Where are my trousers?
These are all really important questions that we must deal with throughout our lives but sometimes it can be tricky coming up with a suitable answer.
Confidence is fragile. It comes and goes when it wants and it can reduce even the strongest of people into quivering wrecks. You can ‘fake it until you make it’ but this isn’t true confidence. It’s just papering over the cracks and eventually people will begin to see through it.
For example, Mike Tyson gave the impression that he was the baddest man on the planet but inside he was just a little boy who would often cry before a big fight. He learnt how to channel this fear into aggression, which is one of the reasons why he was so explosive in his early career.
He used to win fights before the bell had even rung because mentally, his opponents believed they were about to fight a machine. A great example of how one man’s fake confidence would reduce another man’s actual confidence. Eventually his future opponents would see through this persona and his intimidation tactics stopped working.
Simply, faking confidence doesn’t work in the long run.
As with every life situation, both real and imaginary, the key is always to accept and embrace it, not to push it away in the hope it doesn’t return. It always does and it often comes back stronger than before.
This is why I have collected a few ‘confidence hacks’ that I have used over the years to both improve myself as a person and to grow some balls in the process.
So here are 3 confidence hacks that will hopefully kill your inner shyness and allow you to hopefully become the person you see in your mind’s eye.
1. Use baby steps to desensitise yourself
A lot of self-help books and so called ‘gurus’ often tell their readers to ‘feel the fear, but do it anyway’. This is fine in principle but in reality it’s as helpful as telling someone with depression to ‘snap out of it’.
It makes no sense.
You can’t suddenly start bench pressing 300lbs if you have never stepped foot inside a gym, so you start off with a light weight and gradually build yourself up, getting progressively stronger until you’re throwing the barbell across the room like a horny Gorilla.
Until 2007 I was terrified of approaching women. Oddly the more alcohol I drank, the more nervous I would get. Looking across the bar, I would spot a cute blonde and for a split second, I was James Bond. I was cool, smooth and confident.
That was until the point when I started to consider the prospect of actually speaking to her for real.
Then I would realise how socially inept I really was. This is the reality for a lot of men, most men actually. It’s a crippling fear of being shot down in flames and being the object of laughter and mockery from all those present.
When you’ve been single for as long as I had, you eventually reach a tipping point when enough is enough. I devised a plan; I would set out a series of steps to gradually desensitise myself to the horrors of speaking to women I found attractive.
I caught the bus into town and proceeded to visit as many clothing stores as I could find and upon seeing a cute shop assistant, walk up to her and ask her a question. That’s it. That’s step 1.
After doing this several times I would up the ante a little by trying to change the topic from finding a pair of jeans to literally anything else. It was scary trying to transition from the thing she is being paid to do (helping me as a customer) to actually engaging in a conversation about something completely non work related.
But I did it.
Step 3 – try to make her laugh, flirt a little. Probably the hardest step as it was the first time my brain would have to contend with the possibility of a negative reaction.
But I did it.
Step 4 would be to stop a girl in the street and ask her for directions or an opinion on where to go for a certain activity. ‘Hey, excuse me a second, do you know where I can find a good shoe store around here?’
It’s simple and it’s more practice for the brain to get used to approaching cute women.
Once I started to incorporate these methods into the bars and nightclubs (along with the help of a few beers) I found it a lot easier to talk to women. But this would have been virtually impossible for me if I hadn’t broken it down into smaller, more manageable steps first.
You can use this method for anything that terrifies you.
Does the thought public speaking reduce you to tears? Maybe start chatting on the phone whilst on the bus.
Are you afraid of going on a rollercoaster? Head to the local funfair and ride the merry-go-round.
Do you find it difficult saying no to friends and family? Start by assertively (and politely) saying no to cold callers and sales agents.
Simple but effective!
2. Go back to the future
I use to be a bit of a wimp in my younger days. Always being punched, kicked and bullied by those scary looking kids who were looking to indulge their budding psychopathic tendencies. I remember one such occasion when this boy grabbed me from behind and tried to wrestle me into the ground. I struggled to keep my balance and by some stroke of luck, I managed to swivel round and escape his clutches before I hit the deck.
With my heart racing and my pants turning brown, I would hear those immortal words that most of us hear at least once in our childhood;
‘What have you been saying about me?’
Now, this was playground code for ‘I want to beat you into a bloody pulp’. I knew this and the 50 or so people forming a circle around us knew this too.
They smelt blood and in their eyes I was merely a fuller clothed (and far skinnier) Maximus Decimus Meridius – sent into gladiatorial combat with an angry Tiger and no means of escape.
Luckily for me the bell had already gone for the end of break time. Thank you double-science – you hold a special place in my heart. But here’s the thing…
Even though this boy was the same age as me (14), he was a little taller and far scarier but at the end of the day, he was still a relatively skinny kid. I was petrified at the time but a few years later I looked back on that situation and it struck me how silly it was to be so scared of him.
Let me put it another way.
Imagine I could ‘Quantum Leap’ back into my 14 year old body but still retain my current brain. Would I be scared? Hell no!
Yes, I would be 5 inches shorter and 4 stone lighter but my perception would remain that of a 32 year old, 5ft 11 and 13 stone man.
That is the essence of confidence. Believing and behaving like you own the situation.
Look back to any moment in your past where you felt scared or cowered in the presence of a dominating person. If you went back to that time would you still be as scared? I doubt it.
So the next time you feel a lack of confidence or are intimidated by someone – think to the future and imagine yourself looking back to the current moment and laughing at yourself for being so silly.
It genuinely works.
3. Visualise everything first
Do you know the difference between reality and fantasy? I don’t. It’s probably why I have crazy ideas and refuse to take part in the ‘real world’. I’m not the only one though. Anybody who has ever achieved anything worth talking about lives in this strange grey area between fantasy and reality.
Ideas are not born in the real world – they are a figment of our imagination. They are created and brought to life through extensive visualising until the time comes for the moment of truth and we can actually test them out for real.
We can all create whatever reality we set out for ourselves by simply visualising it first.
In our minds we can conquer any fear, become anyone we want, achieve our dreams and allow our natural flair to shine.
It has often been considered that the brain cannot differentiate between reality and fantasy. World class golfers stand still for a few seconds, playing out the next shot in their minds before they even attempt to swing the club for real.
Olympic 100m gold medallist Linford Christie was well known for his trance like state before a race. He would visualise himself exploding out of the starting blocks, driving through the first 30 metres, extending his body, powering into the lead before dipping at the finish line to claim victory.
He knew that if he played it out perfectly in his mind, all he had to do was follow the plan and everything would be fine.
America’s greatest Olympian, Michael Phelps, has been using visualisation techniques since he was 12 years old to prepare his body and mind for the demands of top class competition. His mother would talk him through various relaxation techniques before asking him to ‘play the videotape’ of his perfect race in his mind.
These athletes understand that by training the brain to embrace success, it is far more likely to continue the habit when the serious stuff begins. On the other hand, and what is far more interesting for those of us who lack confidence, visualisation is key to hacking our brains into being able to handle whatever life throws our way.
Just as a group of salespeople may practice ‘throwing negs’ at each other to train themselves to respond better to customer objections, we can use various visualising techniques to help us increase our confidence and composure.
Let’s say that you are planning on asking someone out on a date. You’re understandably shitting bricks at the thought and you have no idea if you’ll be able to go through with it.
This is where visualisation works wonders.
Turn off any distractions, lie down on your bed and begin by closing your eyes and systematically relaxing all of your body parts. Start with the feet and work your way up to your torso, then your hands, arms, chest, neck and face.
Spend a couple of minutes doing this and once you feel like you are comfortable, slowly count down from 50 in your mind. It helps if you can picture these numbers as bright and as colourful as possible.
Slow down your breathing as you do this. Breathe through your stomach, feel it rise and fall with every number.
As you reach zero you should be, essentially, self-hypnotised. That is your mind is as clear as it can possibly be and it is in a very suggestible state.
Now picture yourself in a realistic scenario with this person. Feel the air on your skin, hear the sounds, see as many colours as you can. You will be surprised at the level of detail in your mind’s eye.
Engage in conversation and when it feels right, ask this person on a date. Your subconscious mind will control their response based on the subtle clues that it will have picked up over time. But as this is your fantasy, you are free to feel confident and in control of the situation.
Once this scenario has played itself out, run through it several more times – practice using different words and phrases. Visualise them saying yes, no and maybe. Test as many variables out as you can – but each time you are confident and in control – you know what to say and how to say it.
If you do this every day for a week you will actually be training your brain for this scenario. When the time comes to ask this person out for real, you will feel far more in control because as far as your brain is concerned, you’ve done this 50 times already.
Confidence is merely a result of experiencing success. If you can hack your brain to believe that is already has experienced success then you will feel more confident.
It’s only logical.
Don’t believe me? Try it and see!
Have you tried out any of these hacks in the past? Did they work? Let me know in the comments or alternatively, try them out today and let me know how you got on.