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Last week, we started down our charm journey by exploring the origins and definitions of charm and what it means to us and those around us. We now start on the building blocks of learning the skill of being charming; confidence, humility, wit and presence. When combined together, these skills will build the house in which the art of being charming can live.

The first time driving a car, a person is faced with a vast array of facets to master: gears, mirrors, steering wheels, awareness, and pedals, which have to be combined all in one to master driving. After years of driving, you now just get into the car and drive. Some skills are easy, but some skills are a combination of other skills put together in a certain way, such as driving or cooking. So here, we will learn each individual skill and then combine them in the right recipe to make you the charming person we know you can be!

We will start with probably the most challenging skill to learn and certainly to master: confidence. To some this is an illusive dream, to others it is a fluctuating current that is not consistent. We all go through phases of confidence, sometimes we are on top of the world and sometimes we are staring up at the sky from the bottom of a well. We have all gone through it. But with the tips, tricks and exercises that we recommend in this article, we will make those phases less drastic and indeed help you climb out of the well at any time. 

Just to give you some background, a great deal of information that we impart here is backed by science and hard data and the rest by overwhelming anecdotal evidence. This is about giving you a solid base on which to build your confidence and we want to do that from a position of assurance that this works.

Our confidence building strategy is split into two phases, outside in and inside out. You can do it in either way round and implement the elements in any order. We recommend that you work through them all, but some will work better for you than others and some will be easier to learn. They will all help to establish a level of confidence from which you can build.

Firstly, let’s talk a little about confidence itself. The dictionary defines confidence as “belief in oneself and one’s powers and abilities”, it also talks of “certitude and assurance”. This is all about you and your faith in you, this is not about what others may or may not think of you. Faith is that complete trust in someone or something, in this case that someone would be you. I hope that we trust ourselves, to a greater or lesser degree, therefore we have a certain level of faith in ourselves, and this is what we build on. Trust in yourself is faith in yourself and therefore confidence in yourself.

Let’s put this another way, do you trust yourself to make that morning cup of tea for yourself? If the answer is “Yes”, which it really should be, that means you have confidence in your ability and that proves that you can have confidence in yourself. We just have to grow that small seed and turn it into the mighty oak of certainty.

Confidence can start small and grow. Like the tree, it needs nurturing; you can’t neglect it otherwise you might have to spend a long time rebuilding it. With dedication, energy and a little bit of love, you can grow that tree and your confidence. Let’s get on with it…

 

Outside In

You might be surprised to discover that one of the speediest ways to build and grow confidence is to build it from the outside in. What do we mean by that? Well, simply put, there are physical and visual things we can do that will build our confidence and some of them work on us without us even noticing.

Working from the outside in will work for people who are not good at dealing with internal feelings and self-analysis. It is also the quickest way to build confidence, though after a while, it will require internal back up to maintain longevity of the self-assurance. 

Why is the ‘outside’ so important for confidence both for ourselves and what others perceive? When you first meet people both you make a judgement of them in one tenth of a second. Yes, you read that correctly, this is based on a study by two Princeton professors. Less than a second and people have already made a judgement about you, then you reinforce that judgement in the next 2 minutes, after which it becomes exceptionally hard to change people’s opinions – I won’t bore you with the formula they discovered, but it is a mighty long time. So we need to think very hard about the first impression we make. 

This just shows the importance of non-verbal communication, which we are transmitting constantly and often unconsciously. Subconsciously we pick up on these non-verbal elements and we use them to generate our judgements and responses to people.

{If you want to more and learn more about body language, we recommend Dr Lillian Glass, Mark Bowden and Paul Ekman)

Therefore, if we can control and use our body and the language it speaks, it will do us no end of good generally in our lives, but specifically with regards to confidence. If people perceive us as confident then we will feel confident. On top of that if we do certain things our body chemistry will change as well and start to fill us with confidence. You will be amazed.

So how can we work on these physical and visual elements Here are our key elements for working the outside in.

 

Power Poses 

Professor Amy Cuddy, from Harvard Business School, did a fascinating piece of research about how our body affects our mind and indeed our body chemistry. She looked at a series of body postures that confident, successful and powerful people do, usually subconsciously, and performed an experiment to prove that by doing a series of what she calls ‘power postures’ for 2 minutes it will drastically affect your confidence and your body chemistry.  Indeed, you don’t even have believe in them for them to work.

body-language-power-poses

Professor Cuddy suggests doing these postures for 2 minutes immediately before going into any situation that you might need to feel more confident such as meetings, dates or interviews. Here full TED talk about her research is here.

Power Poses Photo in the Article File

 

Dress Well

You wouldn’t be surprised to hear us say that you need to dress well to build confidence. There are two sides to this element; firstly, how others perceive and interact with you. As we mentioned earlier, you have a fraction of a moment to make a first impression, if you are dressed well and appropriately then this will immediately set the right impression. Also if you dress with a little flair, then you will be remembered for longer.

If you are dressed well, in clothes that make you feel good you will immediately start to feel more confident. You know this to be true, you remember when you wore that set of clothes that you love and you walked taller? You get compliments for the outfit and that in itself will make us more confident, you wear the outfit again and the spiral continues.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to dress well, we have many articles here about dressing well on whatever budget you have, so money is no excuse to make that effort to dress well.

 

Get Moving and Stand Tall

Time and time again exercise has been proven to affect your body chemistry in positive ways, it makes us happier and therefore more confident. Being fitter, healthier and more energetic will help our confidence. If you are unable to exercise, for whatever reason, the next best thing is to keep moving.

People who walk faster, look more important, they have places to go, things to do. Take meetings whilst walking – it works for Richard Branson. Put some vim and verve into your step, increase your pace and become confident.

Finally, our body works in conjunction with our mind and body chemistry, so think about your body posture. Stand up right now, wherever you are. Stand tall, pull your shoulders back, thrust your chest forward and raise your chin. Stay like this for a couple of moments. Notice how you feel. You will feel more centred, more confident and assured and if you are in public people will notice you. 

You can reverse this experiment – still standing hunch your shoulders, drop your chest and fold into yourself a little. Lower your chin and drop your eyes to the floor. Those people staring will slowly look away and you will notice how you feel will have changed.

Be very conscious of your body posture, when you are about walk tall, stand straight look up and ahead. People will notice and think you are in charge of yourself and therefore confident.

 

Smile and Speak Up

A smile is as infectious as a sneeze and several research papers have proved as much. A genuine smile makes other people feel good and have a favourable impression of you. People react very positively to a smile. A smile needs no language, it is universal. 

Secondly, due to the strangeness of our bodies, if you make a smile, even a forced one, then it becomes exceptionally hard for you to have a negative thought and nigh on impossible if the smile is genuine. So the trick I have learnt is to always keep a happy thought floating around in my head. This can be a happy memory, a joke or just a memory of how you felt last time you went on a good holiday.

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to speak up. Whether you are in a conversation, a meeting, a date or a group and you have something to say, say it. People will immediately look to those who speak as confident ones, as most people stay silent for fear of being perceived as foolish or wrong. Those who speak generally are neither of those two things, they just have opinions and are confident enough to express them. Trust me, these thoughts and opinions do not have to be groundbreaking, they just have to be spoken.

 

In next week’s article we discuss how to build confidence from the inside out.

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