Maxwell Maltz, a surgeon, lecturer and one of the forefathers of self-improvement, famously said, "Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand brake on." Meaning, you'll get where you need to go, but it's a hell of a lot harder than it needs to be. So how do you get more self-confidence? We'd all like it but it can feel like something that you either have or you don't, right? It's that elusive virtue that we tend to think others are simply blessed with, like being tall.
But no one is born with limitless self-confidence. That guy who looks like he's got it all together and seemingly breezes through everything at work? That's likely because he's worked at it, possibly for years. You can increase your confidence, you can strengthen it and nurture it and reap its many benefits. Because in any life situation—be it personal or professional—confidence is what makes you or breaks you. Follow these proven tactics to create the confidence you need within.
Ask any elite athlete about their pre-game preparations and you'll inevitably hear something about visualization. Research published in the journal Neuropsychologia has revealed that common mental practices, such as picturing yourself achieving your goal, have been nearly as effective as actual physical practice. And that imagining a positive outcome preps your brain and body for success. The more detailed your visualizations, the better prepared (and thus, more confident) you'll be.
Posture Isn't a Little Thing
Obviously, when you think of a confident person, they'd be standing up straight, right? They're not slouching or slinking their head low, eyes pointed toward the floor. But this isn't simply about appearing more confident, but actually becoming more confident. A study in the European Journal of Psychology examined people's self-confidence based on posture: "The applicants who were slumped over had lower self-confidence, as expressed by their answers, than those who sat up straight. This research shows that whether you sit up straight at your desk or slump in your chair impacts the chemicals produced in your brain, which, in turn, affect what goes on in your mind."
(and Smell) Your Best
This is about self-care and the better you feel about yourself, the easier it is to believe in yourself. This is as much about taking pride in your appearance as it is about the power of persuasion. After all, you tend to be treated better when you put time and effort into your outfit and your grooming. Jaywalk while wearing a suit, for example, and people will be 350% more likely to follow you than if you were wearing a rumpled T-shirt. And don't forget to spritz on your favorite cologne. A 2009 study found that fragrances can inspire confidence in men, and the more you like a particular fragrance, the more confident you will feel when you wear it.
Get Your Blood Pumping
Whether you get outside for a simple walk or hit the gym for an intense workout, you're putting yourself and your well-being first. That already sets you up to value yourself and when you're done, you'll have a sense of accomplishment that will boost your self-esteem. Put in some time to tone your muscles and you'll take more pride in your appearance. Plus, exercising helps memory retention, improves focus, helps manage your stress and fights off depression. It's harder to be anxious when there is no excess energy to draw upon. So make sure to carve out some time to put yourself first.
Tackle a Task You've Been Putting Off
These are often small, menial things—the dull chores that we're never in the mood to do. But they also create a nagging sense of dread and serve as a daily reminder that we're ignoring our responsibilities. So file away that pile of paperwork and bills that's been staring at you from across the room. Clean out your closet and donate the stuff you no longer wear. Often, the tasks take less time than we imagine but afterwards, you're left with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Make Eye Contact
This might be the most challenging one, as it tends to make people feel awkward when they're used to looking down, looking away and not maintaining consistent eye contact with whom they're talking. Do you tend to look away quickly when you lock eyes with someone? Most of us do, but it's a move that communicates insecurity. As you're developing your self-confidence, focus on maintaining eye contact as it increases the quality of any face-to-face interaction. Multiple studies (PDF) have confirmed that those who make higher-levels of eye contact with others are perceived as being not only more powerful, trustworthy and qualified, but also more personable and likable.
Comparison, they say, is the thief of joy. Spending time comparing what's on your inside to what's on others' outside is never a good idea. And this is something that happens even more frequently these days thanks to the polished and filtered images of social media. But it's something that easily chips away at your self worth.