I once read about a famous film star who only got into acting because his mother sent him to acting lessons to overcome his shyness. This says a great deal about people who have a public profile. On the outside they appear confident and happy, but on the inside they are just as insecure and fragile as everyone else. The only difference is that they have learnt how to ‘fake it’ – how to act as though they own the world!
When I was a teenager walking into a room of strangers was agony. I was convinced that everyone was looking at me and laughing. I had absolutely no self-confidence, but over the years I’ve had to get used to talking to people. First it was during my years as a youth worker then later when I was a pastor in the church, next I progressed to motivational speaking in front of large audiences and the occasional TV appearance. Eventually I accepted that presenting in public is part of my job and I love this job. That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally suffer stage fright or doubt myself. Of course I do, I’m only human, but I also enjoy speaking and interacting with audiences.
How is your level of confidence? Do you know who you are, and accept your strengths and weaknesses? Essentially, are you comfortable in your own skin? The American writer Mark Twain said that “a man cannot be comfortable without his own approval”. Do you approve of yourself? If you need to lift your self-confidence you could try the following suggestions.
ONE: Visualisation and Positive Affirmations
Many shy people recommend visualising exercises. Try to picture yourself as the best you can be. Remind yourself that you become that person and then go to work transforming yourself into that individual.
Another way to boost self-confidence is with positive affirmations. They do not have to be clever or fancy, simply tell yourself that you are a good operator and you can achieve what you need to. It is too easy to develop a poor self-image of our self. To counter this, look in the mirror every morning and give yourself a compliment. And next time that nasty little voice in your head tells you that you’re not good or a failure, ask that voice what evidence it has to accuse you of being an underachiever. You need to set up a counter-argument. Write down everything you have achieved in life, and look at this list regularly. Do not be modest, but own your successes. It is essential that you replace negative thoughts about yourself with positive ones.
TWO: Set Achievable Goals
Sometimes people lack confidence because they have set themselves up to fail. They’ve got into relationships with difficult people, or even sabotaged job interviews because they didn’t believe they deserved a great job. Set up some goals that you can achieve. They don’t have to be big goals. Promise yourself that you’ll wear happy, colourful clothes for a week, or go for a walk every night after work. Once you accomplish these goals, tell yourself that you’ve done well. Gradually start making the goals more difficult, but forgive yourself if you don’t succeed at every goal on the first attempt.
Consider doing some volunteering work in the community. It doesn’t have to be a huge project, maybe you could spend one night a fortnight working at a soup kitchen serving the homeless. Sometimes it’s easier to see the good in ourselves if we help others. Also if you’re kind and generous to strangers, you might be more inclined to be kind and generous to yourself. You might stop thinking negative thoughts and instead give yourself the respect you deserve!
FOUR: Look your Best
If you suffer from low self-esteem make an effort to look your best. Get your hair cut and buy some new clothes – even if they’re from the op shop! You know the old saying, ‘clothes maketh the man’. Shave or put on some make-up. Leave home looking a million dollars and you’ll soon find that you also feel a million dollars. Make a point of eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. Self-confidence is a combination of being happy with our physical and emotional self. I believe in the benefits of exercise. If you become physically stronger, you’ll also feel mentally stronger.
FIVE: Improve your Qualifications and Always Be Prepared
If you feel under-qualified and intimidated by more educated people then upgrade your qualifications. Return to study or read extensively. But a university degree does not make you more intelligent. Loud, confident people can come across as clever, but again I will quote an old saying “Empty vessels make the most noise”. Perhaps one of the reasons I have confidence is because I’m no spring chicken and have learnt a lot about people over the years. People can appear educated and clever, but later you find they have done many foolish things in their life. Often the more you learn about the foibles of others, the more accepting you are of your own shortcomings.
If you hate presenting at conferences or in public, make sure you are well prepared ahead of presentations. Do your research, write comprehensive notes, even make a contingency plan if the day doesn’t go as you expected. If you arrive having meticulously prepared, you are less likely to suffer from nerves and a lack of confidence.
SIX: Face your Fears
Sometimes the best way to overcome our fears and feel more confident is to face these fears head-on. If you lack confidence talking to new people, then make a point of talking to as many new people as possible. Chat to people in shops, at work and in your street. By doing something that scares you every day you will grow in confidence.
SEVEN: Act Confident
Finally, act confident. Stand tall, wear a big smile and talk to people in a happy, confident way. It is true that a great many shy people have gone on to become successful actors because they had to learn how to ‘act’ confident when young. If you ‘act’ confident you will not only convince the world that you have confidence, but you will also eventually convince yourself.