Having low self-esteem is like trying to sprint through sand.
You want to achieve more, do more, be more—but there’s always something slowing you down and holding you back. The great news is that self-confidence is a trait that you can cultivate and improve.
Like anything, it takes a bit of effort. Here are eight confidence boosters for gaining the self-esteem you need to achieve your goals and reach your potential.
1. Fake It ‘Til You Make It
One of the great secrets to success is knowing that everyone fakes it at one point or another in their life. Faking it until you make it isn’t just a catchy motto, it’s one of the confidence boosters backed by science. A 2013 study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that “By just shifting your thoughts to your goals you can project a more capable, confident persona.”
2. Focus on Your Strengths...
One of the most effective confidence boosters is to actually be good at what you do. If your group is leading a presentation and you’re a whiz at Power Point, then offer to do that part of the project. But don’t just get the job done—use the opportunity to get it done better than anyone else could. Being truly excellent at something gets you noticed and makes you feel good about your abilities.
3. ...And Then Your Weaknesses
At the same time, don’t let your weaknesses hold you back. If public speaking isn’t your thing, don’t assume it never will be. Legendary billionaire Warren Buffett used to be terrified of speaking in front of people to the extent that it made him physically ill. To conquer his fears, he enrolled in a course taught at Dale Carnegie, the institute named for the influential author of "How to Win Friends and Influence People."
4. Visualize Success
Professional athletes use this technique to achieve the results they want—and so can you. Let’s say you want to become the principal of the high school where you teach. Visualize how you think a principal should speak, carry herself and dress and begin to move in that direction. Before long, you won’t be the only one who can imagine what you would look like in a leadership position.
5. Be Your Own Best Fan
Negative self-talk can become so constant in a person’s life that they hardly even know they’re doing it. Don’t take that assignment, you’ll only screw it up. Or, You really sounded stupid asking your boss that question. Be aware of your internal monologue and turn it into a positive one. Use mistakes as opportunities to learn and celebrate your victories, rather than telling yourself you lucked into them.
6. Strike a Power Pose
In the second most-watched TED Talk of all time, social psychologist Amy Cuddy makes the case that simply changing how you carry yourself can make you feel more confident. Hunching and crossing your arms makes you look and feel weak, but “power poses” such as standing with your hands on your hips or sitting with your feet up on your desk and your arms crossed behind your head achieve the opposite effect. You won’t just look more confident, Cuddy argues, your brain chemistry will instantly change and you will feel more confident as well.
7. Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Challenging yourself develops confidence. Often, what limits our success the most are the restrictions we place on ourselves. It’s easy to never take risks. But that kind of career stagnation does not lead to success—or feelings of confidence.
8. Be Prepared
This one almost goes without saying, but it’s important that it be said anyway. If you want to feel confident in a job interview, then take a few hours to research the company, learn more about the person who will be interviewing you, practice your response to likely questions and prepare what you’re going to wear. The same goes for just about any work-related challenge you’ll face: The more you prepare, the more confident you will feel—and deservedly so.
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