This post is all about how to build Confidence. This is the last post on overcoming fear. I want to take a moment to thank you for reading this far, it truly honors me.
Note: This is the last post in a four-post series on overcoming fear and building confidence. You can find the other three posts here: Overcoming Fear Series – Part 1: What is Fear?, Overcoming Fear Series – Part 2: Defining Our Fear, and Overcoming Fear Series – Part 3: ‘Re-Visioning’.
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'"
I believe strongly that learning to overcome fear also requires building confidence. If you lack confidence, overcoming fear will not mean much. My approach since the beginning is not to just simply provide techniques to face fear, but to fundamentally change how we process fear and grow confidence. The ultimate prize is to fundamentally embody the lessons and create a fundamental change from within. There are a lot of techniques that can be applied, but I want you to think in terms of changing your conditioning.
Conditioning -> Beliefs -> Thoughts -> Actions -> Results
If you consider this process, if we only use techniques (actions) when we are facing a fearful situation, we are treating the symptom, but not the cause. The previous three posts were developed to help you change the base conditioning to be less affected by fear.
This post will guide you through a process to develop confidence that is the counter to fear. I will cover:
- What confidence represents to you
- What confidence looks like
- What confidence feels like
- What actions we can take to build confidence
What Does Confidence Represent to You?
I was listening to Richie Norton be interviewed on the Discovering Dad Podcast, Crushing Fear with Richie Norton. I highly recommend listening to it, Richie's story is extremely profound. One comment he makes regarding fear is right on the webpage, “People successfully overcome fear when the ‘why’ behind what they’re afraid of is bigger than the fear itself.”
This quote resonated to me because I have been writing on fear, and it aligned with the message I am trying to get across. When you define what it is you want, what your core values are and what you are trying to accomplish (the "Why"), it provides the motivation behind taking action to get past the fear.
When I ask what confidence represents to you, think about the reasons you want confidence. Find your Why. Is there an accomplishment you want to achieve? Why is that important to you personally? Do you want to grow and take on activities that are a bit scary? Do you have a Passion you want to follow?
This could be anything, and it will be specific to you. If you have gone through the prior exercises, you should have a good sense of what it is that is driving you to get past your fear.
This question is a mental exercise, but it gets to our basic drive and values.
"If you don't know where you're going, then every road will get you there."
This is why I don't delve specifically at techniques in this series, because applying techniques without honestly considering what confidence represents, you aren't addressing the core issue. Building confidence requires purpose.
What Does Confidence Look Like to You?
This question is not existential, but visual. In a literal sense, when you think of being confident, what does it look like? The next stage in building confidence is knowing it when you see it.
I'll wager that the moment you read that question, you already had ideas come to mind of what confidence looks like.
Typical images are a firm handshake when meeting someone, standing up straight and not slouching, having the chin up and making eye contact with people. Perhaps also it means the comfort and ability to initiate conversations or clearly express your position on an issue. I even think how a person walks, how they carry themselves is part of it.
People make quick judgments when they meet someone new, and body language plays a large role in that.
Amy Cuddy is an associate professor at Harvard Business School and a social psychologist. In her TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, she talks about Power Posing. She believes that how we stand can physically change our confidence levels, by increasing testosterone and decreasing cortisol. Just by standing in a power pose for two minutes prior to an interview, for example, can change your confidence, how you project yourself, and how you leave a confident impression in people's minds.
Some believe this is overstated, but regardless, I think it does play a role. I'm sure you can call to mind people you know that project confidence, and those that project meekness or fear.
Define the image in your mind of what confidence looks like to you, so that you can practice and model those behaviors. If you want to build confidence, have a clear image of what it is.
What Does Confidence Feel Like to You?
On an emotional level, what does confidence feel like? If you felt confident, would you feel more comfortable in social situations, for example? Would you feel like you were on purpose, taking actions toward your Passion? Would you feel powerful, like you could take on anything?
These are some of what it feels like to me. I also think of being eager and being less anxious. Being able to network without hesitation. This will also be different for everyone, but this comes from within. This isn't a thought or a vision, but a feeling. I'm sure you have had moments when you have felt confident.
If you want to build confidence, it helps to be able to resonate with it on an emotional level. This helps to embody confidence and make it part of you. When we move on to the actions below, keep this feeling in mind.
Take a few moments to recall a time when you have been confident, or focus on how you perceive confidence to be. Focus on the feeling.
Actions to Build Confidence
This is where it all comes together. To build a habit or gain proficiency at something, you have to practice. Getting the mind right is important, but now we move to the specific actions that you can use to help you build confidence.
Each of these are examples and suggestions, but feel free to develop a set of exercises that work for you. Each of us has a different fear and different confidence levels depending on the task.
It requires honesty. Taking bold actions will bring bold results. Hesitation or hedging will reduce the power of these exercises.
These aren't horrendous (hopefully), but a progressive process to build confidence gradually. The basis of this system is a belief that if we only live within our comfort zone, we never really give ourselves the opportunity to grow. Stepping out of our comfort zone, even a bit, helps to expand it.
For this exercise, start small. Go back to the question of what confidence looks like to you and practice the body language of confidence. Walk around the house if you need to. Stand straight, walk with purpose. You can even practice making eye contact with yourself in a mirror, or walking up to yourself to shake hands.
Yes, it may feel silly at first, but this helps to cement the actions in your mind so they can be reproduced. Go through various scenarios and visualize what actions you would take. For example, if you were to go to a networking event and that makes you uncomfortable, visualize walking up to people and introducing yourself. Go through each action, from the approach, reaching out to firmly shake their hand, making eye contact while you give them your name, etc.
This process can help you prepare ahead of time so you aren't 'winging' it in any given situation.
Take what you visualize in #1 and get out of the house. Use what you have practiced in a situation only slightly intimidating. Maybe you aren't comfortable with small talk. You could walk into Starbucks in a confident manner and make eye contact while you give your order. Even a couple of seconds is enough (you don't want to stare them down!). Ask a simple question, or comment on how busy/not busy it is. Anything.
This may not be your thing, again design these steps for your specific situation. I'll get into more why these help overall, and not just for a specific fear later in the post.
The important thing is to find a relatively minor way you can start pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone. Be creative and approach it with a sense of fun. Doing this repeatedly and building a habit of continually pushing yourself slightly will ever increase your comfort zone and confidence. Over time, you can take on larger challenges.
I have to give credit to Noah Kagan for this one. He suggests a way to build confidence by asking for 10% off when purchasing something. For example, go back to Starbucks (I'm picking on them) and when you order coffee, ask for a 10% discount. Don't give any explanation, just ask if you can have 10% off. Sound easy?
This may sound easy, but it's surprisingly challenging. We aren't accustomed to this, but it is often effective. Of course you don't have to do this specific challenge (remember you can design your own), but it may be good to start here. Once you get a feel for how this pushes out your comfort zone, you can find other ways to do so.
Noah also uses the high-five challenge, where you high-five random people you pass by on the street. Most people go for it, and you don't even have to stop walking. This is fun and it also gets most people out of their comfort zone.
Either of these or any other exercise you want to do that challenges you moderately is enough. Remember, if you want to build confidence, you have to practice it. The first two were easy, this steps up your game a bit.
This is the big one. You don't need to do this repeatedly, but only occasionally. This is a big one in building confidence, because it stretches you the most. In fact, it's called the Stretch.
Find a significant fear that you have and go and do it. If you are afraid of bees, go see a beekeeper, don a bee-suit and go meet some bees! This one is very individualized because it will be different for everyone. The idea is that going into it, you know it's a 'one-and-done' situation. You don't have to repeat it.
It should be challenging. By stretching yourself out as far as you can, you will make a big gain in confidence.
I knew someone who went to a jewelry store and picked out one of the most expensive diamond rings. He offered half what the list price was, and they accepted! It was something like a $15,000 discount. A word of caution however, don't do that! Why? Because you want to be sensitive to the ethics of it and not engage people unless you intend to follow through. Use your judgement. However, it does show that if you fear negotiating, going big can result in a big win.
Bringing it Together
"Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy."Norman Vincent Peale
You may be asking why these exercises aren't directed at a specific fear. The reason is that you can address a specific fear, but building confidence in one area will translate to confidence in other areas. You will begin to embody confidence through these exercises. Keep repeating them and pushing your comfort zone further and further out.
Even exercise #4 can be done occasionally. As you become more confident, what is intimidating today won't be tomorrow.
All four parts of this series is now out there. Remember a few key points:
- Fear is a biological process. You have the power to recondition yourself to how you respond to fear.
- You have defined your fear, not just on the surface, but where it originates. You also defined what it is you really want out of life and what your core values are. Hold on to this tight and never forget why you want to take action. The Why is your power.
- You have 'Re-Visioned' your fear and learned how to shift how you think. You can reprogram/recondition yourself to a new set of beliefs. As fear recedes, confidence fills the void.
- Finally you have some new exercises to build confidence. Fear has been crushed, now you build confidence moving forward.
I hope this has been helpful to you. I ask that if any of these posts has resonated with you, or even if they haven't, please leave comments. It is important to me to get the feedback so I can refine the processes to provide more value to people.
You are worth it, your dreams are worth it. You are not your fear. Your Why is big enough to get through anything that limits your belief or actions toward following your Passion. Be strong, be confident and more than anything else Be Awesome!
What fears have you faced and what techniques have helped you?