Developing Self-Confidence and Managing Stress

Mar 18, 2016

Why is it that we always seem to admire people who ooze self-confidence from their every pore?

We feel envious of their ability to handle difficult situations with ease. They never seem to feel anxious and they accept roles of responsibility without even doubting themselves.

Why is it that we always seem to admire people who ooze self-confidence from their every pore? We feel envious of their ability to handle difficult situations with ease. They never seem to feel anxious and they accept roles of responsibility without even doubting themselves.

We ask ourselves, why we can’t be like that – instead of becoming tongue-tied under pressure or buckling at the thought of public speaking.

As a newly graduated jobseeker, approaching that first job interview can leave some of us feeling, at best, inadequate and, at worst, physically sick.

So what can be done to help us? Can we make ourselves appear self-confident even if we don’t feel it? And if we practise often enough, will we start to feel genuinely confident?

The answer – thank goodness – is yes!

Here are 5 top tips to help you manage your stress and develop your self-confidence:

  1. Posture

Posture is vitally important. If we’re feeling nervous or worried, we tend to lower our heads, avert our gaze and allow our shoulders to droop. In fact, we crumple from the inside. However, if you can consciously adopt a more confident stance – with your head held high, your shoulders back and your back straight – and you can maintain good eye contact, then with time you’ll begin to feel as confident as you look. All it takes is practice!

  1. Breathing

When we’re feeling stressed or anxious we can sometimes start to over-breathe. We breathe from the tops of our lungs instead of breathing deeply and this makes us feel worse. But if you can concentrate on slowing your breathing down and using the bottom of your lungs – breathing from your diaphragm – then your body will start to feel more relaxed. If you’re about to head into an interview, take a few minutes to breathe properly beforehand, noticing your lungs inflating and deflating and your breath entering and leaving your nostrils. You’ll be surprised at how calm you feel after only a few deep breaths.

  1. Being in the moment

Before testing events – such as interviews, meetings, exams and presentations – we often make our stress worse by asking ourselves “What if” questions. The situation can become terrifying when we think like this:
“What if I can’t get my words out?”
“What if I forget what I’ve learnt?”
“What if I say something really stupid and they laugh at me?”

“What if they don’t like me?”

“What if I fail?”

Instead of expecting the worst and thereby damaging your confidence, just try being in the moment. When we’re really present in a situation, we think more clearly, we listen much more attentively to what’s being said, we’re not always planning what we’re going to say next and we’re not trying to anticipate the next question. Instead, we can respond more naturally and fully, and we can start to be in tune with the people we’re with. Try it! Be in the moment.

  1. Self-belief

Self-belief is an integral part of feeling confident. But, don’t worry! It’s something that can be learnt. As Mahatma Gandhi so wisely said, “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” So your new mantras (which you will repeat on a regular basis!) will begin with “I can…” and “I will…” Develop positive thinking and expel negativity from your thoughts. Don’t visualise yourself failing; only visualise yourself succeeding. You can do it!

  1. Being prepared

One of the most practical ways to manage stress and develop self-confidence is to be prepared for whatever lies ahead. If it’s a presentation, practise what you’re going to say again and again beforehand – and visualise yourself speaking clearly and smiling. If it’s an interview, research the company before you attend, try to anticipate the questions that might be asked and prepare some questions of your own. If it’s an exam… well, you know all about those! Practice, research and revision will go a long way towards improving your self-confidence because you’ll feel prepared.
Of course, in reality, nobody ever feels completely confident all of the time, however they may appear to us. Some people have just practised longer! We should remember what Daniel Maher says: “Confidence is courage at ease.” This is a great quote because it implies that all of us need courage sometimes – but some of us are better at controlling our fear than others.

By putting into practice the 5 tips above, your courage will soon be standing at ease too!

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