Like finding the perfect pair of jeans or getting to inbox zero, confidence is a pretty elusive thing. But without it, it’s all too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and negativity. And this not only hurts us on a personal level (anxiety, depression, membership to the lonely heart’s club), but it can also put a damper on our professional success. That’s why we made it our mission to find self-confidence shortcuts.
We searched high and low for the 19 best ways to power past insecurities and doubts, and we have to say: they're pretty darn awesome. Consider these tips your booster rockets to soar over the toughest situations—whether it’s rocking a first date or acing an interview—with swagger.
1. Spritz on a scent.
Your favorite fragrance does more than make you smell oh-so-nice. As it turns out, it can actually make you confident, too. One study suggests that not only can a fragrance inspire confidence in men, but the more a gent likes the fragrance, the more confident he might feel Manipulation of body odour alters men’s self-confidence and judgments of their visual attractiveness by women. Roberts S. C., Little A. C., Lyndon A., Roberts J., Havlicek J., Wright R. I. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2009;31:47–54.. Another study found that 90 percent of women feel more confident while wearing a scent than those who go fragrance-free Neurobiology of Sensation and Reward. Gottfried JA, editor. CRC Press; 2011..
2. Straighten up.
Mom was right: The next time you find yourself slumping in your chair or slouching your shoulders, sit up straight! According to research, doing so can lead to more confidence in your own thoughts Do Slumped and Upright Postures Affect Stress Responses? A Randomized Trial. Nair, Shwetha; Sagar, Mark; Sollers III, John; Consedine, Nathan; Broadbent, Elizabeth. Health Psychology, Sep 15 , 2014. Plus, sitting with good posture can keep both your self-esteem and mood lifted Do Slumped and Upright Postures Affect Stress Responses? A Randomized Trial. Nair, Shwetha; Sagar, Mark; Sollers III, John; Consedine, Nathan; Broadbent, Elizabeth. Health Psychology, Sep 15 , 2014. Try it: Experts recommend opening up your chest and keeping your head level to look—and feel—assured and poised.
3. Give me a “V”!
Though generally a part of a cheerleader’s repertoire, throwing your hands up in the air is a pretty spectacular power pose. While you can’t bust this move out anytime anywhere, just two minutes in a wide stance with your hands in the air will give you an instant confidence boost—you might even want to invent your own pep rally cheer. (No, really. See number 10.)
4. Nod along.
Nodding your head isn’t just good for signaling “yes” or warming up in a group fitness class. Research suggests that the up-and-down movement may actually improve confidence in your thoughts, so feel free to nod away whenever you need an extra boost Overt head movements and persuasion: a self-validation analysis. Briñol P, Petty RE. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003 Jun;84(6):1123-39.. Just think of this as a way of signaling, “yes we can” to your brain.
5. Jam out.
Cranking up the tunes can do great things for your mind and body. (Count ‘em! There are at least 20 health benefits associated with it.) And now, recent research suggests that listening to music may lead to feeling more powerful The Music of Power: Perceptual and Behavioral Consequences of Powerful Music. Dennis Y. Hsu, Li Huang, Loran F. Nordgren, Derek D. Rucker, and Adam D. Galinsky. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Aug. 5, 2014.. To paraphrase popstar Meghan Trainor, it’s all about that bass (no treble): listening to heavy-bass songs promotes more feelings of power than the low-bass songs.
6. Deal with failure.
The great Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” And it’s that kind of mentality—being able to live with failure and learn from it—that helps you build self-confidence, says executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, Ph.D., author of What You Got Here Won’t Get You There.
7. Be a pal.
Fact: Life would be way less fun without friends. Not only do besties provide impromptu dance parties, secret handshakes, and giggles galore, but they also improve both self-confidence and self-worth, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Check out these 16 tips on how to make new friends and keep the old.) And the next time you need a boost, reach out to your inner circle for confirmation that you’re having a good hair day.
8. Snap a #selfie.
Though selfies get a bad rap for leaning toward the narcissistic end of the confidence spectrum, they may actually be a good thing. Sixty-five percent of teen girls surveyed by TODAY/AOL said that seeing their faces on a social platform actually makes them feel more confident. Consider this the green light to snap, filter, and post—just keep in mind that the survey isn’t super scientific, so it may not be everyone’s best line of defense when it comes to a confidence boost. But, hey, a flattering pic never hurts!
9. Embrace your superstitions.
Go ahead and rock your lucky jersey or favorite charm bracelet. Science suggests that having these kinds of tokens leads to improved performance and setting loftier goals—all by boosting your self-confidence Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How Superstition Improves Performance. Lysann Damisch, Barbara Stoberock, and Thomas Mussweiler. Psuchological Science. Nov. 6, 2009.. And the confidence link doesn’t just exist with physical objects. Performing rituals, like rocking out to Led Zeppelin before hitting the race trail, for example, is also believed to increase confidence as well as decrease anxiety.
10. Break a sweat.
Nope, we’ll never get tired of saying it: Exercise is good for you! Apart from the many, many physical benefits, it also does a mind good. Case in point: One study suggests working out regularly can lead to more confidence (and less stress) "Want a better work-life balance? Exercise, study finds." Dick Jones Communications. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2014.. And yet more research notes that exercise in general leads to a confidence boost (independent of how hard you worked out)Effects of exercise interventions on body image: a meta-analysis. Heather A. Hausenblas. Journal of Health Psychology. 10/2009; 14(6):780-93. DOI: 10.. Translation: What seems to matter—as far as confidence goes—is whether you break a sweat in general, not how strenuous your session is.
11. Play the flirt.
Bring your flirting A game, guys and gals. Apart from being fun, flirting has surprising good-for-you results: Expert psychologists believe it can actually make us feel better about ourselves. And women in particular may benefit from flirting: One study suggests that female flirtation is perceived as confidence Feminine Charm: An Experimental Analysis of its Costs and Benefits in Negotiations. Laura J. Kray, Connson C. Locke, and Alex B. Van Zant. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Published online 19 July 2012..
Enlist your imagination to boost your confidence. Experts believe that having solid mental practices—like picturing yourself scoring the winning goal or even going through a tough workout—can lead to greater feelings of self-assurance and prep your brain for a successful outcome. Try setting a super specific goal—be as detailed as possible (one study suggests that the more detailed your vision of future success, the more confident you’ll feel Upward Self-Revision: Constructing Possible Selves. Patrick J. Carroll. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. Published online: 25 Sep 2014)—and imagine that you’ve achieved it. Throw in a positive affirmation, and go through this practice right before or right after you hit the sheets for sleep, ideally while looking at yourself in the mirror (e.g. putting on makeup or brushing your teeth) so that you can literally tell yourself what you’ll accomplish and why you rock.
13. Be your own cheerleader.
We mentioned that affirmations may help with visualizing successful outcomes, but they may also be powerful confidence-boosting tools on their own, especially during times of stress or struggle The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention. Geoffrey L. Cohen and David K. Sherman. Annual Review of Psychology. 2014. 65:333–71.. When you use self-affirmations, you’re less likely to focus on failures from your past and are perhaps more likely to learn from your mistakes The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention. Geoffrey L. Cohen and David K. Sherman. Annual Review of Psychology. 2014. 65:333–71.. Not only that, but the positive outcome that results from self-affirmations could trigger a cycle of positivity—more self-confidence leads to higher expectations and when met, brings even more self-confidence. To harness this particular power of positive thinking, focus on the good stuff that makes you who you are (e.g. if you’re super witty or a truly spectacular cook, own it!) Preserving Integrity in the Face of Performance Threat: Self-Affirmation Enhances Neurophysiological Responsiveness to Errors. L. Legault, T. Al-Khindi, M. Inzlicht. Psychological Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612448483.
14. Practice, practice, practice.
Even if you’re blessed with oodles of natural talent, the ability to succeed and feel confident doesn’t rely on that alone. In fact, experts suggest that practicing for a task or responsibility is more important than simply relying on your gifts. Prepping for the task at-hand (whether it’s a going through a presentation, practicing public speaking, etc.) will boost your confidence and improve the quality of your work. Bottom line: dress rehearsals aren’t just for drama troupes.
15. Learn to play an instrument.
While it’s certainly an investment in time and energy, learning to play an instrument may lead to a confidence boost. One study found that learning to play the piano in particular could lead to greater self-esteem Effects of Three Years of Piano Instruction on Children’s Academic Achievement, School Performance and Self-Esteem. Eugenia Costa-Giomi. Psychology of Music April 2004 vol. 32 no. 2 139-152.. (And it’ll earn you unlimited coolness points in our book.) Bonus: It’s also been shown to sharpen the mind. Brains and talent in one package? Believe it.
16. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
The time for risk-taking is NOW. Basically, we have control over how big our comfort zone is, according to Becky Blalock, a former Fortune 500 exec. When you take risks regularly, your comfort zone expands, she says. “Even doing something seemingly small every day will lead you to something bigger,” says Nancy Vito, a transformational coach. “You will grow and will begin to feel unstoppable.” Perfect example: for a recent study, researchers asked participants to talk to strangers on their commute to see whether it would be a positive experience Mistakenly seeking solitude. Epley, Nicholas; Schroeder, Juliana Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 143(5), Oct 2014, 1980-1999.. The outcome? This simple, small (yet admittedly courageous) act made their commute more positive.
17. Just say f*** it!
You can now use “confidence-building” as an excuse for all your salty language. Experts believe that swearing may make us feel empowered, and thus boost our confidence and self-esteem. Just be sure to be selective with the timing of your expletives—dropping F-bombs at work, around conservative family members, or in other proper or professional settings won't do anyone any good. (There are other ways to drop the mic. Check out number 15!)
18. Cherish compliments.
While research shows that overpraise may make you feel worse about yourself, there’s still something to be said for receiving a genuine, heartfelt, and deserved compliment. In fact, experts believe that hearing words of praise leads to a boost in self-esteem and self-confidence “That’s Not Just Beautiful—That’s Incredibly Beautiful!” The Adverse Impact of Inflated Praise on Children With Low Self-Esteem. Eddie Brummelman, Sander Thomaes, Bram Orobio de Castro, Geertjan Overbeek, and Brad J. Bushman. Psychological Science January 16, 2014 0956797613514251.. So save those sincere birthday cards, performance reviews, and even emails from mom and read them back to yourself when you need a shot of confidence.
19. Crack a smile.
If there’s one, instant way to boost your confidence, it’s cracking a smile. Flashing those pearly whites will make you appear both confident and composed, according to Christine Clapp, a public speaking expert at The George Washington University. But the effect isn’t just external: Science suggests that smiling can help nix feelings of stress, which may pave the way for happier and more relaxed feelings. And hey, while you’re smiling, go ahead and flirt with the cute guy or gal you see during your morning commute to triple your confidence score—and maybe land a date in the process.