Do you ever find yourself feeling really confident in some situations, and nervous and uncertain in others? This happens for one of two reasons:
The first reason is that our confidence is directly related to our ability to predict the outcome of a situation. In circumstances where we know what to expect, and we have had prior or similar experiences, we are naturally more confident. It’s like driving through a well-known part of town versus being in an unfamiliar city, full of road construction. On the well-traveled route, you can drive with confidence and not worry about losing your way. However, in new territory, you might find yourself anxious, hesitant, and unsure – questioning every turn especially if you lose the signal to your GPS.
In situations that are unknown, like the first day on a new job, we have to figure out how to belong to the group, learn everyone’s name, learn how to get around, and how to perform the tasks of our job. It takes time to “get our bearings”.
Familiarity breeds confidence. In new situations, or situations where you cannot predict the outcome, here are a few tips to help you feel more confident:
- Project as much confidence as possible. Think of the old adage, “Fake it till you make it.”
- Pay attention to others and adjust your behavior accordingly. For example, if the group is more subdued and formal, avoid being overly gregarious and comedic.
- Connect with one other person as quickly as possible to begin establishing a relationship.
- Give yourself positive messages, even a simple mantra that you use when you are feeling anxious or uncertain.
The second reason we feel our confidence fluctuate is related to specific situations in which we find ourselves. This is referred to as situational confidence.
Listed below are the most common types of situations where confidence – or lack of it – shows up. As you read the list, assess your confidence in each area. Prepare for the next time you find yourself in these situations and make attempts to raise your level of confidence.
- Social confidence – People with social confidence have the ability to interact naturally and easily with others. They have empathy for others. They are friendly and easy to talk with. They are aware of moods and feelings. People with strong social confidence are accepting of themselves and are willing to reach out to others regardless of traditional social barriers. They are comfortable with new people and new situations.People with low social confidence find themselves awkward around other people – especially strangers. In order to develop your social confidence, you might want to learn how to start a conversation, practice with a supportive friend or engage the services of a coach.
- Physical confidence – People with physical confidence project a commanding presence (regardless of their size). They carry themselves with more robust energy. They walk tall which often causes them to appear taller than they are. They hold their heads up and their shoulders back. They smile and make eye contact with others. They even engage in friendly conversation.People notice when physically confident people enter a room. Physically confident people garner attention without using a lot of verbal language. People with physical confidence are often seen as more gifted or skilled than others. They are usually quicker to get promotions or special attention.Pay attention to your posture. Practice walking tall with your shoulders back and your head held high. You will be surprised how people respond.
- Peer independence – People with peer confidence have the ability to resist peer pressure. They are often described as marching to a different drum. They are not unduly influenced by the group and remain true to their values and beliefs in spite of the group’s behavior. These people often become leaders and can struggle as followers. They will challenge the status quo. Peer independence gives you the confidence to try new things, trust your own judgment, and live with less anxiety about fitting in with a certain group.Pay attention to different situations to determine if you “go along with the crowd” more often than you like. Do you keep your opinions to yourself? Are you afraid to speak up because everyone will think you are different? And most importantly, do you fear being different?If you do, don’t worry. We all have experienced the need to fit in and belong at such a level that we give in, even when the situation does not feel congruent with our values and beliefs.
By paying attention to these types of situations, you will be able to gauge your confidence level of peer independence. You can start small by learning to express yourself in small ways – choose the restaurant, decide not to participate in something you don’t enjoy, share your opinion without apologizing for it.
If peer independence is a challenge for you, you may want to take some courses or work with a coach on language skills that help you assert yourself when you do not agree with others.
- Stage presence — If you have stage presence, you do not mind having the “spotlight” turned on you or stepping up to the role of leader. Stage presence is not about acting in a role. It is about being able to easily express opinions and thoughts in a natural, confident manner. It is the ability to speak up during meetings, stand before a group to present, and step into a leadership role when appropriate. It is not about dominating, but about articulating.It is not unusual to fear speaking up in a staff meeting, making a speech, giving a report, or even delivering a toast at a wedding. Stage fright is common to many people – none of us want to appear or feel foolish in front of others.A confident stage presence is necessary for many career advancements. It is equally important for people who are passionate about specific causes. The ability to raise money, garner attention, and persuade others can make the difference in many social causes.
If you find that you are lacking in stage presence, there are several things you can do. First and foremost, take baby steps. The more preparation you do and the more you practice, the less likely you will feel intimidated when called on. Here are some options to consider:
- Make a short presentation to a small group of people.
- Force yourself to participate in group meetings.
- Make an effort to speak to people in public that you do not know.
- Take a course in public speaking.
- Participate in a tele-series for presentation and speaking skills.
- Work with a speech coach or personal development coach.
- Join Toastmasters®.Learning to express yourself with confidence is important. When you do, you can articulate your beliefs and knowledge, influence others, and literally change the course of your life.
- Status confidence – If you have status confidence, you are unaffected by others’ social status. For people who have lower confidence in this area, they experience their confidence waxing and waning based on the status of the people they are around.
Think of how tongue-tied you might feel if a celebrity or someone of importance was suddenly seated next to you. You might second guess everything about yourself from the clothes you are wearing to the words you speak.On the other hand, if you were suddenly in a room where your status was considered “superior” to those around you, you in turn might have the confidence to dominate. To make this concept even more real, think of a work situation and the organizational chart. Entry level employees typically experience less confidence in the presence of company leaders and therefore do not assert themselves. The same can be true in some families where certain members are considered “favorites” or superior to others.If you lack status confidence, you have probably been taught to “stay in your place,” or “don’t try to act above your raising.” The important thing to understand here is that we are all worthy and deserving. Learning assertiveness techniques and continuing your work on confidence development would serve you well.
Becoming aware of your confidence levels in different situations is a very positive step to developing more confidence. Changing your behavior will take practice, but remember the more you practice something, the better you will be. And when that happens, your confidence will surely grow.
Be sure to stay tuned for Part 4 of 5 next Friday.
Confident You! Leap Out of Your Comfort Zone
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