Today I’m going to teach how you to appear more confident.
Why? Because confidence is one of the most important skills in life that you can acquire (other than learning to use the Force, obviously).
Now, I’m not teaching you this stuff just so you can become some sleazy pickup artist. I’m teaching you because I know how important even a little bit of confidence can be in everyday situations, whether it’s negotiating with your boss for a raise, buying a car, giving a presentation, or meeting your fiance’s parents.
We’re naturally attracted to and will have our opinions swayed by those who have (or appear to have) a lot of confidence. Nerds usually get the short end of the stick in the “naturally confident” department, but that doesn’t mean we can’t acquire it like a new skill, Matrix-style! If you’ve started losing weight, I’m sure part of you still feels like the old you, even if you’ve changed physically – it’s time to take pride in yourself and truly be comfortable in your own skin.
Here are five steps that you can take to start seeing a difference immediately.
If you can develop good posture, a trait that always seems to bypass nerds, you’ll appear approximately 145% more confident within seconds (I definitely made up that stat, by the way).
I used to have awful posture through most of my life (which caused lots of lower back pain). It wasn’t until I made a conscious effort to focus on standing up straight and strengthening my lower back that the pain went away. In order to stay on target, I actually hung a “POSTURE!” post-it on my bedroom door so I wouldn’t forget each morning. Here’s how you can get started:
- Stand up as TALL as you can, like you’re a puppet and somebody just pulled the string that’s attached to the top of your noggin
- Pull your shoulder blades down and back as far as possible – This will feel really weird if you spend a lot of time hunched over a desk
- Pick your chin up and look straight ahead – stop looking down while walking around, there’s a whole world out there for you to see
If you have trouble pulling your shoulder blades back, try doing two back exercises (say, lat pull downs and dumbbell rows) for every one chest exercise in your workout. This will build up the muscles in your upper back and allow you to actually pull those shoulder blades back together. Want something easier? Try standing with your heels, butt, and head against a wall, and then pull your shoulder blades back until they’re touching the wall too. Do this daily and increase the length of the stretch each time.
If you spend all day in a chair, try this: sit down in your chair, and then stand back up WITHOUT having to rock forward. If you have to lean forward even slightly, you’re doing it wrong. Sit straight up like you’re always ready to stand without having to lean forward. Your lower back will probably get tired as hell sitting like this because it’s not used to the new position – work on it. Do planks every other day (working your way up to two minutes), and you’ll have a rock-solid core and incredibly strong lower back.
This is probably the hardest step of all, as you’ve probably spent years and years developing poor posture without even thinking about it. Spend a month making a concerted effort to have better posture however, and you’ll be well on your way to a more confident appearance. Pretty soon you won’t even have to think about it!
I am terrified of public speaking. Seriously, I hate being in front of even a small crowd. However, at my old job I was put on stage in front of thousands of people to introduce bands and I sounded like I belonged up there. You know how I did it? By taking a deep breath, slowing down, and practicing. I still get really nervous, but I’ve learned to manage it so well that nobody notices.
What’s the importance of slowing down? When you get nervous, your voice tends to go up a few notes and you’ll talk faster than you realize. These are two dead ringers for “scaredy cat.”
I’ll never forget presenting my senior business proposal back in college. About thirty seconds into my presentation – which I thought was going well – I noticed my friend Deepa in the back of the room frantically waiving her arms at me, mouthing “SLOOOWWW DOWNNNN.” I quickly readjusted my speech, talked WAY slower than I thought I needed to, and took longer breaths between sentences. She later told me that she couldn’t understand the beginning at all but the rest of it came out perfectly. The rest of that class was molded by that presentation, so thanks Deepa for saving my ass!
If you get nervous in front of people no matter how big or small the group, talk slower than you think you need to, and don’t forget to breathe. In your head it might seem way too slow, but out loud it’s just right.
People don’t smile enough these days, so we’re bringing it back. When dealing with any situation or scenario where you’re uncomfortable, it’s easy to get caught up in your head, which means you probably have a stupidly sad look on your face. Pretty soon, you’ll develop the reputation of “that creepy guy in the corner who smells like cheese.” Now, if you don’t smell like cheese, you’re already halfway home!
We’ll just work on the other half: smile.
Not a fake smile, not a creepy smile, but a genuine smile.
Don’t know how to smile correctly? Stand in front of a mirror, close your eyes, and look down. Look up, smile, and open your eyes at the same time. See that smile right there? THAT’S a genuine smile. Just like Butters.
Win the staring contest
Unless you work at home in your underwear and only interact with your cat (my day is way different than that – shut up), you probably have quite a few conversations with people on a daily basis:
- Your coworkers at the water cooler
- The lady behind the counter at CVS
- Your waitress at lunch
- Random strangers that you pass on the street.
When was the last time you looked somebody in the eye until THEY looked away first? If you’re like me, you’ve probably always been the first to “flinch.”
I say no more!
Starting right now, you’re going to be the person that doesn’t look away. Think of each interaction as a mini-battle – your eyes against theirs. As long as you’re smiling and blinking, you won’t come across as creepy…unless, of course, you’re actually a creep. If you’ve always been shy, the first few times doing this will be absolutely nerve-wracking – power through it. Once you start to be the non-flincher consistently, you’ll quickly learn that everybody else is nervous as hell too and will quickly look away given enough time.
Get out of your head
After going through some physical changes, it’s going to take time for you to adjust how you feel on the inside versus how you look on the outside. I sometimes still feel like the 5-foot, 100-pound high-school sophomore with braces even though I haven’t looked like that for over a decade. I have friends who used to be fat guys who still feel huge even though they have a single digit body fat percentage.
It’s time to stop living inside your head.
If you feel out of place in a situation, everybody around you probably does too. We all have our own insecurities; it’s those of us that can exist outside of our brains and project confidence that usually get what we’re chasing. As a fellow nerd and chronic over-thinker, I know this is tough to do: stop thinking so damn much and just go for it.
- Once you spot somebody you’re interested in, don’t give yourself more than three seconds before approaching him/her. Anything beyond that will cause you to over-analyze the situation in your head and probably end up doing nothing. You’ll quickly learn that “if you don’t ask, the answer is always no,” so you have nothing to lose.
- Introduce yourself immediately to strangers at a party – get the awkward out of the way immediately, and you’ll come across as cool and collected.
- Once you have your speech or presentation prepared, don’t give yourself hours to get nervous – concentrate on something else to occupy your mind until it’s time to present. Don’t over-think, just follow the plan and talk slowly.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”
I bet those three things listed above seem scary to 95% of the population (they all scare the bajeezus out of me, which is precisely why I force myself to do them). Part of building confidence is taking risks and having the ability (and the guts) to do stuff that scares you.
As you follow these five steps, you’ll start to appear more confident, which will make some of your encounters more successful, which will instill more confidence in you, which will then make even MORE of your encounters successful, and so on. Think of your confidence like a giant snowball with lots of inertia – tough to get started, but once it’s rolling the momentum will take over.
Your homework for today - while walking down the street with your head held high, shoulders back, and a big smile on your face, make direct eye contact with at least five strangers that walk by and give them a simple “hi.” Remember, they have to be the ones to look away first, not you.
The first few times will feel really awkward, but who cares – you’ll never see them again. As you get more “missions” under your belt, you can progress to other more challenging objectives, like striking up a conversation with a stranger, giving a speech, robbing a bank, etc.
One last thing: with great power comes great responsibility. There is a fine line between having confidence and being cocky – nobody likes the cocky guy who is full of himself, so cool it with the cheesy pick up lines, stories proclaiming your awesomeness, and creepy seduction techniques. Fear and nervousness are easy to detect, but so is being transparently fake.
Don’t change what you are, just learn to be more confident in who you are.
So, what tips did I miss or mess up? Any other words of wisdom to pass along? Us nerds need all the help we can get!