It happens to the best of us: We work long hours on a project and feel confident about our ideas — until the day of the presentation, when we turn into a turtle who doesn’t want to come out of her shell. Whether nerves and anxiety are to blame or you’re just having an off day, the key is to fake it till you make it. Turns out, the old adage actually works: Research shows that imitating confidence can trick others into thinking you’re self-assured, and it leads to true confidence and competence. Read on for more smart ways to project confidence — especially on days you feel anything but.
1. Put things in perspective
Oftentimes, we get worked up about a situation and miss the big picture, which messes with our confidence, says Blake Eastman, founder of The Nonverbal Group, a Manhattan-based consulting firm that offers body language classes for business leaders. Ask yourself: If I bomb this meeting or interview, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Reminding yourself that you’re not in a life-threatening situation (i.e., no one’s holding you at gunpoint) will help calm your nerves and boost your confidence.
2. Chat with a stranger
Talking to yourself about how nervous you are will only make you feel worse. Before an important meeting, Eastman tells his clients to walk up to every hot dog or halal cart in a five-block radius and have a one-minute conversation with each vendor. Doing this gets you out of your head and into the present moment. Don’t live in a big city? Chat with the barista at a local coffee shop or simply talk to a few coworkers (about nonwork-related things) before your big meeting.
3. Act without hesitation
When it comes to projecting confidence, it’s important to appear decisive. “I call this making A to B movements, meaning there’s no hesitation between the decision to act and the action itself,” Eastman explains. “The more hesitant you are, the less confident you’ll appear.” So to project confidence, quit all your hemming and hawing!
4. Flip the script
Rather than focus on the “why not” of a situation, concentrate on the “why yes,” says Eastman. For example, if you’re heading to a job interview, don’t tell yourself, “I have only a year of experience.” Reframe the statement as: “I have a year of experience.” Restating the thought as a positive will help you put your best foot forward.
5. Phone a friend
Sometimes all the positive self-talk in the world simply can’t get you out of a funk. If that’s the case, call a pal who can remind you of how awesome you are. Even a quick two-minute pep talk could give you the confidence you need to rock a presentation.
6. Dress up
You’ve heard you should “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” and this is especially true on days when you’re feeling out of whack. If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, reach for clothes that make you feel confident.
7. Strike a (power) pose
In her famous TED Talk, Amy Cuddy explained how even small changes to body language and posture can help you exude confidence. Try the “Wonder Woman” pose by standing with your hands on your hips. Or simply stand or sit with your legs spread apart more than you normally would. Adjusting your body to take up more space will help you feel more powerful.
8. Realize that no one’s watching you
“We tend to overestimate how much people notice our moods or attitudes,” says Eastman. “But the truth is, everyone is so busy worrying about themselves that they’re not going to notice if you’re having an off day.” So don’t worry so much about appearing confident, and just be yourself.
A version of this article originally appeared on Levo.com and is reprinted by permission from Levo.com, ©2015. All rights reserved.