“A diamond doesn’t start out polished and shining. It once was nothing special, but with enough pressure and time, becomes spectacular. I’m that diamond.” ~ Solange Nicole
So I’ve been out of work, suffering with severe depression and anxiety, and basically living like a hermit since November last year. But over the past few weeks I’ve had to start venturing back into the world again.
I’ve needed to look for work, to look for somewhere to live, and to start just spending time with other humans again.
All these things, but the job hunting in particular, have required a level of confidence that I don’t necessarily feel right now.
I’ve been really quite scared about life lately. I’m scared that I’m not well enough to get back to normal. I’m scared that if I am well enough I won’t stay that way for long enough to make it work this time. I’m scared that I’ve forgotten how to be good with people or how to be any good at working.
Until I got this job I was scared that all the time I’ve had off over the last few years, and my mental health history, were going to make it impossible for me to find decent employment ever again.
So I’ve had to fake it.
Faking confidence is a useful skill to have. Even if you aren’t prone to depression or anxiety, and however composed and together you usually are, every one has days when they don’t feel on top of their game and struggle to be their own cheerleader.
So, here’s how to do it.
> Stand up straight
To project a confident attitude you need to adopt a confident posture. Sit or stand up straight and concentrate on using open body language.
When we feel small we tend to subconsciously make ourselves smaller. We sit with hunched, rounded shoulders, fold our arms, cross our legs and generally give an air of being very closed off from our surroundings. This can make us seem aloof; not an endearing quality.
Also keep an eye out for tell tale signs of nervousness like fidgeting, biting your nails, and twirling your fingers through your hair. If you spot yourself doing them stop immediately. To pull off the appearance of confidence you need to pretend to be relaxed.
> Iron your clothes
Superficial I know, but we tend to imagine people who are well-groomed and put together have everything else together as well.
A coordinated and freshly pressed outfit also suggests that you’re well organised.
Plus, knowing that you look good will help you to feel better about yourself, hopefully making this whole confidence thing less of an act. Even if it doesn’t seeing that you look the part can be a useful armour to hide behind.
> Wear your best underwear
The kind that makes you feel super-sexy. No-one else will know but it’ll give you a subtle confidence boost that will make a difference to the way you carry yourself.
> Wear red lipstick
Or if you’re a man a boldly coloured tie. Strong colours make a subtle statement of confidence to those around us.
> Walk in the room like you own the place, most people will believe that you do
An ex once told me this was the key to making people believe that you can do anything. I’m not sure that I’d go that far but most people’s first impressions take you at face value. If you act like you have a perfect right to be there – whether ‘there’ is a workplace, a social group, or a VIP room, most people won’t question you.
They’ll often be too busy worrying about their own image and how they fit into the situation to analyse how much of your confidence genuine.
> Remember to make eye contact
People who are shy, nervous, or depressed can be really bad at making eye contact. They’re as likely to focus on a spot on the wall or the table, or to keep glancing around the room, as they are to concentrate on the person or people they’re talking to.
To appear confident in the things you have to say; and to show that you’re listening to and understanding the people who are talking to you, make sure that you’re fixing your attention firmly on them – rather than the furniture or whatever might be happening outside the nearest window.
> Speak from your diaphragm and slow down
Extreme nervousness can often tell in your voice.
People who don’t feel confident about what they are saying , or who are uncomfortable speaking in front of an audience, often telegraph this by speaking in a higher pitch then usual, or with a shaky voice.
One way to avoid this is to learn to project your voice from your diaphragm rather your larynx. That way when you speak you will sound firmer and more confident even if you don’t feel it.
Another trick is to make a conscious effort to speak slowly.
Nerves often make us hurry over our words without us even realising that we’re doing it. If you deliberately concentrate on speaking more slowly you’ll find that what you’re saying registers with the person you’re speaking to, or to your audience, as being at a normal pace.
> Make small talk
It’s easy when we’re feeling shy and lacking in confidence to fall into the trap of concentrating on the things that we know that we need to say to get our message across, and trying to remember to say them in exactly the way we’ve rehearsed them.
We become so focussed on our answers to the questions we know we’ll be asked, or the presentation we have to give, or the message we want to deliver that we forget the social niceties.
Always remember the small talk.
Find little things to say to your interviewer/colleagues/potential clients/new acquaintances that demonstrates that you want to talk with them rather than at them. Discuss the weather, mention a mutual interest, comment on the room or some local news event, compliment someone’s shoes. Anything that will help to build a rapport.
It will make you seem friendlier.
We perceive friendly people as being more confident.
> Always try to have some water to hand
A bottle in your handbag or a glass on your desk.
If you’re at an interview you’ll usually be offered a drink, say yes.
Water on hand is a handy prop to have. If you’re unsure what to say next or the best way of answering a question that’s been asked taking a quick drink will give you a legitimate pause to collect your thoughts and order your words where you might otherwise hurry to fill the silence.
Is there anything I’ve missed? How do you handle nervous situations?