Have you ever dreamed of becoming a superhero? Maybe getting bit by a radioactive spider and then having the ability to crawl up walls? Or how about getting exposed to some outer space radiation and being able to “Flame on!”?
It seems glamorous, but most superheroes need to go through some type of trauma to get their powers. And so do you…
Do you begin to sweat and breathe heavily right before getting up to speak in front of more than one person? Have you avoided walking up to an attractive stranger because you thought, “They’re too attractive to want to ever go out with me”?
In other words, do you have low self-confidence?
Why do we even care about being confident? What will it get us?
Unfortunately, we may lose our chance in a job interview without it. We may never get our foot in the door at landing the person of our dreams without building up our confidence enough to even talk to them. In gaining confidence, others will be more comfortable following you as a leader and clients may hire you over another individual.
I read a lot. Mostly in the self-improvement area, as well as marketing and writing (and comic books occasionally). As I looked online for commonly searched topics, I was surprised to find “How to build self-confidence” or “How do I become more self confident?” comes up super-frequently.
I’m sure lack of confidence is somehow related to our childhood. But most of us don’t care how it got that way, we prefer some quick ways to build it up.
Luckily, you don’t need a cape or mask to become a superhero of confidence! You need some solid tips to make you bulletproof in situations.
First, let’s take a look at how the basic confidence cycle can play out.
Situation > Memory > Emotions > Body Reactions. That goes for whether we DO or DON’T have confidence. When that cycle includes a lack of confidence, we need to break those negative cycles.
Here’s how the flow goes in a negative cycle:
A certain situation comes up (meeting an attractive person, public speaking, talking to a boss…). > That situation brings up memories of other similar situations. In someone with low self-esteem, the memories are of past failures. > These types of memories cause negative emotions (often fear). > Our mind can affect our bodies, causing uncomfortable reactions. These reactions can weaken you more than Kryptonite does Superman.
Some reactions are nervousness, sweating, temporary blanking memory, weak body language and stuttering.
Converse to our minds changing our bodies, our bodies can also change our minds. Physically changing your position or posture can affect your confidence.
See if it works on you… put a big smile on your face for 5 seconds where you really mean it. Doesn’t that help you feel a little happier in the moment.
Below are some ways to help you gain confidence like a superhero.
1. Strike the Superman pose (or Wonder Woman if you prefer).
Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy gave a Ted Talk about confidence. She says, “…powerful people tend to be, not surprisingly, more assertive and more confident, more optimistic…They actually feel they’re going to win even at games of chance”.
Research shows people with high confidence have a higher level of testosterone and cortisol than people with low confidence.
Amy asserts that you can make hormonal changes to yourself by raising your testosterone and cortisol levels for only two minutes. These changes can program your brain to be more confident, comfortable and assertive. According to Amy Cuddy, one way to do that is by striking the “Power Pose”, just like a superhero.
Here’s how to do it:
Stand up straight and tall, feet planted firmly on the ground a little apart. Next put your arms down at your side with your hands on your waist. Your elbows should be pointing out. Push your chest forward and lift your chin a bit like you are the Man of Steel bouncing bullets off your chest.
Taking the saying “Fake it ’til you make it.” to the next level, Amy suggests, “Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.”
2. Make strong eye contact with others.
If you don’t look people in the eyes while talking with them they tend to feel like you are hiding something and may not trust you.
When someone is talking to you show confidence by looking at them in a triangle pattern. Begin by looking at one of their eyes for a couple seconds. Then look at their other eye for a couple seconds. Then look at their mouth. Keep repeating that pattern (you can switch the sequence whenever you want).
Every now and then, glance to the left or right of their head just for a second. That makes it seem more natural. Don’t do it too quick though, or they will think you are weird or may uncover your secret identity of being the Flash (the fastest man alive).
3. Think back to a time when you DID feel confident.
This tip makes you a time-traveling superhero (well, Doctor Who is a superhero in my mind at least and he travels through time in his flying phone booth – the Tardis)! NLP is short for Neuro-Linguistic Programming. In NLP you can practice techniques that modify behavior in your mind. Reframing your thinking and interrupting patterns are a couple examples.
Try this… in your mind, visualize a time that you actually were confident in the past. Some situation that went well and you felt strong and confident. What do you see, hear and feel? How are you standing and holding your arms…how is your body language? In what way would you be speaking and holding your eyes? Now, really try to feel and experience the emotions in the here-and-now that you felt at that time. This can prime your confidence.
Now, visualize in your mind the “present you” standing in front of a future vision of you who has become super-confident. As in the previous exercise, what do you see, hear and feel? How are you standing and holding your arms…how is your body language? In what way would you be speaking and holding your eyes? Now, visualize your present self stepping into this new confident you and try to experience those same feelings of confidence.
4. Take up more space around you.
You can occupy more space to exude confidence and dominance. For most people, Ant Man isn’t a favorite superhero for a reason – what he usually does is shrink down to the size of an ant. Big whip! Don’t be small like Ant Man – take up some space in your environment! Although, occasionally he becomes Giant-Man too, which is way cooler. So be Giant-Man – that is truly taking up more space around you!
Don’t cross your arms and slouch while sitting. Men who tend to look more confident spread their legs apart, make their shoulders wide and may even put their arms up on the back of the seat next to them. Women, don’t close up your bodies either. Sit up straight with your shoulders apart and chin up.
Another body language technique is to link your hands behind your neck, elbows facing out. This shows comfort and confidence.
5. Dress well so you feel more powerful and successful.
Wonder Woman’s silver bracelets aren’t only a fashion statement. They protect her from bullets and keep her feeling powerful! When you dress in well-fitting, clean, unwrinkled clothes you feel positive and confident. Wonder Woman’s princess tiara also lets others know she is superior to them (as Amazonians from Themyscira are). If that’s your thing…have at it. That’s confidence!
6. Smile and say Hi.
This may be the simplest way to build up confidence for even the shyest person. Begin by going for a walk in the park or down a city street where you will come across people. Instead of walking by everyone with your eyes glazed, looking forward or downward, actually look people in the eye as they come towards you. If they meet your gaze, simply smile and say “Hi” to them.
Of course, some people will not even acknowledge that you said something to them and continue walking by you. But that is THEIR problem, not your’s. Some people are crabby or shy in general, so don’t take it personally. You will begin feeling more comfortable after other people respond with a smile and a “hi” too. Believe me, they will.
The next step is to smile and say a little bit more, like “Hi, how are you?” Taking it slow builds your confidence. Once you get people to respond to you several times, build up to having small conversations. Say something about the weather, or if you are doing a certain activity, aim your conversation at that. If you are in a grocery store and there is someone next to you say, “I’ve never had that salsa (or brand of waffles or frozen pizza…) before, is it good?” If you’re at a coffee shop, you can even make a comment out loud like, “The scent in here always refreshes me.”
7. Stop the monkey mind chatter.
Catch yourself when you begin negative self talk, also known as “monkey chatter”. Many of us have that voice in our heads that sometimes says things like “You can’t do this!” or “Why even try, you aren’t smart enough.” These thoughts do nothing but slice and dice your confidence. Unless you are Beast Boy who can turn into any animal and you need to talk to some apes, catch yourself right away and turn off the monkey chatter in your mind. Or change the chatter into positive supporting statements.
8. Lower the tone of your voice and talk slow.
Like Commissioner Gordon, people in positions of authority tend to speak slower and clearer. When you do, you have more time to think about what you are saying. Others perceive you as knowing what you are talking about, thereby increasing your confidence. Besides, quick, shrill talking comes across scary, like Batman’s nemesis, the Joker!
9. Use slow, deliberate movements.
Let’s say there is someone to your left. If you quickly turn your head in that direction you look like a perky bird and that looks very weird. I have personal experience with that one. I once took a class on presentation skills where they video taped me speaking in front of a group. I was absolutely horrified when I watched it! Instead of making slow, natural head movements, my body was stiff. And as I turned my head, making eye contact with people around the room, my head darted this way and that, like a perky Robin’s (and I’m not talking “The Boy Wonder”)! So, make your movements more deliberate and slow them down for best effect.
10. Do new things.
This works to expand your comfort zone. When you complete something you haven’t done before, you get a confident feeling from knowing you can accomplish things. I recently began taking boxing bootcamp workout classes. I am pretty proud of myself that I can finish 60 minutes of something that grueling. Now I feel like I’m part of that community and become more confident after each new class as I improve on the moves. Also, knowledge empowers you, so learning new things builds your competence and thereby, confidence.
11. Be prepared.
Just like the Boy Scout motto! Do you think Batman constantly wings (no pun intended) everything? No, he spent years learning different forms of combat and self defense because he had to know how to fight the bad guys. So, prepare yourself for your fight…if you know you have to give a presentation, practice and memorize the information. A lot. Also, come up with possible questions others may have and have answers to give. This will make sure you go into the situation with confidence.
The above 11 tips will help you on you way to becoming your own confident superhero! No more sweats, upset stomachs or fear. You can try just the ones you want or try them all!
Be successful by being confident.
Now go get ‘em! Or as they say in the superhero world, “Avengers Assemble!”