I recently attended a senior executive meeting for an important budget discussion. I know, it doesn’t sound too exciting. But as I sat there with the brightest at my company, it got me thinking. How are these people different from the rest of us? That is, what’s the recipe that makes someone a CEO, while another remains a mid-level employee all their lives?
Naturally, all the people in the room were well-dressed, well-spoken, and well-educated in their respective fields. However, what truly made them stand out was their confidence. That inner feeling that they were exactly where they deserved to be in life, and that they had something of value to leave to the world.
So, what can we do to get on the other side where the grass is greener and the sun is warmer? The first thing to understand is that building confidence is a process, not a point in time. It’s an evolution. Or, even a better way to put it—it’s like going to the gym. If you want lasting results, you must sweat regularly. No one else can do the job for you.
Here are 5 confidence boosters that I’ve found to work—supported by research and tested by me in real life:
1. Mind Your Body
This one is largely intuitive. It’s hardly a great secret that “spreading large,” a firm handshake, or a stable eye contact are traits of an affirmative leader, and that sitting up straight and holding our head high can be instant confidence-boosters.
Body language matters. Psychologists place its importance between 70% and 90% of all our communication with the world. What’s more, people “thin-slice” us and can draw some pretty accurate conclusions about our personalities just by looking at us for a few seconds.
Given the lasting print of first impressions, we better make sure that we present a memorable image to the world. It’s within our power, so carry yourself with dignity. Choose every detail wisely.
2. The Hollywood Effect
If there is anything that Hollywood can teach us about confidence, it is the art of “showing off.” That is, emphasize your strengths and talents whenever and wherever possible. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to have certain skills or mojos to start with, that will make you stand out in the first place. Clever branding and marketing can magnify these.
People who lack confidence usually have one thing in common — they try to avoid attracting attention to themselves. A bit of “bragging” will help position our personal brand in others’ orbits with positive and lasting effects.
Success is about two things — knowing your worth, but also helping the world discover how unique you are. No matter how many special talents we may possess, if no one knows about them, what good does it do? Mention your skills often. Be proud of them. Let them shine. However, don’t overdo it. Narcissists and extreme show-offs are not anyone’s favorite folks. So, shine bright, and let the world find you by following your light.
3. Survival of the Fittest
Darwin taught us many years ago that it’s not the strongest of the species that survive but the ones that can best adapt to their environments. It’s a desirable trait to nurture, especially in terms of self-esteem.
A large part of having healthy confidence lies in meeting our human need to belong, to connect with others, to fit in—be it in a group, on the sports team, or the work outing.
Becoming more likeable is often as simple as listening to people, taking interest in their stories and having a desire to help. And no, it’s not about acting fake. It simply means developing a better understanding of others, and trying to walk in their shoes. Small gestures result in great benefits, so learn to look at the world from different angles.
4. The Zen Factor
Meditation is quite important not only for our sanity but for our self-esteem too. Science tells us that there we receive approximately one billion stimuli in our brains every second. We filter out most but there are still around 100 sensations we keep for processing.
Naturally, with such an overflow of information, it’s no wonder we let self-doubts, indecisiveness and negative thinking sneak in. This is when we can resort to the Zen masters’ wisdom—that by learning to empty our cups of all anxiety and noise, we can see the world differently from the position of strength, heightened attentiveness, and a focus on living “in the now.”
Meditation also taps into the idea of self-reflection, of taking stock of what we did well and what we can do better next time around. 10 minutes a day is all the time we need to rewire our brain so that we can become the more positive, confident and relaxed version of ourselves. In the end, breathe in calmness, and breathe out worry.
5. Expertise and Authority
The most natural way to emit confidence is when it’s done from the position of authority or as an expert. We all tend to pay close attention to such individuals and believe pretty much everything they say because they “know their stuff.”
Building in-depth knowledge will certainly gain us lots of brownie points with others; mainly, in the form of respect and appreciation. “Knowing our stuff” will also breed confidence as it makes us better prepared to face the world, to weather adversities, and to combat self-doubt. It is up to you to find your strengths and passions in order to become the best you can at what you do.
Going back to my executive meeting. Is it possible, I asked myself, for anyone really to become the next CEO of their company, or a famous writer, or even an astronaut, if that’s what they want in life?
Absolutely. Of course, you will probably need to build the knowledge and experience first. But above all, you need to start believing in yourself, in your stars, and in your strengths.
This piece originally appeared on Addicted2Success on January 4, 2018.