18 Best Self-Confidence Books Reviewed and Ranked 2019

Books on self confidence

These are the best self-confidence books, carefully reviewed and ranked.

We also have separate book guides on self-esteemsocial anxiety, and body language.

Top picks

There are 18 books in this guide. To help you choose, these are my top picks.


Top pick overall

1. The Confidence Gap: From Fear to Freedom

Author: Russ Harris

Of all the books on confidence I’ve reviewed, this is hands down the best one. Why? It has the opposite approach to traditional pep-speech books.

It’s science-based: It helps you apply ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) which is well supported in hundreds of studies to make people feel significantly more self-confident.

My only critique would be that the author condemns many other methods to develop confidence that might still have some value, like visualizations. But this is a minor complaint, and it’s hands down my top recommendation for this list.

Do get this book if…

  • You want to build your overall confidence and self-esteem.
  • You dislike peppy self-help.

Do NOT get this book if…

  • You want a book that focuses specifically on a certain area in life. (Well, I still think you should get this one, but there are other books you can read first). See my other top picks below.

4.5 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


Top pick self-esteem

2. The Self Confidence Workbook: A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem

Author: Barbara Markway

GREAT book with advice that’s been thoroughly proven in studies to build up self-esteem.

Barbara Markway is a renowned psychiatrist in the field. Even though it’s a workbook it’s not dry but encouraging and positive.

Read my review of this book in my guide on self-esteem books.


Top pick success

3. The Magic of Thinking Big

Author: David J. Schwartz

Cult book on how to set up a system for daring to think bigger and feel motivated. It’s on how to overcome fear of failure, set up goals that help you grow and how to think positively.

This is the previous generation of self-help (And was published in 1959): Less research-based and more bravado. If you have oversight of this, it’s still a great book.

Do get this book if…

  • You want a confidence book specifically to be more successful in life.

Do NOT get this book if…

  • You want something up-to-date, using only well-researched methods. If so, get The Confidence Gap.

4.7 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)



4. Psycho-Cybernetics: Updated and Expanded

Author: Maxwell Maltz

This book also belongs to the previous-generation self-confidence books that lacks many of the ideas you’ll see in newer books like The Confidence Gap.

However, compared to the other old classics (like The Magic of Thinking Big or Awaken the Giant Within) this one is a bit different.

It focuses on visualization exercises. It helps you visualize yourself in a more confident state.

Later studies have backed up that there’s some truth to this. And this is still, 40 years after it was written, a well-renowned book.

Verdict: Don’t read this book INSTEAD of The Confidence Gap or The Self Confidence Workbook. But if you want to, you can read it TOGETHER with those books.

4.7 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


5. Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!

Author: Tony Robbins

This is a classic on self-confidence. Still, much of it builds on The Magic of Thinking Big (that came out 33 years before this one).

Verdict: Read The Magic of Thinking Big first. If you want more, or if you’re a big Tony Robbins fan, read this book.

4.5 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


6. The Power of Self-Confidence: Become Unstoppable, Irresistible, and Unafraid in Every Area of Your Life

Author: Brian Tracy

Another cult classic on confidence. However, like the two books above, it belongs to a previous generation of self-help that is less science-based and more about pep talk.

Verdict: This is an amazing book. But if you feel too low, it just creates a disconnect. Instead, I’d recommend any of the top books on this list first.

4.4 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


Top pick on dealing with people

7. How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People

Author: Leslie T. Giblin

This book is from 1956 – so it’s a 50s view on society. However, basic human psychology doesn’t change so the principles are still surprisingly well-aged.

This book is focused specifically on confidence in interacting with people. However, it’s not written for people with social anxiety but rather for those who want to improve from already being okay, and especially in a business setting.

Do get this book if…

  • If you’re already OK off socially and want to be more confident in business settings.

Do NOT get this book if…

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


8. The Ultimate Secrets of Total Self-Confidence: A Proven Formula That Has Worked for Thousands

Author: Robert Anthony (Not to be confused with Anthony Roberts, hehe)

Another one of the previous generation confidence books that’s not based on science. Much of what is taught in this book is great. But it has nothing to do with science.

It talks about personal magnetism as if it was some kind of magic force. Sure, there is something we can call personal magnetism, but it comes down to acting in a way socially that people respond favorably to, not magnetic fields or quantum physics.

Verdict: If you’re OK with giving the author a pass for these ideas and just pick up on the good stuff, this book will still be a valuable investment. But before you read it, there are better books you should read, like the Confidence Gap.

4.5 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


Confidence through body language

9. Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

Author: Amy Cuddy

This is a great book on confidence, but it’s a niche that won’t be for everyone. This one doesn’t focus on that general nervosity we can feel around new people or self-doubt. It’s more about how to be confident at certain challenges like holding a speech etc. And it’s focused around her research field on power posing.

Also, there are much more actionable books on the subject

Other research has shown that if you’re self-conscious, the idea of focusing on your posture can make you MORE self-conscious.

Do get this book if…

  • You’ve already read other books on self-confidence, like the ones higher up in this guide.

Do NOT get this book if…

  • You want advice on how to be more confident around new people.
  • You are held back by self-consciousness today. Instead, read The Self-Confidence Workbook.

4.4 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


Confidence books specifically for women

These are the books where the author talks specifically to women.

For women in their career

10. The Confidence Effect: Every Woman’s Guide to the Attitude That Attracts Success

Author: Grace Killelea

This book focuses on how women often feel less confident than men even if they are just as competent, which has been confirmed in many studies.

Be aware that it does contain a lot of self-promotion of her company that can be annoying at times. Overall, a great book.

Verdict: This is the best book on the topic of confidence in career for women. However, I still think The Self Confidence Workbook is a better read on self-doubt. But if you want something on career, you should definitely get this one, too, as it covers work-related issues that the workbook doesn’t.

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


11. Wire Your Brain for Confidence: The Science of Conquering Self-Doubt

Author: Louisa Jewell

This book actually wouldn’t have had to be marketed only toward women because the science behind it is universal.

Overall, this is a great book. It focuses on positive psychology. Personally, I still prefer The Confidence Gap over this one. The reason is that this book takes some liberties of how it interprets studies that are made in one area of life and translates it straight off to another area of life.

The Confidence Gap is more thorough.

Do get this book if…

You want a positive psychology confidence book specifically for women

Do NOT get this book if…

You want something that covers self-confidence, and self-doubt more thoroughly. If so, rather go with The Confidence Gap.


For women in the middle of their career

12. The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know

This is a good book even though it’s clinical and can be a tough read. The main idea is that women have less self-confidence than men and that it’s 50% genetics and 50% in your control.

The book seems to fit women in mid-life best.

Do get this book if…

You’re a woman in mid-life who are interested in the theory behind confidence

Do NOT get this book if…

You want a pure step-by-step guide. If so, get The Self Confidence Workbook.

4.3 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


For young girls

13. The Confidence Code for Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up, and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self

Author: Katty Kay

This book is specifically for girls in their tweens and teens. It has stellar reviews and is one of the best-ranked books during my research. Research-based.

Verdict: If you have a young daughter and want to help her improve her self-confidence, get this book.

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link. I recommend this book only because I think it’s good.)


Honorary mentions


14. The Art of Extraordinary Confidence: Your Ultimate Path To Love, Wealth, and Freedom

Author: Aziz Gazipura

This book starts off OK but just doesn’t deliver. It’s too rudimentary, like if he’d hired a freelancer to just finish the book.

Verdict: There’s for sure some valuable advice in this book, but there are much better books on the topic (Like the ones I recommend earlier in this guide)

4.4 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


15. Confidence Hacks: 99 Small Actions to Massively Boost Your Confidence

Author: Barrie Davenport

This is a list of 99 advice on how to be more confident. Because each tip is just a 200-word nugget, it doesn’t go in-depth into anything.

Verdict: If you really love lists and don’t want to commit to something more in-depth, sure, get this book. But be aware that it doesn’t have the same potency as the book by the beginning of this guide.

3.65 stars on Goodreads. Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


16. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life

Author: Jen Sincero

This book targets millennial women and encourages them to be more assertive and get what they want. It’s high on pep and low on well-researched strategies.

Verdict: If you dread workbooks and want something easy to consume with a sassy language, I think you can appreciate this book. However, if you do follow the principles of, say, the Confidence Gap, I’m certain that you’ll come out a more confident person at the other end.

4.6 stars on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link.)


Books to be cautious about

These are books that have little evidence of working.


17. Ultimate Confidence: The Secrets to Feeling Great About Yourself Every Day

Author: Marisa Peer

I know that a lot of people like this book, but it’s based on the idea that you can hypnotize yourself into confidence.

There’s just no evidence for that you can become permanently confident through hypnosis. Yes, she has great reviews, but she’s also written a book on how to hypnotize yourself into losing weight.

In-between the pseudo-science there’s some good advice. But if you want to be confident, there are much better books.


18. Instant Confidence: The Power to Go for Anything You Want

Author: Paul McKenna.

Another popular hypnosis book. The author claims that hypnosis will make you confident.

However, I can’t find any study that shows an effect beyond placebo.

But if you believe in it and you feel more confident (even if it’s just placebo) it has still helped you, so why not.

However, CBT and ACT are proven in hundreds of studies to work, so I’d go with that instead. (With for example The Confidence Gap or The Confidence Workbook)

Beyond the hypnosis part, the book does contain some valuable advice, but nothing you won’t find in any other self-help book.

This author has also written the books “I can make you rich”, “I can make you thin”, “I can make you happy” and “I can make you sleep”, which to me makes him less trustworthy. I prefer books written by experts that focus on a specific area.


Is there any book that you think I should review? Let me know in the comments below!

How I deal with social fear

how to deal with fear

Back in the day, there was a huge festival in the Netherlands I always wanted to go to.

So one year, my friends decided to go and I had my chance to join. But I didn’t.

I said it was because I couldn’t afford it. But the real reason was fear.

I was too afraid to go there and meet a bunch of strangers in a place I’ve never been to. I told myself “I’ll go another year instead”.

But later, the festival closed down. My chance was gone for good.

I’m thankful that I’ve now learned a new way to think about fear.

(Therapists charge thousands for this method to help people take control over fear, but I want to give it to you for free.)

How confident people deal with fear

Here’s how we intuitively react to fear:

When we feel fear, our intuition tells us to avoid whatever causes that fear. The fear works as a stop sign that reads: “This feels bad. Avoid whatever causes this feeling!”

Here’s what fear really is:

Fear is our body’s natural response to uncertainty. But in most cases, uncertainty is actually good.

Uncertainty is what you experience when you do something out of the ordinary – when you grow as a person.

So we think fear is a sign that something bad is about to happen, but it’s actually the opposite – it’s a sign that something GOOD is about to happen!

Fear isn’t a stop sign. It’s a growth sign. I explain this more in detail here.

Later in life, I had a new opportunity: To leave everything behind in Sweden and move to New York City.

This time, I felt several times more afraid than I had felt about that festival in the Netherlands.

But armed with my new mindset; that fear is a growth-sign, I knew that I was on the right path.

Today, I know that moving to NYC was one of the best decisions of my life.

fear in social situations

Pancake brunch with friends here in NYC. (Photo by my talented friend Khitam Jabr)

“But David, some things are just TOO scary!”

Exactly! We can’t suddenly start doing the scariest things we can think of.

But…

We CAN start doing what’s just barely scary. Something that’s actually just a bit socially uncomfortable that we have a habit of avoiding.

For some, it’s calling in an order to a pizzeria. To others, it’s asking a stranger about the time or answering an unknown caller.

When you do your barely scary thing, pay attention to your fear and remember:

It’s not a stop sign. It’s a growth sign.

How do your thoughts go when you feel fear? Let me know in the comments!

 

Interview with Mark Rosenfeld on attracting people you deserve

After struggling with shyness throughout high-school and early years of college, Mark turned things around in 2009. A few years later he started teaching confidence in life and dating.

In 2014, he started MakeHimYours.com, sharing what he learned to help women stop the frustrating patterns in their dating lives and start attracting the men they deserve.

4 Ways to Overcome Social Insecurity

Feeling insecure in social situations and settings

In 2015, 264 million adults were suffering from various anxiety disorders worldwide.1

Whether your social insecurities stem from anxiety or not, this staggering number should offer you a bit of comfort; you are not alone when it comes to the fears you may have about socializing.

Meeting new people, making conversation, and navigating crowds are just a few examples of things that can trigger a variety of symptoms ranging from mild (racing heart and sweaty palms) to severe (panic attacks and avoiding social events altogether).

But social insecurity does not have to follow you forever; the following four tips can help you to overcome the fears that prevent you from having a happy, healthy social life.

1. Determine Your Social Strengths

The first step is to figure out what you’re good at when it comes to social situations (and you are good at something, so don’t tell yourself otherwise).

You can do this by simply making a list of things you’re confident doing and/or enjoy doing.

Figuring out your social strengths will not only give you a sense of purpose in social situations, it will also boost your confidence as a result of focusing on your positive attributes.

Once you have determined your social strengths, it’s time to learn how to use them.

2.  Apply Your Social Strengths

Now that you know what your strengths are based on your personality type and/or the things you enjoy doing, you can put them to work.

The key to applying your social strengths is putting yourself in situations where your social strengths will be relevant.

If one of your strengths is your sense of humor, it won’t do you any good to introduce yourself to a group of people who appear solemn and are engrossed in a serious conversation.

Instead, you will be setting yourself up for success by introducing yourself to a group of people who appear light-hearted and upbeat, because you will have an opportunity to 1) apply your social strength (your sense of humor) and 2) receive positive feedback for it (because you chose your audience well).

When you experience success by following these steps, your confidence will begin to increase as your social insecurity decreases. 

In my case, I am confident introducing myself to people who look alone or intimidated (despite the fact that I myself am alone and intimidated) because my compassion for that person’s situation is greater than my fear of making conversation with strangers.  This is one way I can apply my social strength.

Read more here: How to not get intimidated by others.

Remember, you can (and do) have multiple social strengths.  It is wise to practice applying each of them so that you can become more socially versatile.

3.  Celebrate Your Successes

When you have overcome a social insecurity by applying one of your strengths in a social situation, it’s important to give yourself permission to make it a big deal.

Reward yourself for stepping outside your comfort zone and experiencing success doing something you were previously too afraid to even attempt. Positive reinforcement is key to teaching and learning new behaviors, and you can (and should!) use this strategy on yourself.

In addition to rewarding yourself for having a success, keep a journal where you write down each victory.  Detail exactly what you did, what happened as a result, and why it worked.  Note any changes you would make in the future to improve even further.

This is a beneficial practice because

  1. You will be developing a manual for yourself on how to successfully socialize so that you know what to do next time, and
  2. When you’re feeling down, you will have a journal of victories to look through as a reminder of how far you’ve come.

4.  Turn Your Failures into Action Plans

Unfortunately, there will be times when things don’t go exactly as planned.  Sometimes this is a result of something you did or didn’t do/said or didn’t say, and sometimes it’s a result of the other person.

Acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake is an important part of the process.

First, you will come to realize that failures are not the end of the world.  The more you experience both victories and setbacks, the more you will realize that this is the natural cycle of life and everyone experiences it.

Second, acknowledging that you’ve made a mistake is the only way you can begin to fix it.  While many people advise that you should just “brush it off” when something goes wrong, this is poor advice; if you aren’t intentional about determining why the mistake was made, you will have to live constantly in fear of it happening again.

In the same journal where you record your victories (or a different one, if you wish to keep them separate), write down exactly what happened. What were you trying to do, and what happened instead? Why did it go wrong, and what can you do differently next time?

This strategy puts you in control, rather than allowing you to become a victim of constant “accidents” that will tank your self-esteem and reinforce your social insecurity rather than your confidence.

Although your social insecurities may have been years in the making, the human brain is malleable and can be trained to both behave and respond differently.  You do not have to live at the mercy of your insecurities.  You have power over your thoughts, and following these four steps will help you change your mind and, as a result, your social life.

What social insecurities are you working to overcome?

References:

  1. World Health Organization.  2017. Depression and other common mental disorders: Global health estimates. p 10.

21 Tricks to get a Confident Body Language

Confident body language

Have you ever gotten a strong feeling about someone that you just couldn’t explain?

They didn’t say or do anything unusual, but for some reason you just know.

When you feel this way, it’s probably a good idea to “go with your gut.”

Research shows that the actual words you say only make up 7% of what you communicate.  Your tone of voice makes up 38%, and your body language is– wait for it– a whopping 55% of your total communication.1

This proves that, while the way you say something is just as important as what you say, the loudest message is the one you’re sending without any words at all.

If your body language is broadcasting your insecurities, you’ll likely find it difficult to make new friends or land that dream job.

But if your body language is showcasing your confidence, doors will begin to open for you that you never knew existed.

Remember, more than half of what someone is learning about you on a date or at a job interview is being told to them through your body language.  So no matter how much preparation you put into what you’re going to say, it’s of the utmost importance that your body language is echoing the same message.

Luckily, the following four steps will help you obtain the confident body language that will change your social life (and probably your personal and work lives) forever.

1. Confident Appearance

Ever heard the phrase, “Look good, feel good”? It’s more than just a catchy Instagram hashtag.

When you take care of your body and your appearance, you will feel better about yourself for a number of reasons: you will be healthier, happier, and proud of the way you look.  As a result, your body language will be more confident because you’ll actually be more confident.

No matter what the occasion, the most important factor in “looking the part” is good personal hygiene.  Some say cleanliness is next to godliness, but if you ask me, cleanliness is next to confidence.

Showering and brushing your teeth regularly, making sure to wear clean clothes, and combing your hair are all it really takes to prevent that uncomfortable moment when you begin to wonder whether or not you smell bad.

Wearing clothing that is appropriate for both the season and event is another easy way to not only feel confident, but appear confident as well.

2.  Confident Posture

Now that you’ve dressed yourself confidently, the next step is to hold your body with a confident posture.

Although you might expect a confident posture to consist of a ramrod-straight back and arms held to either side, this sort of rigid position actually appears very uptight (think about it: this was the posture expected of medieval kings and queens, and they wanted to look intimidating).

On the other hand, slouching, keeping your head down, and crossing your arms are each a means of making yourself look smaller, which indicates timidity, fear, and insecurity.

A confident posture is the in-between; while it’s true that you should stand up straight, that doesn’t mean to stand uncomfortably straight. If it feels unnatural, it probably looks unnatural too.

Keep your chin up (not in the air, but also not tucked into your collar bone).  Keep your hands loosely by your sides, have one hand (not both) casually tucked into a pocket, or use them to make natural hand gestures as you speak.

The position in which you hold your body indicates a lot about how you’re feeling.  Making minor adjustments can cause you to instantly appear more confident.

3.  Confident Hands and Feet

To be such small parts of your body, your hands and feet send big messages about the state of your self-esteem.

It’s not exactly a mystery why a police officer may ask someone to “keep your hands where I can see them.” Seeing their hands lets them know that the person isn’t holding a weapon or otherwise threatening their safety.

But this doesn’t just apply to law enforcement– it’s human instinct to feel increased trust when someone’s hands are visible. This is part of why we offer our hands to be sniffed by a dog who is unfamiliar with us, or why we hold our hands out when we are pleading with someone.

In the same way, keeping your hands free and visible is a component of confident body language. 

If your hand are shoved deep into your pockets, you will appear uncomfortable and people will be wary of you– if you’re uncomfortable, there’s probably a reason… so maybe they should feel uncomfortable too.

It’s also important to pay attention to the nervous habits you may conduct with your hands.

Many people unwittingly mess with their hair, pick at their fingernails, or fiddle with their clothing or accessories when they get nervous.  You may not realize you’re doing it, but other people will, and your insecurity will become transparent. 

In addition to keeping visible hands and avoiding nervous tics, the way that you walk is another key indicator of your confidence.

If you are shuffling your feet, taking teeny-tiny steps, or being a total weirdo  behaving really oddly by walking on tip-toe, people will think you’re either scared, suspicious, or frighteningly strange (none of which are desirable outcomes).

Taking larger strides and keeping your eyes fixed on your destination, rather than on the floor, indicates that you are confident both in yourself and in what you’re doing and gives you the appearance of walking with purpose.

Finally, the stance that you take when you stop walking is a major contributor to your appearance of confidence.

Earlier I mentioned that hunching your shoulders or tucking your chin makes you appear smaller, and the same is true of a narrow stance.

Taking up more space by standing with feet shoulder-width apart or sitting with your feet planted firmly on the ground is an indicator of confidence.  By doing this, you are showing that you know where you belong and you’re not afraid to be seen or to make yourself comfortable in your space.

Let me be clear– I’m not saying you should stand like a cowboy preparing to draw his pistol for a duel (and if you do stand that way, go ahead and walk around on tip-toe while you’re at it).

However, maintaining a comfortable stance that takes up an appropriate amount of space for your body size will make you appear much more confident than you will if you stand as though you’re in an overly-full elevator.

4.  Confident Eyes

Your eyes are the fourth and final component of developing a more confident body language.

Staring at the ground, your hands, or basically anywhere except the person who’s speaking indicates

  1. You’re guilty of something, or
  2. You’re shy/terrified/insecure

In short, eye contact is key.

Unlike some of the previous points, this is not a new concept.  Quite simply, don’t be afraid to look at people.

If you’re afraid to look at people, it’s probably because you don’t want them to look back. And that, my friends, is the number one sign of insecurity.

So, when you’re in a situation where you need to put on a confident body language, think of the children’s song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

Just kidding– but do think of your appearance, your posture, and your hands, feet, and eyes.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the picture people see when they look at you is worth a million.  So make it count.

5. Ways to Convey Confidence Through Body Language

Ever heard the saying “Fake it ’til you make it?”

Nine times out of ten, this phrase is used in reference to the habit of faking confidence.

The amount of confidence you exude can play a large role in the success you experience in your personal life, in your social life, and in your workplace.  And though you may not always feel confident, the ability to act with confidence anyway is a valuable skill to have.

You probably wouldn’t walk into a room and say, “Hey everybody! I’m feeling really confident today!” (And if you would… please don’t).

Rather than annoying your coworkers, you’re likely to find that it’s much more effective (and socially acceptable) to convey confidence through your body language instead.  

Body language is the non-verbal communication of your attitude and thoughts.  Whether you realize it or not, you are always sending a message via your body language, and it doesn’t take an expert to decipher its meaning.

Some of the most obvious examples of body language are things you see all the time. Someone standing with crossed arms, head tilted back, with eyes pointed towards the ceiling, shifting his weight back and forth while tapping one foot is clearly frustrated and impatient.

On the other hand, someone sprawled out on a sofa with her arms above her head and one leg up on a table is obviously comfortable in her environment. Neither of those people would need to explicitly tell you how they’re feeling.  You would be able to tell just by looking at them; they are signaling it with their body language.

For several years, I was a 3rd grade teacher of at-risk children in an extremely impoverished neighborhood (in other words, a pretty stressful work environment). One of the ways that teachers in this district are evaluated is through “drop-in” observations, where the school principal comes by at random to watch a lesson.

Everything the teacher says and does is written down–verbatim–and evaluated according to an extensive rubric.  The results of these observations affect the number of future observations the teacher will receive, as well as how much the teacher will get paid the following school year.

To call this “nerve-racking” is an understatement, and during my first year of teaching I was particularly terrified.  And yet at every post-conference I attended, I was complimented on my “calm and confidence.” This was shocking to me because I didn’t feel calm or confident at the time.  But I used my body language to pretend like I did— and it worked.

The next time I had an observation like this, I didn’t have to fake my confidence quite as much because my actual confidence was much higher.

You too can use your body language to convey confidence using the following 4 tips.

6. Eye Contact

One of the most obvious “tells” of insecurity is the unwillingness to make eye contact. Avoiding eye contact indicates to someone that you are either uncomfortable or have something to hide.

You don’t want to make creepy eye contact either, though– meet the person’s eyes when they are speaking to you or you are speaking to them, and maintain a normal blinking pattern. If the conversation includes multiple people, switch between making eye contact with each of them instead of focusing on one person. Eye contact is the most important characteristic of confident body language. 

7. Posture

Think of some of the most confident people you know.  How do they position themselves? Confident people hold their heads up high and stand up straight, ready to face whatever comes at them.  A posture of confidence is not stiff; it is relaxed and allows for plenty of movement.  Hunching over, keeping your head down, crossing your arms, and folding into yourself are signs of fear, shame, and insecurity.  Take note of how you hold yourself when you are nervous or uncomfortable, and make an effort to stand normally in these situations instead.  It can be helpful to ask close family or friends who have spent a lot of time with you what they notice about your behavior in these situations so that you can be more aware of it in the future.

8. Movement

In addition to having a relaxed, open posture, confident people are comfortable moving around. Make sure you understand the difference between “moving around” and fidgeting– nervous tics such as messing with your hair, pacing, twisting an earring, 0r fiddling with a lanyard or the buttons on your shirt are not indicators of confidence. Stiffness, such as keeping your hands clenched tightly in fists or shoved deep into your pocket, indicates discomfort.

When watching someone giving a speech, it is clear they are nervous if they clutch the podium or their notes and rarely let go. Confident body language includes the use of hand gestures, animated facial expressions, and other natural movements that are appropriate for the situation at hand.

9.  Facial Expressions

For some, facial expressions can be the most difficult aspect of body language to control. It can be easy to reveal exactly what you are thinking and feeling on your face. But with practice, you can learn to maintain facial expressions that exhibit confidence regardless of the situation.

First, confident people smile because they believe in their ability to handle any situation, and their lack of insecurity allows them to enjoy themselves.  When you are nervous or uncomfortable, you smile less frequently, if at all.  Making sure to smile (when appropriate) will give you the appearance of confidence.

Some things a confident person doesn’t do include:

  • Pursing his lips
  • Biting his lip
  • Blinking rapidly or unnaturally
  • Clenching her jaw

Think about which of these things you find yourself doing when feeling nervous and focus on maintaining a neutral facial expression instead, and be sure to smile when appropriate.

The most confident people you know are probably not as confident as they seem.  Most successful people have discovered the truth in the saying “Fake it ’til you make it.” Learning how to use your body language to convey confidence–even when you aren’t feeling it– will allow you to develop actual confidence as you continue to experience success.

10. Common body language mistakes

couple

Often when we feel uncomfortable in social situations, our body language is affected in the following ways:

We might…

  • Cross our arms like we want to protect ourselves
  • Body rock
  • Hunch forward
  • Act like we want to leave the conversation
  • Feel afraid to take up space
  • Sit or stand in a stiff position
  • Start fiddling with our phone

Doing this makes us look nervous and shy. Even more importantly: It makes us feel nervous and shy. That’s right. Like I mentioned in the previous chapter, using a nervous body language is causing you to feel more nervous.

If you physically change your body language, your brain will produce hormones that will indeed make you feel more confident.

An Interesting study

In a study, two groups of people were instructed to make a series of difficult decisions.

One of the groups had been instructed to maintain a confident body language during the decision-making. This group felt more confident with the decisions that they had made compared to the test group.

This experiment proved that you actually become a more confident person simply by using a confident body language.

11. How to get an open and outgoing body language

Here’s a complete list of mistakes related to body language and examples on how socially skilled people do it differently. Before we start off, two things:

IMPORTANT:

1. Don’t be overwhelmed by this list – you don’t need to memorize it
Instead, pay attention to if there’s anything you can adjust when it comes to your body language and keep that in the back of your head.

2. If you forget to follow some of the advice on this list, no worries
This is for you to get an overview and see the big picture to help you to get rid of bad habits. It’s your overall appearance that matters. Rather be relaxed and make mistakes than being stiff and afraid of making mistakes.

12. Crossing your arms

People who cross their arms come off as nervous or skeptical. Avoid doing this when you’re talking to someone. Also avoid to “protect your belly” by holding a hand in front of it or holding something you carry in front of it. That’s a clear sign of being uncomfortable

What to do instead:

Let your arms hang relaxed along with your sides.

If you’re holding a glass or a phone or a bag, hold it at waist level with relaxed arms along your sides.

A great habit is to simply put your thumbs in your pockets and let your fingers point downward when you’re talking to someone. That will create a natural, relaxed look.

13. Body rocking

Reporters who are out on the field are taught in journalism class to “anchor” themselves in the ground in front of the camera to convey more confidence and to avoid moving around too much.

If you feel uncertain of where to stand and it feels like everyone is looking at you, throw a mental anchor right where you are and stand still on the spot with your feet at shoulder width.

It can be comforting to know that when you don’t know where to go or what to do, instead of flinching around, just encamp where you currently stand until you know where you’re going next. That will make you look confident and relaxed.

14. Hunching forward

As proved in studies, hunching forward increases cortisol levels in your blood which will make you stressed. It also makes you look submissive and nervous, so try to avoid it.

In a study, test subjects were asked to guess who was the leader of different work teams. It turned out that they didn’t pick the actual leader, but most often chose one of the groups with the best posture. A good posture automatically signals that you’re confident and it makes you more attractive.

People often make the mistake of leaning backward when they try to improve their posture. Avoid doing that and instead, use the technique below.

15. 5-second posture quick fix

These are the benefits of doing this exercise:

  • You will look more confident and attractive.
  • People will assume you to be the leader of the group.
  • It’s better for your back.
  • Your voice will automatically become stronger because now there’s more room for breathing and voice resources.

Stand in front of a mirror and lift your chest upwards (don’t push it forward, just up). Lift it so that you feel a bit of stretch in your belly.

Some things to think about here:

  1. Keep your chin in and down.
  2. Keep your hip slightly forward rotated so that your spine remains straight, it’s easy to rotate it backward and that will push your belly out.
  3. Don’t lift your chest too high. Check in a mirror from the side and hold it where it looks good. When you hold it – memorize the sensation in your belly.
  4. Whenever you think about it, raise your chest until you feel that feeling you’ve memorized in your belly.

So in summary, with maintained cheek and hip, move your chest up until you feel this slight stretch in your belly.

Your back can hurt a bit before you get used to your new posture. When that happens, give your back some rest.

Practice this whenever your posture comes to mind. It took quite a while for me before I did it permanently. Now, I don’t need to think about it anymore: It has been taking care of by my subconscious. Be prepared to remind yourself time after time for several months before it’s a part of your new permanent posture.

16. Feet direction

If you want to understand someone’s true intent, look at their feet. Their feet almost always point in the direction they subconsciously want to go.

If a group of people are having a conversation, they will point their feet towards the person they are attracted to or towards the person who they see as the leader of the group. If someone wants to get away from the conversation, their feet are pointed away from the group or towards the exit.

Christoffer Lindgren who’s part of the SocialPro team is exceptionally good at connecting with people. One of the reasons for this is his ability to direct his full attention to the person he’s talking to. You never get the feeling that he has to go somewhere (unless he has to), and that makes him rewarding to talk to.

If you’ve read Pickup advice, you’ve probably heard that you should look like you’re on your way somewhere – at least the first minute or so. If you’re in a situation where it’s not explicitly meant to socialize, say that you start talking to your neighbor in the hallway, it can be a good idea to not instantly point your body straight towards him or her as it can feel too invasive. However, say that you want to create a close connection with your neighbor, make sure to give him or her your full focus after a minute or so.

We are already programmed to do things like this automatically, but sometimes it can be good to reflect upon how we actually behave socially and if we are repeating some mistakes that are easy to fix.

So – to really connect with someone, make that person feel like you have time for him or her and aren’t on your way somewhere else.

Often when we feel a bit uncomfortable talking to someone – perhaps because we don’t know what to say next – we want to get away from the conversation. The other person might mistake that for you not wanting to talk.

Signal that you are interested in continuing the conversation by pointing your feet towards the person.

On the opposite – if you want to end the conversation with someone, pointing away from the conversation and angling your body away will signal that you are about to take off.

17. Taking up space

When we feel uncomfortable, our reptile system makes us attend a body language that’s great for defense and escape. Feet towards the exit – protecting vital organs, sitting straight up instead of leaning backward, tensing our muscles, producing adrenaline and cortisol to act fast and hit hard.

It’s a great system when it comes to avoiding being eaten – it isn’t as good for socializing and making friends.

You have to work against the reptile system to create this backward effect of feeling confident through acting confident. Here’s a good exercise for this purpose:

18. Taking up space-exercise

Say that you’re at someone’s house, in an unknown environment with people you don’t know.

You probably feel stiff and suddenly it feels like you forgot how to even sit in a way that wouldn’t make people think you’re weird.

Think back on how you would sit if it would be in your own sofa together with your best friend, and attend that pose. (Within the social rules of the situation you happen to be in).

It’s probably more relaxed; leaning backward, taking up more space with your arms and legs.

Use this “my own sofa” position whenever you feel tense when sitting.

19. Mirroring

Except for in situations where there’s an actual risk to be eaten, it’s never wrong to use a relaxed body language. Outgoing people don’t only show that they enjoy the moment. They are also great at mirroring the person they are talking to.

Mirroring is when you in a non-obvious way behave like the person you’re talking to.

Everyone is doing this subconsciously – more or less. Without even thinking about it, you speak with a different jargon and speed to say, your grandma, than with your friends.

20. An interesting experiment

In an experiment, one group of people watched a documentary about senior living, while the other group watched a nature documentary.

Without the test subjects knowledge, the scientists measured how long it took for them to walk the hallway from the video room to the entrance of the facility after the movie.

The group who had seen the documentary about senior living were on average walking slower than the reference group. This experiment shows how mirroring is something we do subconsciously.

With that said, we sometimes forget to adjust how we behave, and that creates a disconnect between us and people we meet.

To get a sense of how mirroring can be the deal breaker when it comes to making friends, let me tell you a story about a guy I know who no one really wanted to hang out with, simply because he always spoke very fast and with a higher energy than anyone else.

This lack of mirroring affected his entire life – he couldn’t connect with people.

As he after a while became aware of this and started to adjust his energy, it was like his social life just switched on in just a few weeks – it became fun to hang out with him.

Mirroring affects not only the social energy level but also your general appearance. If you want to connect with someone, act more like that person.

Mirror the…

  • Position the other person is standing in or sitting in.
  • Jargon; the level of advanced terms, foul language, jokes.
  • Social energy level; Talking speed, voice level, general energy level.
  • Type of discussion; If someone’s talking about the meaning of life it’s weird to start talking about everyday matters and vice versa.

Naturally, you shouldn’t compromise who you are and only mirror what you’re comfortable with.

21. Final Exercise – Turning nervousness into confidence

An outgoing body language is about looking and feeling comfortable, mirroring the person you’re talking to and showing that you’re into the conversation when you’re talking to someone.

Here’s a great exercise that I used to do a lot.

It’s said that if you are afraid of the dark, the best way to conquer the fear is to stand still in a dark room for a long time. Being scared is energy consuming, and after a while, your body simply won’t have the energy to feel scared anymore. Well, in this exercise we are going to use the same principle but for social situations instead.

Say that you’re in one of those situations where there are people around you and you don’t know what to do, so you pick your phone up just to look busy.

  • Next time, instead of picking your phone up, enter a relaxed position like the “my own sofa” position. Or, if you’re standing up, just put your thumbs down your pockets, fingers pointing downwards.
  • Actively lower your stress levels by breathing slowly and paying attention to each breath.
  • You will after just a minute notice how you are in charge of how you feel – you will experience how you are the one who decides if you want to feel comfortable.
  • You will also notice how, as long as you look confident, you don’t need to talk to someone or do something with your phone.

For me, this was a paradigm shift.

I started enjoy feeling relaxed in environments that I know most people think are stressful. It was a relief for me to just stand and feel relaxed in intense social situations: “Nah, screw this nervosity thing. I’m gonna choose to sit here and enjoy it instead.”

Click here if you want to see my review of the 11 best books on body language.

Let your confident body language do the talking

Learn body language skills and look as well as feel more attractive in social situations. Make yourself look like the leader of a group and take charge of any social scenario better than before.

Which component of confident body language do you struggle with the most? Share your struggles in the comments– you’re not alone!

References:

  1. Thompson, Jeff.  (2011). Is nonverbal communication a numbers game? Is body language really 90% of how we communicate?  Psychology Today.
  2. Zetlin, Minda.  (2016). 16 Powerful body language tips to instantly exude confidenceInc.

How to Stop Being Shy

Shy social settings

This is the complete guide on how to not be shy. Some of the methods in this guide are from the Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook by Martin M. Anthony, Ph.D. and Richard. P. Swinson, MD.

Chapter 1: Mindsets that quickly can make you less shy

1. Know that people are full of insecurities

Take a look at these stats:

How common are our insecurities?Know that “everyone’s confident but me” is a myth. Reminding yourself of this can help you feel less shy.[6]

2. Focus your attention on your surroundings

Ask yourself questions about what’s around you, people you meet, and conversations you’re having.

A person you see: “I wonder what she might do for a living?”

A conversation you’re having: “I wonder what it’s like to work in accounting?”

Your surroundings: “I wonder what era this house is from?”

Keeping yourself preoccupied like this makes you less self-conscious.[11]

When you notice that you start feeling self-conscious, move your attention back to your surroundings.

3. Act despite feeling shy

Shyness is a feeling like any other feeling: (hunger, tiredness, boredom, etc).

You can stay awake even if you’re tired, study even if you’re bored, and socialize even if you’re shy.

It’s often when we act despite our feelings that we achieve our goals.

Remind yourself that you don’t need to obey the feeling of shyness. You can act despite your shyness.

4. Challenge thoughts about worst-case scenarios

Many social disasters we worry about aren’t realistic. Challenge those thoughts by coming up with more realistic ones.

If your mind goes: “I will go there and people will either ignore me or laugh at me,” you can think “I will go there and there might be awkward moments, but overall people will be nice and I might have some interesting conversations”.

5. Accept your nervousness instead of fighting it

Know that nervousness is normal and something most people experience regularly.

You can overcome your nervousness easier if you simply accept that it’s there – rather than trying to avoid it.

When you accept it, it becomes less of a threat in your head and gets more manageable.[3, 4]

The next time you feel nervous, focus on the feeling, perhaps even give it a name (I named mine Bob) and allow it to be there. When I stopped fighting Bob, he got more friendly and manageable.

6. Act normally if you blush, shake, or sweat

Know that there are many others who shake, blush, or sweat who don’t care what others think of it. It’s your beliefs about the symptoms rather than the symptoms that cause the problem.[5]

If you saw someone who acted completely normal but blushed at times, how would you react?

I wouldn’t give it much thought: If the person acts normally, you would assume they blushed for some other reason: Maybe they blushed or sweated because they were hot. Some people just shake a little sometimes.

Act like it’s nothing, and people will think it’s nothing.

7. Allow yourself to leave a party after one hour

Accept invitations even if you’re not in the mood. Spending time socializing is what eventually will help you overcome your shyness.[7, 8]

However, allow yourself to leave after 1 hour. That’s enough time to overcome the initial anxiety, and short enough to not worry about a never-ending night of awkwardness.[16]

8. Change the way you talk to yourself

Talk to yourself like you would talk to a good friend you want to help.

Being nice to yourself can make you more motivated to improve.[12]

Instead of saying “I always fail”, say something you know is more realistic. “I did fail now, but I can remember doing well before and therefore it’s reasonable that I’ll do well again”.

9. See shyness as a sign that something good is happening

The best way to overcome shyness is to socialize anyway. Our brain slowly understands that nothing bad happens, and we get less shy.[7, 8]

This means that every hour you spend feeling shy, your brain slowly learns that it’s an unnecessary response.

Don’t see shyness as a sign to stop. See it as a sign to keep going – because you’re slowly becoming less shy.

Think “Every hour I spend feeling shy is another hour toward overcoming shyness”.

10. Ask yourself what a confident person would do

People with shyness or social anxiety tend to be overly worried about making mistakes.[9, 10]

Make a reality check: If a confident person did the mistake you did, would they mind?

If you came to the conclusion that they wouldn’t mind, it can help you see that your mistake was less of a deal than it felt like.

What’s a confident person you know that you can think of? You can pick someone you know or a celebrity. Then ask yourself “What would Jennifer Lawrence think if she made the mistake I just did?”

11. Remind yourself that people can’t know how shy or nervous you are

We think that people see how nervous, shy, or uncomfortable we are. In reality, it’s hard for them to tell. When people are asked to rate how nervous they think someone is, they rate much lower than the person rates themselves.[13]

Just because you feel nervous doesn’t mean that anyone else sees it that way. Scientists call this the Illusion of transparency: We think that people can see the feelings inside of us, but they can’t. Remind yourself of this. It’ll make you feel less nervous.[14]

12. Remind yourself that you stand out less than it feels like

We tend to feel like we are more noticeable than we really are. This is called the spotlight effect: It feels like we have a spotlight on us, but we don’t.

Remind yourself that you don’t stand out, even if it feels like that. It can be comforting to understand that we’re quite anonymous.[15]

Chapter 2: Overcoming your shyness permanently

1. Figure out what made you shy in the first place

Ask yourself if there was a certain experience that made you shy.

Some were bullied when they were young, got rejected, had parents who kept them from socializing, or had abusive relationships.

Realizing the root cause of your shyness can help you decide to not let those past experiences affect your future life.

2. Take responsibility for your situation

It could very well be that your upbringing has caused your shyness. But at the same time, you are the only one with the power to change it.

While your parents, upbringing, society, etc have affected you, you are fully responsible for what you choose to make of the cards you’ve been dealt.

Instead of thinking “I had bad parents so that’s why I’m this way”, you could think “What can I do to make the most out of life despite my upbringing?”

Viewing life this way can be harsh, but it’s also empowering to know that you are the one who decides!

3. Stay in uncomfortable social settings longer

Nervosity always decreases with time, it’s not physically possible for our bodies to stay at peak nervosity forever.

Do things that make you uncomfortable until your feelings of nervosity have at least halved. Preferably it’s best to stay in an uncomfortable social setting or situation until your nervosity has decreased to around a 2 on a scale where 10 is your worst level. This can take anything from a few minutes to a few hours depending on the situation.[16]

Having several experiences like these, (that start off scary but feel less scary when you leave) helps build your confidence. The key is to prolong how long you stay in these situations to decrease your shyness as much as possible.

4. Do what’s challenging, not terrifying

If you do terrifying things, the risks are that you can’t keep it up long enough for a permanent change to happen.

If you do challenging things that are scary but not terrifying, you’ll be able to stay in those situations long enough.

Ask yourself what social settings or situations are challenging to you, but not terrifying.

Example: To Courtney, mingles are terrifying. But going to a friend’s dinner is only challenging. She decides to accept the dinner invitation but declines the mingle invitation.

5. Grade how scary situations are so you don’t get overwhelmed

List down 10-20 uncomfortable situations with the most scary at the top and least scary at the bottom.

For example: 

Speaking in front of people = high scariness

Answering the phone = medium scariness

Saying “how are you” to the cashier = low scariness

Make it a habit to do more things that are low to medium scariness. After a few weeks, you can try working your way up the list.

Grading situations like this helps you improve your shyness without overwhelming yourself.

6. Identify and avoid your safety behaviors

Sometimes, we avoid scary things without even knowing.

It could be:

  • Helping with the dishes at a party to not have to talk to anyone
  • Not talking about yourself to avoid people’s attention
  • Drinking alcohol to feel more relaxed
  • Wearing makeup against blushing

We can get addicted to these behaviors because we think bad things happen if we don’t do them. But you want to get rid of them to overcome your shyness.

Pay attention: What are your safety behaviors?

Go for a change: Go out without drinking, share something about yourself, avoid makeup, etc.

See what happens: Did your worst-case scenario come true? Or was it less scary than you thought it would be?

7. Practice making small social mistakes

Shyness can come from being overly afraid of making mistakes.[9, 10]

To overcome this fear, practice making small social mistakes. Doing that and realizing that nothing bad happens makes us less worried about making mistakes.

Examples: 

Walk through a mall wearing your T-shirt in and out.

Make a statement you know is wrong

Wait at a red light until someone honks.

8. Look for ways to get to know new people if your current friends are toxic

See if you can make new friends if your current ones are putting you down.

Having supportive friends can make a huge difference when it comes to confidence.

One way to find new friends is to get involved in groups and clubs related to things that you are interested in. Read more here on how to make new friends.

9. Read a workbook on shyness

A workbook is a book with exercises on how to think differently to overcome shyness.

Many of the tips in this guide has been taken from books here: The Best Social Anxiety and Shyness Books 2019.

Studies show that a workbook can sometimes be as effective as going to a therapist.[1, 2]

10. See a therapist

A therapist can be really good to overcome shyness. I’d recommend it over a workbook if you have the money to spare and you have trouble motivating yourself to work on your own.

References

  1. Hirai, M., & Clum, G. A. (2006). A meta-analytic study of self-help interventions for anxiety problems. Behavior Therapy, 37(2), 99-111.
  2. Gellatly, J., Bower, P., Hennessy, S., Richards, D., Gilbody, S., & Lovell, K. (2007). What makes self-help interventions effective in the management of depressive symptoms? Meta-analysis and meta-regression. Psychological medicine, 37(9), 1217-1228.
  3. Forman, E. M., Herbert, J. D., Moitra, E., Yeomans, P. D., & Geller, P. A. (2007). A randomized controlled effectiveness trial of acceptance and commitment therapy and cognitive therapy for anxiety and depression. Behavior modification, 31(6), 772-799.
  4. Campbell-Sills, L., Barlow, D. H., Brown, T. A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2006). Effects of suppression and acceptance on emotional responses of individuals with anxiety and mood disorders. Behaviour research and therapy, 44(9), 1251-1263.
  5. Anthony, M Martin, Swinson, Richard P. (2008). The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook Second Edition pp. 162. Oakland, CA
  6. Jordan, A. H., Monin, B., Dweck, C. S., Lovett, B. J., John, O. P., & Gross, J. J. (2011). Misery has more company than people think: Underestimating the prevalence of others’ negative emotions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(1), 120-135.
  7. Hofmann, S. G. (2008). Cognitive processes during fear acquisition and extinction in animals and humans: Implications for exposure therapy of anxiety disorders. Clinical psychology review, 28(2), 199-210.
  8. McNally, R. J. (2007). Mechanisms of exposure therapy: how neuroscience can improve psychological treatments for anxiety disorders. Clinical psychology review, 27(6), 750-759.
  9. Buzzell, G. A., Troller-Renfree, S. V., Barker, T. V., Bowman, L. C., Chronis-Tuscano, A., Henderson, H. A., … & Fox, N. A. (2017). A neurobehavioral mechanism linking behaviorally inhibited temperament and later adolescent social anxiety. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 56(12), 1097-1105.
  10. Nelson, T. (2007). “To err is human”: The effects of anxiety and contextual emotion on error-related negativity (Doctoral dissertation).
  11. Derryberry, D., & Reed, M. A. (2002). Anxiety-related attentional biases and their regulation by attentional control. Journal of abnormal psychology, 111(2), 225.
  12. Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1133-1143.
  13. Savitsky, K., & Gilovich, T. (2003). The illusion of transparency and the alleviation of speech anxiety. Journal of experimental social psychology, 39(6), 618-625.
  14. Macinnis, Cara & P. Mackinnon, Sean & Macintyre, Peter. (2010). The illusion of transparency and normative beliefs about anxiety during public speaking. Current Research in Social Psychology.
  15. Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(2), 211.
  16. Anthony, M Martin, Swinson, Richard P. (2008). The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook Second Edition pp. 156. Oakland, CA

How to be More Relaxed in Social Situations

Relaxed social situations

Socializing can be nerve-racking.

At one point in my life, I was so terrified by major social events that I would be physically ill for days prior to the occasion.  I was too nervous to eat, I had trouble sleeping, and I generally felt miserable.  Typically, I would end up canceling because I couldn’t stand to feel that way anymore; I couldn’t think about anything else until it had been erased from my calendar.

It wasn’t something I could rationalize my way out of; I knew that no matter what happened, everything was going to be okay when it was all said and done.  I knew that– barring Armageddon– there was no way it was going to be as bad as I imagined.  And I knew that plenty of other people all around the world were going to the exact same types of social outings and living to tell the tale. But none of those realizations changed the way my mind and body reacted. 

I needed to relax– not just “take a chill pill and don’t worry about it” relax (because Lord knows that if I could stop worrying about it, I already would have– like yesterday).  I needed to complete mental and physical exercises that would cause me to become less tense.

In order to be more relaxed in social situations, there are some things you can do both before and during the event to remain calm and enjoy your social outings.

Before the Event

First, find a way to release your nervous energy.  All the anticipation that’s causing you to feel anxious about the social situation ahead of you can be eliminated by physically fatiguing your body. Any form of exercise is an excellent way to relax before the event.  Going for a walk, hitting the gym, completing a yoga session that you found on YouTube– it doesn’t matter what you do, but do something.  This will have the added benefit of breaking you free from the paralysis of fear you may be experiencing, similar to what I was going through when I couldn’t think about anything else besides my terror of the social gathering.  You will find that you feel much calmer after you get moving and work out that nervous energy.

Making plans for afterwards is another way to help you relax both before and during your event.  Because the social gathering was all I could think of, my body reacted as though the world was ending; the looming party was definitely the end for me.  So I began to make plans for after the occasion; either immediately after or the next day, depending on the time and duration of the event.  I would often plan to spend the night at a friend’s house after a date because it gave me something to look forward to and helped to take my mind off the upcoming date.  If I was in the midst of a party and things were going poorly, I could keep myself calm by focusing on my plans for later.  It also provided an “out” if I really needed to get away.  Although I never used it, just knowing I had an escape plan helped me to remain calm.

Achieving a state of mental focus before your event will help you to be relaxed throughout its duration.  Giving yourself plenty of time to get ready for your outing will help prevent you from slipping into a rushed frenzy, which will cause you to be stressed before even arriving at your destination.  Taking some time to do things before the event that help you to clear your mind will also help you to enter the event with a calm state of mind.  Whether it’s taking a bubble bath, reading a book, or playing a game of golf, finding something that helps you settle your mind will give you a positive, calm mentality before your social gathering.

During the Event

You’ve done everything you can to get yourself relaxed before the event, but what about during it? Whether social situations in general make you nervous or something specific happened at the event to stress you out, there are things you can do without anyone else noticing to help you keep your calm.

When you begin to feel tense, focusing on your breathing pattern can help relax your muscles as well as ease your mind.  Breathe in slowly through your nose until your lungs are completely full, and hold it until you begin to feel uncomfortable.  Then release the air slowly through your mouth, making sure to maintain control the entire time (as opposed to letting out all of your breath in one quick burst). According to WebMD (which we all know is just as good as a real doctor), controlled breathing is an effective way to calm yourself down “because [it makes] your body feel like it does when you are already relaxed.”

Focusing on the things you enjoy about social gatherings, and spending more time doing those things (when possible), is another way to remain relaxed.  For me, it’s free food.  If I start to feel awkward, you’d best believe I’m going to be making my way to the free cheesecake (and it’s fine because I went to the gym beforehand to burn off my nervous energy!).  Plus, if you need a second to take a breather, excusing yourself to the hors d’oeuvres is a getaway that no one would dare interrupt.

Sometimes it can become necessary to take a short break.  When your social situation has you feeling overwhelmed, going to the restroom or stepping outside to collect yourself is always an option.  This is a good opportunity to do your controlled breathing exercises so that you can quickly relax your body and mind and prepare to calmly reenter the gathering.

And finally, remember what’s important.  If you made a mistake, remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and view it as a learning opportunity.  Furthermore, keep in mind that you are your own worst critic, and your error was likely much more noticeable to you than it was to anyone else.  Remember that life will go on, and there are very few social mistakes that can’t be remedied later on (unless you did something criminal, so… don’t).  Comforting yourself with these truths will help you to remain relaxed when things don’t go quite how you planned at your social event.

Social situations can really do a number on our nerves– if we let them.  A little self-care beforehand and the use of some relaxation strategies throughout can help you stay calm no matter what your social sphere throws at you.

What’s the most nerve-racking social situation you’ve been in? How did you manage to stay calm? Share your stories in the comments!

References:

  1. Healthwise Staff.  (2014). Stress management: Breathing exercises for relaxation

 

 

Feeling Inferior to Others? Use this Step-by-Step Method

Feeling inferior

Feeling inferior to another person is one of the quickest ways to tank your self-esteem, and as we know, self-confidence is critical to developing a healthy and successful social life.

There are many things that can cause you to feel inferior, but it’s what you do with those feelings of inferiority that will determine the type of impact they have on you.

[Is someone making fun of you or trying to dominate you? Use this method.]

When people boast of their accomplishments or achieve things that you would like to have in your own life, it can cause you to believe that the person is better than you— more attractive, more intelligent, better-liked, or more capable in some way than you are.

While you can take the idea that they are “better” and use it as motivation towards accomplishing your own goals, many people find themselves doing the opposite.  If you aren’t intentional about taking your feelings of inferiority in a positive direction, it is all too easy to allow “I’m not as good” to morph into “I’m no good at all.”

This type of negative self-talk is a slippery slope; it can quickly lead to increased or emergent depression, anxiety disorders, and self-isolation as a result of your reluctance to put yourself “out there” and take advantage of opportunities—personally, socially, and career-related—that could potentially lead to success.

This can all be avoided if you use the following steps to re-direct your feelings of inferiority

First, you need to determine if your feelings of inferiority are the result of the other person being intentionally superior (or behaving in a hurtful way without realizing it), or if it’s actually stemming from your existing insecurities.

Be honest with yourself; while it’s often easier to “play the blame game” and accuse someone else of making you feel that way, it will be more beneficial for you in the long run to do some reflecting and consider whether you are simply more sensitive to certain things as a result of an insecurity you may have.

If it is in fact the other person behaving distastefully that is causing you to question your self-worth, the next step is to determine whether they or doing it intentionally or if they are simply unaware of the way their words and actions are coming across.

While this can be difficult to do if you aren’t very close with the person, paying attention to their interactions with other people as well as their general attitude (are they typically mean-spirited, or is this behavior out of character?) will usually reveal the answer.

If it is a close friend or family member with whom you hope to remain close, it can be very beneficial to have a conversation with them that (gently) helps them to understand how they’re making you feel. Click here to find a list of books that can help you achieve a positive outcome through your discussion.

A productive conversation can also help improve the situation with a coworker or someone you must frequently interact with.  However, if they are unreceptive to your efforts to remedy the problem or if it is someone you are less interested in keeping around, it may become necessary to place some distance between you and tactfully avoid spending time with them.

When you are in the midst of a conversation with someone whom you believe is behaving this way intentionally, never act like you are feeling inferior. This is the reaction they want, and giving them the satisfaction of making you uncomfortable will only serve to further boost their ego and fuel their attitude of superiority.

It is also important to avoid responding to the person’s airs of superiority by bragging about your own accomplishments or attempting to “one-up” them with something bigger or better.  This will only come across as desperation and will not help to improve the situation.

Instead, the best way to respond is with kindness, as though you are completely unphased by their rudeness.  While it’s almost certainly not what you will feel like doing, it will cause the person to become bored when they don’t receive the response they’re hoping for.

If they’re not trying to intimidate you intentionally, treating them with kindness in return will prevent your character from being called into question later on when you attempt to have a conversation with them about their behavior.

On the other hand, if your feelings of intimidation stem from an existing insecurity, it may be time to work on developing your confidence.

Remember, everyone is trying to present the best side of themselves, so in the words of pastor Steve Furtick, “don’t compare your ‘behind the scenes’ with someone else’s ‘highlight reel.’”

In other words, just like you are concealing your insecurities and areas of weakness (and presenting your strengths), they are doing the same thing.  They don’t want you to know about their weaknesses (which they undoubtedly have), so they’re showing off–and probably exaggerating–the things they’re proud of instead.

This doesn’t justify any arrogance they may be exhibiting, but it’s good to keep this in mind as you work to preserve your self-confidence.

It’s also important to remember that, while you may envy their successes and strengths, it’s very likely that you have areas of strength that they desire.  Rather than allowing their victories to become your defeat, use their victories to remind you of your own—different—victories. 

It can be helpful to think of the person’s successes as goals you’d like to work towards—and that person is now a great resource for helping you to accomplish them!

As stated by Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Feelings of inferiority inevitably stem from comparison. Inferiority will cause you to forget your own positive qualities and accomplishments and turn you into a victim.

But you—and only you—are in control of your thoughts, and when you are intentional in your thought life you can cause your negative emotions to be merely a blip on the radar as you replace them with positive ones.

Read more here: How to make people respect you.

When is a time you have felt inferior to someone else? What did you do? We’d love to read your stories in the comments!

 

 

4 Ways to Convey Confidence Through Body Language

Confidence body language

Ever heard the saying “Fake it ’til you make it?”

Nine times out of ten, this phrase is used in reference to the habit of faking confidence.

The amount of confidence you exude can play a large role in the success you experience in your personal life, in your social life, and in your workplace.  And though you may not always feel confident, the ability to act with confidence anyway is a valuable  skill to have.

You probably wouldn’t walk into a room and say, “Hey everybody! I’m feeling really confident today!” (And if you would… please don’t).

Rather than annoying your coworkers, you’re likely to find that it’s much more effective (and socially acceptable) to convey confidence through your body language instead.  

Body language is the non-verbal communication of your attitude and thoughts.  Whether you realize it or not, you are always sending a message via your body language, and it doesn’t take an expert to decipher its meaning.

Some of the most obvious examples of body language are things you see all the time.  Someone standing with crossed arms, head tilted back, with eyes pointed towards the ceiling, shifting his weight back and forth while tapping one foot is clearly frustrated and impatient.  On the other hand, someone sprawled out on a sofa with her arms above her head and one leg up on a table is obviously comfortable in her environment.  Neither of those people would need to explicitly tell you how they’re feeling.  You would be able to tell just by looking at them; they are signaling it with their body language.

For several years, I was a 3rd grade teacher of at-risk children in an extremely impoverished neighborhood (in other words, a pretty stressful work environment).  One of the ways that teachers in this district are evaluated is through “drop-in” observations, where the school principal comes by at random to watch a lesson.  Everything the teacher says and does is written down–verbatim–and evaluated according to an extensive rubric.  The results of these observations affect the number of future observations the teacher will receive, as well as how much the teacher will get paid the following school year.  To call this “nerve-racking” is an understatement, and during my first year of teaching I was particularly terrified.  And yet at every post-conference I attended, I was complimented on my “calm and confidence.” This was shocking to me because I didn’t feel calm or confident at the time.  But I used my body language to pretend like I did— and it worked.  The next time I had an observation like this, I didn’t have to fake my confidence quite as much because my actual confidence was much higher.

You too can use your body language to convey confidence using the following 4 tips.

1. Eye Contact

One of the most obvious “tells” of insecurity is the unwillingness to make eye contact.  Avoiding eye contact indicates to someone that you are either uncomfortable or have something to hide.  You don’t want to make creepy eye contact either, though– meet the person’s eyes when they are speaking to you or you are speaking to them, and maintain a normal blinking pattern.  If the conversation includes multiple people, switch between making eye contact with each of them instead of focusing on one person. Eye contact is the most important characteristic of confident body language. 

2. Posture

Think of some of the most confident people you know.  How do they position themselves? Confident people hold their heads up high and stand up straight, ready to face whatever comes at them.  A posture of confidence is not stiff; it is relaxed and allows for plenty of movement.  Hunching over, keeping your head down, crossing your arms, and folding into yourself are signs of fear, shame, and insecurity.  Take note of how you hold yourself when you are nervous or uncomfortable, and make an effort to stand normally in these situations instead.  It can be helpful to ask close family or friends who have spent a lot of time with you what they notice about your behavior in these situations so that you can be more aware of it in the future.

3. Movement

In addition to having a relaxed, open posture, confident people are comfortable moving around.  Make sure you understand the difference between “moving around” and fidgeting– nervous tics such as messing with your hair, pacing, twisting an earring, 0r fiddling with a lanyard or the buttons on your shirt are not indicators of confidence.  Stiffness, such as keeping your hands clenched tightly in fists or shoved deep into your pocket, indicates discomfort.  When watching someone giving a speech, it is clear they are nervous if they clutch the podium or their notes and rarely let go. Confident body language includes the use of hand gestures, animated facial expressions, and other natural movements that are appropriate for the situation at hand.

4.  Facial Expressions

For some, facial expressions can be the most difficult aspect of body language to control.  It can be easy to reveal exactly what you are thinking and feeling on your face.  But with practice, you can learn to maintain facial expressions that exhibit confidence regardless of the situation.

First, confident people smile because they believe in their ability to handle any situation, and their lack of insecurity allows them to enjoy themselves.  When you are nervous or uncomfortable, you smile less frequently, if at all.  Making sure to smile (when appropriate) will give you the appearance of confidence.

Some things a confident person doesn’t do include:

  • Pursing his lips
  • Biting his lip
  • Blinking rapidly or unnaturally
  • Clenching her jaw

Think about which of these things you find yourself doing when feeling nervous and focus on maintaining a neutral facial expression instead, and be sure to smile when appropriate.

The most confident people you know are probably not as confident as they seem.  Most successful people have discovered the truth in the saying “Fake it ’til you make it.” Learning how to use your body language to convey confidence–even when you aren’t feeling it– will allow you to develop actual confidence as you continue to experience success.

Share your best “fake it ’til you make it” stories in the comments!

 

 

The Anxious Person’s Guide to Self-Confidence

The anxious person's guide to self-confidence

“Anxiety” is a word with a broad spectrum of meaning.

For some, anxiety is a feeling of nervousness and worry that arises before job interviews, while awaiting test results at the doctor’s office, or when preparing for a first date.

But for others, anxiety is much more than an emotion– it is a pervasive, mind-consuming illness with physical, mental, and emotional aspects that can be triggered by even the most “normal” of daily activities.

Modern research tells us that anxiety and self-esteem are tightly interwoven.  Low self-esteem can arise as a result of anxiety; conversely, anxiety can appear as a side effect of low self-esteem.

According to Mel Schwartz of Psychology Today2, “A confident and secure relationship with your own self makes it less likely that you’ll suffer from [anxiety and depression] (but, of course, doesn’t guarantee it).  These afflictions can certainly exacerbate low self-esteem.”

Regardless of which end of the anxiety/self-esteem cause-and-effect spectrum you’re on, increasing your self-confidence will go a long way towards improving anxiety, depression, other mental health issues.

So what can you do to achieve this added measure of confidence?

First, says William Meek of Very Well Mind1, look at the amount of acceptance you actually have in your life.  “While we tend to focus on the negative, such as people who are rude to us or avoid us,” he says, “We usually have more people that care for us that we often overlook.”

Particularly for people who battle General or Social Anxiety Disorder, any perceived rejection we experience can become the focus of our thoughts for hours and even days.  We analyze and over-analyze what happened and why, typically placing the bulk of the blame on ourselves.  The result is a dramatic drop in our self-esteem.

Although it’s undeniably easier said than done, “taking every thought captive” and being intentional about combating each negative thought with a positive one can be very beneficial.

Kaelin Tuell Poulin, fitness professional, author, and entrepreneur, recommends that her clients keep a journal in which they daily write down 5 positive affirmations.  Not only does she encourage writing these affirmations each day, she also recommends verbally speaking these affirmations aloud.  The more frequently you remind yourself of your positive attributes, the more deeply ingrained in your mind they will become.  This will result in a growth in self-confidence, as well as provide you with a list of “go-to’s” when you need to combat a negative thought with a positive one.

In addition to journaling your positive affirmations, making a point to daily write down all of the good things that happened will help prevent you from giving undue significance to the negatives.  It can be easy to forget the moments of happiness you experience throughout your day, causing you to mistakenly believe that your day was a total loss.  Journaling the positive aspects of your life will give you something to hang onto when anxiety attempts to convince you that everything is bad, and this will improve your confidence by serving as a constant reminder of all the good that comes from your life.

Meek also suggests being intentional about stepping outside your comfort zone.  “. . .Many people with lower self-esteem become paralyzed with inaction,” he says. “Finding the courage to branch out, make new friends, and increase the level of positive social engagement can be very impactful to your self-esteem.”

While you may be uncomfortable putting yourself out there, you will feel empowered and confident when you experience success at something you were previously hesitant to attempt.

I think this might also interest you: 

It’s important to recognize that sometimes, anxiety can become too much for you to handle on your own. There is never anything wrong with seeking help, and professional counsel can be an important factor in helping you work through some of the underlying causes of your anxiety.

References

  1. Meek, William. How to Improve Self Esteem with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Very Well      Mind.  12 Dec., 2017, https://www.verywellmind.com/anxiety-and-self-esteem-1393168.
    Accessed 28 Feb., 2018.
  2. Schwartz L. C. S. W.,  Mel. Low Self Esteem: A Missed Diagnosis. Psychology Today. 23 Jul., 2013, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shift-mind/201307/low-self-esteem-missed-diagnosisAccessed 28 Feb., 2018.

3 quick steps to stop being uncomfortable at parties

how to stop being uncomfortable parties

Whenever I get invited to a party, I instantly get an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach and my brain starts coming up with excuses for why I can’t go.

In the research phase of our program “Confident in 60 Days”, I came across a scientific method that made me realize something about myself and parties.

I thought that I disliked parties. But in reality, I disliked my own insecurities at parties.

That’s a profound realization.

It’s not the parties. It’s my insecurities that parties trigger.

This realization helped me feel more at ease. Join me as I go “under the veil” of our minds. See what happens in your head when you get uncomfortable, and change the workings of your subconscious.

I went to a “Pop Art” party in NYC the other day. If it wasn’t for the method I talk about here, I probably wouldn’t have shown up, I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it, and I definitely wouldn’t have felt confident being there.

We all have subconscious “movies” that play out in our heads with future scenarios.

Someone asks you to speak in front of a group? A movie plays. It shows you, forgetting what you were about to say, making a fool out of yourself. As a result, anxiety is triggered.

In a way, you could say that speaking in front of a group isn’t what makes you anxious, it’s the movie in your head that does.

Someone asks you to join a party? A movie plays with whatever your biggest fear about parties is. Perhaps it’s awkwardness, being left alone, or not knowing what to say.

It’s easy to see how this make sense evolutionary:

Hanging out in the jungle with your Neanderthal buddies when someone asks you to swim across that river? A movie plays where alligators rip you to pieces.

What I’ve learned is to pay attention to the exact scenario that the movie really shows. It’s time for…

Step 1: Lift up unconscious scenarios to a conscious level

What does your movie show when you think about parties? What visions do you get in your head? Invest a few seconds into closing your eyes and looking at the scenarios that’ll pop up.

Saw something? Great!

(Notice how you felt a bit uncomfortable simply by looking at those scenarios)

Sometimes our mind plays scenarios that aren’t even realistic. (Like, that everyone will be standing in line laughing at you.) If that happens, try visualizing a more realistic scenario in your head instead. Simply “correcting” your thoughts like this can remind yourself that you’re afraid of something that won’t even happen. But we’re not done yet.

Step 2: Own the outcome

It’s time to apply the psychological principle of “owning the outcome”. Research shows that when we accept an outcome, it becomes less scary (1).

Look at the scenarios your mind plays and accept that they might occur. Continue playing them PAST their scary parts, showing how life goes on.

That awkwardness wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, it wasn’t the end of anything at all. You say a failed joke and no one laughs. What’s really so bad about that? You end up with no one to talk with for a while. What’s really so bad about that?

When we pull a subconscious monster out of the shadows of our mind, it often turns out it was just a little kitten.

You “own the outcome” when you accept that the scenario will happen many many times in your life. You don’t try to avoid it. You’re fine with it happening. Now, you own it.

Step 3: Make a constructive ending to the movie

When that awkward scenario happens, what’s something constructive you can do?

When I visualized how I might end up on my own at a party, I realized that the constructive thing to do would be to relax and go look for the people I knew. Eventually, I would find them and rejoin the group.

What would be a constructive response to the scenarios your movies showed? You want to play your constructive response and add it to the movie.

So one of my movies can now look something like this:

Me, at a party. I don’t come up with anything to say. So I’m quiet and feel a bit uncomfortable for a while. Soon, someone else starts talking. The party continues. People have a good time.

(And that’s the worst-case scenario. Not exactly a horror movie anymore).

Thinking about parties now triggers more realistic, less scary movies, and the entire concept of parties suddenly feels a bit more appealing.

What to do now

If you’re serious about feeling more at ease at parties, you want to hardwire your new associations into your mind by writing them down in the comments below. That way, you make the change permanent and take an important first step in your journey.

In the comments below, let me know the following:

  1. Start by writing down a scenario that plays in your head when you think of mingling with new people at parties.
  2. If the scenario is unrealistic, what’s a more realistic scenario you can change it to?
  3. What constructive responses can you add to the scenario?
  4. Add a continuation to the scenario, what realistically happens afterward?
  5. How does the new scenario make you feel?

I’m excited to hear from you in the comments below!

Reference:
1. Öst, L. (2014). The efficacy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 61, 105-121. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2014.07.018

12 ways to stop feeling uncomfortable around people

How to feel comfortable around people

Growing up, I often asked myself “WHY do I feel uncomfortable around new people?”.

I felt awkward around most strangers, and especially if it was someone that I liked.

Later in life, I met truly confident and socially savvy people.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to feel comfortable around others.

1. If you worry about what might happen, remind yourself of your good experiences

Does this sound familiar?

“People will judge me”

“People will think I’m weird”

“People won’t like me”

It’s your own mind that’s coming up with these thoughts. Just because your mind says something, doesn’t mean that it’s true.

Maybe we had a bad experience years ago that stuck in our mind. It caused us to have an over-cautious view on life.

To stop being uncomfortable around people it helps to know that your mind can be wrong.[1]

I’m sure that if you give it some thought, you can think about several occasions where people liked you, appreciate you and accepted you.

The next time your mind generates scenes about people judging you or disliking you or laughing at you, consciously think of those times.

We’re not trying to paint a fantasy hunky-dory picture. We’re trying to be realistic, and we do that by not letting your mind try to paint a worst-case scenario.

Right now, think about something that makes you uncomfortable. Pause the scenes your mind paints, and consciously paint more realistic scenes. How does that make you feel?

2. Focus on the topic of the conversation to feel less uncomfortable

Whenever I had to start talking to someone, I got nervous and ended up stuck in my own head. I had thoughts like…

Am I coming off as weird?

“Does he/she think I’m boring?”

“Does he/she dislike what I just said?”

“Did I say something stupid?”

“What should I say when he/she stops talking?”

When you have those thoughts rushing through your head, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to come up with anything to say.

You want to practice forcing your mind over to the topic of the conversation.[2]

Here’s an example

Uncomfortable talking to people

Let’s say that you talk to this person. She tells you “I just came home from a trip to Berlin with some friends so I’m a bit jet-lagged”

What would you respond?

A few years ago, I would have been going full panic:

“Oh, she’s traveling the world with her friends, she’s much cooler than I am. She’ll wonder what I’ve done and then I seem boring in comparison” and on and on.

Instead, FOCUS ON THE TOPIC. What are some questions you can come up with if you focus on what she just told you?

Here’s what I come up with:

“What did she do in Berlin?”

“How was her flight?”

“What does she think about Berlin?”

“How many friends was she there with?”

“Why did they decide to go?”

It’s not about asking all these questions, but you can use ANY of these questions to keep the conversation moving forward.

Whenever you start worrying about what to say, remember this: FOCUS ON THE TOPIC. It’ll make you more comfortable, and help you come up with things to say.

Read more: How to make conversations more interesting.

This gets easier with time. Here’s a video where I let you practice conversation focus:

3. To not run out of things to say, refer back to something you talked about

My friend taught me a powerful trick for always knowing what to say when the conversation runs dry.

He refers back to anything they’ve talked about before.

So when a topic ends like…

“So that’s why I decided to go with the blue tiles instead of the gray ones.”

“Ok, cool…”

He refers back to something you talked before, like this:

“Did you get time to study yesterday?”

“How was last weekend?”

“What was it like in Connecticut?”

Lesson learned

Refer back to what you’ve talked about earlier in the conversation, or even the last time you met.

Think back to a previous conversation you had with a friend. What’s something you can refer back to the next time you meet?

For example, I was with a friend yesterday who was looking for a new apartment. So, the next time we meet and the conversation runs dry, I could simply ask “By the way, how’s the apartment hunt going?”.

Read more here on how to start a conversation with someone.

4. To put a social mistake into perspective, ask yourself if a confident person would care

In my experience, confident and socially savvy people say as much “weird” things as anyone. It’s just that confident people’s “worry-o-meter” is less sensitive, and they simply don’t worry about it.[3]

If an awkward moment for a nervous person feels like the end of the world, the confident person just doesn’t care.

  • Nervous people think that everything they do needs to be perfect.
  • Confident people know that we don’t need to be perfect to be liked and accepted.

(In fact, saying the wrong thing from time to time makes us human and more relatable. No one likes Mr. or Ms. Perfect.)

The next time you beat yourself up over something you said, ask yourself this:

“What would a confident person think if they said what I just said? Would it be a big deal for them? If not, it’s probably not a big deal for me either”.

Read more here: How to be more outgoing and How to be more social.

5. Dare to say stupid things to learn that nothing bad happens

In behavioral therapy, people who overthink are instructed to make conversation with their therapist and constantly try to NOT censor themselves. Sometimes they say things that feel like the end of the world to them.

But after hours of conversation where they force themselves to not filter, they finally start feeling more comfortable.[4]

The reason is that their brain slowly “understands” that it’s OKAY to say stupid things every once in a while because nothing bad happens. (Everyone does it, but only anxious people worry about it.)[3]

You can do this in real life conversations:

Practice filtering yourself less, even if it makes you say MORE stupid things at first. That’s an important exercise to understand that the world doesn’t end, and it allows you to express yourself freely.

It’s worth it to say stupid or weird things every once in a while in return for being able to express yourself freely.

Read more: How to socialize with anyone.

6. Remind yourself that people don’t have to like you

If you sometimes feel judged, this tip is for you.

Let’s say that your worst nightmare is true and the people you’re about to meet you will judge you and won’t like you. Do they have t0 like you and approve of you? Would the worst-case scenario even be that bad?

It’s easy to take it for granted that we need others approval. But in reality, we’ll do just fine even if some don’t approve of us.

Realizing this can take some pressure off.

This isn’t about alienating people. It’s simply a countermeasure against our brain’s irrational fear of being judged.

Instead of focusing on not doing something that can make people judge you, remind yourself that it’s OK even if people DO judge you.

Remind yourself that you don’t need anyone’s approval. You can do your own thing.

Here’s the irony: When we stop searching for people’s approval we become more confident and relaxed. That makes us MORE likable.

7. See rejection as something good; a proof that you’ve tried

Most of my life I’ve been scared of being rejected, no matter if it was by someone I was attracted to or just asking an acquaintance if they wanted to grab a coffee some day.

In reality, to get the most out of life, we have to get rejected at times. If we never get rejected, it’s because we never take risks. Everyone who dares taking risks gets rejected at times.

See rejection as proof that you dare to take risks and make the most out of life. When I did, something changed in me:

When someone turned me down, I knew that I’d at least tried. The alternative is worse: NOT trying, letting fear holding you back, and never knowing what could have happened if you tried.

Lesson learned

Don’t see rejection as a failure. See it as evidence that you’ve taken a risk and made the most out of your life.

Example:

Maybe you want to meet up with an acquaintance at work or a new classmate in school, but you’re worried that they might decline your offer.

Make it a habit to still take the initiative and ask.

If they say yes, great!

If they say no, you can feel great knowing that you make decisions that help you make the most out of life.

You never have to wonder “What if I’d asked..?”.

8. If you blush, sweat, shake, etc, act normal and people won’t know it’s because you’re uncomfortable

Shaking, sweating and blushing when nervous and uncomfortable

This graphic shows how blushing, shaking, sweating or other “bodily giveaways” snowballs the nervosity.

Let’s think about the last time you met someone else who was blushing, sweating, shaking, etc. What was your reaction? You probably care much less than when you yourself do any of it.

Here’s how I’ve reacted:

Blushing: It’s hard to tell if it’s just because the person is hot, so I just don’t pay attention to it. When I was in school, a guy was constantly red in his face. He said he was born that way and didn’t seem to care about it, so neither did we.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about sudden strong blushing: If the person who blushes talks on like usual and doesn’t seem to care, I don’t care. If they don’t act very obviously nervous together with the blushing, it’s almost unnoticeable.

Only if the person goes quiet and looks down the ground together with the blushing do I consciously pay attention and go: Oh, he/she must be uncomfortable!

Sweating: When people sweat I assume it’s because they are warm.

Shaking voice: I know a couple of people who have a shaky voice, but honestly, I don’t think it’s because they are nervous. It’s just how their voice is.

It’s likely that if you shake on your voice, people will just think that that’s how your voice sounds, just like some has a high pitched voice and others have a dark voice.

Shaking body: The thing about shaking is that you don’t know if it’s because of nervosity or because someone’s just naturally shaking. I was on a date with a girl the other day and I noticed that her hand was shaking a little bit when she was about to choose tea, but I still don’t know if it was because of nervosity.

LESSON LEARNED: If you talk on like normal despite blushing, sweating, shaking etc, people will HAVE NO CLUE if you do it because you’re uncomfortable or for any other reason.

9. Anxiety is easier to handle if you accept it instead of pushing it away

As soon as I had to walk up to a group of people or talk to someone new, I noticed how uncomfortable I got. My body tensed up in all sorts of ways. I tried to fight that anxious feeling and come up with a way to make it stop.

DON’T DO WHAT I DID.

If you try to push the anxiety away, you’ll soon realize that it doesn’t work. As a result, you start obsessing about it and become MORE uncomfortable.

Instead, accept that you’re feeling uncomfortable. Know that all people feel uncomfortable from time to time. It’s a perfectly normal response to new situations.

When you accept your nervosity, you stop obsessing about it. Ironically – this makes you more comfortable.[5]

10. People can’t see that you are uncomfortable even if it feels like that

It feels like people can see how nervous we are, but they can’t:

In one experiment, people were asked to give a speech.

The speakers were asked to grade how nervous they think they appeared. 

Then the audience was also asked to grade how nervous the speakers appeared.

The speakers consistently thought they appeared more nervous than they really did. [6]

Scientists call this the illusion of transparency: We believe that people can see how we feel, when in reality, they can’t.[7]

The scientists decided to take it one step further:

For some of the presenters, they told them about the illusion of transparency before the speech.

Here’s what they said:

“Many people […] believe they will appear nervous to those who are watching.

[…] Research has found that audiences can’t pick up on your anxiety as well as you might expect. Psychologists have documented what is called an “Illusion of Transparency.”

Those speaking feel that their nervousness is transparent, but in reality, their feelings are not so apparent to observers.”

That group was SIGNIFICANTLY more comfortable than the group who hadn’t heard about The Illusion of Transparency.

Just knowing about The Illusion of Transparency makes us more comfortable.

Lesson learned

Whenever you feel uncomfortable, remind yourself of The Illusion of Transparency: It FEELS like people can see how nervous we are, but they can’t.

11. Know that you stand out less than you think

In one study, students were instructed to wear a T-shirt with a celebrity on it. They were asked how many of their classmates had noticed what celebrity they were wearing on the T-shirt.[8]

These were the results:

Illusion of transparency

Lesson learned

We overestimate how much we stand out in a group. In reality, people pay less attention to us than we think.

12. Take ownership of your flaws to be more comfortable in yourself

For years, I worried about my looks. I thought my nose was too big and that I would never get a girlfriend because of that. At some point in life, I realized that I had to learn to own everything about myself, especially the things I didn’t like.

Even if there are things about yourself that aren’t perfect, they are still a part of who you are.

Confident people aren’t perfect. They have learned to embrace their flaws.

This is NOT about being a prick and say “I don’t need to change because people should like me for who I am”.

As humans, we should strive to be better. That’s how we grow. But while we work toward being a better version of ourselves, we should own who we are in each given moment.[9]

Example:

Back in the day, I tried to angle my head toward people so that they wouldn’t see me in profile, because I then thought that they would judge me for my big nose.

When I decided to own my looks, I consciously decided to stop trying to hide my flaws. That (obviously) made me more free in interacting with others.

Ironically, this new freedom naturally made me more attractive as a person.

13. Staying a bit longer in uncomfortable situations builds confidence

The natural reaction to uncomfortable situations is to get out of them as soon as possible. But here’s the problem with doing that:

When we “escape” an uncomfortable situation, our brain believes that everything went well BECAUSE we were able to get away. In other words, the brain never learns that those situations are nothing to be afraid of.

We want to teach our brain the opposite. Studies show that if we stay longer in uncomfortable situations until our nervosity has dropped from its peak, THAT’S when we over time build our confidence![10]

Lesson learned

Whenever you feel uncomfortable, remind yourself that you’re doing something good:

If you stay in the uncomfortable situation until your nervosity has dropped from its worst, you’re slowly rewiring your brain.

Rather than avoiding uncomfortable situations, practice staying longer in them. After a while, your brain will realize: “Wait a minute, nothing terrible ever happens. I don’t have to pump stress hormones anymore”.

This is confidence-building in the making.

Sources

  1. Tyler Boden, M. P. John, O. R. Goldin, P. Werner, K. G. Heimberg, R. J. Gross, J. (2012) The role of maladaptive beliefs in cognitive-behavioral therapy: Evidence from social anxiety disorder, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 50, Issue 5, pp 287-291, ISSN 0005-7967, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2012.02.007.
  2. Zou, J. B., Hudson, J. L., & Rapee, R. M. (2007, October). The effect of attentional focus on social anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17521604
  3. Kleinknecht, R. A., Dinnel, D. L., Kleinknecht, E. E., Hiruma, N., & Harada, N. (1997). Cultural factors in social anxiety: A comparison of social phobia symptoms and Taijin kyofusho. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9168340
  4. What Is Exposure Therapy? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exposure-therapy
  5. How to Accept and Stop Controlling Your Social Anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-accept-social-anxiety-3024895
  6. Macinnis, Cara & P. Mackinnon, Sean & Macintyre, Peter. (2010). The illusion of transparency and normative beliefs about anxiety during public speaking. Current Research in Social Psychology. 15. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/239587874_The_illusion_of_transparency_and_normative_beliefs_about_anxiety_during_public_speaking
  7. Gilovich, T., & Savitsky, K. (1999). The Spotlight Effect and the Illusion of Transparency: Egocentric Assessments of How We Are Seen by Others. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(6), 165–168. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8721.00039
  8. Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. H., & Savitsky, K. (2000). The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one’s own actions and appearance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(2), 211-222.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.78.2.211
  9. Thompson, B.L. & Waltz, J.A. J Rat-Emo Cognitive-Behav Ther (2008) 26: 119. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10942-007-0059-0
  10. Myers, K. M., & Davis, M. (2006). Mechanisms of fear extinction. Molecular Psychiatry, 12, 120. https://www.nature.com/articles/4001939

How come some are confident without money, status, OR looks?

confident money status looks

Today I want to share a “WAIT, WHAT?!”-moment with you. (It’s one of those moments when you find out that something you’ve believed your entire life doesn’t hold true.)

I always used to assume that self-confidence is a product of having the right looks, money, and status.

Following that logic, what you need to become truly confident is to either to look better, make more money or earn more social status, right?

Well, if that’s true, why is this then the case?

  1. Why have I come across several good-looking people with terrible self-confidence?
  2. Why have I have come across even more not-at-all good-looking people with amazing self-confidence?
  3. Why do I have several wealthy friends (both self-made or rich parents) who are still awkward and lack confidence in social settings?
  4. Why do I know loads of people who live paycheck to paycheck who have an abundance of self-confidence and social status?

These observations reveal that money, looks and status don’t seem to be a straight path to confidence.

Here’s where you probably expect me to argue that there’s no correlation between success and self-confidence. But here’s where we arrive at my “WAIT, WHAT?!”- realization:

While being well off won’t automatically make you more confident, it does work the other way around: Acting with confidence will make you better off.

You could say that I had walked around believing that the sun rises because the day breaks. In reality, the day breaks because the sun rises.

When we act with confidence, we become more attractive. (Because self-confidence is attractive.)

When we act with confidence, we become better off in life. (Because we need to take certain risks and divert from the safe path to find success.)

Read more: How to have a high social value.

Nowadays, I ask myself:

  1. What does my inner, cautious voice tell me is the SAFE thing to do?
  2. What do I actually know is the RIGHT thing to do? (To do what I truly want in life.)

Luckily, we can learn to act with confidence even when we don’t feel confident: We can accept that it’s OK to be afraid and make the right decision anyway.

Doing the right thing instead of the safe thing is the essence of acting with confidence.

How confident we feel when we start off is irrelevant. What matters is our actions.

Confidence is what we do every day.

Read more: How to be more popular.

So enough about me. I’m interested to hear about you. At what points in life have you decided between what’s RIGHT and what’s SAFE? I’m interested to hear about your choices in the comments below!

How I approach intimidating people

how to approach intimidating people

I took a sneak photo of this HUGE guy with my phone on the subway the other day. He’s easily 6’10 (210 cm) and he looks so imposing that I had to take a photo for you.

intimidating peopleI actually know a guy equally intimidating. We can call him Josh. Tall, controlled facial expressions, good looking, and well dressed. He came off as both intimidating and unapproachable.

A few years ago, I’d try to play it cool and wait for them to show friendliness before I dared to be friendly, too.

Now, I know how that road just leads to a stalled relationship (fueled by my fear to be rejected).

Another mistake I did, later on, was trying to get their approval. I tried being overly positive and happy towards them. Subconsciously, I approached them like I was their fan rather than their equal.

That just made me come off as needy.

We need a different approach…

Here’s how I approach intimidating people today

From the get-go, I smile warmly and make myself approachable. I “dare” to be the one to smile first.

As it turned out with my intimidating friend Josh, his distant personality was just his shield against the world.

Most people walk around with a mask to protect themselves against potential rejection from others.

Another example is a friend of mine in Sweden. She’s an extremely successful businesswoman, beautiful, hard-working, and intelligent. At first impression, I was quite intimidated by her. But once I got to know her, it turned out she was a sensitive and caring person. She just puts on her mask to protect that vulnerable part of herself.

Isn’t life funny – We put on our own masks to protect ourselves from others masks.

how to approach intimidating people

The one who dares to put down their mask first wins in life.

Here’s how you can do it in practice:

  1. Ask a sincere question to get to know who they really are

“What’s your favorite part of working as a lawyer?”

  1. When it feels natural, give them a sincere compliment.

“It was exciting to hear about your new business. I hope it goes well”

(You see, insecure people almost never compliment others. They’re too busy worrying about how THEY come off.)

Lesson learned:

Being sincere and friendly, without being needy, is the best way to de-mask intimidating people.

Read more here: 7 mindsets to deal with an intimidating person.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Manners we can steal from charismatic people

charismatic people manners

My mom’s visiting from Sweden. Yesterday, I surprised her with a trip to a gospel church as I know it’s quite an experience.

charismatic peopleThe choir at the Brooklyn Tabernacle.

For me, the fascinating part was how the pastor presented his stories.

The audience was spell-bound by what he said – or, to be frank, HOW he said it.

You see, if we’d write down what he said word for word, we’d see how WHAT he said was pretty basic and repetitive. It looked something like this:

“You will overcome.
We will all overcome.
You will overcome.”

However, the WAY he said it made the audience go ecstatic.

His manners remind us, once again, how delivery often is more important than the content of the message.

One recurring question I get is “What am I supposed to say when I initiate a conversation with a stranger” or “What am I supposed to say in this specific situation”.

My more advanced readers, on the other hand, wonder how they should say it.

What we say speaks to people’s intellect. How we say it speaks to people’s emotions.

This is what we can learn from how the pastor spoke:

  • Confident people speak SLOWER than those who are nervous.
  • Charismatic people maintain eye contact longer than less charismatic people.
  • We tend to believe those who sound assertive when they say something. If we want someone to believe something, we want to say it like we truly believe it.
  • Charismatic people use variation in tempo and volume.
  • Confident and charismatic people use PAUSES when they tell stories.

The use of pauses is especially fascinating, so I would like to expand on that.

Confident people can speak with high intensity at times, but they balance this intensity up with pauses to let the listener process what’s being said and build up anticipation for what’s next to come. If we speak with excitement without these pauses, we come off as the kid who just came back from Disney World and wants to tell us all about it. On the other hand, if we add pauses, that’s when we immerse the listener.

We don’t want to walk around in life and talk like a preacher. That would just be weird. But using the same principles makes us more interesting when we speak.

Read more: How to be charismatic in 3 steps.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

– David

How I stopped caring what others think

stop caring what others think

For me, it all started a late summer night out with my friends.

I was just beginning my journey of self-development. I was especially concerned about my lack of experience with girls: I had never even kissed a girl.

I always felt like that was something I had to hide and make sure nobody knew about. I worried about what others would think of me if they knew.

But this night was different.

On my way home I went alone to get something to eat at a local hamburger joint. There was no table available, so I sat down by a middle-aged woman.

We started talking.

I don’t know exactly why, but that night I just didn’t want to care anymore. I think I was tired of always trying to hide my big shame; my inexperience with girls.

So, I told her everything about it.

When I stopped caring, something happened.

It was as if the shackles weighing me down finally shattered. It’s still one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done.

I felt unstoppable. All my shame and self-consciousness just washed away.

What’s even funnier is that she didn’t really believe me because she said I seemed so confident about it.

After that night I realized something…

I had been totally honest with who I was to a total stranger, and the world didn’t come crashing down because of it.

Quite the opposite – she was one of the first people in my life who’d seen me as confident.

So, why was I so concerned about hiding it to everyone else?

Here’s what I realized: When we are okay with others knowing about our insecurities – we can become truly confident with who we are.

This didn’t mean I started telling everyone about my fears and insecurities. (That would just be weird.) But my fear of being exposed disappeared.

If anyone would ask me about my experience with women, it wouldn’t throw me off balance. I knew I could just tell them like it is.

And sure enough, with my newfound confidence, meeting girls eventually wasn’t a big issue in my life anymore. Today, I have a wonderful girlfriend as of 6 years.


Here’s me and my girlfriend on a recent trip to Thessaloniki, Greece. It’s a really cool city for anyone with a historical interest (or if you just want to enjoy amazing Greek food and wine by the sea).

How you can stop your fear and insecurity from controlling you

That burger joint experience taught me something fundamental about fear:

Fear feeds on itself. When we avoid it, it becomes stronger.

Here’s what’s funny: When we stop running away from our fears, they eventually stop being scary.

When I finally admitted something I thought would destroy me if it came out, I realized that nothing had changed. I was still me. People still liked me, maybe even a bit more because I became more relaxed and genuine.

The first step to stop caring what others think

To become truly confident and stop caring so much about what others think of us, we need to face and deal with our insecurities.

As long as we walk around in life afraid of being “exposed”, we can never fully be ourselves.

That’s why the first step towards getting an unbreakable confidence is to admit to ourselves what we are insecure about.

We don’t HAVE to let the world know about it, but we need to accept that it’s okay IF the world knows about it.

What’s the worst thing that will happen if your insecurities come true?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I want you to actually try to visualize a worst-case scenario.

It’s healthy to think about because we often realize that even the worst scenarios are quite benign.

Perhaps someone laughs at us. Perhaps people who aren’t our real friends don’t want to hang out. But the world keeps turning, and no one can poke a hole in your surface when your confidence is solid.

This idea is confirmed by research. It’s called self-acceptance and it’s proven to make us more confident.

Self-acceptance is when we acknowledge both our strengths and weaknesses. You could say it’s about seeing ourselves as realistically as we can.

Here are the traits scientists saw improve with self-acceptance:

  1. An increase in self-esteem
  2. Less fear of failure
  3. An increase in self-worth
  4. An increase in independence
  5. Less desire to win the approval of others
  6. Less self-criticism and more self-kindness when mistakes occur
  7. More desire to live life for yourself (and not others)
  8. The ability to take more risks without worrying about the consequences
  9. Feeling freer in life to do what we truly want

Your first mission: Write down something you are afraid of or insecure about. By writing it down, you take the first step towards self-acceptance and becoming more confident in yourself. You also make sure that your fear stops growing.

Bonus mission: If you already did the first mission in the previous email about others judging us, do this instead. Think about how you can challenge and face your fear. Here are some examples:

Write it down here in the comments to take your first step to stop caring what others think.

How to Get Core Confidence From Within

How to get core confidence

This is my guide for how to be confident from within. Meaning, not just being confident in a certain area of life, but core confidence – a belief in yourself, always there, no matter what.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

[toc]

Let’s get to it!

1. Get core confidence by changing how you see your flaws and nervosity

Ever tried pushing away a bad feeling or thought just for it to come back stronger than ever?

What you resist will persist – Carl Jung

Let’s say that you have a voice inside of your head telling you that you’re worthless. The intuitive response is to try to silence or fight the thought.

In reality, this makes the thought stronger.

That’s a quirk in human psychology: When we try to fight feelings and thoughts, they grow stronger.

Behavioral scientists and therapists know this. They teach their clients a whole different way to deal with these thoughts: By turning them into our friends and accepting them.

“Oh, here’s the thought that I’m worthless again. I’m going to let it fly around for a while until it dissolves by itself”.

This is the moment where we develop core confidence: Instead of running from bad thoughts and feelings, we accept them.

But David, are you telling me that I should accept that things are bad and just give up!?

Thanks for asking! Accepting is not giving up. In fact, it’s the opposite: Only when we truly accept our situation can we see it for what it is.

When I accept that I’m afraid to go to a party can I see the situation for what it is, and decide to act anyway. (If I didn’t accept that I was scared, my mind would make up an excuse like “The party seems lame”.)

(This is the core of ACT, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It’s one of the most widely used therapy methods in the world).

First, you accept your situation, your thoughts, and your feelings. Then, you commit to doing changes for the better.

2. Rather than affirmations, use what scientists call self-compassion to get core confidence

Did you know that affirmations (Like, telling yourself that you’re valuable 10 times each morning, etc) can actually make you LESS confident? It can make your mind go “No I’m not” so you feel LESS valuable than when you started.

Instead, what if you were to say “I feel worthless now, and that’s OK! It’s human to feel worthless at times.” Wouldn’t that be liberating and take much less energy?

This is called self-compassion. I disliked this for a long time because the word self-compassion sounds so flower power-y. But in reality, it’s the most powerful way to build a core-confidence and people with naturally high self-esteem use it all the time.

Here it is in its essence:

Rather than trying to be great all the time, accept that you’re not always great. And that’s OK!

Here’s another way to word it:

“Be sympathetic toward yourself and for the fact that you’re only human. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend you like a lot”

The next time you talk down on yourself or feel bad about something, try instead talking to yourself like you would talk to a friend you like.

3. Use the SOAL-method to find your core confidence in everyday life

So, now I’ve talked about how to accept feelings rather than pushing them away.

But how do you do this on a day-to-day basis?

Here’s an exercise I do whenever I have a bad feeling. It’s called SOAL. (A behavioral scientist taught me this.)

  1. Stop what you’re doing and stop your thought loops.
  2. Observe how it feels in your body. If you feel anxious, where are you anxious? I, for example often feel a moving pressure in my lower chest. Don’t try to stop or change how it feels.
  3. Accept that this is the feeling you have.
  4. Let go of the feeling.

(This should take 1-2 minutes).

What now happens can feel almost magic. After a while, it’s like your body goes “Ok, I’ve signaled and David has finally heard me, so I don’t need to signal anymore!” and the feeling or thought weakens!

Whenever you feel nervous or anxious or have any feeling that stresses you out, remember SOAL. Stop – Observe – Accept – Let go

4. How truly confident people deal with nervosity

People with core confidence still feel nervous. It’s just that they see nervosity in a different way than others do.

I used to see nervosity as a sign that something bad was about to happen. I was like “uh oh! I have that nervosity pressure in my chest. This is BAD! Abort! Abort!”.

As you develop core confidence, you’ll learn that the feeling is just…. A feeling – no more than feeling tired in your legs after taking the stairs.

The next time you feel nervous, practice seeing it as a feeling without adding a negative emotion to it.

Instead of thinking “Oh no, this is bad, I’m nervous”, you can think “I’m feeling nervous because I’m about to do something I’m not used to.”

When I stopped seeing nervosity as something bad, I could feel confident being nervous.

Remember this the next time you feel nervous:

Nervosity is just a bodily sensation like feeling tired or thirsty. It doesn’t mean that you should stop whatever you want to do.

5. How to increase your self-esteem

Self-esteem is how we value ourselves. If we feel that we aren’t worth much, we have low self-esteem.

I’ve read the science behind how to get more self-esteem, and there are bad news and really good news.

The bad news: There are no good exercises you can do to boost your self-esteem. Affirmations, as I talked about before, can even lower your self-esteem. Out of your comfort zone-exercises just give a temporary boost.

The really good news: You CAN skyrocket your self-esteem by doing changes in your life. Research shows that by setting up goals and achieving those goals increases our self-esteem.

Why? Because they make us feel capable. When we feel capable, we feel worthy.

I, for example, had a goal to move to NYC one day. Now that I’m here, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel capable. That has increased my self-esteem.

What’s something you can learn and be really good at?

To start increasing your self-esteem, set up a goal and work toward achieving that goal.

6. Borrow the mindset of a confident person (How would a confident person react?)

When I did something embarrassing, I used to bash myself for weeks and months over it. A very socially savvy friend taught me a new mindset: How would a truly confident person react if they did what I just did?

Most often, I come to the conclusion that they wouldn’t care. If a confident person doesn’t care, why should I care? Asking myself what a confident person would do has over time helped me internalize core confidence.

Core confidence isn’t about never messing up. It’s about being OK with messing up.

7. There exists a specific type of meditation that will build your core confidence

I’ve never been much for meditation. I thought it was for hippies. Then, a couple of years ago, I got problems with stress and I had to learn ways to cope with that.

I started doing a body scan meditation, which is basically that you focus on what your body feels like from your toes and all the way up to the top of your head and then back. You start by focusing only on feeling your toes, then feet, then move up slowly and feel your ankles, then your calves, and so on.

You just pay attention to how it feels without evaluating it or labeling it or having thoughts about it.

After a while, you’ve reached your chest and you probably feel anxiety and all kinds of things, but you just slowly continue past it until you’ve reached the top of your head. Then you go back again.

Over time, something happens.

You start accepting whatever you feel in your body without reacting to it. This creates a calm that’s hard to describe, but you can imagine that after you’ve done this scan a couple of hundreds of times, you’ve learned that all these sensations in your body are just an ongoing process – you don’t need to worry about it!

Doing this body scan meditation has helped me develop core confidence.

Here’s a good guide to body scan meditation.

8. Why out of your comfort zone-stunts won’t build core confidence & what to do instead

I have a friend, Nils, who started off as a rather self-conscious and shy person (like most of us do). He managed to evolve through the “loud, compensating self-confidence” to finally arrive at the grounded, authentic, core confidence.

I know that people who get to know him today are certain that he’s born with his confidence.

During one period in his life, Nils tried pushing as far out of his comfort zone as he possibly could

laying down in a busy street

Like laying down on a busy street

Speaking in front of a large crowd

Doing stand-up on the subway

talking to girl self-confidenceTalking to girls he felt attracted to.

It’s worth noting that he didn’t pull off all of these things because he felt confident. He did it because he didn’t want to feel nervous.

Here’s what most people will never know about extreme out-of-your-comfort-zone stunts you see on Youtube: They aren’t very effective at building permanent confidence.

Just after Nils had succeeded with a stunt, he obviously felt like he was on the top of the world. But after a few hours, the feeling had worn off. A few days after, he felt like he was back to square one.

He told me that during these years in his life, he didn’t feel secure in his confidence. It bothered him that he still had created this personality of being the one who could do anything but still felt nervous.

When you work hard towards eradicating nervousness, you might have some success. But then the following happens:

First, life throws you a situation where you WILL get nervous despite all your work to eradicate nervousness. As you’ve worked so hard to eradicate it, you feel like you’ve failed: “All this work to become truly confident and here I am still getting nervous”.

Obviously, you don’t want to end up in situations where you feel like a failure. So, your brain solves this by subconsciously avoiding situations that will make you feel nervous.

This is a truly ironic side effect of trying to live a confident life.

Nils made two huge realizations:

  • Acknowledging your weaknesses to yourself takes MORE strength than ignoring them
  • Acknowledging your weaknesses to others takes EVEN MORE strength than hiding them

So he decided to strive towards being open and acknowledge whatever he felt. He told me how people truly started to respect him when he stopped trying to hide his weaknesses. They respected him because they saw that he was authentic.

Because we are human, we are afraid at times. We can and should strive towards improving ourselves, but despite this, there will always be times in life when we are afraid.

Superficial confidence is about trying to not come off as afraid. TRUE confidence is to be comfortable with being afraid.

In order for Nils to truly accept who he was in any given situation, he first had to acknowledge and accept whatever feelings or thoughts that situation provoked in him.

It makes sense when you think about it:

Because Nils accepts whatever feelings or thoughts any given situation provokes in him, he can truly accept who he becomes. That gives him core confidence about himself that few people have. It’s the confidence of knowing that even if I become afraid, that’s OK. Even if I let others know that I’m afraid, that’s OK too.

When we stop being afraid of being afraid, core confidence starts replacing that fear.

I’m excited to hear your thoughts about this in the comments!