Eight steps to being a more confident you

The meek may well inherit the earth, but right now that looks like it’s a little way off. As things stand, it’s the brash blusterers who strut and swagger their way around the political, social and business stages who seem to be in the ascendancy.

But for the more timid amongst us, help is at hand. The Confidence Trick examines the increasingly important part confidence appears to play in modern life, and provides some helpful insights into how to be confident with confidence.

1. Be prepared

High-wire walker Chris Bullzini says his work is all about confidence, and the key to that is training: you need “that certainty inside that you’re not going to fall, and so much of that is about preparation.” When you step out on to the wire, if you know that the practical techniques you have learnt work then you can be confident that everything’s going to be fine. OK, so not many of us are wont to tightrope walk, but the same theory applies whatever the task ahead. If you want to request a pay-rise, do it in the mirror first. Have to give a speech? Practice it as many times as you need to, record it, listen back to it and go again. You’ll wow the room.

2. Sleep well

Being tired can make even the simplest tasks feel insurmountable, so aim for eight hours between the sheets when you can. Daniel Freeman, professor of clinical psychology at Oxford University, believes that one of the reasons why sleep deprivation is so bad for our brains is because it encourages repetitive negative thinking: “We have more negative thoughts when we're sleep-deprived and we get stuck in them.” Got something important on tomorrow? Then head to bed!

3. Dress for success

This doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a three-piece suit and tie. But it does mean donning the clothes that you feel comfortable, and the best version of yourself, in. It might be applying a splash of red lipstick for a night out, or simply stepping out of your pyjamas and into your jeans if you work from home. As well as dressing to impress, remember to stand tall. An expansive posture helps you act and feel more powerful, especially if you happen to be wearing shoulder pads.

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4. Take a deep breath

When we’re nervous we have a tendency to breathe more rapidly, as our bodies prepare for fight or flight. If you consciously breathe heavily, rather than pant, it will still saturate the brain with oxygen – making you more awake and focused - but this way you are controlling your body, rather than the other way around. Practice managing your breathing so when the next tense situation crops up you feel calm and in command.

5. Challenge yourself

BBC World News America presenter Katty Kay co-wrote The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know. She says we should see confidence like building blocks: “It’s almost a tangible, physical commodity. You get confidence by doing stuff that’s hard for you, and when you do those things it’s like you bank a bit of confidence,” which makes it that bit easier the next time around. If we step outside our comfort zones they will expand.

6. Choose how you communicate

Communicate in a way that helps you: if you’re not good on the phone then email; if you’re not confident that you can express yourself in writing then pick up the phone. Some businesses are introducing social networking platforms so people who usually take a back seat in meetings can find their voice. Remember that it’s OK to be quiet – extroversion is just one type of confidence. Susan Caine, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, believes introverts are crucial for balance in a world of bombast and the cocksure. She states, “Do you know who you are and do you know what kinds of decisions you want to make? That to me is real confidence.”

Remember: it's your choice. If you’re not good on the phone then email; if you’re not confident that you can express yourself in writing then pick up the phone.

7. Find a mentor

It’s likely that whatever you’re doing, someone has done it before, and well. Tap that resource: seek out someone who has learnt valuable lessons from their own experiences and who is able to provide guidance when you need it. Asking for help is a strength not a weakness.

8. Fake it till you make it

Even the most successful people will admit that they often feel like a fraud. Imposter syndrome is a common psychological phenomenon, where the sufferer feels inadequate and convinced that everything they’ve accomplished to date is down to luck. If you ever feel like this, close your eyes and hope for the best! By pretending you know what you’re doing you soon learn. Entrepreneur and former Chairman of Channel Four, Luke Johnson, believes that “a measure of self-delusion can be one of the secret ingredients” to success.

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