I had planned to put together a post about how to appear confident even when you don’t feel it. As I was trying to put my son to sleep yesterday afternoon I was composing it in my head, thinking, this sounds good; it should be pretty quick to write. I made mental notes about what I should include and hoped I could remember it long enough to be able to jot it down when my son woke up.
Fast forward a few hours. After grocery shopping, we had eaten supper and given the kids baths early so that we could take some family photos. I spent extra time preparing. I had decided to wear a red dress. I straightened my hair. I took extra time to apply my makeup, contouring and highlighting, wearing a couple extra coats of mascara, even wearing red lipstick. I looked in the mirror and thought that I looked pretty good.
We went to the basement where my husband’s photography equipment is set up and took photos together as a family, then photos of the kids together, and finally, I had my husband take some headshots of me. I figured I could use a new one for a guest post that I am writing.
When finished taking photos, my husband turned the camera around and flipped through the photos he had taken. There were several where the kids weren’t looking at the camera, a few where someone had been blinking, and then he scrolled to the photos of me.
My face looked as round as a ball. The contouring did nothing to make it look less round. My hair length only accentuated the roundness and fullness of my face. My arms and boobs looked huge. Needless to say, the image in the bathroom mirror that I was somewhat proud of earlier, did not match the image on the camera.
Has this ever happened to you? Am I the only one?
In a matter of seconds, my hope that I would have attractive new headshots was dashed. The rest of the night I felt awful.
“What’s wrong?” My husband asked. “Nothing, I’m just tired,” I responded. That was untrue. I felt incredibly depressed and every bit of self-confidence I’d had before had gone out the window.
I don’t consider myself to be a vain person. I don’t wear much makeup on a daily basis. My morning hair routine is washing, scrunching with mousse, and then air-drying. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes. For some reason, my image in the new photographs felt like a real kick to the gut.
This morning I resolved to ignore my feelings of disappointment and dislike and no matter how I feel, only project self-confidence. I had an 8:00 a.m. meeting with a physician about some documentation concerns, so I figured I would be putting my own recommendations to test.
I don’t know if any of you have ever worked with doctors, but sometimes they have a way of using their large personalities and powerful presence in order to get what they want, especially when it comes to documentation and records systems. They don’t often want to hear that they must adhere to the functionality of the system, not try to make the system fit their processes. So, in my 18 years working in healthcare, I have found that one must put forth a very confident, knowledgeable, and competent image in order to be taken seriously and be listened to. (Any doctors out there, please do not take offense, I appreciate and value your skills, knowledge, and ability to help others greatly and I realize that the providers I have worked with in my career do not represent all providers.)
I went into my morning meeting aiming at projecting self-confidence, professionalism, knowledge of the issues to be discussed, and strength not to be cowed to a provider’s will. Now, if you know me, you would know that this would be difficult. I am an introvert. I do not like speaking in front of crowds. I do not like to be the center of attention. It takes a lot of effort sometimes to stand up and defend one’s point of view in front of others.
I had been dreading this meeting but I did well. I did not get anxious butterflies in my stomach or shaky hands. I felt calm and collected, without my heart pounding. I felt like my opinions were listened to, considered, and taken seriously. We assembled a plan that would work well for everyone.
So how did I do it?
Stand tall with your head held high and your shoulders back. Do not slouch.
Turn towards the person you are interacting with. Do not cross your arms over your chest or hold them akimbo, as these poses can be interpreted as defensive or aggressive.
Smiling can put others at ease, which can put you at ease. I am quiet and tend not to talk in certain situations and was once told by a teacher that I have a very expressive face; she said she could always tell when I did not like something she said because she could read it on my face. I took that to heart and try not to spend time in meetings looking bored or with RBF. You don’t have to have a big goofy grin, just don’t look like you would rather be somewhere else.
Eye contact is very important. As a born introvert I used to always walk down the school hallways shyly looking down, not making eye contact. I know now in the professional world I can not do that and be taken seriously. Eye contact during a conversation makes it appear like you are engaged and actively listening.
Be the first to introduce yourself when walking into a room of people you don’t know or when meeting with someone for the first time. A strong voice, firm handshake, and a smile can go a long way making you appear confident.
Look appropriate for the situation
This morning I wore a navy dolman blouse and dark trousers. I wore a little more makeup than usual and fixed my hair. I wore a large statement necklace and matching earrings. I wanted to appear professional and appropriate for my position in administration and for the situation.
Believe in yourself
Last but not least, believe in yourself. I left the hardest one for last. Even though my self-esteem is low, I feel bad, and the last thing I wanted to do this morning was to be in a situation where I had to speak in public and interact with a room full of people, I told myself that I could do it. I know my appearance, or my perception of it does not define me, who, or what I am. I walked into work believing that I was going to be the best I could be and I didn’t let myself down.
What do you do when you don’t feel confident? Do you ever feel the way I did after noticing the difference in my perception of how I looked and my photo? I would love to hear from you.