This is a guest post by Nathan Adlam of Social Sage.
Here’s the situation. You’ve got a hot date tonight.
You will be picking up this beautiful woman (let’s call her Jenna) to take her on an ice cream date in approximately one hour.
There’s only one problem.
Your confidence is low.
It’s been a grueling week so far. You’ve had a hard time keeping up with that new diet and exercise regimen you’ve been trying. You’ve been spending way too much money lately, and you totally embarrassed yourself at work today in front of your boss.
You weren’t so nervous about meeting up with Jenna before, but the week’s events have bruised your confidence just a bit. Doubts of your abilities start to bubble up from your stomach.
You know that this low point is only temporary, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
What the hell is going on? How do you get your confidence back?
This article is going to share 3 battle-tested, tried-and-true methods for building your confidence during those inevitable low points in life:
1. Change your body language
“Sit up straight, Nathan! Quit slouching,” my mother would command.
UGHH NOT AGAIN MOM
It turns out that Judy was on to something big when she used to tell me that as a young boy at the dinner table—a concept that has been SCIENTIFICALLY-PROVEN to improve your confidence.
That concept is body language.
Even if you don’t say a word, your body language is constantly communicating to others your internal state. Your body language tells others a lot about how you are feeling, and it’s powerful enough to determine whether people will feel comfortable or incredibly nervous around you.
Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy, who works as a Professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, performed a simple study demonstrating the chemical change that occurs in the body as you sit in high- and low-power poses for two minutes.
The people who sat in high-power poses averaged a 20% increase in testosterone (confidence hormone) while decreasing their cortisol (stress hormone) by 25%. Those who sat in low-power poses decreased their testosterone by about 10% while increasing their cortisol by 15%.
So what are these “power poses,” anyway?
The following pictures demonstrate some of the power poses used in the study.
You may notice that in the high-power poses, the poser is not afraid to take up space, while in the low-power poses, they take up a lot less space.
When you engage in a high-power pose, you show that you are comfortable, relaxed, and not afraid to take up space. You show others that you value yourself and your space, and as a result, your body thanks you for it, by boosting your confidence hormones.
2. Change your internal framework
If you’re anything like I think you might be (intelligent, handsome, frequent reader of The Distilled Man), you probably have a lot of conversations with the little voice inside your head:
YES, I am frickin’ amazing! Somebody please get on my level! Bow to me, peasants! You might think, after nailing a tough meeting at work.
Oh no, what the hell am I doing? I’m the absolute worst. I should probably go beat my head against a curb is another possibility, after an embarrassing first date.
What you may not realize is that your brain can’t tell reality from imagination.
Have you ever woken up in a cold sweat at night, your blood pumping, an intense anger coursing through your veins, and you had no idea why?
Have you ever seen a piping-hot pepperoni pizza on TV when you were absolutely starving, and you immediately had an animalistic urge to eat said pizza?
Have you ever gotten goosebumps while watching William Wallace in Braveheart passionately rally his Scotsmen into battle against the English?
On the surface, these things don’t seem to have anything in common. But when you look deeper, you realize that none of these emotionally-charged events actually had a physical presence in your life.
The nightmare represents something that did not physically happen, the pizza was not actually in front of you, and William Wallace was not waging war in your living room. Yet they have the ability to significantly change your mental state, and as a result, your confidence.
The same principle applies to visualization and self-talk.
When we struggle with our own personal goals and lack self-confidence, it’s easy to make mental movies in our heads and talk to ourselves in a way that is personally demeaning and hurtful.
Though it may not often feel like it, your brain is intently listening to everything that little voice in your head says—and it’s watching all those mental movies.
When your brain sees and hears those things, it determines whether they are positive or negative, and it outputs hormones and chemicals into your body that reflect that feeling.
So how can you make the most of self-talk and visualization in order to put yourself in the best possible mental state to succeed?
When you talk to yourself or start directing mental movies of yourself in your head, it’s critical to make sure that those events are positively charged. The more you are able to think positively, the more your brain is going to thank you, with a rush of positively-reinforcing hormones.
Instead of telling yourself damn, I suck, try telling yourself, wow, that didn’t work at all. Let’s refine my approach and try again until I get it right.
3. Change your perception of “failure”
Society puts enormous pressure on us to show off our successes. It’s easy to feel like you’re not succeeding when you go on Facebook and see your friend who just got a cool new job—or when you see pictures of your acquaintances traveling the world.
Back in the day, when “fast food” included rabbits, deer, and birds, and you could only communicate with those within shouting distance, failing socially meant the difference between enjoying the safety of your tribe, and being ostracized and eventually mauled to death by a saber-toothed tiger.
For this reason, the fear of failure is ingrained into your DNA to keep you alive. So if you have some fear of failure, then congrats! That is your survival mechanism kicking in. Because your ancestors had such amazing genes, you are sitting exactly where you are supposed to be this very second.
So if failure does not mean life or death, what do we do with it when it happens?
Failure is not final, but feedback. When you experience something that you deem as “failure”, it’s important to not think of it as a reflection on your character and self-worth, but as feedback that you can use to learn what works, and what doesn’t.
Richard Branson has shut down over 200 companies he started that ended up failing. Babe Ruth broke both the home run record and the strikeout record in the same week back in 1923. Michael Jordan missed over 10,000 shots in his career. Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985, only to come back several years later and become CEO of one of the world’s greatest companies.
Each one of these high-achievers worked voraciously at their respective crafts, and they made it to the top, despite these so-called “failures.”
When they encountered these obstacles, they not only hurdled them, but ran furiously through the next 100 like a runaway freight train, stopping to learn and improve each step of the way.
Ok, now back to that date of yours….
You’re down to 30 minutes until go-time.
As you finish freshening-up for your date with a spritz of your favorite cologne and a quick comb of your hair, you spend a couple of minutes in a power pose in order to boost your testosterone and lower your stress hormones.
You ditch the negative self-talk, and start genuinely thinking about how Jenna’s really into you. You picture her eyes twinkling as she can’t stop laughing at you. She starts touching you any chance she can get. The sexual tension is so thick in the air, you could cut it with a knife.
You start thinking about your embarrassing moment at work and you think, who the hell cares? Everybody’s probably already forgotten about it. And if they haven’t, then damn, what a boring life they must have. Next time, I’ll have to pay a bit more attention to my pre-meeting notes.
By the time you show up on her porch to pick her up, you have a devilishly-confident smirk on your face, and you’re ready to take her on the best date of her young life.