A Confident you Starts Today! How to cultivate self-assurance
Think self-assurance is something you’re born with and you either have it or you don’t? Not so, say authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Confidence is within reach – these smart habits will make you feel ready for anything
1 | DROP THE CHARADE DO THIS: Don’t pretend to be anything or anyone.
WHY? We’ve been told that ‘fake it till you make it’ is the best way to get more confidence, but it’s not as effective as we once thought, says Kay. ‘Confidence isn’t about pretending or putting on an act,’ she explains. ‘In fact, faking it can make us
‘YOU WON’T EXPERIENCE HOW FAR YOU CAN GO WITHOUT PUSHING YOURSELF’
feel less secure because knowingly masquerading as something we’re not makes us pretend to be anything or anyone. Instead, do one small brave thing, then the next one will be easier – and soon confidence will effortlessly flow.’
START BY… trying a small challenge. It could be small, like whipping up tricky pastries you saw in a magazine, but you’ll be amazed at how mastering little things gives you the confidence to achieve bigger feats.
2 | LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE DO THIS: Embrace the risk of possible failure.
WHY? You learn by your mistakes. Doing what you know and have always done is safe, but it’s the enemy of confidence. ‘You won’t experience how far you can go without pushing yourself,’ explains Kay. ‘Gaining confidence means experiencing setbacks and, with determination, picking yourself back up. Doing risky things keeps you growing and gaining confidence. In contrast, staying in your comfort zone brings you little.’
START BY… doing more day-to-day things you wouldn’t normally expect of yourself. (You don’t have to do anything radical like jump out of a plane, unless you want to!) For example, if you turn down party invites when you worry you won’t know people, go and pass around the food, introducing yourself. Once you realise risky things aren’t as bad as they seem (and neither is failure), you’ll feel brave enough to leave your comfort zone for good.
3 | DITCH NEGATIVE THOUGHTS DO THIS: Focus on the positive.
WHY? According to research by Yale University in the US, a woman’s brain is not always her friend when it comes to confidence. Studies found that women have an instinct to dwell on problems rather than solutions, and to spin on why they did
a certain thing, how well or how poorly they did, and what everyone else thought. ‘Negative thoughts buzz around more than positive thoughts, and can multiply at lightning speed,’ says Kay.
START BY… jotting down negative thinking in a journal for a few days. ‘Don’t beat yourself up about these thoughts – that simply leads to more anxiety,’ Kay says. ‘Instead, look for an alternative point of view that will reframe your focus.’ For instance, ‘Did I put myself forward for something I shouldn’t have?’ becomes ‘I wanted to do it, that’s why it’s worth pursuing.’ Your second thought doesn’t have to prove the first wrong, but create an explanation to lessen the potency of the first. Another tip is to spend time thinking positively. Every day, remind yourself of three things you did right. ‘Positive thoughts literally rewire the brain and break the negative-feedback loop. This can produce a change in thoughts, then in actions, in weeks.’
4 | CHAMPION YOURSELF DO THIS: Instead of staying quiet, flag your achievements.
WHY? Often women seem to have the spotlight thing backwards. ‘We shine a bright light on our faults and insecurities, and the reasons we will surely fail, but, when it comes to taking credit or enjoying our triumphs, we step into the shadows,’ says Kay. ‘Developing a sense of your own well-deserved value and hearing yourself recognise your accomplishments bolsters confidence.’
START BY… finding ways to take in compliments and own your achievements. It needn’t be complicated – or feel boastful. Even a simple ‘Thank you, I appreciate that’ can make you feel surprisingly lifted.
5 | STOP WORRYING ABOUT OTHERS
DO THIS: Try not to take things to heart. Remember: it’s not personal. WHY? ‘It’s all too easy to think that whatever you’ve done – whether it’s a triumph or a failure – is the focus of everyone else’s attention,’ says Kay. ‘It isn’t. Most people are too busy getting on with their own lives to worry about what you’re up to. Thinking this way kills confidence.’ START BY… remembering that if something doesn’t go your way, it’s not personal, it’s just a result of circumstances – and it doesn’t mean you’ll never be successful. So, if you don’t get the job you wanted, don’t think, ‘He must have thought I was an idiot when I said I couldn’t use Excel,’ think, ‘I gained valuable experience from that interview and now I know what skills I need to develop.’ By counteracting thoughts with facts – that you have valuable qualities that employers want, which is why you were interviewed, and that you need to find the right job for you – you’ll be free to take positive steps forwards.