Growing up is tough. Finishing school and embarking on life as an adult means making big decisions, taking on major responsibilities and, when it comes down to it, working out who you are as a person.
Worst of all, all the while everyone around you seems to have it all figured out. If you’re struggling with shyness it can seem like everyone else is calm, collected and in control.
Truth is, pretty much everyone suffers from insecurity, shyness or social anxiety at least some of the time. A lot of people feel like this a fair amount of the time. The good news is there are tips and tricks you can use to appear (and most importantly, feel) more confident.
And no, lighting up a cigarette isn’t one of them! Smoking can actually make it worse. We’re going to look at some much better ways to build confidence so you can be one of those guys who always seem to be in control even if you have the same anxieties on the inside as everyone else!
Cigarettes Are The Natural Enemy of Confidence
Sure, smoking has long been linked to being cool. This goes back to the days of James Dean, when toughs in leather jackets and gelled up hair swaggered around on the big screen, never without a ciggie in their hand.
And you may start to feel confident, at least at first, when you spark up a cigarette. Smoking gives you something to do with your hands, which instantly calms down nervous energy. You probably also feel a bit like James Dean, which doesn’t hurt.
However, smoking actually increases anxiety thanks to the cocktail of chemicals which messes with your brain. Research has shown that nicotine manipulates the human brain, and the positive feelings smokers associate with lighting up are actually a temporary lull, before the cycle of addition kicks off, bringing more anxiety and agitation. Nicotine is also highly addictive: it has the same addictive pull as heroin or cocaine.
Many people, especially young people start smoking in the first place because of social pressure. It may make them feel more relaxed and able to deal with the myriad of tricky social situations you face as a teenager or young adult. Peer pressure, of course, is also very real.
You can see how social anxiety and the addictive nature of nicotine form an evil alliance, making it hard to quit while also making it even harder to feel relaxed and confident. Not to mention the many other ways smoking is damaging to your health: cigarettes contain over 4000 toxic chemicals which cause heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and just about every kind of cancer you can think of.
Better Ways to Build Confidence
There are many, much more effective ways to look and feel confident in social situations, which also don’t mean inhaling carbon monoxide or risking your life – bonus!
Let’s look at some exercises and tips for boosting confidence and conquering social anxiety, so you can have more swag Kanye.
Fake It Till You Make It
This may sound like the stupidest advice you’ve ever heard, but it really works. Once you fake something for a while, you actually start to believe it. So pretend to be confident for long enough and you will start to feel confident, then voila! Before you know it, you are confident. Yes, some things really are that simple.
There are a few ways you can fake confidence. Body language is a big one: your posture, ticks and facial expressions can be a big give away when it comes to looking confident (or not!). Stand up straight and look people in the eye, and you will instantly feel more confident. One easy way to make sure you have a posture which radiates confidence is to relax your shoulders down and expand your chest up and out. Even micro movements like this will be barely noticeable to others but will make all the difference.
Ok, so this might sound like Captain Obvious’ tips for living, but: remember to breathe. When we are in stressful or intimidating situations, we often unconsciously take shallow breaths of hold our breath entirely. This then limits feeds into the ‘fight or flight’ instinct in our brains, making us even more nervous and anxious.
Nip this in the bud by simply remembering to breathe. If you feel yourself getting anxious, consciously take two or three deep breaths. Take your time: think about breathing in for a count of four, and out for a count of four. If you can, visualise the air filling up your lungs, completely filling your whole chest space.
You can do this exercise silently without anyone knowing what you’re actually knowing. Take a few moments to do this, and then you’ll be able to launch back into the conversation calmer and with fresh confidence!
Watch Your Voice
Our voice is often what gives us away when we feel anxious. Some people’s voices go high pitched or quiver, or you may start talking really fast. All this contributes to the nervous energy pumping through our veins, fuelling more anxiety.
Taking care to make sure your tone of voice is friendly and strong, and your pace of speech is measured, will go a long way to make you appear and feel more confident. This may sound silly, but practicing in a mirror before can help, particularly if you are preparing for an intimidating social situation.
Stand in front of the mirror and imagine you are at the party, job interview, or whatever it is. Pretend you’re talking to people who make you nervous. Think about not only what you would say, but how you would say it, and pay attention to your tone of voice. This is just like practicing a sport or learning a musical instrument – once you teach your body to do something, it will be easier to do it later under pressure.
Sometimes in order to grow and to improve in ourselves, we need to make ourselves a little uncomfortable. Push yourself outside your comfort zone and force yourself to do something you are honestly a little scared to do, whether it’s going to a certain party, applying for a job, or asking someone out. You will likely find that it was nowhere as bad or as scary as you thought it would be.
Even if things don’t go exactly as planned, this is still a win, because you are desensitizing yourself to failure. Trying something and failing is just as important as trying something and succeeding (if not more so). This is because we prove to ourselves that even if we fail, we can dust ourselves off and try again. This makes you pretty much unstoppable!
Don’t Get Caught Up In Your Head
Negative self-talk is a real thing, and it can be really damaging. Often people who get anxious in social situations get caught up in their own head, with a swirling mess of negative thoughts. Once these take over, it can be very difficult to rise above and feel relaxed and confident.
Shut down negative thoughts as soon as they surface their ugly head by assessing them logically and realistically. Is what you’re thinking logical? Does it make sense? Or is it just a product of your own anxiety? A good trick is to put yourself as a third person, and imagine what you would say to a friend if they were thinking these things and asked you for advice.
Step Down Your Nicotine Addiction
Of nfiurse, quitting smoking isn’t that easy, particularly if you are dealing with feeling of anxiousness made worse by an addiction to nicotine. Vaping (smoking e-cigarettes) can be a good option to phase out both your nicotine addiction and reliance on having something in your hands to feel confident, while you build your confidence up in other ways.
Switching to vaping means you immediately eliminate the toxic and cancer causing chemicals in cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain nicotine which is delivered through a harmless vapour of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin. This sounds like a much better deal than what you inhale with every puff of a cigarette: such as hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, lead, ammonia and arsenic. Sounds like the contents of a hardware store or a cleaning cupboard.
You can buy e liquid concentrates with varying nicotine levels, meaning you can step down your nicotine intake over time in a gradual and controlled way. Vaping has the added bonus of giving you something to do with your hands, just like smoking. You can even buy e-liquids with 0% nicotine, if you want the experience without having chemicals mess with your brain.
Pretty much everyone, no matter how confident they seem on the outside, is really a messy puddle of nerves on the inside. But you don’t need a cigarette – which is basically a bundle of poisons and cancer – in your hand in order to feel confident. There are plenty of ways to build confidence, including some simple tips which will let you fake like the best of them!