We would rather not put on a show; we'd like to actually feel fearless, but for those impossible, Caroline Foran has the confidence techniques to help you fake it till you make it.
Our Wellness Expert, author of Owning It: Your Bullsh*t-Free Guide to Living with Anxiety and The Confidence Kit: Your Bullsh*t-Free Guide to Owning Your Fear, Caroline Foran explains how to 'fake it till you make it' if you're in a confidence jam.
'Fake It Till You Make It'. It's a phrase we hear time and time again. Ideally, we would rather not have to fake it and feel genuinely sure of ourselves in a given situation, but that's not always possible, and it's almost never doable if it's your first time at something or one of your first experiences like it. True confidence, as we know, comes with experience - lots of it - and supportive beliefs about yourself, but what do we do when we lack experience, and we're not all that sure of ourselves or full of 'you've got this' self-talk? We fake it and according to various studies, faking the body language, and actual language of confidence really does install a surge of self-belief, even if it's only short lived. The point is, it gets you over a hump when there's little room for exposing how you really feel (e.g. out of your depth).
I've lost count of the amount of times I've stood up in front of a room of people and spoken about my experiences of anxiety and confidence and how others might find it helpful, but still to this day I have to have a little 'fake it' top up before I go on, right at the moment when the confidence you thought you had runs away on you (it's normal). I remind myself of the proven faking it techniques and then after a few minutes; I'm plain sailing. The following four techniques are applicable whether you are going for a job interview, you find yourself in an intimidating meeting where you need to assert yourself, you are back on the dating scene after a bad breakup, or you're giving a speech at a wedding. You'll find all kinds of examples in which faking it is useful, but ultimately, while it's a handy tool, I would still urge you to do the work required to ensure you're building true and lasting confidence, all of which you'll find in The Confidence Kit, and then some day, we won't have to fake it at all.
Smiling reduces stress, and when we aren't dealing with stress, we have a greater chance of feeling confident. Even if the smile is forced, it will have the desired effect. Scientific backup within the book!
Get your body language right
Don't hunch over. Stand up tall (if you're not required to sit obviously), pull your shoulders back and puff out your chest. According to one Harvard study, lead by Amy Cuddy, 'our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves. Our bodies change our minds.' Try and assume this position for two minutes several times a day leading up to an event, while looking in the mirror smiling. Just trust me on this one.
Watch out for apologetic, self-deprecating language
When you're nervous, it's very easy to come across as unnecessarily apologetic because you want to seem kind and unthreatening, but it's actually undermining yourself. You're far better off to walk into a room and be pleasant but avoid words like 'just' and 'sorry' where they're not totally necessary.
Be the one to ask questions
This is actually a very useful tactic in a meeting or interview in particular. Say you're nervous and you're feeling out of your depth, it's scary just to speak out loud in these kinds of scenarios sometimes. But if you ask a question you show interest, you get to use your voice without the pressure being on you, it takes you out of the firing line, and you get warmed up speaking before the heat is on. Try to deflect on to someone else. Asking a question in a meeting or an interview is a way of asserting yourself and appearing in control, or even leading the conversation.
For more faking it techniques backed by research, read The Confidence Kit.