Humans don’t only communicate with words – we tell people things about ourselves all the time via non-verbal cues: our expressions, tics, posture, behaviour and physicality. For example, if you’re standing in a group with your head held high, your shoulders relaxed and a smile on your face, you’re telling everyone you’re comfortable and confident. Just as if you’re feeling insecure you’ll probably be hunched over, quiet and fidgety.
But here’s a secret: just as feeling confident will make you look confident, faking looking confident will actually make you feel more confident. A study in the European Journal Of Social Psychology reported how people who sat up straight in their chairs were more confident about what they were asked to write down than the people who were slouching. Simply appearing more confident and assured made them feel more confident and assured.
How you look – your stance, body language, clothes and appearance – not only says something to other people, but also to yourself. If you shuffle into work looking like you’ve just survived the zombie apocalypse, people are going to treat you warily and defensively, the same way they will if you avoid making eye contact, constantly stare at the floor, apologise incessantly and hide under your desk whenever anyone approaches.
However, even if you feel awful, by raising your chin, relaxing your shoulders and making eye contact, and dressing in a way that looks like you’ve made an effort (whatever your personal style), you’re telling yourself, ‘I can do this’, and people will respond to you positively, making you feel more positive in return.
There’s also a direct body-brain link. If your body is stressed, your thoughts become more anxious. So if you’re all tied-up in knots physically you’re unlikely to have a calm mindset. Relaxing your body will relax your mind.
Try this: when you next notice your shoulders hunched around your ears, drop them. That’s it – just drop them. You’ll instantly feel calmer and more in control because you took action and your body will stop sending ‘PANIC’ signals to your brain.
Faking confidence is a simple route to feeling more confident. It’s a win-win.