I’ve got a bit of a theory about what it takes to project self confidence.
In fact, I even reckon it can be boiled down into a simple formula that you can pull out and use quickly and effectively whenever you feel you need to project confidence, such as in business negotiations, meeting important people, or attending an event where you feel way out of your comfort zone.
But I want to put the theory to a test first. I’ve got some good results by using it but I’d like to get your feedback on it to see if it works for you too.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that coming across as being confident in situations where you feel out of your depth, or where others around you are feeling pressured too, can be very advantageous for you. People look at you, think of you, and treat you with a whole different level of respect.
Note that this formula is how to project self confidence to others when you need to. It’s not the answer to life-long super confidence. But it is a start.
Before I reveal the formula, however, I want to clear up what I believe is one misconception. There’s some who say that in order to have proper self confidence you need high self esteem.
The Difference Between Self Confidence and Self Esteem
Self confidence is different to self esteem.
Self esteem is more to do with how good you feel about yourself as a person, your worth as an individual, your self belief if you like.
Self confidence, on the other hand, relates to how good you feel about your abilities to do things. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self confidence means “… confidence in oneself and in one’s powers and abilities”.
Yes, it certainly makes it easier to be a confident person if you have healthy self esteem and self belief, but I don’t think it is totally essential to have good self esteem before you can project an air of confidence. You can be seen as confident in your demeanor and yet still be unhappy inside and not like yourself very much. I’ve come across it all the time with people I assumed were very self confident individuals and seemed to have it all, yet end up committing suicide because they had such a low regard for themselves.
For the purposes of this article, however, we’ll explore what it takes to come across as confident when you need it most. We’ll look at how to achieve good self-esteem in a later post.
The Confidence Formula
In my search to find a way to develop a more confident personality in high pressure situations (I have always been a somewhat shy and introverted person), out of necessity I followed a simple formula that helps me get into a confident state whenever I feel pressured. In fact I have embraced it so much that it has become part of my everyday self.
The formula is this …
Confidence = Calm + Certainty.
Let me explain why this works so well …
Think back to a situation where you felt totally out of your comfort zone. Chances are your stress and anxiety levels were through the roof, right?
And what happens when stress rises? You seize up. Your muscles get tense, your breathing gets shallower, and your heart starts thumping as your body prepares you for the fight or flight response. It’s a natural stress response mechanism.
When you’re in stress mode it’s not hard to come across as jittery, nervous, and uncertain … not good traits to show when you’re in important meetings or making sales calls, or even trying to chat to an attractive member of the opposite sex.
The answer is to learn to remain calm. In other words … be cool.
How does this help? …
- It helps with decision making. By remaining calm it allows you time to think, or helps create a ‘gap’ between stimulus and response. Stephen Covey summed up this gap best in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by saying “Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose”.
Why is having this gap important? Because if you don’t allow this momentary pause for reflection (which can be lightning fast anyway), then you’ll give your all important conscious mental control over to simply reacting without thinking. And reacting to situations without thinking then becomes an automatically programmed subconscious response. If the results you’ve been getting from your knee-jerk responses in the past have been less than desirable, then enforcing this gap will allow you to consciously change that.
- It controls the fight or flight response. Rather than giving over to an automatic knee jerk reaction to circumstances, remaining calm puts you in control of the chemical reactions that are shooting around your body. In stressful situations your adrenalin may still be going crazy and causing butterfly’s in the stomach and all sorts of anxious feelings, but if you can control all that (despite their obviously highly stimulating effects) by remembering to stay calm, it allows your brain time to work and your response to be measured.
- Remaining calm also has an affect on your body language. Internalizing a true sense of calm relaxes your body and your actions, and your behavior becomes more genuine. Allan Pease, a body language and communications expert and author of the best seller “Body Language”, claims that between 60-80% of all face-to-face communication is done via non-verbal channels i.e. your body language. Tensing up and being jittery sends more messages about your congruence with what you say than your words do.
Developing a sense of calm
So, how do you develop a sense of calm?
One effective way is to practice meditation regularly. Research done by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Mind-Body Medical Institute reported that effective meditation created a range of biochemical and physical changes in the body, which he collectively referred to as the “relaxation response.” Meditate regularly and the ongoing benefits to your health, mind, and calmness will be profound.
Another way is to use the NLP approach, like this technique –
Remember a situation where you felt totally calm, in control, and confident. Feel the feelings. Remember the sensations you had. What were you saying to yourself? How did your body feel? What were you seeing in your minds eye? Amplify and focus on those feelings, thoughts, or sounds for a moment. Then, when you are in a peak state, anchor those feelings to a point on your body by pressing it firmly, like on the tip of your thumb or the pad between your thumb and fore finger. Do this over and over several times to lock it in place. Then, when you find yourself in a situation where you need those confident, calm feelings again, press on this trigger point again to fire off those same sensations you anchored.
Yes this is NLP 101, and I may not have explained it correctly on how to do it, but you get the idea. I definitely don’t claim to be an NLP expert nor an avid follower of it. I’ve studied it before and have taken methods from it that I find works for me, and if it does for you too then all’s well and good.
Nowadays I prefer to simply say to myself “Calm”. By remembering the state of mind and body sensations that are associated with that word, I can do a quick scan of my body and mindset to ensure I’m in the right frame to project calmness, physically and mentally, at all times. You might like to say something else like “Be cool” or “Relax”. Whatever it is, practice getting yourself into that state every chance you get so it becomes automatic.
The other part of the equation is certainty. Being calm is not enough on its own. Yes, it will help you to relax more and stay in control, but you now need to back it up with your words, actions and behaviors to really project self confidence.
Have you ever watched someone who is dripping with self confidence? It’s as thought they are so totally assured of themselves they don’t have any doubt or fear at all. Everything about them is congruent – they are enjoyable to talk to, their gestures and movement are open and sure, and they are friendly and at ease. It’s as though they don’t worry about failure or the disapproval of others.
I sum all this up as … certainty. Certainty of themselves, their actions, and their words.
But don’t confuse certainty with being direct, in-your-face, or serious. Being serious and direct is OK, and indeed necessary for specific situations, but doing that all the time sucks the joy out of life and others won’t want to be around you.
Being certain is all about not being afraid to be yourself. Walking and talking with that sense that you are comfortable in your own skin and who you are.
You can have fun and joke around while still projecting an air of self confidence – for me, Will Smith (the famous Hollywood actor) is the perfect example of this. In interviews he speaks and conducts himself with an air of centered calmness and certainty but at the same time you know he’s great fun to be around. His humility, passion, and cheekiness all show through in his personality, but you also get the sense that he would speak his mind forcefully if pushed.
Barack Obama (despite what you might think of his politics) is another example of confidence in action. He was able to galvanize a whole nation behind him in his initial landslide election campaign to become President of the USA largely because of his unique ability to deliver speeches in a confident and sincere way. He was calm and certain, and people fell in line behind him.
While you may not aspire to that level of leadership, being confident means having a level of self belief that tells the world you are important too and what you do matters. It’s about not being afraid to express yourself or hiding behind insecurities.
How do you project all that?
Although a lot of long-term self confidence may come from a healthy internal belief in one’s self and one’s own abilities, you can still project confidence even though you may not feel it in the moment, simply by following a few strategies.
While initially this may sound like you’re being false and acting out the part, all you are really doing is embracing the ‘Fake it till you make it’ philosophy.
Let’s again draw from NLP to illustrate this point. There’s a great tactic that talks about how physiology affects mood. The example Tony Robbins uses in his books and courses is he gets you to stand with your shoulders slumped, looking down at the ground, walking around slowly and shuffling your feet dejectedly. In this physiological position you can’t help but feel down, sad, and even depressed.
But if you stand up straight, walk around with purpose and certainty, head held high, shoulders back, you feel decidedly more confident and upbeat. It’s a strange phenomenon but if you try it you’ll find it works. Don’t under estimate the power of physiology to get you in the mood you want and how it projects your intent to others.
Here’s how to project confidence. Make all your actions certain –
- Walk with certainty – stand up straight, hold you head up, and walk with purpose
- Don’t slouch, cower or be nervous. Remember … calm
- Look people directly in the eye and hold their gaze. Don’t stare with a crazed look (that will do just the opposite of what you hope to achieve), but rather look softly, friendly, and with full attention
- Smile with your eyes and make it genuine, but at the same time don’t smile too quickly or frequently. Smiling is a sign of friendliness but do it non-stop and it’s a sign of insecurity. Also, to project even more confidence, be slow to smile – that is, wait a fraction of a second before you smile at someone’s light-hearted stories
- Keep your body relaxed. Be aware when your muscles start to tense up and mentally relax them. Tension is the opposite to calm
- Talk with certainty. Don’t be afraid of your opinion or of your worthiness to have one. You are just as important as anyone else, so speak up clearly and in a strong voice. You don’t have to shout or be in “in-your-face” or always voice strong argumentative opinions to be seen as confident, but don’t deny your importance either
- Admit your mistakes. If you do something silly, laugh it off and make a joke of it. Then move on. If it’s only something minor it will become a bigger deal to others if you act embarrassed and try to brush it under the carpet. Don’t shy away from it. You’re only human just like the rest of them and they would have most certainly done stupid things before too. How you handle the little things speaks volumes of you, so handle it with calmness, grace, and good humor
- If you made a bigger obvious blunder, apologize for it confidently, admit openly that you were wrong and then move on. If the other person dwells on it, then look them directly in the eye and say with a calm intensity “OK, I admitted I was wrong, now can we please move on” Hold their gaze until they back down. Works for me every time.
Putting It All Together
If you want to develop these two components (calm and certainty) further and create a better level of self confidence , then there’s a couple of things you can do to possibly help move it along quicker –
1. Become an observer of others and how they conduct themselves. Watch those who you deem as having attractive self-confidence, or at least have the traits you desire. What is it that they do that attracts you? Break their actions down under the categories of Calm and Certain. How do they carry themselves in those areas?
Remember, you don’t want to be a carbon copy of someone else but at the same time modelling someone else’s qualities you admire is how we’ve all learnt to grow since childhood. You only need look at changing hair styles and fashion over the ages to actually see how much we all match other people’s styles. You need to be your unique self, however, so identify those traits you find appealing of others and adopt them in your own way.
2. Work out for yourself what calm and certain means to you. Spend a little time getting to know yourself and what it takes for you to get into the state of calm certainty. What does being calm mean to you? What does being certain mean to you? Being calm and certain means different things to all of us … find out what it means to you and how you embody that. Then, when you’re ready to project confidence, all you have to do is remember those two words and you’re there.
Well, that pretty much sums up my theory. If you need further proof about the validity of this formula, then simply run it over all people you come in contact with and see if it does indeed measure up. And then ask yourself …
Are people who display Confidence truly a mixture of Calm Certainty?
Perhaps you disagree or have other ideas of what it takes. That’s OK … I’d love to hear your opinions in the comment section below. But remember, keep it nice and on topic.