Experts POol

Tips to Build Confidence

You have an upcoming presentation, a job interview or a networking opportunity … whatever the stress-inducing situation, just thinking about it makes your brain go into panic mode, your palms get sweaty, and your stomach turn into knots. “If only I had more confidence,” you may say, “I wouldn’t feel this way.”

Since the MUAA Mentor Program Kickoff in October, a few mentees have approached me for tips on becoming more confident. I’m pretty sure they aren’t alone … it’s a hot topic in my work as an executive coach.

There are lots of tips out there, but I focus on these two powerful ones: take control of your inner critic and use your body to convey confidence.

1. Take charge of your negative self-talk.

Most of us have a voice in our heads that says things like: “You’re not good enough” …”You’re not smart enough”…”You’re going to say the wrong thing”… I call this inner critic the “Saboteur.” It pretends to help, but it actually can hold us back by creating fear and self-doubt. The best way to manage Saboteur comments is to shine a spot light on those criticisms and launch valid retorts:

- Write down all of the negative comments.
- Go through each comment to come up with a truthful counter argument. Ask a trusted friend, advisor or your mentor to help you with this exercise. Examples:

    • Saboteur: “You don’t know enough.” Counter: “I’m not the world’s leading expert on this topic, but here’s what I do know (which is a lot)…and I’m really good at finding the right answers.”

    • Saboteur: “You’re too shy.” Counter: “I’m not the biggest extrovert in the room, but I’m a good listener and ask questions that get others talking about themselves.” (Another tip: When you start focusing on others, you worry less about your confidence.)

- Then visualize yourself going into a situation in which you want to be more confident and use your counter arguments against the Saboteur. The more you can do this, the better you get at squashing the Saboteur. . Become a power-poser.

By changing your body language, you can make yourself feel more confident. Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, best known for a famous TED Talk on the benefits of "power-posing” suggests mimicking the body language of powerful people, i.e., take up more space with your body. For example, instead of hunching forward with your arms crossed over your stomach (a sign of self-protection), pull your head up, lean back, and open your shoulders so your arms are away from your body. 

Apply this technique for interviews: Before arriving at the meeting place, find a secluded place (e.g., stairwell, bathroom stall), then throw your hands in the air and widen your stance, like a superhero or a rock star soaking in the applause after an encore performance Hold the pose for two minutes to set hormonal changes that will boost your confidence through the interview.

Another power-poser tip: Smile! Doing so releases feel-good brain chemicals that calm your nervous system. Plus, people who smile are viewed by others as more attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere, i.e., more confident.

Monica Oliver is serving her second year in the MUAA Mentor Program and can be reached at



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