Sunday, 18 October 2015

5 Steps To Confidence

Hey guys! 
I hope you're all well. I reached out to a great friend and inspiration of mine Ali Stevenson who just so happens to be an amazing confidence coach whom has helped me greatly with my own self-confidence. Ali runs 'The Happiness Hack', a place where you can keep up to date with inspiring quotes, thoughts of the day and confidence boosting posts and advice. 

Ali was kind enough to help me write this post and because of this, here are 5 scientifically proven steps to confidence.  

What is confidence?

Confidence means something different to everyone because we all have different skill sets. We are usually most confident within our own skill set.
For some people the idea of public speaking is terrifying. I know I am on that boat. We are usually at our most confident when we are doing what we are comfortable with, for example, a hobby or your daily job. Fears are of different levels to everyone and come in different forms. As Ali said, for some people, public speaking is their worst nightmare, and for others the idea of walking onto a crowded beach in nothing but a bikini could scare them to their core. Or, it could be both!

The clue to this is what we do often, we become good at and what we're good at, we are confident at. But how can we be confident at some things and not at others? Is it at all possible to extend our confidence so that we are confident in all that we do?

According to Ali, it is! This, however, does not mean it is easy to do. As with everything, it takes time and a hell of a lot of dedication.

  1. The first thing we can do is to start making little changes that count. 

In the words of Lao Tzu, 'a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'. If we try to change too much of our lives at once, it tends to take over and we can lose sight of everything else, potentially giving up before we've even started. By making lots of small changes on a daily basis, we make real change with a knock-on effect. As you become more confident in one area, you’ll become more willing to try and become confident in others. Confidence breeds confidence. But what do we need to do to make these changes occur?

- We have to examine our lives. This is really tough because we are experts at lying to ourselves! So before we can achieve anything we have to learn to be brutally honest with ourselves and find the strength to acknowledge what we don't like. Next, we draw up a plan and act on it.

- We have to become mindful. We have to make sure we are constantly aware of thinking, communication and behaving in a positive way.

  • Thinking
We know thoughts become things, which can manifest what we want in life so it stands to reason that if we banish negative thoughts as soon as they appear, we can remain more positive.
  • Behaving
That is a no brainer. Ali says, "I call it physical kindness. This is using our actions with positive intent, the intent to do no harm. Making others happy makes us happy, even the smallest of gestures."
  • Communication
This is the most important. The thing with communication is that very little of it is verbal. Roughy 83% is non verbal, 10% - 15% is verbal and the other is what is known as neutral. Within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone, you have an opinion of them, them of you and not a word has been spoken! Body language is our first language so to speak. Our first impressions in social situations, for example at a party, are a lot more relaxed and honest than work situations. Here’s the kicker – no matter how beautiful you are or how exquisite your outfit, if you lack confidence, it is glaringly obvious. Your hair, makeup and dress will be saying – ‘I'm so confident’ but your face, smile and body language will be saying ‘get me out of here’, and that is exactly what everyone is going to see, whether they are consciously looking for it or not. Rumour has it confidence can be faked. According to Ali, that is a complete and utter myth. "Faking body language takes years and usually requires training in one of the neurosciences. A lecturer at Quantico, explained how it took him a year to improve his teaching techniques with the use of hand gestures. So if it takes a highly qualified individual that amount of time, it stands to reason that it takes hard work and dedication from the rest of us."
Faking a smile is one of the most typical ways in which lack of confidence is clear. We have all faked a smile or two, but we also know how infuriating it is when someone fakes a smile in your directions. Girls, am I right?! Going back to Ali's earlier point about thinking positively, 99% of the time, it's not aimed at you. "Everyone has 'stuff/baggage' and we need to be empathetic and mature enough to meet a fake smile with a real one or reach out and ask that person what's up. Furthermore remember, 'I'm OK' is the world's most used lie." A real smile includes the entire face, a fake smile, just the bottom half of the face is engaged. We can also have an entire conversation with our eyes, just with our heads, our arms, we can also of course have a conversation with our entire body.

Bringing me to step 2.

2. The superhero pose.

Once we have mastered a conversation with our entire body, we then have to concentrate on positioning our body during that conversation to get the right message across, sometimes proximity is everything. 
"A good example is a powerful woman standing assertively; feet planted firmly with her arms crossed across her chest. In a normal conversation it can be considered arrogant and pretentious - other women will be thinking, 'bitch, who does she think she is?' in a business or professional environment it says, 'don't mess with me, I mean business!' This pose is also adopted by people across the Globe on a daily basis to boost confidence - it makes us feel strong and invincible and leads to us feeling confident; it works to send us on our way feeling empowered! It's called the 'superhero pose/stance."
  • Let’s start with smiling. 

The brain is a funny old thing. It is simultaneously the world’s greatest super-computer and incredibly gullible to suggestion. It doesn’t take much suggestion before your brain is doing exactly what you want it to. "I bet you're thinking, huh? Isn’t that in reverse? Not only can we influence the messages being sent from the brain to the body, but we can also influence the messages being sent from the body to the brain. How do we influence this conversation between body and brain – with mindfulness? The interesting thing is that we can change the chemicals in our brain to serve us best depending on the situation we are in. Having a bad day? Smile! It doesn’t even have to be real. Once the brain registers the smile muscles working, it releases a neuro-chemical called dopamine, which lightens our mood!" 

  • Next, we need to start improving our posture! 

No more slouching! We can not only use a smile to change the levels of dopamine in our brain, simply by standing up straight with a confident posture, *SUPERHERO POSE* releases this chemical. It has been proven that people who slouch a lot, are more prone to bouts of depression than people with good posture. We need to constantly make ourselves aware of our facial expressions, our posture, and indeed all our body language. If you keep this up within 30 days your body will start to learn these habits. A very easy way to stop fight or flight is to count, breathe and think of your favourite food or drink.

  3. Start changing your outlook on yourself and others.

That voice you hear when you look in the mirror, who’s voice is it? And most importantly, is it honest? It just takes one off-hand comment and it will stick with us. It doesn’t matter what it is in reference to, a new dress, or hair cut, we always remember the critical remarks. The reason for this is that our brains are hardwired for self preservation; therefore we always focus on the negative. Conversely, we don’t remember the good remarks, because either, we battle with self-love or We are constantly being bombarded with bullshit by the media. I am sick of hearing, If you’re not a certain size - you’re fat, if you have wrinkles or old, you’re past your best, if you don’t wear a certain label or drive a certain car, you aren’t seen as successful. Because we are constantly bombarded with these images and advertisements on a daily basis, we start to believe them. According to Ali, and she is too right, "we are suffering a world epidemic of loss of happiness and confidence because we care too much of what others think! JUST STOP!" 

  • Learn to take compliments!
"What about how we talk to ourselves? 90% of our internal dialogue on a normal day will be self-deprecating. When last did you gracefully accept a compliment without saying ‘Oh, gosh, really? Are you serious?’ – ‘well for me, I’m really out of shape at the moment’ – ‘Haha! I was just thinking what a mess my hair is today!’. The people in your life that are hyper-critical of you are either jealous or they have no clue what you’re trying to achieve. Like I said before, the problem is our brains are programmed to focus on the negative. So these comments stay with us. Concerning internal dialogue, the most important change we have to make is how we speak to ourselves. Your ongoing comments throughout the day like, idiot – fool – stupid – useless. Saying these words over and over again, we start believing them. Think about this for a second? What would you do if someone in your life, someone that you’re friends with, or a family member spoke to you the way you speak to yourself? Would you want to spend time with them? No!"
  • Stop falling into the comparison trap.
It is incredibly destructive to compare your life, what you have and yourself to others. Why? - Because you can never win. There will always be someone who has more or who is better than you at a certain skill. Instead, focus on you, your achievements, how far you’ve come and your goals. Find good role-models that you aspire to, not that you compare yourself with.

4. Start taking responsibility.

You need to stop blaming others and making excuses. One of the biggest steps towards empowering yourself is taking responsibility and making yourself accountable for your life, your decisions and their outcome. If there is something you want to do in life, go for it. Don’t let anybody talk you out of it or stand in your way. You have to always stay true to yourself. Follow your bliss.
When you are met with comments like ‘you’ll never do that’, don’t see it as a criticism, see it as a challenge. Say to yourself ‘I will prove you wrong’. You can do anything you want to do. If you want it badly enough, if it makes you happy, if you’re prepared to work harder than you ever have. There is nothing that you cannot achieve! You have to be brave, stay focused and above all, stay true to yourself. The only limits we truly have in this life are the ones we put there ourselves, sometimes you just have to get the hell out of your own way, and we have to pursue our truth, relentlessly. Sure, we’ll have to make sacrifices along the way, but if you keep your eyes on your goal and keep things in perspective, those sacrifices won’t be such a big deal.
Stop blaming it on lack of time, or "I wasn't prepared". Make yourself prepared, put yourself into situations and face them head on. Now is where your confidence can really shine. You have to really push yourself in order to really reap the benefits. 

5. Become your own best friend.

Someone said you me, you can't love others if you don't learn to love yourself. Pretty harsh, but it does hold some truth. Going back to Ali's previous point about changing that voice inside your head, turning it into a positive and tuning out the negative. Confidence comes from positivity and if you are kind to yourself, others will see that.

  • - Learn to trust yourself
Often referred to in laymen’s terms as ‘gut instinct’. The best example is that feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time, you don’t know them, but every fibre of your being is telling you there is something wrong. That voice, which is screaming to you to run? Listen to it! Think back to how we discussed how you can have an entire conversation without speaking in under 30 seconds. Your sub-conscious has picked up something negative and is telling you, don’t ignore it.
  • Allow yourself to experience as much as possible
Experience, in my opinion, is the key to success and I don’t mean just doing something over and over again. I’m talking about the experience we gain in life, our acquired knowledge that isn’t taught at school (street smart).  
Throughout these experiences, we make mistakes; and that’s okay. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that mistakes are a fundamental necessity to being as true to ourselves as possible. If we lived in a world were no mistakes were made, and people didn’t keep trying, we would never progress. You need to look at your life in the same way.
  • Allow yourself to feel
There are no bad emotions. Everything we feel serves us and serves a purpose in our personal growth and development. Be grateful for your mistakes; be grateful for your sadness or you could never recognise true happiness. Be grateful for the times that you’re afraid, or you will never recognise how truly courageous you really are. You have to live with what I like to call an ‘attitude of gratitude’. If you don’t feel grateful for what you have now, what makes you think you’ll suddenly be happy with more?
  • Live with purpose
Aim that when you get to the age of 80, you’ll never have given yourself the opportunity to say:
‘I wish I’d just.....’
‘I wish I’d said sorry’
‘I wish I’d worked harder’
‘I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time worrying about what other people thought or said about me’
  • When we live with purpose we not only live for ourselves and our happiness, but for those around us. 
Not only our friends and family, but for our communities, our country and this beautiful planet Earth we call home. Think of ways to serve others, volunteer, practice random acts of kindness or my own personal favourite challenge: do one good deed a day but don’t get found out. If you take credit for it, it doesn’t count. 
You don't have to leave this earth a celebrity to have made your mark on this world.

Please check out Ali's work. I can't thank her enough for all the help she has given me toward this blog post and with my own confidence and I hope this helped you!

The Happiness Hack 

Much love xx