My Experiences on How to Become More Confident
At the age of 16, I was this guy.
Hands in pocket. Shoulders low. Overweight. Totally adorable, though.
I had read a quote, “fake it til’ you make it.”
And this resonated with me. I didn’t know the source. I still don’t. I had no case studies. There was no data to support this quote, but, for some reason, I put the development of who I was behind it.
As you can imagine, I wasn’t so confident at the time. I was a pretty fun person, I think, but not many really knew that because I was quite shy. I crumbled hard on the rare occasion a girl would ask me for a pencil or something.
And somehow, in the process of handing them a pencil, I would manage to do something weird enough for them to laugh “at my cuteness.”
So I guess I needed something to latch onto. This quote was it.
I determined I was going to act like the person I wanted to be until I became the person I wanted to be.
So I started by literally going onto Google and looking up,
“how to be confident”.
Almost like you are doing, I reached out to the internet for answers. You’re on the right path.
After doing that, I read through everything I could find and wrote down on a note card a massive compilation of surface levels tips from long articles on specific things to do.
And I did them. I memorized them.
Despite this, they were still traits of genuinely confident people. And I was not a genuinely confident people.
So I probably looked super weird at first. And if you try this, you likely will too.
It helps. It works. And the growing pains are worth it.
One year later, at age 17, I was doing much better.
In this photo, you will see I lost some weight, which helped, but I still didn’t know how to really maintain conversation, so I generally went for short moments of high energy. As seen below in this lovely photo with my weirdly positioned self after the girls posed for the photo.
(One of my notes was to get into pictures)
You will also see I circled my hands. I had a notorious case of the hover hand.
I distinctly remember why this happened. Believe it or not, they kind of gave me time to ‘hop in’ and yet, this is how I posed.
I remember being too uncomfortable to place my hand on them.
“Is that weird?”
“Am I allowed to touch them?”
Like I said, it doesn’t happen overnight.
On my way to college, around age 18/19 I learn more tricks like;
- Lots of eye contact (listening = connection)
- Repeat their name in conversation (names = good feelings)
- Turn your head slowly if someone calls your name (turning your head quickly shows eagerness)
- Walk slowly (you are important, no one is rushing you anywhere)
- Don’t fidget (shows you are nervous)
- Don’t touch your face (nervousness)
- Don’t bite your lips (nervousness)
- Hold your shoulders back (shows power)
- Don’t brush lint off your clothes (shows insecurity)
- Respond to text 1 1/2 the time it took for them to respond (you are busy)
- Associate with other confident people (makes you confident)
(first semester at a bowling event)
Beauuutiful. The kid starts to get some swagger. Hover hand is no more!
Two things were happening at this point. First, it was working. This photo was pretty natural. I remember hardly even thinking twice in this photo.
The second thing, though, is that retrospectively, much of how I walked and talked felt fake. And I mean… it was.
While this one came out well, I generally still felt like I was holding my hands a certain way so to not be perceived as X or Y or Z.
My motions and movements were pre-planned and unnatural. So while it helped me develop, it also became a handicap to an extent.
If you can find the magical middle ground where it helps you grow without being a handicap, you are in a good place that I was not.
But continuing on this timeline it wasn’t until around the end of freshmen year that the training wheels began to come off and I was a free-flying bird.
My pre-planned, faked emotions dissipated and became natural. I was actually becoming a confident person.
Funny enough, through college people then began to tell me I had natural charisma.
However, this is the moment where it feels like you crest the hill and are looking into the valley of opportunity and prosperity.
When it starts to become natural, you start to get momentum. In the realm of confidence, this is when you win. You start to get victories without thinking about it and you are okay with losses.
By 21 — I was speaking at a TEDx event in Richmond, VA.
Looking like a ‘natural’ if I dare say so myself.
And lastly, we have the present day nutcase.
So there ya have it.
The takeaway advice that is immediately actionable is to completely fake it.
I don’t recommend becoming a fake person disengaged from your core values.
But sit in the mirror tonight. Look at yourself in the mirror, think of the most confident person you can imagine.
Is it Brad Pitt? Is it Superman? Is it your neighbor John?
Stare at yourself. Emulate them. Stand like them. Hold your shoulders like them. Walk like them. Talk like them. Steal their best moves.
It’s gonna feel fake. It’s gonna feel weird. It’s gonna work.
This is what I did.
Here is a thoughtful piece on Passion. If you liked this answer. I think you will really enjoy it.
Here is the TED Talk I mentioned -> The Opposite Effect - TEDx RVA open mic night (do note it is short and on an unrelated topic).