We all know, of course, that confidence is about feeling good in our own skin. It is about knowing ourselves well and learning to live with this person.
So far, so good.
A while ago, I came across the wonderful book by Dr. Richard Thaler — a professor of economics and behavioural science at the University of Chicago, called “Nudge: Improving decisions on Health, Wealth and Happiness.”
Nudges are small prompts which can lead to huge changes in behaviour. And the beauty of the theory is that it can be applied to almost every situation that needs a better ending.
Such as: making people to pay their taxes on time, enlist more organ donors, convert to using renewable energy for electricity. It’s such a powerful tool that both the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the US President Barak Obama used it to achieve certain domestic policy goals.
And, by the way, in 2017, Prof. Thaler won the Nobel Prize for Economics for his Nudge Theory.
Nudges do work. And we can use them to change the things we want to improve in our personal lives too. For instance, if you lack motivation to go to the gym, find an accountability buddy. Want to eat healthier? — Start bringing your own food to work. Want to help the planet? — Make it a default option to bike or take the bus to work instead of driving. Want to be more confident? — Set daily encouraging prompts on your phone to make yourself feel better (I actually do this, along with the reminders to smile, learn something new, talk to someone).
Try it. It will change your life.
There are many, many ways we can improve our outcomes by using nudges. And best part — we don’t have to alter the status quo in a dramatic way. No behavioural shocks. Small tweaks here and there can make all the difference.
Sounds great, right?
I write and research about confidence quite a lot, so I became really interested in testing how (and if) the Nudge theory can work to enhance self-esteem and self-beliefs.
Few trials and errors down the road, here are my three small confidence-boosting “nudges, ” which I found to be real confidence-boosters, if used daily.
1.Pay attention to how you look and present yourself
Confidence is the positive affair with your self-image.
It’s barely a secret that first impressions matter. How you carry yourself matters. How you come across, the image you want to project, matter. If you go to a business meeting where you make acquaintances with new people, for instance, and wear casual clothes, you may have a challenging time building trust and respect (unless, of course, you are in Silicon Valley).
The best part, though–you don’t have to break the bank to buy expensive clothes or do plastic surgery or use lots of makeup. It’s all about looking composed, carrying yourself with respect.
The nudge: Think about what you’ll wear in advance, imagine how the clothes will make you feel. If you want to be confident, buy and wear what amplifies your sense of self-assurance.
And never underestimate the mental shortcuts and the biases people resort to. Use them in your favour.
2. Devote time to yourself and do what makes you happy
Confidence is about self-fulfillment.
We are all so busy with our lives–errands, chores, work, family–these take up most of our time. We often neglect to take care of the most important person in our universe–ourselves. We may have even forgotten how to make ourselves happy.
And this is not good for confidence.
Every day, I devote my lunch hour to myself. I don’t take phone calls, don’t check my email and social media. I spend time with myself. Do things that make me and only me happy–go to the gym, take a walk, go to my favourite spot for lunch. It makes me feel good–doing something for myself that is mine only.
The nudge: Don’t be ashamed to be a bit selfish. Set a me-time reminder every day. Go do your nails. Go for a walk. Indulge in some ice-cream. Introduce some sunshine back in your life.
Being there for others is important, of course, but don’t forget that you are also the person who knows you best and can find the best ways to make yourself feel good.
And don’t underestimate the power that self-care and a bit of pampering may have on your mental health and self-esteem. Self-love is needed for confidence.
3. Learn self-acceptance
Confidence is about feeling good to be yourself.
Self-acceptance is a bit like a Catch-22 situation. On one hand, being too self-accepting may mean that you like the status quo and you wouldn’t be too interested in changing the Current You. On the other hand, though, being too self-criticising is not great either–it may throw you into a perpetual battle with yourself–to do better, to always strive for perfection, to never be satisfied with your achievements.
So, what is the right way to self-accept?
The first step to self acceptance is self-knowledge. Because you can’t really accept what you are not aware of, right? So, make it a habit of purposely getting to know yourself. For instance, every morning, as part of my confidence-boosting ritual, one of the things I tell my self is: 1 thing that I like — and try to be quite specific. For instance–one of my favourite books is the Godfather, or that one of my most-liked dishes is Greek salad, or that I like working with numbers.
It’s a good prompt — this exercise reinforces your identity. It makes you think consciously about who you are, your likes, dislikes, your preferences. It’s great for self-exploring.
The second step to self-acceptance is to acknowledge that you are not perfect. No one is. You have good parts (externally and internally), ok parts and a side of you that needs work. And this is absolutely fine–it’s pretty much how most people are.
The right way to accept yourself so that you can become more confident with the person living in your body is to NOT to say to yourself things as: “You are so stupid. You are not worth it. No one likes you.” All these things are not motivating, they have the opposite effect. They put you down, drown your energy and won’t spur any action on your side.
Disliking yourself this way makes you lose self-respect.
The nudge: Watch your thoughts, as they can become your destiny, as Lao Tzu wisely taught us many years ago. Challenge the inner critic.
Your internal dialogue should be along the lines of: “I know I’m not perfect. I know I need to work on my social skills/ grades/ relationships/ etc. and I will get there.” This sets a much more positive tone, acknowledges that you are work-in-progress, and reinforces your self-belief that you can persevere.
. . .
And finally, also remember that no one is confident all the time, no matter how they appear. We all need an occasional boost, priming, or a nudge to our self-assurance.
All that matters is that you continue to believe in your stars–that regardless of what happens, you will be able to get on your feet again and will continue to evolve.
And you can find a “I-will-survive-no-matter-what” nudge too, more power to you.