Your résumé may be solid. You can stay cool under pressure. You may have the necessary business and social skills to propel you to the top — you may even be as honest and loyal of an employee that anyone could ask for. Yet, there’s one important trait that you could be missing, that can really make all the difference in the world and renders everything else useless.
Without a sense of confidence, people are always going to be second-guessing and questioning your decision making. They may not see you as a leader, and it could hurt your prospects. Needless to say, confidence is one of the cornerstones of a successful professional career. So, it’s important to build yourself up, and walk the walk with a sense of bold self-assurance.
Oh, and it can also earn you more money.
The question is, how do you develop confidence? Particularly if you haven’t strung together a series of professional victories, or if you’re still in the infancy of your career? The answer, surprisingly, has less to do with scientifically-proven, bulletproof techniques, and more to do with the kinds of things you learn in an improv class. In short, building confidence can be as simple as ‘fake it until you make it.’
Seriously. You may have heard this before, but a good way to actually start from square one in building your confidence is to simply act confident. No matter how you’re feeling inside — insecure, nervous, etc. — if other people see you keeping your cool in the face of intense pressure or scrutiny, they’ll be impressed. That, in turn, will make you more confident. It’s essentially knocking over the first domino in your confidence-building scheme.
If you go into the process with some solid self-esteem and a positive image of yourself, but still feel unsure or unproven when it comes to your professional life, faking it (or just putting on a confident act) can be the perfect place to start.
Of course, if you’re not feeling good about yourself for any number of reasons, you can put in some work to help you with that. A good way to start is to exercise. Not only has lifting weights and getting in shape been proven to help boost productivity and creativity, but a higher level of fitness has also been linked to higher confidence levels. It’s one of the most basic and primal ways to prove yourself — set some goals for yourself, and physically go after them. You’ll see results, accomplish what you set out to do, and those victories should leave you more confident and self-assured.
The trick, then, is to take that nugget of confidence, and apply it to the rest of your life — in relationships and in your career, specifically.
That’s not to say that science doesn’t have a say in all of this. After all, there are plenty of experts and psychological data out there who can point you in the right direction. There are a number of actual tips and tricks you can apply to your daily life to appear more confident.
Physically, work on your posture. Standing up straight and moving with purpose conveys some powerful non-verbal communicative cues. People will see you coming, and know that you’re a man on a mission — not another meandering interloper, wasting your time and talents. Also, you can speak with a sense of authority. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it, and speak calmly, directly, and make eye contact. It’ll leave an impression, and you’ll walk away feeling in command.
Do you think that history’s greatest leaders, like Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, or Winston Churchill slouched around, avoiding eye contact? If they had, nobody would have listened to them. If you’re falling into those physical ‘security’ traps, there’s a good chance nobody is listening to you, either.
So, the trick here is to balance yourself. If you’re starting from scratch, building confidence will start with building self-esteem. You’ll then carry that over into your physical actions, and literally ‘fake it’, if you have to. You don’t want to be dishonest, per se, but summoning the courage to face the world with a sense of sternness and self-assurance should blossom into you actually developing those feelings.
Own yourself, speak and walk with confidence, and eventually you’ll stop pretending — that will be you. And everyone else will see it.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger