5 Ways to Boost Your Courage Right Now!
confidence courage positive psych
Courage is a valuable commodity. Under various guises--moxie, confidence, spunk, gusto--you can turn a shaky idea into a winning proposition, or go from a wallflower to the life of the party. We crave just the FEELING of courage, even if it's only temporary and hollow, and have created a societal ritual around 'liquid courage' and partying to chase that feeling.
Obviously, it's better to cultivate a more lasting kind of courage, but sometimes you just need a quick boost. Just because it's temporary doesn't mean it's fake, however. By making this habits part of your daily routine, you'll start to build up a habit of confidence that will slowly but surely change your outlook on yourself and your life.
It's well-known that exercise boosts confidence. Just the act of exercising can help you feel more sure of yourself. It doesn't matter how far or fast you go, or how strong you are. In fact, my experience suggests that focusing on those measures is less helpful than simply making an effort to move and be active every day.
Exercise is really what turned my life around. I was a puny weakling for most of my life, and this made me feel like I couldn't handle challenges or stand up to other people. When I made a commitment to regular exercise, I faced up to challenges every day and slowly found myself acting more confident in other areas of my life (the visible muscle was nice too).
You don't have to approach exercise as 'all-or-nothing'. Any amount of exercise is associated with improved self-esteem. Down the road, that can make you feel more confident in tackling bigger exercise challenges, but the important thing is just to start and to be consistent.
Just standing in a particular way can make you feel more confident. Amy Cuddy, social psychologist at Harvard University, has conducted researching showing that holding a 'power pose' for a few minutes can boost testosterone and reduce the stress hormone cortisol, leading to more confidence, assertive behavior.
This effect works even in private. So, the next time you need a bit of extra courage before a meeting, head to the bathroom for two minutes of posing. It's like Superman: you pop into a phone booth for a second and come out as a superhero!
Basically, certain postures are hardwired into our brains as associated with dominant social roles. We spontaneously express those poses when we are dominant (throwing your arms up when you win at something, eg), but, in the same forcing a smile can make you feel happier, faking the pose can trick our brains into 'confidence mode'. The poses also tell other people we are confident, so they are more likely to act as if we are, which in turn gives us a social boost.
Do Something You're Really Good At
Everyone has something they are epic at. When you do that thing, you can't help but admit how great you are. Maybe you make a killer cupcake, or you can play Freebird like the record, or your ability to solve complex LEGO-based problems is truly awe-inspiring. Whatever it is, it gives you a sense of mastery. You're in your element and you know how things work.
Doing this activity to prepare for something you're less sure of can boost your courage by putting you in a self-empowered mindset. It may not be feasible if it's a very involved activity, but you could always provide a reminder of something big you've done (maybe you wrote a book once. Keep a copy around to remind yourself how awesome you are).
There are a number of mantras specifically meant to boost confidence, but meditation itself can help too. Meditation is the act of being totally present, regardless of the activity. Many people use mindfulness meditation, but similar effects can be won through any activity that makes you totally present.
Worry, fear, and insecurity only exist outside the present. As Gavin de Becker points out in his book, The Gift of Fear, if you're afraid of something bad, you at least know if hasn't happened yet. Similarly, self-doubt is usually based on past experiences. When you are completely present, you are free of insecurity because you are neither worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.
The effects of meditation can be fleeting at first, but taking a moment to calm your mind with a few deep, focused breaths can certainly give you a quick confidence boost. That effect will expand and become more durable as you make a regular habit out of meditation. For some tips on doing that, check out this article on Zenhabits.
Talk Yourself Up
Reality is what we make of it, so we might as well make the best of it. Most of us normally try to maintain a realistic sense of ourselves, but in practice, we end up just being really hard on ourselves. Instead of, "I can do this!" we say, "I might mess up," which is true but doesn't inspire confidence.
If you're going to do something anyway, you might as well go into it with a feeling that you are capable of mastering it, since this attitude is more likely to lead to success.
I like to think of confidence/courage on a spectrum with insecurity, with arrogance on a spectrum with humility and self-deprecation. You can be arrogant and insecure (in fact, a lot of people cover up insecurity with cockiness).
If you're about to go into a stressful situation, take a moment to analyze your self-talk. Is your language positive and encouraging, like you're eager to take on a challenge, or is it full of potential failure scenarios?
Once you've figured that out, take control of the dialogue. Amplify the positive and turn down the negative. If there isn't much positive to begin with, reframe some of the negatives as positives ("I might mess up my lines," becomes, "I might not mess up my lines," becomes, "I might give the best performance this theater has ever seen." You never can predict these things, after all.)
If you find these practical, how-to posts helpful and inspiring, sign up for the e-mail newsletter. Every week, you'll get an exercise on developing your courage, integrity, or general excellence. It's like a training program for spiritual warriors.
Photo credit: Geishaboy500 on Flickr