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From first dates to major work presentations, it’s normal to feel a little nervous in uncomfortable or high-pressure situations. And even when your heart’s beating fast and you’re breaking into a cold sweat, it is possible to step into your power. The secret? Having a few tricks up your sleeve that can help beat jitters, bring about calmness, and build confidence.
When you’re facing down a “Can we chat real quick?” Slack from your boss, overwhelming nervousness might be the first feeling. But going a little deeper can help you better understand your emotions.
One way to do that is to question your initial reaction. Sure, you’re anxious that your boss wants to talk. But what’s driving that anxiety? Do you have a habit of expecting the worst? Do you have a tough relationship with your boss? Going deeper gets you out of dwelling in the nervousness and helps you sort through the thoughts racing through your brain.
You can also examine how your feelings are manifesting in your physical body. Karla Beltchenko, founder of The Narrative Body, an organization that teaches people the power of non-verbal communication, suggests implementing what she calls a “body awareness alarm.”
The idea is to recognize when you’re in a stressful moment and use that as a cue to tune into your body. “Notice what is going on with your body,” she says. “Do you sense the tension in your shoulders? Are you slumped forward?” By recognizing these physical symptoms, you can counteract them.
According to Kate Moore, co-founder of The Duality Project and founder of getFIT615 (a radically inclusive gym in Nashville), positive self-talk is crucial for learning how to build confidence. But, if you’re not used to doing it, it may take a beat to get the hang of.
“Start setting aside time to be kind to yourself,” encourages Moore. “That could mean writing yourself a love letter once a week with some of the reasons you appreciate yourself.”
Another idea: Start each day by writing down three things you really love about yourself, whether it’s your loyalty to your friends or your amazing ability to always remember sunscreen. You may have to force yourself to do it in the beginning, but soon it will become a natural practice that makes you feel good.
Not feeling all that great about yourself? Don’t show it. “Your posture is a critical component when it comes to physical confidence,” points out Beltchenko. “Posture affects the way others see you; it also affects how you see and feel about yourself.”
Think about it: It’s pretty hard to feel awesome about yourself if you’re slumped over. But if you stand up tall with your shoulders back, it can give you confidence even if you’re not feeling your very best.
If you already feel bad and then start beating yourself up for not being more confident—well, it can create a negative feedback cycle that loops endlessly. Instead, practice giving yourself grace in situations where you’re trying your best to feel confident, but are having a hard time.
To practice this form of acceptance, attempt neutrality. For example, rather than kicking yourself over and over for messing up a presentation—acknowledge that it happened and tell yourself you have to move on. You don’t have to hype yourself up if it doesn’t feel authentic, but you’re also not allowed to speak negatively to yourself.
To remind yourself of how far you’ve come, start keeping a daily “ta-da!” list. Each day, write down one positive thing that you accomplished. You could include a work win, a spontaneous conversation with a stranger, or finally finishing that house project that’s been dragging on. Then, on days when your confidence is low, look at that list to remind yourself just how awesome you are.