Tuesday, October 21, 2008

10 simple ways to project self-confidence

Recently a couple of women have commented to me about my seemingly strong sense of self-confidence. I probably shouldn’t say “seemingly”; I really do have quite a bit of self-confidence. Let’s face it; you have to have balls of steel to do stand-up comedy, which is my personal final frontier. Any other form of public speaking is a breeze for me, but to get in front of people with the sole purpose of making them laugh… after five years, I’m just now able to approach the stage without breaking out in hives.

By nature, performers have to have self-confidence, but writers also need it. Building your author’s platform requires you to be able to put yourself out there. This isn’t easy for some writers, who were perhaps drawn to writing in the first place because by nature, writing is a solitary endeavor.

I’ve looked into this topic a bit and conclude that whereas self-esteem is the belief in your worth or value, self-confidence is the attitude that gives you the ability to project that belief to others. And while I’m certainly not trying to pass myself off as a psychologist, I’m happy to share some strategies that work for me.

So here are 10 simple ways to project self confidence, according to your friend Linda Lou:

1. Improve your posture. I can’t stress this enough—this is the single most important thing you can do to project self-confidence. The way in which you carry yourself communicates so much about how you feel about yourself, which in turn tells the world how you expect to be treated. Remember this: people treat you exactly how you ask to be treated. Good posture tells the world, “I would never expect you to mess with me” and it’s especially important if you’re in a business meeting or other type of situation where you need to project a sense of authority. Trust me on this. People approach me in stores all the time asking for help as if I work there—even if I’m in jeans and have my pocketbook slung over my shoulder.

Try this: Stand straight and pull your shoulders back and down. Exaggerate this stance if you have to, to really get a sense of how this feels. Now imagine a string at the crown of your head that’s being pulled up to the heavens. With your shoulders back and down and your head lifting to the heavens, now elongate your spine. Visualize creating space between each vertebra. Now tighten your abdominal muscles. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, let this be your mantra: “Shoulders back and down, head high.” Consciously make it a point to maintain this posture, whether you’re sitting, standing, or walking. I guarantee the results will be amazing!

2. Fake it till you make it. In other words, act as if you already are how you’d like to be. Think of how you would carry yourself and interact with people if you already were a best-selling author or whatever it is to whcih you aspire.

Try this: Think of someone you admire—how does that person carry himself or herself? How does that person speak? In your next social or work situation, try to emulate that person’s style. In college I had a professor whose presentation style I really liked, and when I had to give presentations myself, I’d act as if I were she. Now before I perform comedy I watch a recording I have of Louis C.K., because I dig his style.

3. Get in shape. Sorry, but there really is something to that mind-body connection. Even if you commit to a mere 20 minutes a day, you’ll notice a difference in how you feel and how you carry yourself.

Try this: Take a beginner’s yoga class. Many yoga studios offer a free introductory class, so you have nothing to lose. Be aware that yoga teachers are like snowflakes—no two are alike. Don’t be turned off to yoga if one experience doesn’t work out for you; try another class. And you don’t have to take classes forever; once you learn the basics, you can buy a couple of yoga DVDs (I have a few I highly recommend) and practice in the privacy of your living room. I think yoga is the best exercise you can do, the closest thing there is to the Fountain of Youth, and the best way to improve your posture.

4. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Every time you agree to do something that you really don’t want to do, you erode a little bit of your self-esteem. Tell the kids you’ll give them a ride after Oprah, or when you’re damn good and ready. Don’t worry about appearing selfish; people will respect you more when you’re not afraid to let them know you value your time.

Try this: Say “no.” Simple as that. No apologies, no explanations.

5. Put some effort into your looks. Never, ever leave the house without at least a little bit of eye make-up or lipstick. (Guys have it so easy!) Even if you haven’t even showered and just want to make a quick run to the grocery store, throw on a baseball cap and take 30 seconds to put on some lipstick. Every time you set foot in public, you’re presenting yourself to the outside world, and you’re going to present yourself with more confidence if you look good.

Try this: Ask your daughter or a younger friend for beauty and fashion tips. If you’re on a budget or want to try out a new style without making a huge financial commitment, browse through the racks at Marshall’s, T.J. Max, or Ross Dress-for-Less (my personal favorite!)

6. Do something nice. There’s nothing that will make you feel better about yourself than knowing you’ve done something nice for another person.

Try this: Find a way to surprise and delight someone. Check out my earlier blog for ideas.

7. Get yourself a personal theme song. Remember Julie Andrews belting out “I Have Confidence” on her way to the meet the captain and seven children? (This is probably the corniest thing I’ve ever said, so let this stay right between us.)But theme songs are a lot of fun and I swear they work. I have two, but I can’t tell you what they are—these things are personal!

Try this: Think of a confidence-building song that puts a bounce in your step. Play the song in your head while you’re walking down the street--or anywhere--with shoulders back and down and head high. You can't help but feel a bit ridiculous, and people will wonder what's behind your sly smile. They'll never know, of course!

8. If someone gives you crap, pretend you’re reacting to an Alzheimer’s patient. Don’t say a word, just give the person a sympathetic look that says, “Clearly you’re out of your mind, but I know you can’t help it.” This will prevent you from reacting emotionally, which puts you at a disadvantage and is exactly what your perpetrator wants.

Try this: Imagine a person saying something totally inappropriate to you or making a demand that you’ll no way in hell comply with. Practice your “You must be insane” look, and don’t forget to add a sympathetic smile.

9. Sit still! People who fidget do not give the impression of being in control and you’re probably driving other people nuts. Calm that wiggling leg, stop dangling your shoe off your toe.

Try this: Next time you’re in a meeting, or just talking with someone, consciously relax your hands and face (this works wonders at the dentist, too). And don’t forget to sit up straight, with shoulders back and down.

10. Never say anything bad about yourself. This is especially true in the workplace, where everything you say can and will be held against you. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry I was late” say, “Thank you for waiting for me.” In fact, whenever you can, take the opportunity to boost yourself. Last week I sent out a company-wide email asking for announcements and story ideas for next month’s newsletter. My opening sentence was “All the great feedback I’ve received on the employee newsletter is very much appreciated, but it’s really up to you to supply me with the content.” See how I sneaked in a pat on my own back? Pretty smart, huh?

Try this: Make a conscious effort to become more aware of what you say about yourself. Self-deprecating humor is fine, but only if you have enough self confidence to mitigate it.


Lilly said...

This was a great post and should be read by all women particularly young ones. I am sending it to my daughter. Her self confidence is eroding - she is a lawyer and works in a lions den with very aggressive confident types. thanks!!

Argentine Rocket said...

Very good tips here! I am SO guilty of waaaay too much self-depricating comments, my friends are really tired of it. Good to remind myself of how bad it is!

Malu Silverman said...

Good tips, esp. the theme song and the lipstick. I've been reading articles on self confidence/self esteem, and these are new ones. Thanks.

Taradharma said...

excellent tips! My personal theme song is the Rocky theme - and I'm not talking "Rocky Horror," though that might work in certain situations.

my wife slouches --- argh!!! My younger daughter fidgets all the time, with her hands, her hair, her face, her glasses --- argh!!! I want to beat them senseless. what is it about me that wants to hurt such an obviously stressed person?