by Jane Claudio
Don’t you hate that lunch-hour-on-the-first-day-of-high-school feeling? When there’s one thing in the room that doesn’t belong, and that one thing is you? I remember standing in the lunchroom entryway, paper bag in hand, overwhelmed by the rumbling of one hundred conversations. I stood wide-eyed, watching the human traffic flow, wondering how I could possibly merge myself into it all. Does this sound familiar?
Having low self-confidence doesn’t end when we grow into adults. We all feel this way sometimes (unless we’re in denial), especially in situations where we have to prove ourselves, like job interviews and networking events.
For me, this feeling resurfaced when I moved to Nashville to pursue a career in pop music. It seemed like everyone I met in Nashville was famous, friends with someone famous, played behind someone famous, or was soon-to-be famous. Not me. I wasn’t a big fish anymore. I was a minnow in the ocean. My confidence had disappeared; I felt so small. So, I just learned to fake it. The mind is a powerful asset.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “fake it ‘till you make it,” and I’m here to show you how. It might feel a lot like lying to act confident when you’re not, or trying to convince people that you have what it takes, when you’re not even convinced yourself. But getting anywhere in life depends on how willing we are to do things that we don’t feel like doing. Such as pulling ourselves out of bed on a rainy morning to enter the rat race of rush-hour gridlock.
Let me take you by the hand, and show you the art of faking it. No one is exempt from that freshman feeling, and everyone can learn to overcome it. Here are some practical tips to trick other people into thinking you’re confident.
The first thing—as I’m sure you could have guessed—is body language. Use your imagination. What words come to mind when you think of how people like Barack Obama and Lady Gaga carry themselves? Powerful, poised, capable. Now pretend. How would you stand if you knew you had something irreplaceable to offer? How would you walk if you were someone worth knowing? Do that. Stand up straight with your chin up. Make your body tall. Lean forward, not back.
There is actually some amazing science that says powerful body language makes a person feel more powerful. I’ve linked the Ted Talk here, and it is totally worth your time.
Here’s another thing that you could have guessed: the way we make eye contact (or don’t) has a big impact on how we are perceived. We all learned it when we were young—to look people in the eyes when they’re talking to us. Yes, it’s polite, but it also projects confidence. Eye contact says, “I’m here, and I’m engaged. I’m not afraid to be seen.”
While you’re at it, don’t forget what Orphan Annie said best, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Psychology Today shares that smiling can make a person appear more competent, likeable, and trustworthy. But even more than that, smiling makes a person feel happier. In the same way that powerful body language makes you feel powerful, smiling makes you feel happy. Funny how it works both ways: acting happy makes you feel happy, acting confident makes you feel confident.
The next time you’re in a setting where you feel inferior or feel like the other, use your imagination, and pretend you belong. Stand up straight like you know who you are. Make warm eye contact, give a firm handshake, and smile when you talk. It’s easy to convince others that you are self-assured. And while you’re at it, you might even convince yourself.
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