Confidence counts for a lot. At work, it’s the confident employees who speak up in meetings and take on the most ambitious projects. In social circles, it’s the confident speaker who captures the attention of the room. Success seems to follow the confident, and even their failures seem to work in their favor.
But don’t mistake the composure of the confident for ease—confidence is hard to cultivate, even for the best of us.
This is because most of us constantly tell ourselves a story in which we are the protagonist, but many times, this story is a litany of negativity, rife with lines like “I’m not smart enough to speak up,” and “My voice sounds awkward and grating,” and “I don’t look nice enough to go out tonight.” This pessimistic self-story is what keeps us from being confident, and subsequently, keeps us from reaching our full potential.
But what most people don’t realize is that you can change your story. You just need the right set of psychological tools.
Let’s take a look at a few of these tools, and how you can use them to regain your confidence by changing the way you see yourself.
Ever heard the saying, “Seeing is believing?” Using the power of visualization, you’re going to envision your ideal self, and through this, you’ll begin to believe you can meet that ideal.
A study researching brain patterns in weight lifters found that the same patterns that activated when actual weights were lifted also activated when lifters merely imagined the act of lifting. More surprisingly, the study also found that participants who visualized lifting weights had an actual increase in strength, and that those who both visualized lifting weight and physically lifted weights had the greatest gains of all.
You can take advantage of this property of the human mind by establishing and focusing on a specific goal. In the case of confidence, your goal might be a successful interaction between yourself and a stranger. Imagine a scenario where everything goes perfectly, and you are suave, engaging, and a great communicator. Engage all of your senses as you do this, taking note of the smell of the room, what you’re wearing, and what you hear and see.
Repeat this often, and combine it with spoken self-affirmation. You’ll soon find that seeing truly is believing.
Change Your Look
One great way to change the way you see yourself is to physically change your look.
Most importantly, this means simply taking care of your health and hygiene. Sometimes, when we’ve been feeling bad about ourselves for a while, these things can take a back seat in our lives. But if you make an effort to start doing the simple things like taking regular showers, brushing your teeth, washing clothes, and performing basic aerobic exercises, you’ll take a big step toward regaining your confidence.
If you’ve got the basics down, try changing up your wardrobe for a quick confidence boost. Don’t think of this as a superficial change—it’s not. What you wear communicates something about you to the world, and telling others who you really are through what you wear is a powerful way to feel confident.
Find cuts of clothing that flatter your unique body type. Be bold, and go for whatever latest styles appeal to your tastes—even on days when your confidence wanes, you’ll look great, and simply knowing that will give you just the boost you need to see yourself in a different light.
Fake it Till You Make It
Seeing yourself in a negative light is the result of a pattern. You expect to perform badly, and you make that expectation come true, and because it comes true, you continue to expect the worst.
It’s time to break that pattern by faking the attributes you want to cultivate within yourself. It will be difficult, but you’re going to put on a mask and act as if you’re the most confident person in the world.
It might help to envision a confident friend or mentor who you respect and admire, and making choices based on what that person might do in a given situation. Speak up like that charismatic friend. Dress like your favorite celebrity. Do whatever it takes to act as if you own the world. Use the body language of your powerful boss. If you have trouble doing this around strangers and co-workers, try it around family and friends first.
If you do this long enough, you’ll begin to change the story you tell yourself. You’ll begin to expect greatness and confidence, and so these things will actually happen.
Fake it long enough, and you’ll almost certainly make it.
Finally, we get to the hardest step of all: inviting critical feedback. The more accurately you can perceive how others see you, the better you’ll do in social situations. For example, if you’re the person who thinks they’re funny, yet always tells jokes that fall flat and interprets the resulting polite laughter as approval, you’ll be able to change this with a little feedback. Otherwise, you’d never know!
And if you’re already aware of the traits that are holding you down, getting a little constructive feedback is one of the best ways to figure out a solution.
Make no mistake—accepting this kind of criticism is hard. It means coming face to face with your worst faults by asking someone to objectively evaluate you. But you can make this easier by going to someone you can trust to be kind and constructive.
To make this happen, zero in on a few specific characteristics you think you might need help with. Ask your friend how you do in these categories, and what they think you could do in order to improve. This will give you a little outside insight into your personality that you might not otherwise get.
Knowledge is power, and in this case, it is the power to truly see yourself so that you can intentionally change those traits that are holding you back.
All of these tips have one thing in common: they help you love yourself. Seeing yourself as the beautiful, unique human being that you are is the most important ingredient of the type of life-changing confidence you’re after.
So, the next time you look in the mirror, smile. You’re looking at the reflection of someone with potential and value. Use these psychological tools to look properly, and you’ll see this.