Many people believe that confidence is something you either have or do not have. It is something you are born with and is an unchangeable part of your personality. This is not true. In fact, through the use of certain techniques it is possible to build confidence and ease social anxiety. Behaving ‘as if’ is one of these.
Behaving ‘as if’
When you put on the veneer, then people tend to take you at your own estimation – and assume that you are as confident as you look. This is one reason why socially anxious people often suppose that they are less confident (and less competent) than others. They are aware of what it feels like inside and cannot easily tell how unconfident other people feel. It is also why one of the most useful and helpful strategies to adopt is to behave ‘as if’ you were more confident than you feel.
Ask yourself, when joining a conversation for instance, or when you are about to enter a room full of people and feel like sliding invisibly through the door, and slipping quietly round behind those who are already there, how you would behave if you really were confident. How would you enter the room then? How would you look? Or move? Or behave? How would you stand? Adopting a conﬁdent posture, and being ready to meet other people’s gaze, for example, changes the whole situation. It helps you to interact in an apparently more conﬁdent way, and then has a remarkable effect on how conﬁdent you feel. This is because the behaviour and the feelings link up. The link is obvious when you feel anxious and behave nervously, but less obvious when you behave conﬁdently and then feel better. So behaving the way you want to feel can bring about the thing you want to happen. The effect will be even stronger if, knowing that thoughts, feelings and behaviours interact, you add in the link with thoughts, and give yourself an encouraging message or adopt a conﬁdent way of thinking as well. Again, if your head is full of self-doubts and self-denigration you will feel bad and your behaviour will be less conﬁdent. Instead, saying something to yourself that reflects the conﬁdence you do not yet feel, but would like to feel, such as ‘It’s ﬁne to be the way I am’, or ‘I’m doing OK’, ‘I want to be friendly’, or ‘None of these people are really out to threaten me’, may help to bring about the sense of conﬁdence from which the rest follows. Behaving ‘as if’ this were true can make a big difference to how you feel, to what you do, and also to what happens to you next, as different behaviour from you elicits different behaviour from others and so on.
This is just one of a number of approaches that can help overcome social anxiety and shyness. Once we accept that there is no such thing as a ‘confident person’ and an ‘unconfident person’ then it becomes easier to build confidence as we see fit. Whatever your age or life experience, your self-confidence can be increased if you want it to.