How accurate is our sense of self? Is what we see when we look in the mirror what other people see? Did everyone else notice when we fumbled over that presentation? Can they see anything but this giant pimple?
Research has shown that there are things we can do to project and boost confidence, even when we’re not really feeling it. There are studies on the power of body language, like power posing and Albert Mehrabian’s 55-38-7 rule. We cringe at the phrase “fake it till you make it” because it sounds trite and superficial. Shouldn’t you be striving to be the truest version of you? And what is “making it,” anyway, especially in the context of mindfulness? But if quiet confidence is a person’s natural, fundamental state, then perhaps that’s the goal.
We asked some friends and experts to share their tips and tricks for calming the mind and projecting confidence. Whether you’re preparing for a public speaking opportunity or just trying to make a good first impression, here are our favorite suggestions.
1. “When presenting information, imagine that you are speaking to a friend. Envisioning that person instead of a lens, or an expectant audience, will help you speak in a relaxed, conversational tone, and that will help you seem relatable.” Bahar Takhtehchian, Lifestyle and Wellness Expert
2. “I’ve found that clients get a lot better when they change their thinking. Don’t focus on “I’m not good enough” or what is not working for you. It’s better to know what you want to achieve or feel and make new choices. Ask yourself three questions: What’s working? What’s not working? What are you going to do about it? Additionally, learn to be an active listener and responder. Focus should always be on the listener. Self-focus is a killer. Remember, it’s not about you – it’s about how you want to be perceived.” Lucille S. Rubin, Ph.D., Voice, Speech, Presentation & Media Coach, NYC
3. “If you want to project your most confident self on a date, put on your favorite form of comedy, whether it’s a funny podcast, YouTube station or sketch comedy show, and just let yourself laugh. It’ll instantly improve your mood and take your mind away from any stress you might be experiencing. You can take this sense of lightheartedness with you into your date.” Mary Stuart Deibel, Dating Expert, Three Day Rule
4. “Keep communication short, clear and firm. And avoid weak language – especially ‘fillers’ such as “um,’ “I mean,” “like,” and “you know.” These seriously undermine your credibility.” Mike Hartley-Brewer, The Negotiation Skills Group
5. “Look up at the sky and take a breath. If I feel stressed, I’ll walk outside and just look up. It’s calming because everything seems a bit slower, and you start to realize that your stress is minute. I get lost in what’s happening above me, clear my head, and then get back to unpacking the stress so that it’s actually manageable instead of letting it eat away at me.” – Sian-Pierre Regis, Pop-Culture Contributor HLN/CNN, Founder of Swagger New York
6. “Exhale. When we inhale, our heart rate increases and sends necessary oxygen to our lungs and brain. But during the exhale, the vagus nerve – an all-too-critical emissary between body and mind – activates. This nerve promotes the bodily relaxation response, lowering blood pressure and heart rate. Take three diaphragmatic breaths to calm the mind when you’re feeling nervous or anxious and let the breath guide your confidence.” Dr. Claudia Aguirre, Resident Neuroscientist at Headspace
7. “I think fear is probably the biggest barrier for most people when speaking in public or presenting, either that or the associated restlessness of mind. So in this sense it is not the situation that is causing the tension and anxiety, but rather our own mind and our perspective of the situation. Whether it is through expectation, fear of a particular outcome, worrying what others will think; all of these aspects originate in the mind and not in the room.
So ultimately it is thinking that gets in the way. It is as though we get in our own way and thereby complicate the otherwise simple task of speaking aloud and sharing a message. I also think there is a tendency to ‘try to be’ like someone else, perhaps mimicking so-called accomplished speakers. But every time we do this, it is a move away from our authentic self and who we really are.
I would personally much rather sit and listen to someone share their message as themselves, vulnerable, open and honest, than watch someone try to perfect the perfect delivery and be focused more on that than the message itself. Some of the best presentations and talks I’ve listened to, the ones that have really moved me, have not been by brilliant public speakers; in fact some of the people had never spoken in public before. But that’s what made them believable, it’s what conveyed the message they wanted to share so effectively and effortlessly, and it’s what touched the hearts and minds of the people in the audience.
So my advice on this, no matter how cliche it sounds, is to go out there and excel at being yourself, letting go of all the storylines, all the reasons you can’t do it, knowing these are just thoughts, and instead meet other people exactly where they are right now, as fellow human beings coming together in the spirit of sharing. What happens after that will take care of itself.” Andy Puddicombe, Co-founder of Headspace
Image credit for Sean-Pierre Regis: Ian Travis Barnard