What’s the myth:
Almost every article online proposing tips and tricks on boosting your confidence has a variation of this hack—”Fake confidence to become more confident.” It’s the magic elixir that can solve your self-esteem woes.
Why it doesn’t work:
In a previous post, I wrote about this flawed advice and why it doesn’t quite do the job.
While we sometimes need to put our Superman suit on to get a job done—ace an interview, convince a boss to give us the raise we deserve, or win a love interest, it’s just a temporary show we must play.
Once the curtain falls, it’s a different story.
If you don’t have high self-esteem to start with, trying to maintain two identities—your Real self (“I’m not worth it,” “I’m a failure”) and the Fake Shiny one (“I’m amazing,” “Everyone likes me”) will, undoubtedly, create a clash. To resolve it, you will likely drop the act, as it’s your unnatural and forced state of being.
Or, simply put—you are not “you” when you act fake. It doesn’t feel “right.”
Much research has shown that “acting out of character” can be mentally exhausting. Psychologists call it “emotional labour,” because in order to be able to keep up the act, you must be alert and pay close attention to your posture, facial expressions, words, way of speaking. All the time.
So why do it—put a glittery façade on? Most often, it’s when we feel we don’t fit.
Acting can be very draining, as your mind is constantly on its toes—so pre-occupied with creating the fabricated shelf, that it may not have enough mental strength or capacity for anything else. And remember—if you are not good enough actor, you will simply come across as a phony.
What to do instead:
Based on research and my personal trial-and-error experiences, my advice is that “fake it” is not the solution to becoming more confident.
Scientists also tell us that emotional labor is two different types—called surface and deep acting. The former is what I described—acting fake. The latter is when we actually believe and feel what we are trying to project on the outside.
For instance, if you want to feel confident, you recollect a time when you succeeded and re-live the pride and satisfaction you felt with yourself at the time. This will serve you as a powerful confidence boost– you can almost instantly feel more assured without having to force yourself to pretend.
So, then, how can we get there—to such a natural confidence state of mind?
Start with the understanding that confidence is the outer expression of your inner feelings toward yourself. Greater self-esteem (an internal feeling) will lead to being more confident (the external behaviour).
Therefore, find ways to boost your self-respect, love and beliefs (all the good stuff), and voila—you become more confident. And all is achieved organically.
Enhancing all the good stuff is the hard part, though. What we think and believe about ourselves is often so deeply engraved into our minds that it takes time, conscious desire and effort (lots of it) to start parting ways with our self-depreciation.
The silver lining is that not all is lost to nature (“I’m born with low self-esteem”) or to irreversible turbulences earlier in our lives (events that happened during our childhood that tinted our sense of worth).
There are things that you can do to mend your ailing self-esteem and confidence. Even if you can’t put the broken fragments of the past together, you can still make it a lot better for yourself. To the point where you can become your biggest cheerleader.
And no, don’t think it’s too late.
So, one main thing I have found to work is called “priming.” It’s a technique where you expose yourself to a word (or as psychologists call it—a stimulus), which in turn influences your behavior.
There are few variations of this practice—all are quite simple, yet highly effective.
To succeed, though, you need consistency—you must do these confidence boosters daily.
Priming can be done with certain words—for instance, for few minutes in the morning, in a meditation-style, breathe in “confidence, calm, control, focus, assertiveness” and breathe out “self-doubts, insecurities, anxiety, shyness, chaos.” Then, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Another way to prime is what I call this the “1-1-1 Principle.” I wrote about it at length in a previous post but in a nutshell, it’s this. Every day: 1. Say one gratitude (makes you appreciate what you have); 2. Pledge one thing you will do and make sure you do it (creates a track record that you can complete what you set as a goal); and 3.Commit to using one strength (makes you discover all your forgotten strengths and talents you should be proud of).
There will be a shift in how you see yourself.
. . .
In the end, my advice is this: Don’t fake it, it doesn’t work. Instead, search for ways to “feel it”—to like yourself more, to compare less to others, to re-discover your value.
There are stars in your future, believe me. I’ve been down the rabbit hole, have relapsed few times, but have kept going.
Loving yourself (or anyone else for that matter) may not be always easy, nor be the “romance-novel” type of intense affection, but it’s possible to grow fonder of yourself. And even if you don’t arrive in the happily-ever-after land we are socially conditioned to incessantly search for, remember that confidence often just means believing that there is a road ahead to better places—and that you can surmount any obstacles along the way.
And that belief and hope make up the foundation of your self-esteem.
After all, “You” is who you really have in this lifetime. Make it count.