How to Fake Confidence When You Have Anxiety
One of the awesome realities of living with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is that I pretty much always feel like I could do and be better, no matter how hard I try. But put me in a new situation with new people and my heart will be completely beating out of my chest. With the help of my therapist, I'm working on boosting my self-confidence, and sometimes, that means outwardly faking confidence—even when I'm really scared—using these tactics.
How I Fake Confidence When I'm Anxious
- Standing and sitting up straight
- Uncrossing my arms when I'm in a conversation with someone
- Limiting my nervous giggling
- Speaking in a calm but authoritative tone
- Being unapologetic (unless I truly need to apologize)
- Saying yes to experiences and opportunities that will benefit my goals, even if I'm scared I can't do it
Stand Up Straight
Here's the quickest and easiest way to appear more confident: stand up straight. I once had a coworker tell me, "You're pretty hot but you have got to stand up straight." Lack of professionalism aside, dude was right. Nothing makes you stand out (no pun intended) for all of the wrong reasons like slouching. If your poor posture is an attempt to go unnoticed, it's not working.
As Dr. Alex Korb explains in his article "Standing Up For Confidence" on Psychology Today, your brain doesn't just notice the confidence standing up straight brings, it notices the confidence other people have in you when you stand up straight.
If you're too nervous to practice standing up straight out in public, start at home. Take notice of how you hold yourself when you walk to the kitchen for a snack and improve your posture by:
- Holding your head held high with your chin up and out so that your gaze lands in front of your, not towards your feet
- Gently pushing your shoulders back
- Tucking your booty in, which automatically straightens out your tummy and abdominal area
Sit Up Straight
Likewise, you need to sit up straight which is especially important for students like me and those who work primarily at their desk during the day. While it can be easy to start sinking into your seat during the 3 PM funk, take a deep breath and scooch your butt back so you can straighten your back and shoulders. If you need to, push your chair closer to your desk so you don't have to lean in, and bring your computer up high so you don't have to slouch to see what you're doing.
Uncross Your Arms
I often cross my arms in an attempt to make myself feel smaller. As someone who deals with chronic anxiety, I'm prone to believing that I take up too much space, that I'm a burden to those around me and that it's best if I go unnoticed.
This is dumb.
If I can't figure out what to do with my dang arms when I've bumped into an old coworker or I'm having a talk with one of my professors then I'll utilize those pockets once again but putting my hands there and, with my shoulders back, letting my elbows relax enough that I look slightly bigger instead of smaller. Taking up space not only makes me feel more confident that I'm right where I should be, I think it helps others take me seriously instead of wondering why I'm so guarded with my arms crossed like I'm about to bend over and headbutt them.
Keep Your Hands Off Your Face
I don't know if there's a real science to this, but when I'm anxious and feeling a bit in the pits about myself, I often put my hands on my face. I might stroke my cheek over and over or rest my chin in a cupped hand. It's an instant clue to me that I'm feeling nervous and at this point, for the people around me, I bet they identify this body language with my lack of self-confidence too.
I'm learning to replace this habit with sticking a hand in my pocket and gently rubbing some of the fabric from my dress between my fingers instead. It lets off nervous energy in a less noticeable way and keeps my hands off my face altogether.
Word and Actions
Something I used to do often before I started using the phone more for work is giggle. There's nothing wrong with it but with my already high-pitched voice it does make me sound less serious and it makes me feel less serious too, especially because it's something I do most when I'm nervous or overwhelmed with an imposter syndrome. In my opinion, giggling just comes off as ditzy after a while.
Now, anytime I feel I'm going to start giggling at the wrong time I'll literally bit my tongue and just smile and nod instead.
Speak With Authority and Decisiveness
Back to my high-pitched voice. You can always tell how nervous I am based on how many octaves up my voice goes. It's really important to me to exude kindness and friendliness with people, but a high-pitched sing-song Disney Princess voice isn't the best way to achieve this and in my experience in the workplace and in academic settings it's caused people to think I was younger than I was and that made me feel like I didn't belong in that setting.
Check yourself next time you're feeling less than confident so that when you open your mouth to speak your tone is level, even authoritative and that you speak decisively without a bunch of "Ummms" and "Uhhhhs" sprinkled into your speech.
Stop Saying "Sorry" and "It's Okay"
One time in high school one of my best friends turned to me at lunch and said, "You've really got to stop saying 'sorry' all of the time because it's super annoying and makes you seem weak."
It stung so bad (especially because I had a big fat crush on him which would explain my lack of confidence around him) but it's one of the best pieces of advice a person has ever given me. Inappropriately saying "sorry" every time I crossed a person's path or thought that I'd inconvenienced them in any way (like when the lunch lady made a mistake and handed me back less change than she owed ME!) made me look like I didn't know my worth.
Know your worth, and only say "sorry" if you actually truly need to apologize for something.
Don't Blab on Facebook
Maybe your car got a flat tire, your boss just cut your hours and you caught your niece's stomach bug all in the same day. Do not, I repeat do not go blabbing that stuff on Facebook.
Not only is expressing your misfortune on a Facebook a tone deaf way of sharing your troubles when everyone else is out there dealing with their own, Facebook is not a personal experience. If, like most people, you're connected with a bunch of people you hardly know and who hardly know you, you'll come across as a whiner and someone who's confidence is so low you need strangers to validate your bad luck and hard days.
Instead, text a close friend to vent or call your great-aunt for a pep talk, but keep personal stuff to yourself and others will perceive you as a strong and level person.
Be Welcoming to Experiences and Opportunities That Benefit You
When you have anxiety, the safest thing to say to something that takes you out of your comfort zone is "No." No, because you don't know how to do it, no because you're afraid of letting someone down, no because it seems like a job for someone better than you.
Last year, a recruiter tracked me down and asked me to create a series of guides for him on a subject I knew absolutely nothing about. Instead of saying no, I said yes. Was it a dumb thing to do? Absolutely. Was it important that I do it anyway? Yep. Did I succeed? WITH FLYING COLORS and I learned a new skill along the way. The scariest part was just saying yes and even while my brain and heart screamed at me that I had no idea what I was doing I said, "Simmer down, brain and heart, I've got this."
And I did. And that project opened up other projects for me that never would have become if I wouldn't have welcomed that initial, scary experience.
Quickly Dismiss Experiences and Opportunities That Won't Benefit You
Buuuuuuut then again, there are going to be times when the least scary thing to do is say "Yes" when you really, really know that the best thing for you to say is "NO."
That same recruiter offered me more work for another project that, when I assessed it, wouldn't be worth the pay and he wasn't budging. I nearly took the job because I thought, "Dang, if he doesn't think I'm worth that pay then I must not be." Still, I faked confidence and gave a firm no. A week later, I was onto another better paying project I wouldn't have had time for if I took on this other lesser-paying one.
Sometimes, saying no will make you anxious but you should do it anyway.
Keep Your Opinion to Yourself
Along with the Facebook thing, there are some things better kept to yourself or at least off the internet and out of professional and academic situations. I know that we're an era right now of If You Don't Stand for Nothing You'll Fall For Everything. But there's also a happy medium ground called You Can Reserve Your Energy For Your Own Self by Ignoring Dumb People.
Despite what the internet might tell you, you don't always need to express your opinion or wear your heart on your sleeve because doing so might expose you so much to criticism and unkindness that it hurts your self-confidence. Sensitive and gentle people are often the first to express their emotions and the first to become belittled by truly unkind people. So, choose your battles and in the end, always fight for yourself above all else to preserve your confidence and your sense of self.
Other Ways to Fake Confidence When You Have an Anxiety Disorder
- Make yourself smell nice. You may be scared to death to walk into your first day of work but wash your hair, slather on that deodorant and swish some mouthwash around and even if you don't feel confident, you'll smell confident.
- Keep your vehicle and your home clean. These are two places you spend a lot of time and where others might be spending time with you too. Even if your mind is a storm of chaos at the moment, your dwelling doesn't have to reflect that to the world.
- Pretend you're someone else. I'm serious. My brother is a real jerk sometimes because he comes off as arrogant but he's also successful in his career and his life choices because even though he's swirling with anxiety, he channels that nervous energy into completely fabricated confidence and it's enough to trick people into thinking he knows what he's doing and eventually, he catches on. Likewise, if he has a big hurdle to jump, like moving to a new town to pursue better pay, he says "I'm scared" to the people closest to him and then tells himself to suck it up and does it anyway. Although I'm all for being gentle and kind to oneself, kicking your own butt sometimes might be the best way to overcome your self-esteem and literally Fake it 'til You Make It.
- Keep your anxiety tools nearby. For me, that's a bottle of essential oil and a cold bottle of water sipped in a dark, quiet place while I gather myself. Knowing that stuff is easily accessible helps me act confidently when I'm scared.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Em Clark