According to Katty Kay, BBC news anchor and author of The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know, there’s a serious confidence gap between women and men. In an article posted on an article posted on Linked In, Kay shares that women believe they are a whopping 20% less valuable than men think of themselves.
Self-confidence is complex. It can be stronger in one area of your life and weaker in another. Some people seem to exude confidence as effortlessly as their native language. We also know that it’s crucial for success, personal growth, and taking risks.
But how in the world do we fuel up on it when we're running low?
The good news is that there are ways you can trick your brain to become more confident. In technical terms, this phenomena is called “embodied cognition.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that this type of thinking focuses on the way you interact with your own thoughts, thereby determining their exact nature.
There are three major ways you can promote positive embodied cognition. These actions are small but meaningful. It’s all about being proactive and stimulating self-awareness in a way that tends to your self-confidence.
Use Your Imagination Wisely
Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.” This doesn’t mean that knowledge isn’t power. Instead, it means that our imagination can formulate ideas beyond our limited knowledge, or beyond what we know to be true.
When it comes to a lack of confidence, imagination and knowledge are game changers—both influence how you foresee the outcome of any given situation. And it’s about the kind of outcome you focus on.
Unsurprisingly, it’s easy to focus on what could go wrong. This is especially true when you’re dealing with an area that makes your confidence waver. What if I blank out during the interview? What if I pick the wrong path? What if this relationship fails? …What if?
Here’s where a small shift in focus can build your confidence. Rather than focus on what could go wrong, shimmy your attention to the things that you know to be true. For example, heading to an interview? You were asked to be there. Giving a class presentation? You’re the one that wrote it. Bring your thoughts down to the cold, hard facts, not the what ifs.
“Go down that mental checklist of realities, not possibilities,” advises Mackenzie Gelina, academic adviser at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. “Place value on these known things because everything else is simply imagined.”
Steve Pavlina, author of Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personalized Growth, offers a similar approach. Pavlina suggests focusing your imaginative energy on only one outcome: visualizing yourself acting with confidence. This is embodied cognition at its finest. Joke’s on you, brain.
Stand Up Straight
Think of the most confident person you know. Envision how they carry themselves. Do they slump down and hunch over? Or do they make eye contact and stand up straight? We’re betting on the latter.
The way we carry our bodies influences not only other people’s but our own perceptions of ourselves.
According to a study by the European Journal of Social Psychology, body posture directly influences the certainty people have in their own actions. Participants were positioned in either a confident posture (erect back, chest out) or a doubtful posture (slouched over, curved back). Next, they were asked to describe their best and worst qualities. Researchers found that those in the confident posture had a higher level of confidence in themselves.
Health Psychology also reported similar findings. Working off the theory that body posture initiates emotions, the study assessed how individuals in upright and slouched positions reacted to the same speech task. In comparison to the slouched participants, those in the upright position had a better handling on the task. Feelings of higher self-esteem, coupled with better moods and less fear, were also displayed.
Luckily, this tip might be the easiest, quickest way to tempt your confidence to reveal itself. Before facing a daunting situation (or just another regular day), make a conscious effort to use good posture. The simple act of straightening your back emits confidence, even if you aren’t feeling it. The same concept can be applied to walking. Instead of shuffling along, pick up your feet. Avoid looking down, which can make you look–and feel–like you’re lurking from one destination to the next.
Plan Your Confidence Outfit
Similar to body posture, the “perfect” outfit can work serious magic on your self-esteem. This type of embodied cognition is one that you can control just by wearing something you feel confident in.
A study published by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that "physically wearing a lab coat increased selective attention compared to not wearing a lab coat." However, "Attention only increased when the coat was (a) worn and (b) associated with a doctor. The influence of clothes thus depends on wearing them and their symbolic meaning."
We’re all about honoring a person’s character rather than the garments that drape them. But one can’t deny that your clothing deeply represents your personality and lifestyle. Use this to your advantage by dressing to honor your truest and best self. Wear what reflects who you're proud to be.
Your go-to outfit can be anything from a flattering dress to a killer power suit. It doesn’t have to be something out of a magazine. It doesn’t even need to be expensive or fancy. And it most certainly doesn’t need to be trendy. The only requirement should be that it makes you feel like a million bucks.
Self-confidence doesn’t have an end game. There’s always room for improvement as with every facet of life. So imagine the good, focus on the true, and conquer self-doubt with your head held high. Treat your thoughts toward yourself well, and they’ll return the favor with a well-deserved ego boost when you need it most.
Photo Credit: Xavier Navarro Photography