Monday, 12 February 2018

5 Tips to build your confidence in and out of the classroom.

5 Tips to build your confidence in and out of the classroom.

Self- confidence plays an important role in your drive to perform academically.

Do you get nervous to give speeches? Do you stress before a big sports event? What about talking to someone you like or asking someone for help? Have you ever felt so insecure in your own skin that you wanted to run away from a situation? Everyone has felt that way at some point in their lives. 

In order to perform well and succeed in many areas of our lives we are required to uphold a certain level of self-confidence. How do we become self-confident? 

Before we go any further, we want to make a clear distinction between self-confidence and self-esteem. Self-esteem and self-confidence walk hand-in-hand, but isn’t the same thing. Self-esteem has a lot to do with your internal values and self-respect. In last week’s blog ‘How to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem’ we discussed the many ways how we can increase our self-esteem. 

Self-confidence on the other hand is based on the trust we have in our own abilities, capabilities, qualities and talents. Self-confidence can be determined by the way you feel about yourself when performing certain tasks. Are you mediocre, adequate or exceptional at performing that certain task? Do you enjoy doing it, and if so, does it make you want to work harder at this skill to perform even better? OR, do you loathe doing it? Are you completely incapable of doing it and therefore try to avoid it at all costs? Do you get teased for doing it completely wrong and it makes you feel inferior? As we have mentioned before, your talents and capabilities (or lack of these skills) can influence the way you perceive yourself. It may influence your self-esteem in the long term, but it remains two different concepts and both can be improved separately. 

The question is, if self-confidence is based on the trust we have in our own abilities and talents how do we increase that trust in ourselves? We can hack our self-confidence through changing our surroundings, the way we think – and funny enough – by adjusting our own bodies. “With confidence, you can reach truly amazing heights; without confidence even the simplest accomplishments are beyond your grasp.” - Jim Loehr.

Here are our 5 best tips to help you build your confidence so that you can reach amazing heights!

1. Positive thoughts and positive actions.
Our minds are the greatest super-computer ever built - capable of performing miracles. Our minds control our bodies – and thus our performance and success. Lucky for us, we control our minds! That’s why thinking positive thoughts about any situation will lead to positive actions. 

Writing exams is stressful, but going in with a positive mind-set already takes some pressure off. When you start writing that test thinking “I’m going to fail no matter how hard I try,” then guess what – you’re probably going to do very bad in that test! Flip the switch on that negative mind-set and rather say “I prepared very well for this test, I have the wisdom to solve any problem.” Your positive thoughts will lead to positive actions and that will lead to a positive life.

2. Take care of your physical body.
Your physical heath plays a tremendous role in your self-confidence levels. If you are in good physical health, you will have more energy to complete tasks and will automatically perform better. You will feel more in control of your body and thus trust your body to do the things that you are capable of doing. You will even do better in any new activities that you haven’t done before, because you’ll be confident enough in yourself and trust your body (and your skills) to try it out. 

Taking care of your physical health through exercise does not only improve your overall body image, but exercising also has many psychological benefits. When you exercise your body produces endorphins which make you feel good and also relieve stress. Feeling stressed out hinders you from giving your best. If your body is continually placed under stress, it will create other health problems in the long run. Exercise also increases your concentration abilities – which is great to improve academic skills like reading, writing, learning, memorisation and solving problems creatively. You will be able to focus more clearly on practising a musical instrument or keeping your train of thought when giving a speech. These are all very important factors that contribute to being confident. 

Good physical health also ensures a good immune system, which means that you won’t get sick very often. You can rather spend your time productively, working on bettering your skills and reaching your goals - instead of lying in bed and having thoughts of self-doubt and self-criticism. 

We can also take care of our bodies by grooming ourselves. A good haircut, brushing your teeth or even taking a long bubble bath can also give your confidence a good boost! You will feel much better about yourself and be less conscious about your appearance when you are well groomed. Personal hygiene is also good for your health as it keeps bacteria, viruses, and illnesses away. You shouldn’t become obsessed over your hygiene though. You shouldn’t worry about all of the latest fashion trends and you certainly don’t have to look like a supermodel in order to be confident, but you should take care of yourself! Be the best you! You have one body. This is the only body you have that can help you reach your goals – so you might as well treat yourself and your body with respect!

3. Eliminate self-doubt.
Self-doubt normally comes in when we are not fully prepared for the task that lies before us. Be fully prepared! Eliminate uncertainties by means of practise. Practise! Practise! Practise!

For example, if you have a speech to give, practise the speech until you know every word. The only way to know that you won’t forget your words or stutter and get stage fright is if you know the speech like the back of your hand. You have to understand every word and completely understand the topic you are talking about. Even if you change up a word or jump ahead you will know where you are and will be able to talk yourself back on track without having to start anew. 

When a test comes up, study hard and be fully prepared for any question thrown at you. It has been proven that self-testing is the only way to ensure that you are fully prepared for a test. You have confirm that you are competent with the work if you pass a practise test. The best way to practise and prepare yourself for tests or exams is by using your ASP-SchoolProjects subscription for practise exam papers. The questions are asked in the same way and set according to the same standards as required in a proper exam. When you work through the questions and learn how to answer each question you will quickly build your confidence in that subject. Writing exams is as much a technique as it is about actually being smart and knowledgeable – it is something you can learn how to do! 

When you experience doubt in any class room or extracurricular activities – don’t be afraid to ask for help. That is why your teachers are there – to help you! Don’t struggle in silence, ask your teachers, friends and parents for help.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes, so if you fail – get back up. There is a Japanese proverb that says “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” This means that it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, you need to try again one more time.

4. Control your body language.
What does posture or body language have to do with confidence? It turns out a lot! Amy Cuddy is a researcher at Harvard University and she studies body language, posture and the way hormones can impact our confidence. It is widely known that your confidence has a significant effect on your body language. For example, when you feel confident you are more likely to open up your body posture, stand wider and taller, and open your arms. You feel relaxed. So your confidence influence your body language. However, Cuddy now proved that it is also the other way around – your body language can influence your confidence too! This is great news for anyone that has ever experienced self-doubt, because now we have a technique we can use in order to make our minds believe we feel more confident than we actually are. We can adjust our posture and change our body language. 

Here are three ways you can boost your confidence by adjusting your body language:
  • Power pose.
    A power pose, Cuddy explains, is a pose that will raise your testosterone (a hormone present in all dominant and powerful primates) and lower your cortisol (a hormone related with stress). This is the typical “Wonder Woman” pose. Stand legs shoulder width apart, place your hands on your hips, straighten your back, tighten your core and lift your chin slightly. Stand like this for about 2 minutes and your testosterone will increase, your cortisol will decrease and you will start to feel more confident. Do this for 2 minutes in the morning before a test in your room, or quickly in the bathroom before you give a speech in front of a lot of people and it will work really great right before a hockey match or rugby game. This will yield remarkable results.

  • Posture.
    School kids sit for many hours a day in classrooms and behind their study desks after school. Many adults also sit for hours on end behind computers at work. It is a necessary part of our modern society. Sitting itself isn’t harmful, but unfortunately sitting in the wrong position for so many hours can have some negative side effects not only on your back and neck, but also create bad posture – that will eventually reflect negatively on your self-confidence. 

    We have become accustomed to make ourselves smaller when we sit. We slouch and cross our arms, legs or ankles or by touching our necks or chest. What you may not be aware of is that these are actions we naturally do when we feel vulnerable or in need of protection. If you make yourself smaller your body sends signals to your mind that makes you believe that you are in danger. This then heightens your cortisol levels. As we have already mentioned, this is bad because cortisol is related to stress.

    One of the easiest ways to improve your confidence is through a slight adjustment to your sitting posture. Start by reminding yourself to sit up straight, relax your shoulders and open up your chest and back. You will feel less tense in your muscles if you are relaxed and thus your stress levels will be lower – which is great for your physical and mental health. Your confidence will quickly improve.

  • Smile.
    You might think this is one of the silliest hacks, but forcing yourself to smile or laugh - even if you don’t feel like it or find something funny - has a significant impact on your confidence. The Facial Feedback Study by Strack, Martin and Stepper proved that when you place a pencil between your teeth while pretending that you are smiling, has the exact same impact on your hormones as actually smiling. When you pretend to smile you produce dopamine, the feel-good hormone, which is exactly the same as when you smile naturally. When you make use of this small trick during times of stress, your body will increase in dopamine and actually reduce your body’s stress response, regardless of whether you actually feel happy or not.

Amy Cuddy explained that we don’t normally feel relaxed and confident in times of stress and panic, but with these simple tips we can “fake it till we make it.” When we continue to hack our bodies to influence our minds we can even “fake it till we become it!” Muhammad Ali said it the best: “To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you are not, pretend you are.”

5. Visualise.
Visualisation is one of the greatest confidence boosters ever invented. It has been recorded by major sport athletes, presidents and scientists. Visualise yourself achieving the results you want. These successful people raised their confidence by visualising themselves performing their tasks with perfection and visualising the feelings they will experience when they achieve their goals. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney once explained that the night before a match he lies in his bed and visualise himself scoring goals. “You're trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a ‘memory’ before the game.” Some call it “rehearsing the experience” – to ease your mind into reality – a reality where you can see yourself scoring goals, giving speeches or writing tests. Other great athletes that use this technique include Muhammad Ali, Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Andy Murray and Conor McGregor. 

Bob Proctor said: “If you can see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand.” See yourself as the confident person you want to be. Give yourself that pep talk, tell yourself you are beautiful, intelligent and ingenious – and very soon you will become it!

Have you tried any of these techniques before and do you think it has improved your confidence? We would love to hear your story about gaining confidence and how you did. If you think a friend could use a confidence boost, why don’t you share this article with them? You just might change someone’s life!

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