Eight sci­en­tif­i­cally proven ways to at­tain self-con­fi­dence

Con­fi­dence re­quires self-aware­ness in what one is good at and what one lacks, and de­ter­mines the way in which one com­mu­ni­cates this in­for­ma­tion to oth­ers.

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend | Health - Photo: Shutterstock

PER­HAPS the most es­sen­tial piece of ad­vice you’ll re­ceive over the course of your life­time is “be con­fi­dent”. We all, at some point, learn the traits con­fi­dent peo­ple have and how they de­rive ben­e­fits from them, yet we strug­gle to em­u­late them. The “fake-it-till-you-make-it” mantra will only get you so far in at­tain­ing self­con­fi­dence.

Con­fi­dence re­quires self-aware­ness in what one is good at and what one lacks, and de­ter­mines the way in which one com­mu­ni­cates this in­for­ma­tion to oth­ers. This con­trasts with ar­ro­gance, where one be­lieves they are bet­ter at some­thing than they ac­tu­ally are; or low self-es­teem, where one un­der­es­ti­mates his or her own value.

The fol­low­ing is a list of sci­en­tif­i­cally­backed ways to gain self-con­fi­dence as com­piled by Reader’s Digest.

Ad­just your body lan­guage In her widely shared TED Talk “Your body lan­guage may shape who you are”, so­cial psy­chol­o­gist Amy Cuddy of Har­vard Busi­ness School re­minds us that body lan­guage is not only a means to make judge­ments and in­fer­ences about oth­ers but also a tool that can be em­ployed to shape our life out­comes.

Ac­cord­ing to her re­search, po­si­tion­ing our bod­ies to oc­cupy more space leads to height­ened testos­terone lev­els and low­ered cor­ti­sol lev­els—a com­bi­na­tion that re­duces stress and pro­motes con­fi­dence. In fact, any­thing that can make you ex­pand your pos­ture sig­nals your body (and brain) that you are ca­pa­ble, and in com­mand. Al­though these changes seem minute, they can go a long way for most of us who spend a lot of our days seated, at school or at work.

Pro­fes­sor Cuddy also sug­gests hold­ing “power poses” for at least two min­utes, to boost con­fi­dence. Her best power pose, called “the Won­der Wo­man”, in­volves stand­ing akimbo, that is: with your hands on your hips and your el­bows turned out­ward. Al­ter­na­tively, sit; place your feet up on your desk or ta­ble; in­ter­lace your hands and place them be­hind your head with your el­bows point­ing out. This pose, com­monly seen in movies, is called “the Wall Street”.

Prac­tice the Golden Rule, in re­verse While some mo­ti­va­tional speak­ers may have promised that pay­ing your­self ef­fu­sive com­pli­ments in the bath­room mir­ror will help boost your con­fi­dence, it might be more worth­while to gain an aware­ness of your strengths and weak­nesses, and be more for­giv­ing to your­self about your flaws rather than try­ing to con­vince your­self that you’re awe­some.

Ac­cord­ing to pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­ogy Kristin Neff from the Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Austin, “when our sense of self­worth stems from be­ing a hu­man be­ing in­trin­si­cally wor­thy of re­spect — rather than be­ing con­tin­gent on ob­tain­ing cer­tain ideals — our sense of self-worth is much less eas­ily shaken”.

Re­mem­ber it is al­right to make mis­takes; all of us do. Try prac­tic­ing the Con­fu­cian Golden Rule in re­verse: treat your­selves with the same kind­ness as you treat oth­ers.

Avoid neg­a­tive self-talk Ever find your­self feel­ing that the world seems to be con­spir­ing to­wards your mis­for­tune? It is im­por­tant to erase the sen­tences “This al­ways hap­pens to me” and “This is the story of my life” from our daily lex­i­con, for two rea­sons: first, we’re con­vinc­ing our­selves of a re­al­ity that is un­true; sec­ond, we’re erod­ing our self-con­fi­dence.

In his book Life as Sport: What Top Ath­letes Can Teach You About How to Win in Life, psy­chol­o­gist Jonathan Fader, PHD re­counts how revered base­ball fielder David Winfield re­minded him that slumps are not slumps but “pe­ri­ods of ad­just­ment” or “sta­tis­ti­cally ac­cept­able vari­a­tions”. So, the next time you miss your flight or lose your el­e­va­tor ac­cess card to the work­place, re­mem­ber that these things hap­pen to each one of us ev­ery once in a while.

At times of panic, turn your anx­i­ety into ex­cite­ment Most peo­ple might tell you to take a deep breath and calm down dur­ing mo­ments of anx­i­ety, but, as many of us may al­ready know, that may be pre­cisely the wrong thing to do.

Ac­cord­ing to as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor Al­li­son Wood Brooks of Har­vard Busi­ness School, stud­ies have shown that “when [peo­ple] reap­praise their anx­i­ety as ex­cite­ment, they ac­tu­ally gave bet­ter pub­lic speeches, they sang bet­ter in our karaoke lounge, and they did bet­ter on math tests”.

It sounds too sim­ple to be true, but telling your­self that you are ex­cited in­stead of anx­ious al­lows you to think of the sit­u­a­tion at hand as an op­por­tu­nity rather than a threat.

Ex­er­cise reg­u­larly Ar­ti­cles on the myr­iad ben­e­fits of ex­er­cise are ubiq­ui­tous, but if you need an ad­di­tional rea­son to break a sweat: it might help you gain con­fi­dence, hence boost­ing your over­all pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Cue your­self to con­fi­dence In her book How to Have a Good Day: Har­ness the Power of Be­hav­ioral Sci­ence to Trans­form Your Work­ing Life, man­age­ment con­sul­tant and ex­ec­u­tive coach Caro­line Webb de­tails an in­trigu­ing study on con­cen­tra­tion in which “vol­un­teers who wore a lab coat made half the num­ber of er­rors of peo­ple who wore their street clothes, pre­sum­ably thanks to an as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween lab coats and high aca­demic per­for­mance.

Sure enough, when the coat wear­ers were told that the white coat be­longed to a painter … their scores dropped”. This sug­gests that sug­ges­tion can play a sig­nif­i­cant role in boost­ing our con­fi­dence (and, sub­se­quently, our per­for­mance). Small changes like those to cloth­ing can yield great re­wards.

Smell great A Uni­ver­sity of Liver­pool study used male sub­jects and had half of them ap­ply a scented de­odor­ant with an­timi­cro­bial in­gre­di­ents while the other half used an un­scented prod­uct with no an­timi­cro­bial in­gre­di­ents. The men who used the scented prod­uct re­ported feel­ing more con­fi­dent and at­trac­tive as com­pared to the other group. After­ward, the men were pho­tographed and video­taped, and women were then asked to look at their pho­tos and silent videos and choose which men were more con­fi­dent and at­trac­tive. In­ter­est­ingly, the women all chose the men wear­ing scented de­odor­ant, even though the women had no way of know­ing this.

Re­searchers spec­u­late that since the scented de­odor­ant made the men feel bet­ter about them­selves, it led them to carry them­selves in a way that con­veyed pos­i­tive at­tributes.

Note your weekly suc­cesses, how­ever triv­ial (or oth­er­wise) they may seem Keep­ing a list of suc­cesses—how­ever small or oth­er­wise—has the power to for­tify mo­ti­va­tion and heighten pos­i­tive emo­tions like joy and pride. Along with help­ing to main­tain a sense of con­fi­dence, not­ing your ac­com­plish­ments weekly can make your creative pro­duc­tiv­ity more sus­tain­able as you ex­pe­ri­ence a sense of progress over time.

The ap­pli­ca­tion of this strat­egy is not limited to work­place goals — it can be ap­plied to work­outs, re­la­tion­ships and house­hold chores as well.

A wo­man gazes into the sea.

You can do any­thing if you put your mind to it.

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