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The science of confidence – confidence tips to help you at work

What is confidence? And if we don’t have it, or don’t have enough of it, how do we go about getting it?

Every emotion consists of a certain percentage of enjoyment, excitement, and intimidation, the last of which can also be seen as loss of self-control. But the main ingredient in confidence is enjoyment.

When you think of a particular course of action you’d like to take what do you feel most? If you’re nervous the leading component is either intimidation or excitement. To find out which you need to look at your own emotional state and identify how and why you feel the way you do.

The reason for your intimidation may stem from a fear of failure and embarrassment in front of your peers, or maybe you fear physical pain. In either case, your brain is working to protect your own interests even at the cost of personal achievement. To counter those fears you need to make the thought of taking a specific course of action more pleasurable. Identify and focus on the enjoyable aspects of the outcome from taking action.

For instance, suppose you’re considering meeting with your boss to ask for a promotion. Chances are that the thought of such a meeting fills you with nervousness or even fear. What you have to do to feel more confident is to refocus on the pleasurable results of the meeting such as more money and greater workplace respect. Try to do these three things:

  • Think about the situation in terms of how you’d feel in your new role, as if you already had been promoted.
  • Pay attention to how you perceive this situation mentally and how your body adapts physiologically.
  • Spend a few minutes developing this mental representation of yourself in your new role.

As you do, you’re communicating to your brain how you want to feel and how the achievement will make you feel. As a result, you’re naturally less able to pay attention to the excitement or intimidation you feel. The more you associate pleasure with a course of action the less you’ll feel hesitation, nervousness or fear.

How do you view yourself?

Sometimes confidence is less about action and more about how you view yourself.

None of us are perfect. We often focus on our imperfections, assuming that everyone else is concentrating on them as well. But most people are worrying far more about their own flaws or deficiencies than others’. So we can choose whether or not to focus on our own imperfections. We’re not doomed to dwelling on our own shortcomings, real or imagined.

But some people think about themselves emotionally, rather than rationally, in a way that causes serious damage. They let their imperfections become all-consuming. Their obsessive thoughts turn into distorted beliefs. The brain can make incredibly complex calculations and reach decisions in mere fractions of a second, but it also misjudges a lot. Often what others consider a positive trait we might think of as a defect.

Reframe your attention

The next time you compare yourself to others and feel self-conscious, stop your brooding by reframing the focus of your attention. Consider what they might be fretting about regarding themselves. By focusing on others your brain pays less attention to you, and when you realise that other people aren’t perfect either you’ll think more favourably about your own self-image.

Don’t think about a lack of confidence as an insurmountable obstacle. It’s not. If you reframe your emotions by focusing on the emotional benefits of taking a particular course of action, your confidence level will soar. Identify the upsides of making that public speech. As you do, pay close attention to the pleasure that you will feel as a result, not on the negativity that might happen.

Phillip Adcock is a commercial psychologist and author of Master Your Brain: Training your Mind for Success in Life