What’s stopping you? Fake it until you make it - the art of self confidence

June 28, 2012, 12:24 pm Simon Boulton Yahoo!7

Most of us know that the secret to success is confidence. Good looks, intelligence, qualifications, all these help, but with many of the highest of achievers, their greatest asset has been their world class confidence.

Unfortunately many of us don’t possess such bountiful self assurance. We are racked with doubts and are caught up in an ongoing wrestling match with our inner critic, that nagging voice that tells you you’re not good enough, smart enough, strong enough etc..

Although we don’t want to admit it publicly I think many of us feel like we could use an improvement in self confidence.

Follow some of these tips and you could be on your way:-

Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen? - It’s easy to get lost in a vague fear – or very improbable scenarios – of what might happen if you go through with something. When you really ask yourself what the worst thing that could happen you get a clearer picture, a bit of fear vanishes and you discover that the potential consequences are seldom as frightening as you first thought. By doing this you define the potential consequences and discover that whatever the might happen you can manage and recover from it.

Try something new - When you break out of your comfort zone and try something you haven’t before you not only challenge yourself. You expand your own limitations and your confidence in your own abilities, in how many things you can do. By trying something new on a continual basis you can also lessen your fears and live a life with less barriers and limitations.

Make a plan to do something. Then follow through - This is probably one of the most important and effective ways to building lasting confidence. When you decide to do something and don’t back down but go through with it you get proof of your – often underestimated – capabilities and your confidence in yourself soars.

Exercise - This one definitely makes an impact on self confidence. Regular exercise improves your energy levels and produces various chemicals – for example testosterone and endorphins – that put you in a more positive state. This seems to often almost automatically improve your confidence and outlook on life compared to if you spend your time on the couch, eating Pringles and watching TV. Getting in shape and looking better can be a powerful confidence-booster.

Face a fear - This is not an easy one, but the reward is big. If you face a fear then your confidence takes about ten steps up, and for every time you face a fear you can slowly start to discover that the classic quote “There is nothing to fear but fear itself” was not just another empty cliché.

Awash yourself in positive memories - It’s a common habit to let previous failures and bad experiences wash through your mind before you do something important. Replace that habit by actively letting positive memories, accomplishments and experiences wash through your mind for a minute or two instead. We often forget these positive things and our minds become focused on the negative memories. But this is up to you, you have a choice, and the product of your choice is a factor in your level of self confidence.

Take it into the future - One great way of putting things into perspective and choose how much you let everyday happenings affect your confidence is to take a look from the future. Ask yourself: Will this be a big deal in 5 years or something I’ll even remember? This takes you out of being wrapped up in what just happened. And the answer to the question is usually a no. By using this question it gets easier to handle your day to day troubles and realise that in a larger context most stuff is small stuff you don’t really need to sweat.

Realise that the past does not equal the present - What happened last year, last month or yesterday does not equal tomorrow, next month or next year. You create your future in the present and you can to a large degree decide for yourself how much you let the past affect you and your future. Even if your confidence has been low for the last 10 years does not mean that it has to stay that way. You can choose to change your future and life. You can let go of previous thoughts that have not been useful for you and that’s ok. You can choose new thoughts to think. This realisation untangles your mind from a self-made prison, creates a sense of possibility and makes it easier to change negative thought patterns.

Compare yourself to yourself. Not to others - This will eliminate unnecessary pain in your life. The thing is if you pass one person then you’ll just find another person more successful than you. And your brief sense of being a winner will again transform into anxiety and fear. Focus on yourself, not the other people around you, no matter if they are more or less successful. Compare yourself to yourself. Improve yourself and see how you grow and become a more successful, more confident and happier person.

Keep a positive crowd - The people you hang out with can either drag you down or lift you up. Since we spend so much of our time with other people it’s important to keep positive – or at least reasonably neutral – people around you as much as you can. One or a few negative people can affect you in a big way – perhaps through nagging – and pull you down day after day.

Redefine failure - How you view failure controls how much your confidence drops before or after a failure. The definition of failure we are brought up with in society might not be the best and most useful to have. If you look at the most successful people you quickly notice that they have a different response to failure than the more common one. They don’t take failure or rejection that seriously. They know it’s not the end of the world if they fail. Instead they look at each failure and see the good part: what they can learn from it and improve next time.

Fake it til you make it - One way to break out of your own self-imposed limitations, take a step out of your comfort zone and build confidence is to play a part. This might sound like it couldn’t work. Like you are just making things up and lying to yourself. Well, that might be the case. But it still works. If you don’t feel confident, fake it and play the part of how you would think and behave if you were confident. Soon you’ll really start to feel confident. The part becomes real.

Final Thought

I recently watched an interview with the award-winning actress Meryl Streep. She said that when she is about to embark on a new movie shoot, she often has strong feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. She said thoughts swirl around her head such as, "I'm not a good actress" and "What am I doing? I'll never be able to pull this off."

I was shocked when I heard this. Meryl Streep is considered by many to be the greatest film actress alive today. She has played the leading role in some of the best movies ever made.

Streep shared her strategy for overcoming self-doubt: "Fake it till you make it." In other words, feel the fear and do it anyway. She said she shows up at the film set and gives it her all. She does not let her self-doubt and inner critic paralyse her. She walks into the fear, which subsequently allows her to walk through the fear and do her best work.

The most effective way to project confidence is to act as if you are confident. Even if you're not feeling confident, it is okay to act as if you're brimming with confidence. Trust me, this is the strategy used by most people you encounter throughout a typical work day. The majority of people are insecure individuals acting as if they are secure. They are just stepping into their fear.

Stop fuelling your inner critic with self-made poison. Start encouraging and energising yourself with positive self-talk and boost your own self-confidence.

If it works for Meryl Streep, it can work for you, too!

More from Simon Boulton:
Are You Sabotaging Your Career?
Hang On To What You Have Got - How To Retain Top Talent
The Anatomy Of A Great Manager - What Great Managers Do Differently

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