If you’re starting a new job, speaking at an event, or otherwise stepping into a situation where you need a confidence boost, the common advice is to “fake it til you make it.” The hope is that by pretending to be confident, you’ll eventually internalize it and actually become so.
However, in new book “The Confidence Code,” authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman say that’s about the worst thing you can do. “Confidence isn’t about pretending or putting on an act,” they write. “Confidence springs from genuine accomplishment and work.”
The authors say the “fake it” adage is a modern adaptation of a quote by Aristotle: “Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a certain way.” But when it comes to faking confidence, they say it doesn’t help and may actually make you feel less secure, because “knowingly masquerading as something we’re not makes us anxious.”
Moreover, Cameron Anderson, a psychologist who works in the business school at the University of California, Berkeley, says no matter how good you are at faking it, there are always “tells.” Shifting eyes, rising voice, and other body language giveaways signal that you’re not what you seem. Most of us have a pretty good radar for BS, says Anderson, so bluffing could make you seem more like a phony than the confident professional you trying for.
So how do you drum up a little courage when you need it? Kay and Shipman suggest taking action. We become more confident by trying things and learning that we’ll either succeed or survive the stumbles.
“Do one small thing brave thing, and then the next will be easier. And soon confidence will flow,” they write. “We know — ‘fake til you make it’ sounds catchier — but this actually works.”
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