Confidence: A People Magnet

It works!

It works!

Confidence is a people magnet. It’s also good at drawing emotionally healthier people to you.

And, it’s healthy to have confidence even when you are alone.

But how do you get it? 

Fake it till you make it

Fake it till you make it, they say. It actually seems to work.

We can actually change our body chemistry, along with other people’s perceptions of us, just by how we stand, says Amy Cuddy, a Harvard social psychologist. Maybe you’ve seen her Ted Talk.

To paraphrase:

When we feel confident we make ourselves big, we stretch out, we take up space. But when we feel powerless we do the opposite. We close up, wrap ourselves up, and make ourselves small.

And it works the other way too. If you are all stretched out when you wake up in bed, you will feel more confident than if you wake up in a fetal position. But if you stretch out to make yourself bigger, you’ll feel more confident throughout the day.

Who knows why? Maybe cognitive dissonance: When behavior and attitude don’t match, one of the two will change. Take on a strong pose and the attitude comes around to match.

Some people think the technique in authentic. But I don’t know.

Maybe the “fake us” is the part that is insecure?

Get in touch with the core you

Catitude: Haters gonna hate... and so what?

Catitude: Haters gonna hate… and so what?

Relatedly, try to get in touch with the core you, which is wonderful and worthy.

There’s a Buddhist notion that our core self is exactly that: both wonderful and worthy. Many who practice meditation get in touch with that joyful, peaceful, at-ease self.

But sometimes our core gets scratched up by hurt people who hurt people. Parents, or the neighborhood kids, who didn’t feel good about themselves told you that you were worthless. It’s a tactic the insecure often use to feel like they are raising themselves up by putting you down.

But you believed them. Even though it wasn’t really about you. It was about them.

Market manipulation

Meanwhile, marketers have discovered that one of the most effective ways to sell product is to make us feel bad about ourselves — maybe by setting impossible standards — and then telling us that we can buy the cure.

Again, it’s not you. It’s the marketers.

And then, “keeping up with the Jones’s” — keeps us on the buy-stuff treadmill forever.

Achieve small successes

Also, moving out of our comfort zone and gaining small successes — that grow over time — can build confidence.

Develop cat-itude

And finally, develop catitude!

Cats like being cats. Whether you like them or not. Because they just know that they are the coolest.

In fact, they make any resting place look comfortable. Maybe that’s because they’re so comfortable with themselves.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on March 2, 2015, in psychology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 60 Comments.

  1. I used to believe that you have to fake it until you make it. I no longer do believe that is the case however. I do however think that you have to believe in yourself when others doubt you, and if you ever hit rock bottom, you have to be able to pull and pick yourself up. I think that there are too many people out there that really believe in the idea of faking it until you make it; I believe that they end up living in a fantasy world for that time being. It’s always good to be optimistic, but you should have a sense of reality at the same time, or you could end up falling flat on your face. I can say that I do concur about the part of the article that mentions that you can trick yourself into feeling good, but I believe that happiness is only momentarily and temporary. Whatever it is that you want to be in life, you can be it. I think that if you do things that make you happy, and find happiness within, and it will spread and rub off on others. I think that one’s own happiness is real confidence.

    • Not saying that you have to fake it till you make it. But based on personal experience, it appears to be one option. And that maybe because we all have inside of us abilities and confidence that we don’t realize we have. So maybe it’s not so fake after all. It just seems like it.

  2. Christopher vaquerano

    I’m most intrigued by the notion of performing confidence through postures. I find a connection within my own life through working with dogs. I am a (male) dog groomer and only mention my gender because it plays a big role in how dogs interact with me in that my features can be more intimidating to certain dogs than those of a female such as vocal tones and physical structure. Every dog including the tiny fluffy ones came from wolfs but through selective breeding we have manipulated not only their physical appearance but their communicative abilities. This being said, the least like a wolf the dog looks the more “puppy-ish” their communication is and the closer to a wolf the dog looks usually the more adult pack oriented K-9 behavior is exhibited. Keeping this in mind and also keeping in mind that I am a male with a wide frame and big beard I have to watch my posture when I meet new dogs and establish hierarchy and trust which is usually done during the first greet. For example, if there is a giant husky that has aggressive dominant tendencies (which is apparent when you know what signs to look for) I have to posture up in a way that makes me look bigger but not threatening and approach in a way that does not diminish my dominance yet does not challenge the dog in question and all this has to be done even if I am scared of the dog. If you fake it till you make it eventually a bond can be made but if you portray postures or make noises that suggest submissive qualities or aggressive challenging qualities a dog may push you and take advantage and may not hesitate to attack if it felt it needed to assert or protect itself. This is ja very general example but the point to make is that we humans seem to be pack animals and express ourselves like pack animals do

  3. This is interesting topic. I did not know that nonverbal language can be so powerful. After watching the TED talk by Amy Cuddy, I learned something new about body language/ nonverbal language. As Cuddy says, “Our nonverbals gover how we think and feel about ourselves.” This is something that I had never thought about before. And the experiment about interview makes the point clear and persuasive. I have noticed those postings which show high power and low power in our daily life. Even myself sometimes do low power posts but I did not realize that I was low-power, I just felt uncomfortable or nervous. After watching this talk I will know whether I am feeling high power or not in the future. Another point that Cuddy claims is that our body language can change our mind. The story that she told about herself made this theory work. I have many times feel like nervous, upset, hopeless and negative. When I feel low power I think negatively: everything is going the wrong way; I distrust myself. Next time, when I feel low power I would like to try the high power posts and pretend I am good at it and pretend I am the best to collect all my confident.
    But different cultures have different view of being confident. In China, we were taught never be too proud. And we have a famous sentence says, “Modesty helps one to make progress conceit makes one lag behind.” We were taught that modesty is virtue. For example when people praise you “you are so beautiful”, we say “no, no, I am not beautiful, you are praise me” or “you are more beautiful”. Though the culture is different but I still think that high power posts are useful because it can give you courage to feel confident.
    Last, just as the catitude suggests to be true yourself. It is right but hard to be. We care about how the other people think of ourselves.

  4. Indeed, confidence is a great trait to have. And yes, one can fake it to get the needed attention. Public speaking for example, requires a lot of confidence to be able to deliver the message. The audience will absolutely be drawn to an interesting presentation, delivered by a knowledgeable and confident speaker. The topic may be dreary at times but if the speaker is engaging, it prevents the audience from dozing off. Some people are just born with it; they are born confident. Some have to pretend they’re confident if the occasion asks for it. When going in for a job interview for example, the applicant has to fake it to leave a strong impression. One has to be able to show he/she has “it” to grab the employer’s attention. Faking it becomes evil when used to deceive and manipulate people, like pretending to be somebody you’re not. In social media, these are pedophiles, pretending to be young and nice to fool the sweet and innocent. It pays to be cautious and vigilant of these type of fakers.

    • Yeah, it definitely depends on what you are thinking as to whether it is good or not. I did find it when I first started teaching/Public speaking that faking confidence was really helpful and helped me to actually develop it.

  5. We are stuck in this vicious cycle of not feeling good about ourselves, not feeling worthy… We pick that up starting at such a young age – even when the people raising us are encouraging and supportive and loving. I suppose it is from other influences as well – neighborhood kids, like you mentioned, or at school, or on TV, or on the internet. This idea of being unworthy, and the low self-esteem that comes with it is sooo pervasive. I agree with you, that it started with marketers discovering that “one of the most effective ways to sell product is to make us feel bad about ourselves…and then telling us that we can buy the cure.” We are made to feel inadequate; we develop feelings and thoughts that tell us we’re not good enough unless we buy those shoes, drive that car, do this cleanse, wear that makeup, on and on and on. How did it start though? Where did it begin? Who were the first marketers employing these tactics…? Clearly, the tactics have continued because they work incredibly well, for the marketers/companies/corporations/government that is. As for us, they work incredibly well to keep our bodies and spirits depressed and tired, and always seeking the next ‘cure.’

  6. This is very true, in high school I was shy and quiet and people always described me as nice and I hated it. But when I went away to college I decided that I had to be loud and speak my mind and just have fun being me. Some people still think I’m nice but they also say I’m mean, sarcastic and funny. And part of being confident is definitely not caring what people think of you because either way they are going to have an opinion of you.

  7. Caroline Dietrich

    I really enjoyed this post as I am currently taking a Psychology course and have just learned about behavioral factors in emotion, in that facial expressions can influence emotion as well as reflect them. There is a study on people placing a pencil in their mouth to make them essentially force a smile and while watching a comedian they thought that the skit was much funnier than it really was.

    Also, I think that it is interesting in how the mood that you are in dictates your opinion, this is the reason that there is an opening singer at a concert in order to get you pumped up and make the concert that much better.

    Confidence I think is a really important thing for people to talk about in order to be aware of our own self confidence. I firmly believe that surrounding yourself with positive people can help lift up your self esteem. Women especially tend to knock other women down to make themselves feel better, when we should be boosting each other up.

    Overall, confidence is something we have to build upon like a foundation of a house. This especially ties into the part in the article you wrote about moving out of your comfort zone in order to gain small successes. I strongly believe that happiness and confidence are tied together.

  8. Haomeijie Liang

    In my opinion, confidence is very important to every person. Some one just was born with it, but for others they may be somewhat lack of it. So how to build your confidence is very helpful to these people. “Fake it till you make it”, that’s true for me. Because I think everybody, no matter how lack of confidence he/she is, he/she should first have a confidence that he/she can finally build his/her own confidence. That’s what the words “fake it” mean. Then when you get this basic confidence, you will be more likely to achieve your goals. When you have achieved a goal, more confidence will be with you. Finally, you will feel more confident than ever before. See that’s an upward spiral, but first you should step into it. How can you do that? Just fake you have it.

    For me, it did work. Thus, it’s something like personal experience. I mean when I have achieved something, the confidence didn’t automatically add in my mind until I think I have the confidence. So why don’t you pretend you have the confidence first?

  9. Nice post! Be confident in everything and yes it will attract positivity in your life.

  10. I find high self confidence people very attractive too. The fact that they are happy the way they are and strong enough not to care as much to other people’s opinion about them is enough to make them in a higher position than the crowd. However, I find it very difficult to fake my feelings or a smile when I am down because I am lying to myself. I sometimes feel weak or down. And sometimes I don’t like some people and I cannot fake emotions in general. I wish I could though, because then I am not just strong, but diplomatic too.

    • Well I suspect that deep down self-confidence is something we all have access to, when we let go of the hurts that have covered it over. And it does seem to work for a lot of people, to fake it till you make it, as they say. Including me. But maybe it’s easier in some circumstances than others, Too.

  11. A confident expression on your face is a major point of attraction; it comes from one’ s inner core, if it also houses an urge to excel. Faking it till making it, also works in the context of the urge to excel. Your input, Georgia, on cat-I rude is interesting and gells with the confidence theme…best wishes… Raj.

  12. A confident expression on your face is a major point of attraction; it comes from bring true to yourself, if that also constitutes an urge to excel. I also liked your take, Georgia, on faking it till making it and your inputs on cat-itude, which again contributes to confidence….best wishes… Raj.

  13. LOL- on the cats. We have four of them. I am just doing this workout now that talks about how powerful the mind is in creating results- it’s easy to forget but you are right- our realities are often shaped by what’s in our head… kind of like you are what u eat, u are what you think. And those marketers… also a reminder that often what is being sold is far from objective.

  14. Another great post. There is a very thin line between confidence and arrogance. I detest arrogance, but like folks with confidence. Again, body language and tone defines difference.

  15. I’ll have to remember to take future advice from cats about being genuine 🙂 I am so much more confident than a few years back and I think it shines through from the inside to my outer appearance. Another great post!

  16. Great post!

    Last year, I read this terrific book on this subject: “Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Ph.D. His primary thesis is that confidence is driven by competence as expressed by success.

    His work, as well as that of other scientists cited, show that highly confident people often suffer from low levels of competence as perceived by others. Just being and acting confident does not cut it. It is success that drives confidence, not the other way around.

    Men who are very successful with women tend to be more confident which in turn makes then more attractive to women in general…

    While you can “fake it till you make it”, it’s effect is short lived. Low confidence people can improve their confidence by becoming more successful (i.e., more competent!). This will drive up their confidence levels. Confident (but incompetent) people are viewed very negatively by others.

    A very fascinating read.

    • Well, I know from personal experience that it works, And that it can work long term. And I think the two sides play on themselves. Feeling confident helps you to become successful, And being successful helps you to become confident.

      • Yes. I can see it too. He does mention this in the book. While i am quite sucessful, it has made more only marginally more confident. I have always been confident man, except with women. Only because I do not have a firm grasp and understanding of how women think and act…

  17. I like the part about developing cat-itude, I agree with the part of being yourself and not caring what others say. Worrying what others say about you is just going to bring you down. Have you ever noticed how celebrities wear whatever they feel like and many times start new trends doing so. It’s all about confidence as a person and feeling good about yourself.

    Im not sure if I agree with the waking up in a fetal position vs waking up stretched out. I do feel like we make ourselves big when we are confident. When I’m at the gym and I get a good workout in and feel good I notice myself to have a different walk then when I have a crappy workout and don’t feel as well afterwards.

    • Waking up in a fetal position versus waking up stretched out, there’s actually research that shows you will be more confident if you are stretched out — or if you stretch your body out later, after awakening.

  18. I have had the opportunity to watch this Amy Cuddy’s TED talk several times now and each time I like it even more, because it think the “fake it till you make it” can actually work. After watching the TED talk the first time I figured I would it out and see how it goes for me, and so far it has gone very well. The way that I wanted to try this out was speaking in front of a crowd or a class; this to me has always been the most nerve-wracking thing that I would have to do, but not as much anymore. Mainly because, one the more I practice speaking in front of a class like for a presentation the more comfortable I have become, I don’t get as nervous anymore. Second, I have learned to look confident on the outside even if I’m not on the inside and this has helped me get out of my comfort zone a little bit more. So I think that little by little the more you fake it the more you will actually do it and eventually become it.

  19. Courtney Shull

    This topic comes up a lot as myself and my classmates begin figuring out what we want our career path to be. In school, we are taught to love what we do and be confident in this; something that shouldn’t be faked. But I question those who follow what they love but still believe they need to “fake it till they make it.” I believe this issue occurs because of work life competition; or competition in general. I believe competition is core for breaking ones confidence and we are constantly taught that the business world is competitive. So those ideas contradict themselves…that we are taught not to fake confidence while trying to work against competition. Although confidence is key to success, it is okay to “fake it till you make it” at times because that is what it takes in order to not let competition break you down. Telling yourself you can in an instance of insecurity is pushing yourself to fake a positive mentality for an outcome of success.

  20. “Fake it till you make it” is a very interesting article. When I have the presentations in class, I often stand straight, confident eyes, stretch my shoulders and chest to make me more confident even though I was shaking inside. I just did those without knowing why it helps me feel confident until I read this article. The idea is pretty similar to if you about to have a battle and you win you are going to win, so you have 50% to win. On another hand, if you are too scared and think you will lose for sure so the result of the battle is so obvious there. You can think this way, imagine your classmate is having a presentation, you are sitting there observe him, how bad would it be if he too scare to talk about his work? Definitely it wouldn’t look so nice, right? So do you want to look awkward like that or you want to have a great performance?

  21. Sabrina Szpetkowski

    I totally agree with this! This is exactly how I gained my confidence. I used to be painfully shy and anxious, which made my life a living hell, but eventually I knew I had to change. I literally just kept acting like I had everything under control even when I was freaking out inside. Eventually the things that made me feel uncomfortable and weak didn’t even phase me. I seriously tricked myself into feeling amazing about myself. It’s so important for young people to feel confident and have a sense of identity. I think it can definitely influence their future in amazing ways.

  22. This is actually something that I’m currently dealing with in my life. The idea of fake it till you make it is a very valid way of handling emotional or mental stress that you would otherwise not feel equipped to deal with. In my opinion, though, it doesn’t have so much to do with your core being and perhaps faking who you are or who you think you want others to see you as. It seems more like an emotional buffer. One of my favorite things to tell people when I start laughing at something that doesn’t seem appropriate at the moment is that I’m either going to laugh or cry, so I’d rather laugh. It’s about faking “okay” until the time comes when you realize that you finally are okay. Sometimes it’s a very delicate balance, however, because there then arises the issue of suppressing something and never dealing with it. I’m all for faking it till you make it because otherwise, there may be a time when mental or emotional hardship just engulfs you and you become a part of it. Fake a smile until you don’t have to and the hope is that eventually it won’t be fake.

    • I think this particularly works when it comes to issues of confidence. Certain things suggest that we all have access to a core confidence, Which I will write about later

  23. Like this post, the “fake it till you make” it strategy works in many cases. Even if you don’t think you’ve got the grudge to carry out something, pretend that you can and more often than not it’ll work.

    In bed though, it may not work to assume any other stance than a fetal position if you had too many drinks the night before…

  24. Loved the Ted Talk…and also liked the way you’ve explained your point…and yes, cats are always cats… 😀

  25. It techinically isn’t even “faking it” because confidence is just something that anyone can have. We just need to embrace our inner confidence. Throughout many years of the shame I have had from my weight, and even my stretch marks it has made me feel insecure even though I don’t like to admit it. Thats because no one admits their faults, they want to be shown as the best form of themselves. Everyone has insecurities, and is unsatisfied with their current being; that’s what makes us want to progress, etc. However we all must feel proud and confident for all the things we have accomplished and are proud of. This is what creates confidence I think; being proud of oneself.

  26. My challenge is being positive when so many times it seems like nothing is going right and you feel powerless to change the outcome that moment or day. That’s whats tough is I do and can feel strong about my abilities, but still doubt things will work out if the day is going bad, because unfortunately it’s happened before despite my best efforts. It’s tough as sometimes you don’t have control of outcomes despite your best effort, and sometimes you do. I remember when things aren’t going well and I would fight it off and be like well I gotta do this and ignore that and I’ll get through it and yet still underperformed or underachieved that day.

    So unfortunately it causes me to be tentative or superstitious almost. For example if I have an interview for a good job, but in the morning, I spill cofee on myself, have to get new clothes, while rushing and burned my leg from the cofee. Drive out get held up in traffic, then park somewhere to get something. Come back and see a good dent in my car, then say stub my toe really bad on the curve and it hurts really bad an limping. I’m pissed now and hurting and from all what has happened, this is not good. Or say I forgot my interview questions that I usuallly look over before coming into the interview. Say all this happened and its looking like a not so good day, I would have anxiety now going into the interview and have doubts and of it not going to work out in the back of my mind.

    And it would get me irritated for this to happen on an important day when I need things to go well and not the opposite. I know I’m smart and feel good in my abilities, yet I would be anxious of doing well in the interview, not because of my skills, but because of what’s happened and seems pending to come forward. In the back of my mind I’m antcipating something to not go right for the interview now, because unfortunately that’s happened before with things despite my best effort to work throught it. So it shows how you can;t always control the outcomes of things. But you bet your ass if I don’t get the job which I thought I’d have a good chance getting that my mind would immediately go to the “bad day” and how things went before and I should have fucking known, because of all the shit that happened earlier and it was a “sign” or foreshadowing apparently of what was to come later.

    • I’ve experienced “Faking it” in both the way I described and the way you described.

      So if I re-post this again I will write about both experiences. In fact, I might do a follow-up post (Or maybe two) addressing some of the questions people have been bringing up.

      In some situations I’ve found myself feeling unconfident and have just chosen to put on a confident front and found that my spirits lifted. I actually began to embody that new attitude. Grew into it, as it were. It was available, I just hadn’t had access to it.

      But sometimes when you try too hard it can backfire.

      I’m not sure why it works one way or the other. But if I try the first way and it starts backfiring I go to Plan B:

      This is something I got from Buddhism, and a ski instructor. Sometimes struggle makes what you’re struggling against stronger. Like when I was learning to ski my instructor said, “If you see that you’re headed for a tree, don’t think, ‘Don’t hit the tree!’Because you’re more likely to hit it, because that’s what you’re focused on. Instead, aim for where you WANT to go.” You can start worrying that something will happen and that actually directs your thought to the negative thing.

      Or, maybe there’s something that makes you upset when you think about it, So you struggle not to think about it, but it makes the thought stronger.

      So you just have to let it be. You acknowledge how you’re feeling and let it go. That’s why Buddhists are so focused on meditation. The meditation practice helps you to let things go. So for 10 minutes a day you Close your eyes, sit still, breathe normally and focus on your breath. Thoughts come in and you simply acknowledge them and let them go. You might label the emotion that comes with them: “I felt fearful,” “I felt stupid”… And then let it go. Early on your mind will be a jumble of thoughts, and you’ll keep noticing that you aren’t focusing on your breath, you’re caught up in your thoughts. You just keep letting them go and come back to stillness. Over time you get more and more stillness. It creates an interesting perspective when you go, “I feel so inadequate” and then just acknowledge that and let it go without judgment. But also when you aren’t in a meditative state, when you are just living life, and a worrisome thought comes to you, You get really good at acknowledging it and just letting it go. Coming back to stillness.

      • Well you did bring up a good thing there and what relates to me. It’s very hard for me to let things go. If somethings frustrated me or bothered me, I mean not talk about it or show it, but it’s somewhere in the back of my mind, especially if it’s something I can’t fix. That’s very hard for me, I hate not being able to resolve something or fix it, as a man it’s very unsettling being helpless or feeling that way. And I can’t wait to make things better, but if I don’t know when or how, anxiety will kick in and it can make me irritable.

      • Try practicing meditation. It’s great!

  27. Awesome post ~ I like the comment you made that it’s healthy to have confidence even when you are alone. That is true, when you are authentic ~ you are confident and it becomes a part of the everyday you (whether with others or alone).

  28. Definitely a lot of truth to this – I know I’m a lot more successful getting what I need from clients, coworkers, and others when I have confidence. It’s almost as if, if I’m confident, I become the leader in that interaction and they fall into being a follower, if that makes sense.

  29. Great post, and I agree with Sara – I still believe authenticity rules. 🙂
    (I have observed, some friends fake it for so long trying to make it that they become fake-I still accept them 😉

    • Well, I believe that our core self is confident and we might need to “fake it” in order to get beneath the hurts that have hidden that core from our consciousness.

      When I first started teaching I was quite nervous and had to put up a confident front, which became real overtime. Done it in other situations too, and found that it works for me. The confident stance works for Dr. Cuddy wanted too.

  30. I love that ted talk – and it’s not really faking it when you think about it – it’s just that everything is connected. It’s funny, but I was talking about this very thing in my blog this week. Sometimes if you want to cultivate a certain characteristic such as confidence or creativity or spontaneity, it can be difficult to know where to start. So we can start with the body, and cultivate those traits in a physical way, through yoga or posture or whatever you like. And yes, little steps are good. I always feel more confident if I’m being authentic – walking my talk, keeping my promises, taking little risks…

    • Yeah. I think the most authentic part of ourselves maybe that whole core that I can get covered over by the fake stuff that’s often hurts.

      I’ll have to go back and check out the blog post of yours. Thanks for your thoughts.

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