7 Simple Ways to Build Confidence & How to Feel Stronger and More Empowered in Relationships and WorkOn Purpose with Jay Shetty
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- 26 Feb 2021
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When Jay was a kid, he got up in front of his class only to be laughed off stage by his peers. This event easily could have made him scared to speak in public again. But instead, facing his fears helped him build the confidence to not only speak in public, but create a podcast that is listened to by millions of people.
On this episode of On Purpose with Jay Shetty, Jay Shetty dispels the myths about confidence and provides simple tools to feel stronger and more empowered in your relationships, work, and life.
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Did you ever look at someone and think, wow, I wish I had what they had? I wish I could talk to strangers and make friends easily. I wish I was that charming in a group. I wish I could sing like that. I wish I could share like that. I wish I could dance like that. I wish I had more confidence. We often think of something as confidence as something you're born with. You have it or you don't.
But today I'm going to clear up some of the myths we have around confidence.
And that's one of them, by the way. And I'm going to show you seven specific things you can start doing today to become more confident, whether it's in relationships, at work or wherever you want to feel stronger and more empowered.
I want to start today with a story three, actually, the first is about a boy growing up in China. One day his elementary school teacher said the students were going to take part in an exercise where they gave one another compliments. When a fellow student said something nice about you, you could go to the front of the room and choose from a pile of gifts. The boy was excited along with his classmates. He gave the other students compliments and watched as they smiled and collected their gifts.
Yet as the exercise went on, no one said anything about him. In the end, his teacher just looked at him and said, OK, go and get your gift as the years went by, he never forgot that day and the intense rejection he felt. The next is also a story of a young boy, this one in London, one day the boy had to get up on stage in front of his class and share something of his family's cultural traditions.
He was all dressed up in a special hour for his mum and prepared for him. And as he walked on stage right away, he heard the sound of laughter. He was mortified, but he tried to persist. Stumbling through the song he'd learned, the laughter got so bad that finally his teacher had to come and gently lead him off stage. He was so embarrassed he thought he might never recover. Then there was an up and coming actress. She finally landed a part on a television pilot.
The show was picked up for production, but she was not. Her part was recast. Then she landed another pilot and the same thing happened again. The show was purchased for production only without her, she was replaced by another actor. It was discouraging, to say the least. For most of us, any of these situations would be enough to wreck our self-confidence. We've had the old saying, if at first you don't succeed, try try again.
That sounds great, but it's not that easy, right?
Similarly, I've heard people say to build your confidence, you just need to do things to try them and keep trying. There's some truth to that for sure. But for most of us, especially if we've had the experiences, anything like those three stories I just shared with you, it's not so simple. That's myth number one about building confidence that we can just do it. We can just try it. Here's the truth. There isn't one way to confidence.
And most of us can't just do it because building confidence has two distinct components. And we have to pay attention to both if we want to be successful. Those components are beliefs and behaviours. Myth number two about building confidence is that it's entirely about our psychology or our mindset, that it's entirely about our beliefs in ourselves. The truth is that when we feel a lack of confidence about certain situations, whether it's public speaking or asking someone out on a date, one reason can simply be a lack of practice.
Confidence is based on our beliefs about ourselves along with the behaviours we undertake. So we need to look at both the psychology of self-confidence and also the actual skills that enable and support us to be confident of that makes sense. Let's look first at skills and behaviours. There's a great quote by championship coach Monica Aldama, who says to her team, Keep going until you get it right and then keep going until you can't get it wrong. Now, I'm sure you've all heard the advice that you have to practice if you want to get good at something to gain confidence.
But it's not just any practice that matters. It's precise practice. You want to get super clear on the pieces of skills that need the most work or that are your weak spots and zero in on those. I have a friend who is really scared of getting on stage as so many of us are, and yet lots of her friends told her that she was really funny and should try and open mic night. And as afraid as she was of getting up there and no one laughing, she really wanted to try it.
So she got some information about a local storytelling show and she wrote her story, but she was still really nervous. What if she forgot she couldn't use notes? What if she got distracted and lost her place? So she started using every free moment. She had to practice her story, but she didn't just keep going over it. She noticed the parts where she was most likely to get stuck and practice those more. And she not only practiced her words, but she also practiced keeping her focus, which is a separate skill.
She practiced it at times and in places where she was likely to be distracted, like in the kitchen while cooking a meal or while commuting, so she could have the experience of having to pause, then picking up where she left off. When it came time to finally perform the story in front of a live audience of hundreds, it was a big success. And even though she often had to take unplanned pauses to account for the laughter, she never lost her place.
She created confidence through precise practice. By the time they were announcing her on stage, she was fidgeting and jittery and absolutely could not wait to get out there and perform this story. And there's another myth that I want to dispel, myth number three is that when we feel that fluttering in our chest and those cold hands or sweaty palms, we assume that's anxiety and fear, that it's our lack of confidence. The truth is that sometimes it's just excitement.
The body's signals are similar, the rapid heartbeat, the shaking hands. But sometimes we're too quick to label something as anxiety or fear that's really just getting our energy up to perform, to give the presentation, to go and introduce yourself. And research shows that if we tell ourselves in those moments that we're anxious and nervous, it actually leads to worse performance than if we tell ourselves we're just excited. So that's another little trick. Tell yourself you're excited and you feel more confident.
I use this all the time when I'm about to go on stage, when I'm interviewing someone that I really admire for my podcast.
Also, being a bit nervous isn't a bad thing. It signals that you care how you do and about the outcome. In fact, when we're not at all nervous, sometimes we start to slack off and get complacent and not pay as much attention because we think I've got this. A little nervousness shows humility, not low self-esteem and humility keeps us focused. It's like if you've ever seen a basketball player get a ball on a breakaway and they're wide open, they go for the dunk and they miss it.
They were so overconfident, they lost focus. OK, so let's look at another aspect of confidence. When we lack confidence, why is that? For most of us, it's a fear of failure, right? A fear of rejection.
And we're afraid of what that will tell us about ourselves that we can't do it and what it may tell others that we're losers. Not only that we failed, but that we are failures. Myth number four is that our failures define us. That's a myth, right? They don't define us. There's some truth to that, that they affect us, but not in a negative way. Failures can define us if we use them to move forward, but mostly we think that failure will finish us.
I do a lot of coaching and I train people to be coaches and something we coaches see so often is that the biggest thing holding people back is fear our own fear of trying and failing. So sometimes we go through an exercise with them and this is one you can do for yourself and that I encourage you to do. We take them through and then what happens? Exercise. It goes something like this. Let's say you've been wanting to ask someone out, but you're afraid you'll be rejected.
I'll ask you what happens if you're rejected. You might say I feel embarrassed. Then I'll ask what happens if you feel embarrassed, maybe you say I'd go home and eat a pint of ice cream. Then I'll ask what happens if you go home and eat a pint of ice cream? Maybe you'd feel guilty. OK, none of those feel great, I'll grant you that. But notice what didn't happen. The world didn't fall apart. You didn't lose all of your friends somewhere in there.
You got up the next day and brush your teeth and got dressed and went to work. It wasn't fun, but the world kept turning. It wasn't a catastrophe. You've gotten over disappointments and embarrassments before, I know you have, and you've succeeded at things, too. We all have. We've all failed and we've all succeeded. But because of negativity bias, our brains are more prone to look to focus on our past failures. So here's a concrete practice to bolster your confidence, look for evidence of your past success and write it down.
And he has success includes every time you failed over rejected and the world didn't end. That's a success, too. So if this is something you struggle with, I want you to make two lists, get out your paper or your notes and make two columns and title one failures and the other successes in the Failures column. Take five minutes to write down everything you can think of that you tried that didn't work out the way you wanted. You asked that boy in fifth grade to be your boyfriend and he said no.
You tried cooking a romantic dinner for your partner and burned the desert. You applied for a job you really wanted and didn't get it. Even if it hurt, even if it was truly painful. You're still here. That's what's important. You're still in the game. That's a win. Here's the thing. When we focus on failure, it's because we fear that failure is fatalistic and final. That's myth number five, that failure signals the end. In reality, failure is usually far less dramatic.
We didn't get the part, the job, the raise, the date most of the rest of the world never even knows about it. I was watching a interview with Kobe Bryant the other day who we were so grateful to have on the podcast ourself.
But this was another interview and he was saying failure doesn't exist.
Right, failure doesn't exist and everyone that. What do you mean, obviously, people fail and he said something brilliant. Kobe Bryant said that if you think about Snow White or if you think about any of these movies we all watch, they all say and it ended happily ever after. But he says they never show you what happened after that. They never show you the argument or the disagreement. And he said, because the story continues, he said that's the same for happily ever after.
It's the same for failure is final. The story continues. Legendary hockey player Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take, failure is only the end. Failure is only final when it makes us quit. As long as we're trying, as long as we're making meaningful progress, we're in the middle, not the end. One thing we can do to minimize the sting of failure is to inoculate ourselves against it. Remember the first story I told you about the young boy in China whose classmates didn't say one positive thing about him.
He went four years in his life where he didn't try things because he was so afraid of failing. Finally, as he was approaching 30, he realized all of this fear was keeping him from truly living. Yet he was still terrified of rejection. Then one day he came across the idea of exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is essentially doing the thing that scares you, like being near spiders or flying in an airplane. Often it's undertaken with assistance from a certified coach or licensed therapist, and that can be incredibly helpful and for some a necessary thing.
But this man, his name is Gang. He decided to do this himself for 100 days. He would do one thing every day that he was so sure would get him rejected with the idea that he could get used to rejection and minimize its impact on him. Not only that, he decided he would film himself getting rejected and posted on a blog on day one. Trembling, he walked up to a big burly security guard who worked in his building and asked him if he could borrow one hundred dollars.
No, the man said, Why, Zhiang? No, the man said why she was so nervous, he just apologized and literally ran away later when he reviewed the video. Something struck him. It was the contrast between how scared he had been to approach this man and how scary the man had not been in his reaction to the question. In fact, he had even calmly asked Yang to explain why he needed the money. It wasn't nearly as bad as Jiang had thought, so he kept going.
And I have to say the things he tried got really funny, like he asked someone at a donut shop to make him a set of donuts that looked like the Olympic rings. He showed up on a stranger's doorstep with a potted flower and asked to plant the flower in his backyard. But guess what? In each of these cases, they said, yes, the donut shop worker actually figured out a way to make the Olympic rings. And when Jiang asked the stranger why he couldn't plant the flower in his yard, the man explained that his dog would likely dig it up and ruin it.
But he suggested he try the neighbor across down the street who loved flowers. So Jiang went across the street and sure enough, the woman was happy to plant the flower. Jiang ended up learning so much during the 100 day quest, far more than just softening the blow of rejection, which he did accomplish, but also about the nature of human connection. He went on to create an entire company around, helping others conquer their fear of rejection. There's a quote that's attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt that maybe you've heard it.
What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I want to reframe that quote. I like to think of it as what would you do if you had no fear of failure? There's a difference there. As Geumgang learned, we can fail at all kinds of things. It's how we frame failure that matters. And this relates to myth number six, that if I have to work hard at something, it's not meant for me. Zhiang worked hard at overcoming his fear of rejection by practicing rejection, and he got good at it.
Here's something you may have heard me say before, and I'm going to repeat it now because it's so important. Don't fall into the trap of mistaking weaknesses for inexperience. That's where some of our confidence disappears.
The more the world seems out of control, the more it pays to focus on what you can control.
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Or if you become a client, personal capital has financial advisors ready to help you build and maintain a personalized portfolio. Personal capital. There's no place like financial confidence. If you look back on some of my earliest interviews I did with the people years ago, I don't think they were nearly as good as the ones I'm doing today. I'm not trying to be hard on myself or say I did a bad job, but it's that there's always room for improvement.
Hopefully in a few more years they'll be even better. I'm not naturally gifted in interviews and presentations. In fact, remember story number two, I said at the start of the podcast that kid who is laughed off stage by his classmates tells me I might never have ended up around today as someone who's now done thousands of talks and videos and podcast episodes. If it wasn't for my parents when I was age 11, they enrolled me in an after school drama and public speaking program that I attended three hours a day, three days a week for seven years.
If we want to become more confident, we have to be honest with ourselves that sometimes it's because we're put off by the effort it will take to become truly good. And whatever it is we want to do, we think we have to jump this enormous gap to get from where we are to where we want to be. And yes, if I tried to go from the crying kid on the stage to podcast host and public speaker, it would have been a huge leap.
But because I was in that seven year program, because I then created a club at my college, was a weekly presenter because I then taught classes to my fellow monks. Each of those things made that gap smaller. I've now been public speaking since I was 11. I'm 33. That's 22 years of speaking experience. But I get it. It can still be really hard to get on the path. Here's what I want you to realize. Being confident isn't about having unending courage.
That's myth number seven. The truth is that confidence is rarely about constant bravery. More often, it's about one bold moment, that moment you sign up for the course or the open mic night or the schedule, that conversation with your boss that instant you decide to take action. That's where you need real confidence. The rest that doing the performing, the negotiating can come off with learning and with precise practice. And now we're getting into the other component of confidence, the psychology.
Contrary to what people often think, neither I nor anyone else can motivate you. We can't make you believe in yourself. That's an inside job. What I can do and what a great coach does is help you connect with your own internal motivation and belief. Here's what I love. The fact that you're listening to this. The fact that you're one of the people wondering, Jay, how can I be more confident? That fact alone tells me that you believe it's possible.
Believe may be the single most powerful tool for building confidence. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, the originator of the idea of mindset, has shown that some of the most popular theories in psychology are only true if we believe them to be. For example, studies on decision fatigue showed that when people were put in a position where they had to make multiple decisions, all of this decision making resulted in decreased brain power. They didn't perform as well on challenging tasks.
Afterwards, Dweck's work showed that this was indeed true, but only for people who believed it was true. Those who didn't believe in the concept of decision fatigue did not experience either the same amount or any decrease in performance at all. If you believe you can become more confident, you've already taken the first and biggest psychological step to achieving it. Another way, we can bridge the gap between where we are and the confidence we want to feel is by acting like you're already on the other side of that gap.
Myth number eight is that you have to be confident to act with confidence. You've had the advice to fake it until you make it. According to researcher Amy Cuddy, acting confident not only makes others see us such, but more importantly, actually makes you more confident. Now, this isn't fake being confident. This isn't pretending. It's practicing what a confident person does. For example, instead of waiting around for someone to talk to you, you may introduce yourself.
That's not fake. It's not inauthentic. It's stepping forward into being confident. Katie observed groups of business school students and noticed that among them there were two distinct types of body language. One was upright, open and comfortable taking up space. The other was closed and compact. People were slouching and making themselves more Katyal's and noticed that the group with bigger body language participated in the classes more than the reserved group. She started to wonder what would happen if the small group took on the postures of the big group.
So she created a study where for two minutes people would assume what she called a high power pose, like standing with your feet wide and your hands on your hips, or a low power pose such as being in a chair and slumped. Then each participant answered a series of questions and played a game involving gambling. Researchers also took a saliva sample to get some physiological data. Kody and her team found the people who did the high power poses were far more likely to gamble, which they noted was an indicator of confidence.
But this is where it gets super interesting. They also had a 20 percent increase in testosterone, which is also associated with confidence and a 25 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. Just from holding a high power posture for two minutes. Those who held the low power posture experienced a 20 percent drop in testosterone and a 15 percent increase in cortisol. In a follow up study, Cuddy and her team had participants do high or lower power poses before stressful job interviews.
Consistently, the candidates the interviewers wanted to hire with those who done the high power poses before the interview. Now, I don't actually call this fake it till you make it. If you can fake it, then it doesn't feel natural. But if it's in you, then it's not fake, you know?
I mean, you're just using the idea of acting to help you initiate that burst of confidence you need. So I want you to try that. Try using power postures to boost your confidence the next time you need to connect with that burst of confidence to give that presentation or to start that conversation. First, do a power pose for at least two minutes. Now, you're probably not going to want to do it standing in front of the person you want to talk to, a group that's assembled that would be a little odd, but in an office or a break room, stand with your feet hip distance apart and with your hands on your hips, the superhero pose, or do you in front of the mirror or even stretch your arms out in a V or make fists and thrust them in the air like you, Muhammad Ali, and you just want to match.
The key is that whatever the pose, your spine is extended and your posture and the front of your body are open. Now, here's another specific tool you can use in these critical moments when confidence is called for. It's a little counterintuitive, but it really works for me. It's express gratitude. As I've said before, when we feel gratitude, we can't feel anxiety, fear or apprehension. Before you go on stage, before you have that conversation, express gratitude for the opportunity that also connects you with the power of humility and calms your nerves and lowers the stakes.
Focus on thankfulness, quite focusing on thankfulness quiets the ego. You can thank your teachers, your mentors, the moment, the opportunity.
So stop and breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth and think of something you're truly grateful for about in that moment. And don't just think it feel it in your body. As I always say, believe it in your body, mean it in your mind and feel it in your heart. Another strategy for building confidence is to look at what's draining your confidence. I've talked in the past about removing negative energy from your life or at least minimizing the impact of negative people.
But what about situations? You may have past experiences that are keeping you from being confident to address those.
We want to learn how to characterize situations and experiences properly. Remember that third story I told you about the actress who starred in two pilots that were picked up, but she was dumped? That can be a confidence crushing event. It might even make some people quit acting. But fortunately, this actress didn't quit. She went on to land the starring role in the hit series Scandal. And that actress, as you've probably now guessed, is Carrie Washington. It's hard to imagine Kerry Washington getting fired.
She's such a powerful actress and so good at what she does. And she was able to persist in spite of what undoubtedly were huge disappointments, in large part because she knew how to characterize those two experiences in both cases. Washington says the show creators wanted her to be more urban and as she puts it, more heard. It wasn't that she failed. It was simply that those roles weren't a good match for her. Scandal, on the other hand, was a perfect fit.
So when we think about our past experiences and we lose confidence because of events or incidents or even relationships that we perceive as times where we failed, let's revisit some of those and really characterize them. Go ahead and think of just one. Right now, I'm going to propose that the reason the situation didn't go the way you wanted was because of one or more of four factors that fit the acronym fast wrong fit, wrong approach, wrong skill set or wrong timing, FASB fit approach, skill set or timing.
Were you the right fit in your experience when you didn't get the job, when your boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with you, did you match what the company or the other person was looking for? If the answer is no, that's not a failure on your part. It was just the wrong fit. Why attach your confidence in yourself and your abilities to a situation that couldn't have worked? Maybe in that interview, your relationship, did you make it all about them or about you?
Did you support them or not support you? Was it the wrong approach or were you simply not prepared or inexperienced? Did you not prep for the interview? Well, or did you still just have a lot of learning to do on what skills you needed? Or was it the right person, a job, but the wrong timing? Maybe another time it would have worked out. I want you to take that one experience and look at it through this lens, really characterize it properly.
It's not a failure. It's really characterizing that you need. And here's my last strategy for building confidence.
Let's go back to the idea of wrong approach.
One of the key areas so many of us are really looking to build our confidence is in talking to others and in relationship building back, we say we're really bad at small talk. We get tongue tied or we come on too strong or say something awkward. Here's my strategy for that. To build confidence in conversations lead with curiosity.
Here's the big secret. You don't have to do and say all the right things about yourself to get someone to like you or to want to work with you. True connection starts with paying attention. It starts with focusing on the other person. And we can do this simply by letting our curiosity guide us. You can start with the simple what brings you here or how do you like these kinds of events? Or on a zoom call, you can focus in on something someone's wearing or art in the background or something around them to say, hey, what does that mean to you?
When did you get that? Have you visited that beautiful place in the background of your living room, work of art, whatever it may be. Additionally, research shows that when two strangers are introduced and when one mostly asks questions and listens to the other's answers, the person who did most of the talking reports high levels of liking the questioner and wanting to speak to them again. Plus, this approach takes the pressure off you. There are so many more ways to build your confidence, but those are some specific tactics.
You can start today, go back and relisten, because I shared a lot with you. Make notes, share with a friend, a partner, try them out this week, experiment and practice. Thank you so much for listening to the show. I'm so grateful to each and every one of you. And it's going to be a great week because you are living your life on purpose.
Hey, guys, this is Jay again, just a few more quick things before you leave. I know we try to focus on the good every day, and I want to make that easier for you. Would you like to get a short email from me every week that gives you an extra dose of positivity? Weekly Wisdom is my newsletter. Write down whatever's on my mind that I think may uplift your week. Basically little bits of goodness that are going to improve your well-being.
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This podcast was produced by Dust Light Productions, our executive producer from Dust lt is Michelle Yousef. Our senior producer is Julianna Bradley. Our associate producer is Jacqueline Castillo. Valentino Rivera is our engineer. Our music is from Blue Dot Sessions and special thanks to Rachel Garcia, the dust like development and operations coordinator.