If You Can’t Be Confident, Learn How to Fake it

We all have crises of confidence. We can’t walk into every situation and feel completely confident. That’s normal. It’s especially true when we’re after something high-stakes, like a new job, and we let our nerves get the better of us. But in those circumstances, it’s still important to appear confident, even when you don’t feel it, so here are some tips.

First, I’m not suggesting you be arrogant. There’s a difference. Arrogance is pretending you know something you don’t know. What we’re trying to do here is get you to appear confident, meaning you firmly know what you know.

Whatever the situation you’re going into, start by dressing a notch better than you feel you need to. That might not make you feel better, but it’ll help make it look like you do. If you’re a sweater, go heavy on the antiperspirant (life hack from a friend: most med-spas that do Botox can do underarm injections and it’ll cut back the sweat for several months). Pay attention to personal grooming: someone who appears fully put-together gives off a “confident” vibe, whether you feel it or not.

Be mindful of the body language you’re projecting. Our brains have thousands of years’ practice “reading” each other, and so it’s easy to give off cues you don’t know you’re giving off. Practice your posture: you want to be able to stand upright without looking stiff (the trick is to keep your hips and thighs a little relaxed, and your shoulders down). If you’re sitting, either sit with your legs right in front of you or crossed at the ankles. Sit toward the front of the seat, but not right on the edge. Keep your hands on your lap, or on the table or desk in front of you if there is one.

Don’t stammer. If you need a moment to compose yourself, just look thoughtful for a moment, and then speak. Make eye contact, but feel free to look away, as if in thought, from time to time. Staring right at people for a long time without pause can be a little creepy. Remember that phrases like “uh” and “um” and “like” are all tells for nervousness; practice just pausing in silence rather than using those verbal placeholders (that’s a good tip for public speaking, as well).

Breathe. Forcing yourself to maintain even, regular breaths can go a long way toward controlling flushing, blushing, and other visual cues. If you feel your adrenaline spiking, or your heart starting to race, breathing can often bring it all back down a bit, and help avoid creating unintended body tells.

Whether you’re at a job interview, an important meeting at work, or a first encounter with the in-laws-to-be, appearing confident can often go a long way toward making up for any lack of actually feeling confident.

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