What’s the secret to becoming confident in any social situation?
About 10 years ago, when I was just starting college, I would have said, “there is no secret. You either have it or you don’t.”
And I would have been DEAD WRONG.
You see, back then, I had almost zero confidence.
The answer might surprise you…
But first, let’s be clear WHY being confident matters:
Whatever you want to do or achieve in life, success comes from taking ACTION. Or to quote myself…
Those who do nothing, achieve nothing. – Derek Halpern
…and I bet you’ll agree.
If you want to go on a date with someone, you have to ask them out.
If you want to get a raise, you have to ask for a promotion.
If you want to build your network, you have to be more social.
And if you want to build an audience, you have to step onto the stage.
Without action, no success.
Now here’s the thing…
The hard part isn’t knowing WHAT to do. The hard part is actually doing it. And that’s where confidence makes all the difference.
Because when you lack of confidence, you don’t take action…
You want to speak up in a large group. But you stay silent because you’re afraid to get shut down.
You want to meet new people. But you’re too shy to start a conversation. Or you’re just worried that people will think you’re weird.
And it’s a shame. Most people don’t do the things they want to do. Not because they don’t know how. Not because they’re not smart enough… but because they lack the confidence.
It’s time to change that. And I have good news:
With just a few simple hacks, you can build your confidence every day and reach level “unstoppable” too.
Confidence is like the granddaddy of all self-development…
When you’re confident you stop feeling self-conscious about your quirks.
When you’re confident you stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and stop second-guessing your decisions.
When you’re confident you can face your big fears. Whether it’s something specific like becoming better at public speaking…
…Or simply going ALL IN and following your dreams.
In short, confidence is the difference between thinking about doing something… and actually doing it. And that’s why it’s so important for success – in all areas of life.
Especially when it comes to business and selling. And even more so if you sell services, coaching, or online courses. And there’s science to back this up, too.
In particular, one study by Don Moore of Carnegie Mellon University shows that people are more likely “buy advice” from a more confident seller. The crazy part? It didn’t even matter if that seller had been wrong in the past.
So, if you want people to listen to you, take your advice, and ultimately buy from you, being confident is crucial.
But isn’t that just being a fake?
Of course you shouldn’t pretend to know things you don’t know. You see, there’s a big difference between being confident and being an arrogant jerk…
So what is self-confidence?
Some psychologist make a distinction between self-esteem and self-confidence. But for our practical purpose here, it’s not important. So I’ll just talk about self-confidence.
Being confident means two things:
- You believe that you deserve to succeed
- You trust in your abilities to succeed
When you have both of those things, you can act with confidence.
As you can see from the definition, confidence arises from INTERNAL sources – your thoughts and beliefs – as well as EXTERNAL sources – your abilities and skills.
Thoughts + Skills = Confidence (= Success)
And I’ll address both parts of that equation below.
But first, let me point out the difference between confidence and arrogance. Because that’s where a lot of people get stuck…
And here it is:
Arrogant people brag about skills they don’t have, to get confirmation from others, because they lack belief in themselves.
Confident people let their actions speak for themselves, because they have the mindset and skills to succeed.
As you can see, being confident is not about bragging. It’s not what you say at all. It’s about how you see yourself and how you carry yourself. And then, as a result, how you’re being perceived by others.
This is the FIRST thing you should remember, if you want to be more confident. And then you can stop humble-bragging, too…
…which is a terrible habit. For TWO reasons:
First, you’re still bragging.
Second, why are you trying to be so “humble” in the first place?
Just look at the definition of the word “humble:” It means having a “low estimate of one’s own importance.”
The sad thing is, I used to see myself that way. But it’s straight up destructive. No one should think of themselves as “of low importance.”
Alright, with all that said, let’s focus on developing real confidence…
How did I build my confidence?
The real answer:
I faked it.
That’s right. At first, I pretended to be confident. But I didn’t really FEEL confident yet. I just ACTED the way a confident person would act…
And what happened? Over time, I started to feel more confident, too. And before I knew it I became the confident person I always wanted to be.
And that’s the secret…
I call it the A-B-C Method of building confidence:
First you just ACT confident.
Then you BELIEVE you can be confident.
Finally, you just are… CONFIDENT.
It worked for me. And there’s science to prove that it will work for you. For example…
When you force a smile with a pencil in your mouth you actually FEEL happier. Why? Because your body tells your brain you’re smiling.
Or as Amy Cuddy revealed in her awesome Ted Talk: Simply standing in “power poses” can lead to changes in hormone levels and make you feel more powerful.
(Note: Below you can see the power poses and other body-language hacks for more confidence.)
The point here is:
Just by going through the motions, you can change how you feel.
You probably have TWO questions:
#1 How do you know how a confident person acts?
#2 What if you don’t have the confidence to fake it?
And I’ll answer both questions.
First, I’m going to show you the mindset of a confident person. Why? Because that’s how you’ll get yourself over that first hump.
Second, I’ll share 13 ways to build your confidence every day. Until you are the confident person you’ve always wanted to be.
I remember the first time I joined a gym. I was 19 and I was standing on the scale like the hunchback of notre dame!
So, the trainer who showed me around, told me to pay attention to my posture and make sure I stood up straight.
Why do I remember this exact moment? I remember it because then he added something else…
“There’s nothing wrong with putting your chest out. It’s the proper way to stand.”
And it stuck with me to this day.
So remember, being confident is the NATURAL way to be.
And that’s GREAT news because it means…
Everyone is born with unstoppable confidence. It’s not a just a “gift” that some people have. It’s a skill anyone can practice and (re-)learn. And for that, I’ve included 13 insanely-practical ways you can build your confidence below.
But let’s be clear about something else:
Most ADULTS struggle with confidence.
So while confidence is natural, as we grow up, almost everyone loses it. At least to some degree. It’s hard to get reliable stats on this, but I’ve seen numbers as high as 80% of adults.
And it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s accurate. The point is, the overwhelming majority of adults don’t feel as confident as they would like. So, if you’re feeling insecure, you are not alone.
Finally, there’s one more part to a confident mindset…
It’s a-ok to look like a fool sometimes.
Look, I know about myself that I’m 99% useless, but…
…that 1% when I’m not, I’m dangerous.
Aiming for perfection is the ultimate confidence killer, because if you aim for perfection, you’ll always fall short.
Yes, you can aim for excellence, but you should accept this now:
You’ll have lots of bad ideas, say many dumb things, and regularly make a fool of yourself.
Like that one time when I was driving and I stopped behind a car, because I thought traffic was backed up. Turns out, it was just a row of parked cars. LOL.
The old insecure me would have been ashamed. The new confident me thinks it’s hilarious. Because…
Confident people aren’t right all the time. The difference is, they’re not afraid to be wrong.
And that’s why today, I don’t take myself too seriously:
And even though I love my $300 haircut, I’m not afraid to look silly sometimes.
It’s counterintuitive. But it’s an amazing insight:
If you want to be more confident, start by not taking yourself too seriously.
So now, let’s get into all of my favorite ways to build confidence…
Some of these tips will give you an instant boost of confidence. Some are small practices you can do every day to build confidence over time. Some are little hacks and tools that automatically put you in a confident mindstate.
All of the techniques come from my personal experience of going from confidence level 0… to 100. Most of the techniques are backed by science, too.
You can – but you don’t have to – use them all at once. Some will work better for you than others. I do suggest you give them all a try, though. Because…
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie
As I explained above, confidence both breeds and stems from taking action. Which is great news. Because when you take action once, you’ll set in motion a cycle of positive reinforcement.
Now, the first time you do anything, is usually the hardest. That’s why I’ve got one more useful tip for you:
Practice when there’s nothing at stake.
As an example, every time I would walk up to a cashier or server, I would take that opportunity to pretend to be confident. I knew they were paid to be nice to me, so I thought, “Why not practice on them?”
I’d walk up and say, “Hey, how are you?”, begin to make small talk, and speak like I was the most confident person on earth.
So what did I say exactly?
Check out this first technique…
In the short video, in addition to sharing my personal journey with confidence, I share a word-for-word script that you can use start using to develop your confidence TODAY.
Do you have a friend (or colleague) that’s struggling with their confidence?
Use this script the next time you’re checking out at a store or your favorite coffee shop. With a big smile on your face, just say:
“Wait, it’s not free today?”
You’ll laugh. They’ll laugh. And everyone will have a good time. That positive feedback will put you one step closer to be confident in social situations.
Whether it’s a job interview, a date, or a conversation with a friend, people who make proper eye contact appear more confident.
(Not only that; Research shows that when you look people in the eyes, you also appear more likeable and trustworthy.)
But there’s a fine line between making good eye contact and, well, a creepy stare. And that’s why I like the Eye-Color Test.
Here’s how it works:
The next time you interact with someone face-to-face – whether it’s a stranger or a friend – look at their eyes just long enough to notice the color of their eyes.
Simple, right? You can do it throughout a conversation, too.
Just remember to regularly break eye contact. And when you do look away, look to the side, NOT down. Looking down communicates low confidence.
Studies have shown that body language is 60% of communication. At a minimum. And posture is the first thing people notice when you walk into a room. So fixing it can give your confidence – and your perceived confidence – a huge boost.
Luckily, I stumbled on a simple trick to drastically improve your posture…
I noticed one of my friends has great posture. So one day I just had to tell her, “You walk so straight, it’s amazing!”
She laughed and said, “Yeah, I always hold in my stomach.”
The funny thing is, it works. Just tighten your stomach muscles. You’ll notice your posture improve instantly.
Start by doing it every time you walk from one place to the other. Then you can start doing it while seated, too.
Bonus tip for better posture:
When you’re walking, don’t look at the ground right in front of you. Instead, look straight ahead, further into the distance. This way you’ll automatically keep your chin up – and look and feel more confident.
Speaking of posture…
Let me show you Amy Cuddy’s Power Poses that I mentioned above.
Cuddy’s research suggests that standing in one of these poses for just 2 minutes will give you a boost of confidence.
So let’s say you’re about to have a job interview. Take a moment before you go in and stand in a power pose. Your body will tell your brain to feel more confident.
(Side note: Cuddy’s research has recently gotten some critique. I suggest you try it and see if it works for you.)
And of course, you can also use the poses simply to appear more confident to others. Remember, when it comes to confidence, “fake it ‘til you make it” is actually a good strategy.
Also, don’t worry too much about the exact pose…
All you need to remember is that “open, expansive” postures (taking up more space) express power and confidence. Whereas “closed, contractive” postures (taking up less space) express powerlessness and low confidence.
Stop being excessively modest and humble – don’t apologize for taking up space!
A friend of mine used to go skiing a lot as a kid. And he wanted to be a ski racer. So, he always tried to go as fast as possible. What did he do?
Apparently while he was skiing, in his head he would sing along to the most badass song he knew…
Listening to the song made him feel more confident.
There’s interesting research about this, too:
Researchers from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management found that people who listen to “high-power” music are more proactive.
In the study people were asked to go first or second in a debate. And in fact, after listening to high-power music, people were almost twice as likely to be proactive and go first.
So, it’s not a coincidence athletes listen to music right before they compete.
If you need an instant boost of confidence, listen to music that gets you fired up.
The high-power songs that were used in the study are:
And here’s a great high-power playlist on Spotify.
Now, I am personally a sucker for cheesy pop music; don’t judge. But whatever your taste, playing a high-energy, motivating song will give your confidence an instant boost.
They say, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”
Is it true? Does the way you dress make a difference in how confident you feel? New research suggest…
Clothes change how we feel, as well as the impression we make on others. And specifically, wearing nicer clothes can make you more confident.
But what can you do exactly? The research suggests that dressing more FORMAL is the key:
So, instead of a t-shirt and jeans, wear a suit.
(What’s crazy is that the research suggest this can actually increase your abstract thinking ability, too.)
Now maybe wearing a suit is wayyy over the top for your job. Or maybe you’re just uncomfortable wearing extra formal clothes…
Well, there’s another simple hack:
A recent survey revealed that black is the color of confidence. This might be the simplest way to give your confidence a boost. Try it!
But looking and feeling confident is not just about clothes…
First thing in the morning, I always jump straight in the shower. Why? Because when I feel fresh and clean, I also feel confident.
And whenever I get a haircut, I stick my chest out a little further even – I know, it’s hard to believe… But seriously…
Do whatever makes you feel good about yourself:
Get a haircut. Take a shower. Shave. Put on some cologne. Get a manicure.
These small things can really make a difference in how confident you feel. I’m sure you’ve experienced it. So this is just a reminder to take care of yourself. Cool?
Confident people make small talk seem so effortless, right?
Believe me, I used to struggle with this. I was afraid to talk to anybody. Especially strangers. How do you even get a conversation started? And I mean WITHOUT being weird and creepy.
Well, I’ve got a couple of ways to practice making small talk like an uber-confident person for you.
And this first one is what I call the “No-Effort Conversation Starter.” Because you don’t even have to start the conversation when you do this…
Look, here’s me on my way to the coffee shop with a t-shirt saying, “Patience: Level Zero:”
Now what do you think happens?
PEOPLE START TALKING TO ME.
I don’t have to do anything at all.
This is a GREAT way to practice small talk and being more confident in social situations with strangers.
Your No-Effort Conversation Starter could be a t-shirt, sparkly shoes, a laptop cover, a piece of jewelry, or WHATEVER.
At first you’ll feel a little weird. But this technique will get you from “faking” confidence to BEING confident quickly.
Whenever you get a compliment it’s a great opportunity to practice being confident. I’ll explain…
Everybody likes to get compliments. However, back in my low-confidence days I had no clue how to gracefully accept a compliment.
Here’s what I used to do:
I’d either ignore it and move on with the conversation – rude! – or I’d downplay it. I’d say, “Oh it’s no big deal” or give the other person an even bigger compliment right away.
Why does this show a lack of confidence?
Because when you ignore or downplay a compliment, what you’re communicating is: “I didn’t deserve the compliment.” But that’s NOT how a confident person thinks or acts. So today, I handle compliments in a different way.
And it’s very simple:
I just say, “Thank you!”
I acknowledge the compliment. I accept it. And I show my gratitude.
And that’s what I want you to do: The next time you get a compliment, just say, “Thank you, I appreciate it!”
Assume the person giving you the compliment actually means it. So you can believe it, too. There’s no need to be humble. It’s a great time to practice acting and feeling confident.
What goes around comes around – so now that you know how to accept compliments confidently, let’s talk about giving compliments.
Why is giving compliments a sign of confidence? Because when you’re confident, you don’t constantly feel threatened by other people. That’s why confident people are not afraid to give others compliments, too.
But there’s one thing they never do…
They don’t give insincere compliments. So, when you give someone a compliment always be genuine.
Now here’s the BEST way to build confidence by giving compliments:
Give compliments to strangers.
See someone with cool shoes? Tell them, “Hey, cool shoes!” Or if you see someone who’s working extra hard, tell them “I like your dedication!”
Just try it once – you’ll probably make the person’s day. So next time you’re walking down the street or waiting in line, give people genuine compliments. Just look for one thing you like about them and say, “Hey, I like your…”
To make this work, don’t think more than 3 seconds about what you’re going to say. The goal is to get out of your head. Just say the first thing that comes to your mind.
It’s very low-risk. So it’s a great way to practice being confident in social situations.
When I get in a confidence-slump, here’s what I do:
I ask myself, “What would the most confident person in the world do right now?”
But actually, you should pick someone specific. It could be a public figure, a friend, or an acquaintance with UNSTOPPABLE confidence. And then, “channel” that feeling. What I mean is: Just pretend to be them for a moment!
What would Sheryl Sandberg say in this situation? How would Muhammad Ali walk down the street right now? How would Mark Cuban react? Would Marie Forleo think like this?
I know – this technique sounds like woo-woo. But you don’t have to analyze every little thing this person does to copy their confidence. Next time you walk into a room, or you’re just walking down the street, just pretend what it would feel like to be that person.
Remember, a crucial part of being confident is the belief that you have the SKILLS to succeed. And it’s a lot easier to believe it, if it’s true.
In other words:
Competence breeds confidence.
And that’s why working at getting better at what you do – by practicing! – will take your confidence to the next level.
For example, let’s say you’re giving a speech and you feel insecure about public speaking. What’s the best way to feel more confident?
Prepare and practice your speech.
Same goes for an important meeting. A job interview. A date. A networking event.
When you show up prepared, you’ll feel and act more confident.
But there’s another advantage of working on your competence…
I am a TERRIBLE swimmer. As in, I used to barely stay above water…
I liked jumping into a pool. But until a few weeks ago, there was always this sense that I COULD drown.
But then something changed. I finally learned how to float in water. I’m still not a good swimmer. But at least now I know hot to not drown! And I feel much more confident in water.
Makes sense, right? Competence breeds confidence. But there’s a more general lesson here.
When you learn a new “life skill” it’s not just about that particular skill. You also prove to yourself that you’re capable of learning ANYTHING. Which makes you a more competent – and more confident – person overall.
“Everything is figure-out-able.” – Marie Forleo
For example, you could…
- Do your taxes by yourself.
- Learn how to replace a tire.
- Volunteer for an after-school program.
Or learn how to not drown, like me. Whatever it may be, when you learn a small life skill, watch your overall confidence level go up.
What’s a life skill you could learn?
To be confident in yourself, you need to know yourself.
I realize that “knowing yourself” is easier said than done. What I do know is that it’s as much about “what you ARE like” as it is about “what you like.” I’ll explain…
A buddy of mine has a weird hobby. He likes to bake bread. I say it’s weird because it’s uncommon. I actually think it’s awesome! And the bread is delicious.
The point is: He FULLY embraces his interest in baking bread. And when he talks about it he exudes confidence.
But embracing your interests and knowing “what you like” is just one part of knowing yourself. It’s also about having clear principles – and sticking to them. So it’s also about what you ARE like.
One principle I try to stick to is this: I don’t sugarcoat my opinion. I always say what I mean, and I mean what I say.
Of course, this part of self-confidence doesn’t develop overnight. It’s made up of your whole life experience. And it might change over time.
What I suggest you do is this:
Write it down.
Write down your principles. And answer the question, “What are the rules I want to live by?”
Just remember, you’re not doing it to fit into anyone else’s expectations. These are YOUR rules.
When you fully embrace your interests and have a strong sense of the rules you want to live by, you can finally act with 100% confidence – in everything you do.
Use these simple ways to build your confidence. Even if you have to fake it in the beginning, like I had to…
You’ll notice quickly:
When you’re confident you’ll get more done and you’ll feel happier.
And with practice you will BE more confident every day. And before you know it, your confidence will be through the roof.
So, here’s what I want you to do:
Step 1: Choose at least one of the techniques I shared and use it TODAY. Even if you’re not struggling with your confidence, use it.
Step 2: Come back here and leave a comment letting us know what happened. Share how it felt!
Once you master your confidence, think about how easy it will be to meet new people. For business and pleasure.
So, use these tips today.
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