Confidence…it’s illusive, isn’t it? Confidence and self-esteem are generally low in today’s world.
In fact, one study found that some 80% of people between the ages of 33 and 54 don’t feel confident in their appearance. So, if you struggle with confidence, then you’re anything but alone. So maybe that will help a bit in itself.
Looking confident is a skill that you can learn. It’s not something you’re born with. But, by taking a few practical steps, you can look and feel confident.
Once you get the ball rolling, confidence will start coming more naturally to you. You’ll find it easy!
What is Confidence?
It’s not as easy to describe as many assume. Overall, confidence means embodying positive traits without overtly bragging. For example, if someone is successful in their work, they may brag a lot about it, but that isn’t likely to convey confidence to others. Instead, it might convey confidence mixed with bragging, gloating and big-headedness.
“Confidence is… allowing a person to embody his or her positive traits without bragging about them.” — Mark D. White, chair of the Department of Philosophy at the College of Staten Island.
Confidence is a more natural embodiment of positive traits. It enables you to speak and interact without doubting yourself, put forward ideas, lead others, and command attention when you speak and listen.
What confidence isn’t is being a dictator or tyrant over others. Again, while this might evoke confidence, it will be the type of confidence that turns people against you.
Can You Learn to be Confident?
Psychological studies find that confidence can be learned and practised. It’s certainly not something you either have or don’t have. You can build self-esteem over time by learning what confidence is all about and how confident people show it through their actions, clothing and behaviour.
Of course, this isn’t as simple as adopting a few different behaviours and suddenly feeling confident, but the evidence says you can ‘fake it until you make it’. In other words, you can copy the actions that indicate confidence and slowly, they’ll come naturally to you.
So you essentially trick your mind and body into being more confident, and while it doesn't come naturally at first, it will become real.
Confidence is More Than Skin Deep
Confidence is created by many aspects of our mind and body. We live in a world where there’s significant pressure to look a certain way, etc, but body confidence movements have made real progress in recent years. It’s definitely possible to feel confident regardless of how you look.
In fact, feeling confident makes you seem better-looking to others. If you feel confident, you’re one step further towards feeling attractive, which makes you attractive. That might seem a little too convenient, but psychological studies suggest that feeling attractive is one of the best ways to attract others.
So, if you think you can’t be confident in your own skin, think again. Plus, while aesthetic changes like losing weight can help us with our confidence, they’re no silver bullet.
You can lose lots of weight and look in the mirror and feel pleased, but you might be shocked when you realise you don’t feel much more confident than you were before.
That’s because confidence is more than skin deep - it’s about respecting who you are and putting your best side forward.
1: Body Language
There’s been tons of research into confident body language over the years. Here are some top body language techniques:
Look like a winner
Studies of athletes after they win or lose an event or competition revealed stark similarities in how they stand. Winners stand proud and tall, with relaxed shoulders, broad chests and open bodies. Losers stand small, compressed and dejected, with hunched bodies.
If we look like winners by adapting our body language, it will change how others perceive us. It’s not all about the ‘power pose’, which involves imposing yourself on others, but it’s about opening your body up and not compressing yourself inwards.
Fidgeting is a surefire sign of nervousness, and while we can’t always help it, sitting still will help you feel calm and collected.
If you feel nervous and fidgety, take a few moments to slow your breathing down and relax your muscles. Feel your muscles stop twitching and enjoy the sensation of stillness.
Breathe, and relax. It will make you feel more confident and less anxious.
Capture your mood with your voice
Studies show that your voice has a big impact on your confidence. Surprisingly, the most confident-sounding voice is a happy, joyous and positive voice.
So, a confident voice isn’t necessarily one that’s loud and commanding, plus that might prompt negative judgements if you end up talking over people or deliberately talking louder than the room.
Read the room
Confidence is about awareness. Depending on the situation, you can embody confidence by being slightly louder and more commanding than usual, or slightly quieter and more understated.
Again, it depends on the company you’re in. Some people might respect you more for listening and providing feedback rather than leading the conversation.
If you want to bond with someone, copy them. Mirroring has been studied for years and basically involves copying someone else’s movements, body language, conversational style and elements of their personality. So, if someone is speaking quickly and enthusiastically, copy their style. If they’re calm and laid back, copy their style. If they make jokes, laugh and make jokes.
Mirroring can be as specific as you like. For example, if someone touches their face, you do the same. If they take a sip of their drink, copy their movement.
This is a classic dating technique but is great for building rapport and friendships too.
Eyes and smiles
Your eyes and smile speak for you and make you stand out. Feel your facial expression and make yourself aware of it. You can practise this by studying your expression in the mirror and finding the most confident or attractive-looking expression you have.
Once you think you’ve nailed it, remember what that expression feels like and adopt it in your day-to-day life.
Confidence is more than skin deep, but what you wear matters, so long as it affects how you feel. That’s the key - there’s no good in wearing what you think you should wear if it doesn’t make you feel better about yourself.
Part of this is about finding your personal style. You might not truly know what kind of styles make you feel good without experimenting. Put some time into trying new clothing styles that go beyond your run-of-the-mill outfits that you think you should wear. Find out what you want to wear.
Here’s a simple confidence hack - wear red. Research shows that wearing red rates people as more attractive than the same person in a different colour. Red is hard-hitting and commanding and will help amplify your body language and behaviours.
Accessories help draw attention to people. They’re also an excellent talking point “oh, I like your bag/necklace/bracelet!” By finding the right combination of accessories, you can boost your outfit and feel more confident.
Not everyone can be confident all of the time. It just isn’t possible. So when you feel low or stressed, practice mindfulness to remind yourself of your self-importance, skills, accomplishments and abilities.
Don’t worry about being confident all of the time - it’s not realistic or necessary.
Exercise for confidence
Exercise boosts endorphins and hormones, improving overall mood. This unsurprisingly boosts confidence, and it also boosts motivation to act confident when you don’t feel confident naturally.
As mentioned, looking like a winner makes you feel like a winner and feeling like a winner makes you look like a winner. So, partake in sports and exercise and feel good about your efforts, no matter how great or small. Take pride in your actions, and it will show on the outside!
Summary: How to Look Confident
Looking confident is about feeling confident and vice versa. If confidence doesn’t come naturally, fake it until it does come naturally to you.
It’s important to remember that confidence isn’t really a personality trait, it’s a behaviour. You can learn it. You’re not born with confidence; you must learn and practice it. That’s good because it means anyone can look and feel confident if they spend time learning and practising what it’s all about.
Follow the steps in this guide, and there’s no doubt that you’ll start to feel more confident. Keep a check on how you feel and how you feel in social situations to gauge progress. And remember, you can’t be confident all the time, so never beat yourself up for low days.