4 Tools to Cultivate Confidence

My sis, Tortilla enjoying the aftermath of one of our camping misadventures.
A vintage picture of my sis, Tortilla, splashing around in the aftermath of one of our church  youth group camping misadventures.

Today is the day! Dalton and I are leaving for Zion National Park around lunch time and I am feeling a little queasy-nervous. I’m pretty anxious normally, but camping isn’t something I’ve done a lot of period and it’s something that I’ve almost never pulled off successfully. I’ve prepared as much as I can, and Dalton has prepared way more than I have, but at the end of the day, I don’t have enough good experiences doing this to know what I need to bring or what I need to prepare to have a good time sleeping outdoors.

In short, I’m not comfortable and I don’t know what I’m doing and that feeling has been bleeding into everything else. It’s driving me crazy, it’s driving Dalton crazy (although, he’s been really kind not to mention that my needy attitude has been getting annoying), and I just want this trip to be a good one.

I don’t know how many other people feel about the subject, but to me, a big part of attraction (whether romantic or otherwise) is confidence. There’s something magnetic about a person who has a sense of surety interacting with the world. People with reactionary or easily offended personalities are often seen as having low confidence and no one wants to be the emotional babysitter of someone who is constantly denigrating themselves (for example: me right now).

Unfortunately for me, I’m not one of those blessed with a natural self-confidence seemingly endowed to every child and teen that’s ever existed. Even as a kid I always assumed other people knew what they were talking about and I wasn’t smart, pretty, or good enough to do things the way they should be done. But as I got older and started to realize that not only were other people not always as smart, pretty, or as good as I thought they were, but also that I had good insight and value in my own right.

The good feelings I have about myself were hard won. I’ve had to cultivate and nurture them. Years of practice has taught me that I’m capable of getting myself out of this funk.

When it comes to cultivating positive emotions, I believe that there’s a place for the “fake it til you make it” method (although, you don’t want to totally suppress your emotions…cults do that). You’ve probably heard that smiling for a few minutes can turn a sour mood around, but did you know that there are similar techniques proven to boost self-confidence?

All of these moves are from my personal bag of tricks curated over a lifetime of having to pretend to be charming when some days all I feel is inadequate. Take it from me, a little self-trickery can go a long way…

1. Swing Your Arms:
Quit your moping, Stan!
Quit your moping, Stan!

I learned this one from a church youth leader when I was in middle school and it’s been a favorite exercise ever since. Lots of people are aware of how sitting with poor posture closes them off, but have you noticed that keeping your arms too close to your body when walking can have a similar effect?

When you’re walking, experiment with the length of your stride and the swing of your arms. First, try swinging them a little closer to the body than you normally would and taking slightly shorter steps. You’ll start to feel confined and tired. Next, start taking larger steps and swinging your arms a little more broadly ( you don’t have to go crazy though–we’re walking here, not doing lunges). You’ll likely notice that your whole body becomes more relaxed and you feel more invigorated.

2.Deep breathing:
This  site has a lot of great tips to optimize your breathing: http://www.breathing.com
This site has a lot of great tips to optimize your breathing: http://www.breathing.com

There’s a reason yoga and pilates instructors are constantly reminding you about your breathing. Relaxing your diaphragm and filling up your lungs completely is simultaneously calming and invigorating. I tend to get frazzled and frustrated quickly, so recently I’ve started to rewire my response to these feelings by making myself aware of how much air I’m taking in.

It’s especially good to do mid-conversation or when it’s necessary to give a tactful response to a difficult question. Initially, it might seem weird to pause, but it’s great for a lot of reasons. It buys you time to formulate a response, it gets more oxygen to your brain which means you’ll be more articulate, and the person talking to you reads this body language as being thoughtful and engaged in the conversation.

It’s the conversational equivalent of putting the oxygen mask on yourself before helping the person next to you. Everybody wins.

3. Power poses:
Power Posing: Not just a silly thing you saw on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Power Posing: Not just a silly thing you saw on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

I’m going to be up front with you: you might feel silly doing this at first. However, there is real science to back up the usefulness of power poses. In fact, if you haven’t watched the awesome TED Talk by Amy Cuddy about power posing you really really should.

When I was in Titus Andronicus this past October one of the Grassroots Shakespeare producers/cast members had us do power poses as a warm up before rehearsals and performances and I cannot describe how empowered I felt after.

To do the Wonder Woman pose stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart and place your hands on your hips. Lift your chest and allow your stomach to relax as you breathe into your diaphragm and chest.

4. Manufacture a Win:

Some days you make big plans and nothing is going your way and everything feels off. Some days you just need a win.

This is a good time to hone in on something you might consider mundane and tackle it with full force. Past manufactured win activities for me have included organizing my sock drawer, organizing my closet, crocheting a cowel, writing and publishing a short blog post, learning how to make tables in html, teaching myself a new tool in GIMP (the open source software I use to edit a lot of my photos), doing a short pilates or yoga video….you get the picture.

Don’t get too ambitious or complicated with it. The point is to do something productive even if it’s small or easy. Bad days and mistakes happen, but you don’t have to wallow in failure. Manufacturing a win is like hitting the “reset” button.

Some of these might seem a little weird, but weird isn’t bad. As the wise, amazing, beautiful, talented, Amy Poehler says,

“There’s power in looking silly and not caring that you do.”

But, if you’re headed to an interview, a big meeting  or an audition you can always try to find a restroom stall to Wonder Woman it up or take a power stroll from a far away parking spot if you don’t want anyone to see you.

That’s about it for me, but I’d also love to hear what you guys think! This week, I hit 20 followers for this blog (none of which are my mom somehow) and it’s really meant a lot to me to feel that support and interest in what I’ve been putting out there. I’d love to know if you guys have any confidence-boosting tips, tricks, songs or video clips, quotes, or exercises that get you back on track too.

In closing, I’m going to leave you with a song that I’m [almost] ashamed to admit that I love. The first few years after I moved to Utah were really hard, but every time this song came on my crappy RCA mp3 player I was like, “I know I’m gonna be okay…”



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