By ROSHAN THIRAN
Confidence can be a tricky subject to broach for some. You either have it or you don’t, and if you don’t have it, then good luck getting on in life… or so the conventional wisdom goes.
Like much of conventional wisdom, the idea that confidence is a quality afforded to the fortunate few isn’t quite as solid as it might appear to be.
Yet, the blind acceptance of any idea (particularly when it comes to limiting beliefs) has the potential to make or break us.
The Scottish novelist and creator of Peter Pan, James Matthew Barrie, once wrote, “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”
What’s your belief system?
So much of success comes from self-belief. And it’s not entirely down to believing in who you are now.
A large part of self-belief is knowing that the potential you have within you can lift you to greater heights than you’ve ever imagined.
Know that you have it in you to do great things and make a memorable, positive dent in the world.
Recently, I was speaking to a young entrepreneur who had just embarked on his start-up journey. He had watched a talk I had given on developing the leadership skills necessary to transform your business dreams into reality, and later asked me how I was able to project myself with confidence and ease in front of a crowd.
I immediately reminded him that I had been doing this for a long time, and here he was just starting out.
That’s the first rule of entrepreneurship:
No one starts off with all the necessary tools needed to be a success. Your toolkit is cultivated over time and updated as times change and new challenges present themselves.
As any seasoned entrepreneur will tell you: You’re never at the stage where you’re complete – there is always another challenge on the horizon as well as new ideas and concepts to learn. That’s partly what makes it so exciting. You’re never done, you’re always growing.
The art behind confidence
Nevertheless, I was pressed to offer a few pieces of advice on how to develop confidence. To me, confidence isn’t a tool, it’s an art form.
Think of the people you admire who seem to ooze the stuff. They make it look so easy.
And yet, when you try it yourself, you’re left wondering why something that was apparently effortless suddenly seems so impossible.
Well, that’s because there’s nothing effortless about confidence.
It’s like learning how to dribble a football (or ‘soccer’ in some countries). At first, it can feel uncomfortable – unnatural, even – but with enough practice, perseverance and determination, the dribble soon becomes second nature.
How does one develop the confidence to walk into a room like a veteran chief executive officer (CEO), confident in their abilities, and unlike a startled entrepreneur caught in the headlights?
4 ways to build confidence – right now
These are four key practices I’ve developed for myself over the years, and they’ve served me well. I hope they’ll be of use to you, too.
(As a side note, I should mention that feeling confident does not mean never again feeling nervous. If you walk into a room to deliver a major pitch or present a commencement speech to students and there’s no nervousness, that can be a worrying sign.)
Get your posture right
This means standing straight, holding your head up, moving with purpose, and making eye contact.
People who are self-assured, walk purposefully with an open posture that tells the world they’re ready for anything.
Conversely, those who have hunched shoulders, a bowed head and walk slowly often come across as uncertain and apologetic.
Whoever is in the room, you have to believe that you have as much right to be there as they do. Meet and greet them with this conviction in your mind and you’ll automatically open up and stand tall.
Talk your talk
We’ve been in the situation (at school, university, a network event) where one or two people naturally become the main contributors while the others remain passive listeners.
This happens every time a teacher asks, “Any questions?” and most students remain silent, lest they screw up or ask the ‘wrong’ question. Don’t be that person.
Without trying to overshadow everyone else, any time you have a thought you want to share or a question you want to ask, speak up.
Not only will this help to develop your speaking skills, there’s also a good chance that others would have had the same thought or question in mind, but were afraid to speak up.
With this in mind, people will come to see you as a natural leader, someone who is not afraid to be out in front.
Present yourself well
Research suggests that people who dress for success are more likely to be successful. This doesn’t mean that you have to wear the most expensive clothes.
However, donning a well-put-together outfit gives you both the look and feel of a confident person.
When you take your appearance seriously, that’s exactly how other people will take you. On the other hand, if you’re always turning up to meet people in a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops, your image is likely to give the vibe of “easy-going” rather than “ready for business”.
Of course, context is paramount: don’t turn up to a beach barbecue in your best suit!
Make gratitude a habit
Take a moment to think about what you don’t have yet but would really love to own. You might experience feelings of longing, regret, despair, perhaps even hopelessness.
This is exactly why gratitude is so important when it comes to developing confidence, because it focuses your attention on appreciating what you have now.
Gratitude inspires you to walk courageously towards the next achievement, assured in the knowledge that you’ve been blessed with so much already.
Focusing on what you don’t have, on the other hand, leads to you becoming insular, closed-off, and (literally) smaller as those hunched shoulders project a “poor me” image.
Walk tall and be thankful, and you’ll attract all the right people and opportunities as a result.
Article first appeared on LinkedIn.