Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Game for Confidence

So let’s talk about this confidence thing. Are some people — the gorgeous, smooth, and successful among us — born with it? Nope! These people got to be successful and smooth by appearing to be confident. And what about those who were smart enough to choose the right parents or get dipped in the gorgeous-gene pool? Well, I know some of the most stunning people on this earth, and most of them are surprisingly insecure and frightened — of losing their looks, of appearing stupid and superficial, of growing old, of putting on weight, of having no one love them for any reason other than their cheekbones, of having no one love them at all. I’m not suggesting that you petition to be hit upside the head with the ugly stick, just that you get on with your life, whatever you look like. Accept the ride home with the too-cute guy from your building who you never thought would ask you out — rather than worry why he’d ask you out. Introduce yourself to the fascinating woman you’d really like to know better. Or at least say “hi” to the person you see daily at the bus stop. Smart people do the best they can with what they’ve got, and they don’t whine too much in the process. Confidence is the ability to trust yourself and convey that sense to others, and appearance is half the battle. If you want to appear confident whether you feel confident or not, try the following

  • Stand up straight. Posture counts. A straight spine denotes purpose and strength (spineless means cowardly, after all). Face forward. Think military bearing rather than bent-over hag from Snow White, and you’ll get the picture.
  • Smile. Not only is a smile a good umbrella to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but it also convinces others you’re happy and healthy and wise. A frown makes you look like you’re worried or frightened.
  • Make eye contact. It’s all in the eyes. Showing that you’re not afraid to look someone in the eye means that you’re strong and truthful and willing to meet their scrutiny.

One of the most blatant tip-offs to a lie is the liar’s inability to make eye contact — unless we’re talking pathological liar here, and then you’re sunk anyway. Your momma knew that when she said, “Look me in the eye and tell me you were studying.”

  • Lean slightly forward. Whether you’re standing or sitting, leaning forward rather than pulling back denotes energy and forthrightness — and that signals strength and willingness. It also lets your energy move forward. Leaning forward is a bit aggressive or at least assertive rather than defensive or passive.
  • Shake hands firmly (yeah, women, too). Upon entering a new situation,walking confidently into someone else’s space and putting out your hand and firmly — not crushingly nor limply — offering a part of yourself in a friendly but assertive way says gobs and gobs of good things about you: You’re unafraid, you’re an equal, you’re friendly, you’re engaging. A firm handshake while you look someone in the eye works wonders in business and personal situations.

It’s okay to feel nervous or excited, especially in new situations. An actor will tell you that unless she feels that adrenaline rush, she’s not going to give a really top-notch performance. Make those nerves work for you. Remind yourself:

I’ve felt this way before, and I survived; what’s the worst thing that could happen, and how likely is that? It’s okay to feel a bit edgy. I can do this. Confidence is

both that quiet inner voice and that more obvious outer show. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the woman who wears the flashy, low cut dress and the man who brags about his conquests may be insecure and trying to convince other folks of his or her appeal rather than trusting the self. Anything you use to build confidence needs to go deeper and work for you, not against you. You don’t want to send an easily misread or misinterpreted signal. Doing something harmful to your basic sense of self doesn’t make any sense. On the other hand, positive activities build real self-assurance. When you whistle, for example, you hear yourself sounding happy, control your breathing, and entertain others. Pretending to be interested may teach you something; after all, you are listening. Pretending to be interesting makes you more informed; how else would you be more fascinating? Get it? Again, be sure that you’re not buying confidence through chemistry — alcohol or other drugs — because it’s short-lived, unproductive, and dangerous. If you don’t believe me, try being stone cold sober around a bunch of drunks. So how do you learn to trust yourself? You can begin either on the inside or the outside.

No comments: