Get palpitations before every presentation? Melt in meetings? We feel ya! And it turns out its women who suffer from a crisis of confidence the most. A recent survey by Head & Shoulders of 2,000 British women revealed that almost 50% believe they would be further in their career if they had more self-belief.
“The key to confidence from a neuroscientific perspective is the interplay between the hormones testosterone (higher levels of which are positively correlated with confidence) and cortisol (the stress hormone),” explains Dr Tara Swart, neuroscientist and leadership coach.
“Women on the whole appear to find it harder to achieve confidence and this might be linked to their levels of testosterone, which are lower than men’s. But if they can reduce their cortisol levels, this will help to redress the balance between the hormones and increase feelings of self-confidence.”
Dr Swart suggests regular exercise, mindful meditation and eating magnesium rich foods (like beans, nuts and leafy green vegetables) or taking magnesium supplements as ways of reducing cortisol and therefore boosting confidence.
But there are some other quick hacks to conquer those confidence killers. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite stress-suppressing tips from super successful women.
Ditch the heels
“If you need to feel more sure of yourself, wear shoes that are flat. High heels throw you forward and this affects your balance. When you feel unbalanced you also feel less confident and less resilient. Whenever we are hosting a Step Up event and need to present in front of big group of women we replace our stilettos for a sturdier block heel instead – luckily these are also on trend for winter! This is just one of the many Confidence and career shortcuts included in our new book.’
Alice Olins and Phenella Mayall Fine, founders of Step Up Club and authors of Step Up: Confidence, success and your stellar career in 10 minutes a day
Pull a power pose
“One surprising thing that I learnt from an Amy Cuddy TED talk (google it on you tube!) is the ‘POWER POSE.’ Put simply you stand with your hands on your hips, shoulders back and breathe deeply. This tells your brain via your body that you are strong, confident and in control. It’s reverse psychology in action because your brain gets the message that your body is feeling confident and in control and it helps to alleviate any feelings of self-doubt or worry. It’s perfect for use before interviews.”
Liz Barnes MD of www.swimdressboutique.com
Stand tall (and stick on your lippy!)
“An old colleague taught me a little trick for difficult work calls. You know the type of call, the ones you keep putting off but know you have to do. She said put on your lipstick, stand up, make the call. This made me feel in complete control, poised and ready for any tricky conversations.”
Morag Blazey, Managing Principal, Marketing Intelligence at Ebiquity
Breathe yourself calm
“When anxious or needing confidence before big meetings, I use the 7-11 breathing technique I learnt it on a retreat in Bali. You sit down for 3 minutes and breathe in for a count of 7, out for a count of 11. It works on the bodies autonomic nervous system and helps calm your mind and give you a clearer view”
Anna Grotkamp, Founder & Director of B London Boutique
Channel your inner Beyoncé
“Create a persona (or use someone you already admire, lots of my female clients seem to use CJ from the West Wing!) and become that person for the period you need the confidence. If it helps, buy a ring/necklace/scarf that represents that persona and pop it on to get into character.”
Lucy Freeman, writer/presenter on radio 4 and presentation trainer.
Laugh yourself confident
“This isn’t just a cure for a breakup. Having a good belly laugh really helps to lift confidence. Rather than go to the pub and whinge about a stressful work situation I’ll try and watch some stand up comedy or something that makes me giggle on Netflix like RuPaul’s Drag Race. Putting a smile on your face helps to reframe everything and step outside of a situation that is making yourself have low self-esteem. I think being happy and confident is like learning a language, you need to keep practising and giving yourself a bit of laughter is a great daily ritual to get into.”
Lucy Werner, Director www.thewern.com PR consultancy for startups
Find your secret pressure point
“I got this tip from an acupuncturist. If you are feeling anxious or nervous before speaking on stage or in a meeting, use your thumbs to press the pressure points behind your knees. I use it all the time. It’s a great way to feel calm, to focus on being you and to concentrate on your message.”
Emma Cerrone, co-founder and partner at Freeformers www.freeformers.com/
“I find it helpful to slow up just before I enter the room. You may have been literally running down the corridor immediately beforehand, but stop. Breathe. Collect yourself for just a couple of beats before you enter the room. Enter the room slowly and purposefully with your head up. You are the business, so enter the room looking like that.”
Francesca Brosan, Chairman, Omobono.
“As Young Entrepreneur and a keynote speaker I have to overcome most people’s worst fear as well as what used to be my own…public speaking. This hack I learnt from speaking with Jarred Robbins the son of the peak mindset coach Anthony Robbins. Before the talk he got us all to stand round hold hands and jump up and down. Sounds bizarre right? Well it worked. Instead of walking on stage like I usually do I ran out raring to go. I now use this before any talk or moment where I need a confidence boost. The act of jumping psych’s you up by forcing your body out of its comfort zone and therefore you.
Ulianne Ponan, founder and director of Creative Nature
Silence your inner critic
“We are our own worst critics and often have a quiet voice inside that sometimes tells us that we are not good enough, not capable or should stick to what we know we can do and avoid more challenging, potentially difficult situations; in order to happy in our lives we need to silence that voice. We need to develop the courage to take a chance on that opportunity without being afraid of failure.”
Jo Wimble-Groves, business woman, blogger and motivational speaker.
Go for a ‘cheerleader’ coffee
“Have a coffee with one of your ‘cheerleaders’ (friends, family, work colleagues or mentors who love you for who you are and are only too happy to remind you what you’re AWESOME at!). Don’t have cheerleaders or mentors? Go find yourself one! I’ve not once been told ‘no’ when I approached someone I respected and asked them to be my mentor (although it’s nerve-wracking getting the backbone to ask!). Amazing what a 30-minute coffee or 10-minute call can do for your soul, especially right before an interview or big meeting!”
Karen Rudich, Founder and COO of financial tech company, Bank in the Box.
Be quietly confident
“Embrace the silence when negotiating either with fellow colleagues or clients. Make your requests firmly and then have the confidence to let the room absorb and come back to you – by not speaking first you gain control of the situation.”
Clare Martin, Group HR Director, Jardine Motors Group
Act ‘as if’
“If you take on the behaviours associated with confidence, you can convince others –and yourself – that you are confident. Stand (or sit) tall with your feet placed firmly beneath your hips and your weight equally distributed. Look people in the eye. Strong eye contact indicates that you’re confident. Shifting eyes or looking away are signs of discomfort. Use open gestures. Crossed arms, hunched shoulders and a frowning face send out negative messages. Uncross those arms, roll your shoulders up- back -and down to expand your chest. And smile. Research shows that if you act ‘as if’ you’re confident you’ll soon convince yourself and others that you are.”
Elizabeth Kuhnke, executive coach and author of Body Language: Learn How to Read Others and Communicate with Confidence
“For help in immediate situations I’m a fan of tapping/EFT, a form of acupressure, based on the same techniques, but without the needles. It’s worth following an expert on You Tube to practice the basics and you’ll have the technique ready for when you need it.”
Jasmin Robertson, founder PR agency (www.thisispublicity.com)
Stroke yourself calm
“The havening technique has been proven to calm. To increase a positive emotion we can use gentle calm movements, across our arms, with our hands or across our cheeks, this creates the delta wave, similar to deep sleep, which changes the state of our brain and alters the chemical balance to increase our serotonin and decreases our stress levels. To do this for yourself, cross your arms and slowly stroke downwards, you need to focus on the emotion, so say to yourself ‘I am confident, I am powerful’ You can slowly use your palms as if you are washing your hands in a slow steady way too and repeat the positive state you want to feel.”
Janey Lee Grace, confidence workshop teacher and author of You are the Brand
What are your best tips for feeling confident? Let us know @YahooStyleUK