Confidence is something I’ve struggled with since my teens. I remember feeling my lack of it hit full force when I made the transition from primary to secondary school. It’s a terrifying time that really tests your self confidence.
It hit again when I chose a different college to most of my friends and had to make new friends. This time, I’d chosen to push myself out of my comfort zone but I had no idea how much it would affect me. I made friends, sure, but I missed the closeness I used to have with my school friends and this made me a lot shyer throughout my college experience.
For some reason, I decided to push myself even further out of my comfort zone by moving away to University in Southampton. I’m actually really proud of how much I socialised at Uni, it was just the course that proved a massive disappointment.
By the end of it all, after many tearful phone calls and hesitation over whether I was doing the right thing, I left University. My confidence was at rock bottom. The retail job I had immediately after leaving did not help in the slightest either. It was like a baptism of fire, and I bow down to anyone who works in retail. It’s not an easy job.
Any situation that throws you out of your comfort zone is bound to test your confidence from starting a new job, to giving a presentation to a room full of people.
In particular, I’ve found that the careers world is where my confidence has wavered the most. I’ve had a few knock backs which have dented my confidence and have accepted roles which I know are going to push me out of my comfort zone. ( I’ve no idea why as I spend countless nights worrying about big meetings, conferences and other work related things.)
There’s so much that I want to achieve that when opportunities present themselves at work, most of the time, I jump in headfirst and can’t wait to get started but then the inner critic kicks in and questions whether I will make a good job of it.
Then there’s the social confidence that I also struggle with. Starting a new job is one of the most daunting experiences for me. However, I’m now completely comfortable at work and love the team around me. I don’t hesitate to have a chat with my colleagues whereas when I first started, I would have to pep myself up in my head to actually think about approaching someone.
It’s not only at work that I struggle with this. It comes with meeting new people too. Big family gatherings make me nervous. I’m okay once I get to know people more but those surface level relationships that form are those that I struggle to connect with. Aka the small talk. Eugh, I hate it.
I’m not sure where this lack of confidence comes from, especially the social one. I’m a naturally shy person but although I say this, I feel I’m quite outgoing too. My Myer’s Briggs test tells me I’m an ENFJ which is on the extrovert spectrum. Maybe, due to my lack of confidence, I’m not giving myself enough credit for how outgoing I am.
We all know the phrase ‘fake it till you make it’ but it’s definitely easier said than done for most of us. It does work though. Tried and tested at family occasions. It’s especially useful when you’re asked awkward questions.
The thing is, it’s extremely tiring for someone who is not typically confident to fake confidence for a few hours. There’s an annual event I go to at work where I fake confidence for the entire day and I get home and go straight to bed. It’s draining.
The question is how do I fake it?
- Be ultra positive and passionate when you’re speaking about a topic
- Ask lots of questions (people love to talk, so let them! This also takes the attention off of you)
- Power dress. I cannot explain how confident and in charge I feel when I know I look good
- Mind your body language. Try to appear relaxed when you speak to someone, use hand gestures if necessary
- Prepare. Probably the most important point of all is to prepare if you’re having to network or take on a complex piece of work. You can’t really prepare if it’s just a conversation with someone in a non- work context but think before you speak and listen to them
- Smile and maintain eye contact
- Don’t fidget! This makes you look nervous. Must. Not. Play. With. My. Hair.
Everyone gets nervous at times, just remember they’re only people and most people aren’t judging you, they’re more worried about themselves.