Awesome You Be


Confident Chris 

Quickly Boost Your Self-Confidence

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

Do you sometimes find that in important life situations, your confidence goes to hell? If so, don't be ashamed. It happens to the best of us. Being interviewed for a job, delivering an important presentation and going on a date are just a few occasions when most people find their confidence levels sinking just when they need it most. Suddenly, your inner voice becomes your inner critic. You sweat. Your  breathing might even become uneven. You visualise something or possibly everything going wrong. In a worst case scenario, it becomes a downward spiral that leads to panic. But, even in less severe situations, low self-confidence usually results in poorer performance than if you self confidence were stronger.

My Fast Sinking Self-Confidence

Even in situations where you start out confident can change suddenly. I used to be fluent in Thai, although it has become rusty owing to lack of practice (and I am not sure I am fluent any more), but having learned it later in life, I speak it with a distinct English-American accent. I recall one occasion when I had to deliver a talk in Thai to a small group of businesspeople. Before the meeting, I was chatting to a woman who simply could not get my accent and, as Thais are wont to do in socially uncomfortable situations, she started laughing! Intellectually, I knew she was laughing to ease her social discomfort. Nevertheless, it was hard not to believe she was laughing at me!

As you might imagine, this totally zapped my self-confidence and I began to question my ability to communicate well in Thai. So, rather than starting off well, which is critically important in a speech, I stumbled initially until I realised that the audience understood me and my confidence started to return. Nevertheless, it was not one of my better talks!

So, what do you do if you need to perform well, but your confidence is going downhill? Here are some suggestions.

1. Pull the fire alarm, jump out the window or flee

Most buildings have fire alarms. Pulling one would probably result in an evacuation, thus saving you from having to make your speech or do your job interview. But it is not a good solution as it merely postpones the event. You might also get into deep trouble if it is known you pulled the fire drill. I do not recommend this approach.

Likewise, jumping out the window or running away will distance you from the stressful situation, but it won't solve the confidence problem and, unless you are on the ground floor, jumping out the window is dangerous! So, let's get serious.

2. Be prepared

The most important thing you can do is to be prepared. I regularly do motivational speeches, keynote speeches and workshops. Before each one, I prepare a structure that fits the requirements of my client, makes sense and is comfortable for me. Then I practice it again and again in order to build a sort of script in my head. But I do not worry too much about details − I want to allow myself flexibility so I can meet the group's needs, especially in workshops. Once I have the structure and basic script, I spend a lot of time preparing the first five minutes of my talk, making sure it will get the audience's attention and that I will not forget it no matter what happens in the moments before the presentation.

Although I love speaking in front of an audience, I always get nervous beforehand. With the first five minutes of my talk seared into my brain, I am confident and can get into my stride no matter how nervous I might be. This also ensures I get the audience's attention which further boost my self-confidence. At this point, I can naturally fall into my structure and improvise elements of the talk or workshop as I feel necessary.

You should do the same thing if you are going into a situation which makes you nervous: prepare. If you are going to a job interview, research the company and the competition. Read up on advice for doing job interviews and follow the advice that works best for you (some of it will be conflicting, so stick to the suggestions that resonate with you). You can easily find on-line the kind of trick questions that are asked in interviews and the logic behind them. Then you can prepare answers.

Also, prepare questions about your potential employer and ask them − if they are not covered in the interview.

If relevant, practice. Ask a friend or family member help you role-play an interview and to give you feedback. If you have to do a presentation, practice it again and again until you are comfortable with it. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice in front of family and friends. When my eldest son was a toddler, he would sometimes watch me practicing speeches and he'd think it was the funniest thing in the world!

If you're going out on your first date with someone, prepare in your mind a number of questions to ask her about herself, her work and the usual things. Think of a few thoughtful questions to ask, like: "If you knew the world was going to end on Monday, what would do this weekend?" Or, "If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you like to live?" Follow that up by asking why.

3. . Visualise a positive outcome

If your confidence is going to hell just before a job interview, your inner voice is likely giving you a hard time. Perhaps it is telling you that you are not qualified for the position. Perhaps you are worried that you will answer questions badly. Before you know it, you are visualising a negative outcome. If you have vivid imagination, as I do, these negative outcomes can be ugly. Once, a long time ago, when going for an interview at a Japanese company, I had visions of the general manager pulling a samurai sword out of his suit jacket and slicing my head off for giving a bad answer. There was, of course, no reason to think this might happen. He was, in fact, a lovely chap and I got the job. Hopefully, your imagination is not so nasty!

Whether you start visualising negative outcomes or paranoid outcomes, they will do bad things to your self-confidence and could easily create in your mind a negative self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to your not getting the job.

The solution, of course, is to visualise a very positive outcome whenever you start to imagine things going wrong. And, then just before you enter the job interview, walk on stage or shake hands with a new date, visualise that positive outcome again so that you start off with positive expectations. If you do, you'll be walking into the situation with confidence.

4. Relax and posture

Cartoon: man smiling during interrogationNervousness inevitably affects the body. I find I hunch my shoulders up when I am tense. Many people bend forward slightly. You may find that if you are nervous, your breathing is awkward. Start with your breathing. Breath slowly in and out with deep breaths. Focus on each breath. Stretch it out sssslllllooooooowwwwwllllllly. As you relax your breathing, your body will also feel more relaxed.

Then, relax your upper body. Twirl your shoulders to release the tension there. Wiggle your upper-body and shake off the tension like a dog shakes off water. I sometimes like to do a crazy dance sort of movement to shake the stress of my body. Fortunately, I am perceived by many as being an eccentric, so no one questions this. If you are comfortable doing a little dance, I recommend it. It will feel great! If not, move your body and especially your shoulders to ease the tension out and relax the body.

Finally, make a firm movement to push each shoulder back and then thrust your chest forward. Exaggerate this posture for a minute and then relax ensure your chest is still forward and you are standing straight. Enter the situation with this posture. Not only will you look more confident, but you will also feel more confident.

Practice doing this from time to time, especially if you feel your body becoming stressed or hunched forward. It feels good and it is good for you. Practice also ensures that it is easy for you to present this confident posture and hold it when you need to feel and appear confident.

5. Smile as you walk into the room

Unless it would be inappropriate, smile as you walk onto stage, enter the job interview or shake hands with your date. Think about the positive outcome and how it will feel and let that put a smile on your face.

It need not be a massive grin. A friendly smile is sufficient for a job interview or a first date.

A smile will make you feel better, which boosts confidence and it creates a positive first impression which leads to a positive atmosphere which builds confidence.

6. People want you to be awesome

When I go on stage to do a talk, I know my audience does not want to see me stumble, forget my words or have a nervous breakdown. They want me to deliver a talk that inspires them. They want me to be awesome, not boring.

When you go in for a job interview, there is nothing the interviewer would like more than for you to be the ideal candidate for the position. After all, your potential employee has a need. The sooner they can find the ideal person to respond to that need the better.

When you go out on your first date, your date does not want you to be a creep. She does not want you to bore her. She probably wants to find her soulmate. Even if she just wants a fun date or a one-night stand, she would prefer you are the ideal person for that.

Bear this in mind whenever you are in a confidence zapping situation. In most cases, the people involved want you to succeed. They want you to be good. They are not your enemy. They are on your side.

You will be awesome

So, the next time you are facing a potentially confidence-zapping situation, don't jump out the window. Instead, be prepared, visualise a positive outcome, take on a confident stance, smile and remember that people want you to be awesome. If you do that, you can be confident that you will be awesome.



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