Confident woman

Giving a tricky presentation to your Board. Being interviewed on the radio about CEO pay or workplace culture. Your first day back in the office after months spent in your comfies on the other side of Zoom.

These are among the challenges faced by my non-profit coaching clients over the past 12 months. These things can always feel tricky, but the intense times we’re living through seem to be turning the ‘I’m not sure if I can do it’ dial up to 11 for many leaders.

How about you? Are you feeling it too?

In these situations, ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ is a great strategy. If you wait until you feel 100% confident, guess what? You’ll be waiting a very long time before you’re brave enough to get out there. (If you’re doubting your skills, knowledge or competency, take a look at this blog first.)

The good news is that there are some simple things you can do to help. When you change your behaviour – even in seemingly small ways – your feelings will follow and you will gradually become more confident.

Give these five ‘fake it til you make it’ actions a try. They will seriously (and in a fun way) help you face whatever challenging situations life throws at you, until one day you’ll find you no longer need to fake it at all – you’re truly feeling it!

1. High-power poses

We may have mocked politicians throwing power poses at their national conference a few years ago (you’re meant to do them in preparation for, not during, an event), but open-body, high-power poses with feet planted firmly on the ground really will help you feel more confident. It’s been shown that these poses raise testosterone and lower cortisol (stress) levels, sending a powerful message to your brain that says ‘I know what I’m about’. From there, well, the sky is the limit. Give it a go and you’ll see what I mean.

2. Dress for success

Non-verbal behaviour such as dressing well gives a message to others that you mean business. But more than that, it gives the same powerful message – to YOU. If you’ve been wearing the same old gear over lockdown how about investigating what’s in the back of your wardrobe and pulling out an outfit that will help you ooze confidence? I’m not talking about 80s shoulder pads or pinstripe suits (though if that’s your thing, go for it). I’m talking about clothes you love and that fit well, in colours that flatter you. Not only will you feel good about yourself, you’ll instil a feeling of confidence in others, too. I know this may sound simple, but you’ll be amazed what a difference it makes.

3. Smile

The number one way to feel confident is to act confident. And the best way to do that? Smile. Research shows that even if you are smiling in a totally fake way you still get the benefit of positive hormones. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Now I’m not suggesting that you show up for your challenging meeting with a fake, fixed smile on your face – that could so easily go wrong! No, this is about giving your self a confidence hit BEFORE you’re about to do something challenging. Look in the mirror and give yourself a really fabulous smile. You’ll notice the difference in how you feel straightaway.

4. Slow down

When we are in a tizz, we tend to rush and do everything super quickly. It’s human nature and we all do it. But to feel in control, you want to slooooow it right down. (I’m a tennis fan and try to model no 1 seed, Djokovic. He leaves the maximum amount of time between his serves on the big points. Clever guy). What could you slow down? A great place to start is your breathing. The pace of your speaking. Your movements.

5. Open body language

This is a great action for the ‘fake it til you make it’ tool kit because it requires such a tiny amount of effort. When we feel powerless or in danger, we generally make ourselves small. But when we use our bodies to open up and create space, we immediately feel more powerful. So, sitting up with shoulders back, with a forward eye gaze, adopting an open frame rather than with hands wrapped defensively in front, all adds up to increased self-belief. It doesn’t matter if your interactions are all in Zoom right now – this stuff still works. And once we’re back to being in the same physical space as our colleagues and peers? Stride confidently, however you’re feeling. Develop a firm handshake. Look people in the eye when you talk. These things matter.

A word about women

In my coaching with non-profit leaders I’ve found that these ‘fake it til you make it’ behaviours are particularly important for women. For various reasons we are more likely than men to doubt our abilities, meaning that often the top table does not reflect the diversity we all want to see in our organisations.

Have you ever seen an amazing woman walk up to a podium to collect an award or prize (which they thoroughly deserve, by the way) and do that running walk thing with shoulders all hunched up? And a sort of mini-me smile on her face. Me too!

It’s great to see so many women stepping into their power – and I’d love to see more women taking up space and moving through the world with confidence, even if it means ‘faking it’ for a while.

Ready to step into your value?

Feelings of inadequacy and a loss of confidence affect us all from time to time, and it can be hard to move through them on your own. If those feelings have been holding you back for too long and you’re ready to step up and into a greater level of self-belief, please do get in touch. I would love to have a chat about how I might be able to support you. You can send me a message using the form below, or book a no-obligation Discovery Call here. We could be talking later today.