Three days after I graduated from college, I moved from Wisconsin to Colorado, where my wife, who was then my fiancé, lived with her family. We had determined that we would begin our married life in the beautiful Rocky mountains, and our wedding was about six months away. The problem was, I didn’t have a job, an apartment, or much money.
Because our wedding was quickly approaching, my first priority was to become gainfully employed. That meant hours searching job websites, filling out lots and lots of applications, and more interviews than I care to remember. Quite frankly, it was horrible, and I grew increasingly stressed out.
To make matters worse, I was deeply shy and lacked self-confidence. That shyness carried over to my job interviews. I mumbled my way through, staring at the floor and feeling embarrassed. Of course, I didn’t get a many job offers that way.
Finally something snapped. After failing and making a fool out of myself who knows how many times, I finally decided that it didn’t matter any more. I had nothing to lose. I was going to give each job interview my all. Thus began a period of great learning and maturing for me, and while it was painful at the time, I believe I am a better man for the experience.
Here are a few things I learned about confidence from my crash-and-burn days.
5. Dress well - Like it or not, how you dress can have a profound impact on your self-confidence. If you show up at a professional business luncheon dressed like a skateboarder—complete with ratty t-shirt, scuffed up shoes, and holes in your jeans— no one is going to take you seriously. Worse, you’re going to feel extremely uncomfortable, and you’re conduct is going to show your discomfort.
To clarify, when I say dress well, I don’t mean dress expensively. There is a difference. But I do mean dress in such a way that you don’t have to be self conscious. That means leave the teenybopper styles behind, and dress like an adult.
4. Firm handshake – First impressions are incredibly important, and a firm handshake can go a long way toward making a good first impression. There are several elements to a good handshake.
First is eye contact. Don’t stare at the floor when extending your hand. Rather, look the individual in the eye and lean in slightly.
Second, dry palms. During one of the aforementioned interviews, I shook the hand of the manager interviewing me. Of course, I was nervous leading up to the interview, and he immediately noticed that my palms were sweaty. He then proceeded to directly question me as to why I was nervous. It was incredibly awkward. Do yourself a favor and dry your palms before shaking hands.
Finally, grasp his or her hand firmly—but not too firmly. One the best ways to project weakness is a limp hand. On the other hand, no one wants to have their metacarpals crushed in a vice. Go for moderate strength.
3. Good posture – Bad posture projects weakness and lack of confidence. Stand up straight and don’t let your shoulders slump. You’ll immediately look ashamed and weak if you do.
If you’ve ever met a military man, you’ll immediately notice his posture. Soldiers stand tall, and they immediately appear more confident because of it.
2. Eye contact – Have you ever talked with someone who won’t look you in the eye? I have, and it’s downright disconcerting and it projects insecurity.
When carrying on a conversation, don’t look at the floor or appear distracted by letting your eyes roam around the room. Make eye contact and pay attention to the speaker. Now, to clarify, you don’t want to creep them out with a fierce, unblinking stare. It is probably wise to look away occasionally now and then. But maintain contact most of the time.
1. Detachment – While it may seem contrary to everything I’ve said above, it is a paradox that the less you care about what others think, the more confident you will be. Nothing is so debilitating as the fear of men’s opinions, and few things are as freeing as deciding that you don’t care.
The saints have constantly warned against wanting to be approved of, as it is essentially an inverted form of pride. True humility recognizes that our confidence should be in God alone and forgetful of self. The humble man knows that if God is pleased with him, then he has nothing to fear, even if the whole world is against him.
The most confident people I know are the ones who care the least about what others think. Please God, be humble, and be free.
Growing in confidence can take time, and sometimes it’s a matter of faking it until we feel it. But if you spend your life acting ashamed, embarrassed, and apologetic, you will not do yourself any favors. Boldness and confidence are virtues every man should possess.