"Low self-confidence isn't a life sentence. Self-confidence can be learned, practiced, and mastered--just like any other skill. Once you master it, everything in your life will change for the better."
~ Barrie Davenport
We do our best work when we are confident. Procrastination, subpar work and an unwillingness to put our work out there all happen when our confidence is low. But like the quote above says, we can build our confidence.
Some of the ideas below come from The As If Principle by Richard Wiseman. In it he mentions a number of studies about our physical responses and behaviors. He says we interpret our body’s reactions by the context in which we find ourselves. We can also choose to feel a certain way just by the way we position our body.
Below are some techniques you can use to express and feel the confidence you need to get the writing done and out into the world.
Reframe what’s happening in your body
Our bodies have very few responses, so the excitement of love and the fear of sending a query letter to an agent have the same physical response. We are conditioned to choose an emotion that fits the context based on past knowledge. With awareness we can choose any emotion we want once the body begins responding.
So let’s take the example of sending a query letter. You’re at your keyboard and about to hit send on an email to an agent you really like. Your hands are sweaty and your heart is racing. Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself that you’re excited about the opportunity. You know your manuscript is polished and your ideas sound. If you can keep your focus on that for a minute you will begin to feel the excitement. From this place it’s so much easier to hit send.
Take on a confident pose
Our bodies do affect our emotions. One study showed that people felt less pain from an electrical shock if they “acted tough” like nothing was going to hurt them and they put their bodies in a relaxed position.
Let’s say you’re getting ready to make a pitch to an agent at a writer’s conference. Stand tall, chest out, but don’t make your body rigid. Keep it relaxed. In a less formal situation, like a party, you can lean back in a chair with your arms draped over the back or behind your head. Feel the confidence set in.
Do it now. How do you feel? Play with it. Slouch for a bit and then stand tall. See how different you feel from one to the other. Looking confident will also make others take notice of you. And standing tall allows you to breathe better so you can project a stronger voice.
Plan and rehearse
Before you pitch, take some time to plan what you’re going to say and rehearse it. Do it out loud. Get members of your family to listen to you or enlist a few friends. Every time you do it you’ll feel more self-assured.
Planning and rehearsing also work before you write. There is great value you in outlining or at least being clear on what subject or scene you’re going to write next. It even helps to rehearse by visualizing your writing session going well.
Do something that you are a good at and love to do
There are times when we fall into comparison thinking and pull our confidence way down. Or sometimes someone says something that puts us into a spiral of self-doubt. (Don’t read those negative reviews.)
One of the best things to do when this happens is to take action and do something that you’re great at and love to do. There’s nothing like being in your zone of genius to boost your confidence.
Read positive statements about yourself out loud
One study had two groups of volunteers read statements out loud. The first group read statements like, “Saturn has rings.” The second group read positive statements about themselves.
The second group came out of the experiment feeling great!
The statements below are a little different from the example in the book. I’ve geared these towards inspiring confidence. I encourage you to create your own once you’ve got the hang of it and to use them to read out loud when you need a confidence boost.
Statements that can help you increase your confidence
1. I am a great ______________.
2. I can do _______________ well.
3. People love what I do.
4. I have confidence in my ability to ___________.
5. I help people ____________.
6. I am loved and appreciated.
7. I feel enthusiastic about life right now.
8. I get along with most people I meet.
9. I am optimistic about my future.
10. My work is going well.
11. I am successful at _______________.
12. I feel happy and secure in this moment.
13. People love to be around me.
14. I am full of energy and doing what I love.
15. Today is going to be a fun and successful day.
Confidence is everything. One of the best baseball players in the MLB today said that in an interview recently. He said it takes work to keep up your confidence. A pro works at it. This is just as important as practicing the craft. May your path become clearer as you build your confidence.
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