Just like an injured body part, like a pulled hamstring, our confidence can become injured as well. Ignoring our confidence “muscle” will lead to its atrophy, and possibly to its improper healing. A weakened or still injured confidence muscle can interfere with our performance unless we choose to strengthen it, just as we strengthen our other muscles.
Here are three strategies, backed by research, we can use to strengthen our confidence muscles.
1. Walk strong
There is a mind-body connection. If we want to raise our hand, a signal from our brain tells us to raise our hand. So how does our brain know we raised our hand? A signal is sent back. There is this two-way message system for every movement our body makes, including facial expressions. If we “act” confident, or even stand or walk confidently, our body sends the message to our brain that we are confident. Research tells us that standing like a superhero (legs apart, shoulders back, head up) actually increases the testosterone (an assertive hormone) and reduces cortisol (a stress hormone). Want to learn more about this cool strategy? See Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk in the link below on the connection between body language and confidence. http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are
2. Talk strong
The things we say to and about ourselves (e.g., our self-talk) can also increase (or decrease) our confidence. So it’s important to be aware of what we’re saying to ourselves and to make sure that our self-talk is effective, or helpful. Helpful self-talk is in the first person and present-tense, positive, short and specific, and is repeated often. For example, a swimmer might say to himself, “I am strong and fast,” or a cyclist may tell herself before a race, “I am excited and ready to go.”
3. Imagine confidence
Imagery, or creating/re-creating an experience in our minds, also impacts our confidence. A runner may create the race he is about to run in his mind beforehand. Using all his senses, the runner sees himself winning, feels his strong and healthy body powering through the race, and feels excitement and happiness from his superior performance. Doing this will give the runner an optimal confidence boost as he approaches the start-line of his race.