If you haven’t read my previous post ‘How Can I Get More Confidence?’ you’re not really going to get the full benefit from reading this one.
It’s a bit like watching ‘The Godfather 2′. It’s great on it’s own, but it moves from great to outstanding with the viewing of ‘The Godfather’ first.
And no, I’m not comparing my writing to that of Mario Puzo, I’m just saying if you don’t really understand what confidence is (and most people don’t by the way) then it becomes more difficult to catch the slippery sucker and harness its full potential.
For the sake of this post I am going to presume you have a fear of public speaking.
However, most of the advice given here can easily be transferred over to almost any other situation where you would like to feel more self assured.
1. Confident Breathing
If you nail your breathing I can assure you that you’ll will never have a panic attack and you will never experience levels of anxiety the like of which may have you hurling all over the front row of the people you are talking to.
It is physiologically impossible to be deep breathing from your diaphragm in a controlled manner and be panicking. The two are mutually exclusive.
That’s the good news, but unfortunately there’s also some bad news.
If you have a panic attack, nothing I say now is going to stick with you.
The last thing you’ll be thinking at the time is, “Hmm, what was it that Brownson felloow said in that post about dealing with panic attacks?”
Nope, you’ll be way too busy thrashing around like a demented eel in a sand pit and thinking you’re about to die.
If you want to learn a new skill, the way you do that is first practicing it under benign circumstances.
Nobody has their first driving lesson when there’s 10 feet of snow on the ground, (unless they’re learning to drive a snow plow that is).
Similarly, do not try and teach yourself deep breathing when you feel like your lungs are about to explode, because you’ll fail.
Practice deep breathing (by that I mean slowly, from your diaphragm and making the exhale about 50% longer than the inhale) consciously whenever you get a moment to do so.
By making your exhale longer you are dampening your sympathetic nervous system and in particular your amygdala which is responsible for the fight, flight or freeze response.
When you exhale, your parasympathetic nervous system takes over and starts playing cool chill out music like this in your brain.
You can practice at your desk, walking the dog, feeding the kids, watching TV, doing the laundry or pretty much anywhere you need to be breathing, so no excuses.
Deep breathing will not remove all your nerves, but it will allow you to talk and breathe at the same time which can be remarkably useful on occasions.
2. Confident Posture
You frown because you’re unhappy (or just a miserable bastard) and you smile because you’re happy, right?
Similarly, you stand upright and open when you are confident and that’s why people lacking in confidence are easy to spot.
They have a tendency to shrink themselves by hunching their shoulders, closing their chest and bringing their arms in close to feel less vulnerable.
They may also put their hands in front of their face more than is natural, look down a lot to avoid eye contact and even in extreme cases (such as the comedian Mitch Hedberg in the image – or rather ex-comedian as he’s now very much dead) wear sunglasses and allow their hair to cover half their face.
The cool thing is this though.
Whereas smiling does happen because you’re happy, happiness also increases when you smile for no other reason than your brain senses the muscles that indicate happiness are being activated.
It concludes you must be happy and starts producing endorphins that in turn make you feel happier. Voila! You have created your very own happiness spiral.
So what do you think will happen if you spend about 2 minutes standing in the kind of pose that you would adopt when you are feeling confident prior to going on stage?
Correct you would feel more confident from the get-go.
Then if you carry on standing like that and resist the urge to constrict yourself you keep that bio-feedback going and remain confident. Cool eh?
If you doubt this, watch Amy Cuddy at Ted.
3. Confident Language
Possibly the single worst thing you can do when you start to feel nervous and the first negative comments arise in your mind is to try and counteract with self abuse.
Telling yourself to get it together this instant because you’re a big wuss and should be ashamed of yourself won’t work. By taking that all too common approach, you create a lot of internal resistance.
You’re effectively telling your unconscious mind that there really is some heavy shit going down and it needs to head for the hills sharpish.
This isn’t easy to do I know, but try and observe your emotions without judgment.
The part of you that is scared is doing its best with the information it has to hand, so don’t get into an argument with it.
I know it sounds a bit woo-woo, but thank any negative thoughts for their feedback and then gently replace them the language you use when you are feeling confident, and make it supportive!
I have spoken about this many times and yet many people in the self development industry still under estimate it’s incredible power.
Here’s what has been proven by peer reviewed science.
- People can improve massively their sporting ability by utilizing visualization
- Musicians who visualize training when they cannot actually do it improve almost as much as when they physically practice
- People have gained muscle mass by visualizing working out
Note: The more senses you involve with visualization the more effective it will be.
Again you are fooling your brain into thinking it’s done something before it really has. In other words you are building up new neural connections by simply imagining something happening.
In the public speaking example you may not always know what the room or audience will look like, so visualize content free.
Hear applause, see people coming up to you afterward to congratulate you on a job well done, invoke the feelings of confidence as you do this.
If you do know the room and the audience, even better because you can use all that information to make it even more powerful.
Visualization takes time, but what else are you going to do as you’re hanging around waiting to nod off every night?
I’m not going into detail with this as I have beaten the meditation is great for you drum so much that it fell to bits and I have had to go and buy a new meditation is great for you drum to beat.
It’s not fast, it’s not necessarily easy and I can’t even guarantee it will work.
However, it probably will help in time and even if it doesn’t it will make you happier, less stressed, healthier (both cognitively and physically) and probably lengthen your life.
Now they’re my kind of byproducts!
6. Anchor The Feeling – It’s Science Not Woo-Woo
Ok so now I’m getting lazy and copy and pasting this section from a book I wrote otherwise I’d be here all day!
Once upon a time a man called Ivan from Ryazan in deepest darkest Russia had a dog.
His dog loved steak and Ivan loved to feed him. He would ring a bell to let Roverski know his dinner was ready and the little scamp would bound up to him salivating and licking his chops as he ran. He would then wolf his food down a bit like a wolf, and then probably have an after dinner nap.
One day Ivan rang the bell with no food ready for Roverski. The pooch was suitably confused and skulked back to his basket plotting revenge if it should ever happen again.
The following day the same thing did indeed happen so Roverski quite rightly attacked Ivan and bit his face off and ate that instead.
Never again did Pavlov piss about with Roverskis bell.
You probably already know about Pavlov, his dog and his bell in which case you also know what a conditioned response, conditioned reflex, or as we call it in NLP, an anchor is.
Imagine you’re walking down the street and as you walk past a bakery and you get hit by the smell of freshly baked croissants.
Immediately you are transported to a different time and a different place without the aid of hallucinogenics. A time that you remember with fondness, a time from your childhood when you were blissfully happy and content.
Without anything else happening your step becomes lighter and you’re thinking to yourself, “Aint it great to be alive?”
Alternatively, you’re driving down the highway when a certain record comes on the radio. It’s the record that you and your ex-partner thought of as being written just for you two.
You’d get all dewy eyed and weak-kneed when you heard it together and you’d probably stare into each other’s eyes for days on end or until you keeled over from severe dehydration.
Unfortunately, he or she ran off with your insanely wealthy former best friend to live in bliss on a Caribbean Island, and now it just makes you want to sob your little eyes out.
The reality is nothing tangible happened in either of the above events. You were still in exactly the same situation on the same day with the same clothes on and the same amount of cash in the bank, yet your state shifted in an instant.
That is what we call an anchor and you have thousands of them whether you know about them or not. Some are beneficial like the former example, but a lot aren’t, like the latter.
When I was about 12 I was traveling home from school on the bus eating a scotch egg. For the uninitiated, a scotch egg is a disgusting concoction of a hard-boiled egg covered in sausage meat and breadcrumbs.
I ate this thing at a time when I knew I was coming down with flu or something similar. I spent the next 2 weeks in bed feeling awful and the Scotch egg wasn’t even to blame.
However, afterwards the thought of eating one of those things was anathema to me. I would have rather eaten my own spleen such was my level of revulsion.
That is a negative anchor going into overdrive.
My unconscious mind was linking Scotch Egg to illness and said “No way kiddo, you’re not eating one of those nasty things ever again”
People can have a similar reaction after becoming ill though excessive alcohol intake. The thought of drinking afterward can cause their unconscious mind to recreate the same feelings in an attempt to stop them. Some people actually do say never again and stick to it.
Imagine having an anchor for confidence, wouldn’t that be a cool thing to have? Well let’s do it then!
Firstly, find a time when you can close your eyes and you’re not going to be disturbed for 15 or 20 minutes so it’s probably not wise to try this in a busy office or whilst operating heavy machinery.
Take a deep breath, exhale slowly and as you do allow your eyes to close and a wave of relaxation to flow down your body. Do this three or four times with your eyes remaining closed and just allow yourself to become completely relaxed.
3. Think Confident
When you are at a stage that we professional life coaches officially call ‘chilled to da bone mon’, start to re-create the feelings that you are looking to anchor and have on tap. If it’s confidence, think of a time when you were full of confidence.
Note: To create what ever state you want you need to see what you would have seen when you previously experienced it, hear what you would have heard and feel what you felt. If there are any tastes or smells associated with the experience, then allow them to be present too. When you are in the moment let the feelings double, then double again and then continue to intensify.
4. Time To Anchor
When you get to a point when you just know they are about to peak, set the anchor. This simply involves touching a place on your body that you can replicate easily at any time in the future. Common places are the forearm, knuckles, pulling ear lobe, index finger onto thumb but nowhere that might get you arrested.
Try to avoid a motion that you already use regularly as we don’t want you firing this anchor by mistake all the time. The only absolute requisite is that you can replicate exactly whatever it is you decide to do. So if you use fingers on forearms you need to use the same amount of fingers and the same amount of pressure each time.
5. Break Your State
When you have done this break your state by thinking about something completely different for a few moments, like how come cats are so keen on fish yet if you throw one in a river they thrash around and complain a lot. Not that I would ever do such a thing by the way,
6. Fire The Anchor
Now fire the anchor by repeating whatever action you decided on. When you do this allow the feelings to flow, do not fight them, just know they will be there.
7. Rinse And Repeat
If they are not as intense as you would like (and they almost certainly wont be the first few times), no problem, do the process again and reinforce it. You can do this as often as you like and each time you’ll increase the intensity, so stick with it because it always works although it take different length of times for different people.
Note: Anchoring can not not work if you do it properly because it literally changes the structure of your brain. If you are familiar with the phrase ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’ you will understand what I mean.
If you would like to see a video demo of setting anchors, here you go.
There’s Even More
I could have actually made this 9 ways to become more confident and I actually use two more processes regularly with clients just to make sure we nail it.
However, we are delving deep into the realms of NLP and Hypnotherapy and to explain the other methods would easily double the length of this post and may get a tad too technical and I think you have enough to go at.
Tony Robbins Photo Courtesy of Randy Stewart