you're still able to push onwards. "Seeing proof of your confidence adding up shows that you have more of it than you may think. This is what helps you feel proud and motivated to take more risks, live outside your comfort zone and set even loftier goals", she says.
Soon enough, you'll become that person who just knows they've got it. We're confident about that.
Words: Marygrace Taylor
Illustration: Davide Bonazzi