Having personal power – the qualities of strength, confidence and competence – isn’t only relevant to you if you have designs on becoming the next Oprah Winfrey.
Having personal power is a means to an end for everyone. The end being living the life of our desires. Because the things we want take guts to get!
Although we identify individuals as being either naturally confident or naturally shy, in reality the distinction isn’t as simple. The fact is, we are all under confident in certain areas of our life, and more confident in other areas.
In her famous Ted Talk, body language expert Amy Cuddy popularized the idea that we can ‘fake it until we make it’ with confidence by adopting certain postures. We can also do things like resistance/strength training (great for building confidence) and joining groups like Toastmasters to learn to master public speaking.
The techniques below have a slightly different emphasis. Borrowed from Buddhist wisdom and other spiritual systems, these are psychological practices that should allow you to deal with confidence issues at a deeper level.
Practicing loving kindness
Ross had a make-or-break interview; a crux point in his career.
That morning, he performed his usual ‘metta’ meditation (loving kindness). This time, he extended the practice to his interviewers, who he hadn’t met yet. By the time he walked into that room, Ross had a generosity towards his interviewers which meant he didn’t close down when one of them got a little aggressive with his line of questioning. He was also unconflicted about admitting that he didn’t know the answer regarding a technical aspect of the job. The interviewers were impressed by Ross’s calm, control and integrity. They offered him the job there and then.
The Buddhist practice of loving guidance, or metta, is how they teach self-acceptance. It is through radical self-acceptance that we make genuine inroads into improving low self-esteem.
A lot of our confidence issues stem from our interactions with others (usually an over focus on how we are being perceived). Though it isn’t a quick fix, working on your self-esteem stops you from looking to others for validation.
So, practicing loving kindness for a few minutes every day is a good idea. Here is a guided meditation you can do.
It is important to recognise that self-esteem is built on a strong foundation of consistently loving behaviour. Because of that, other good practices are taking ownership of your wellbeing, including reducing all of the things that detract from it (for e.g. toxic relationships and self-sabotaging behaviors).
Grace noticed she was starting to feel a sense of attachment to James, the guy she had just started dating. She knew it because of the uncomfortable feelings that would arise when he didn’t immediately return her phone call. As was her new practice, she didn’t try to resist the feelings. Instead she felt and breathed into the sensations. She also reminded herself that James couldn’t ‘give’ her anything she couldn’t give herself: she was already very desirable and attractive to men. When she did go on her next date with James, she was relaxed, happy and in the moment, enjoying his awesome company.
Non-attachment. Simple, but oh-so-hard.
The Buddhists say that life is suffering and that attachment is the root cause of the suffering. Whenever we feel attached, we lose some of our personal power, which of course affects our confidence.
You can develop your non-attachment muscle by noticing when you are feeling a ‘grasping’ or clinging to something external, and reminding yourself of the other possibilities for satisfying the core desired feeling that has come front and center stage for you.
In Grace’s case above, she was feeling very desirable and associated it with James. When she reclaimed her own ability to feel desirable at any time, she successfully practiced non-attachment. Get the picture?
Anytime that your attachment feelings threaten to overpower you (you are thinking ‘there is no other option but this’), do whatever you can to get some perspective. This might mean going out of your way to prove that the story you are telling yourself is untrue.
Maria really didn’t want to go for drinks. There was such a lot of pressure in her job to be social all the time. What she really wanted to do was go see that new movie out. And she wasn’t fussed about going alone either. She liked the relaxation of not having to chatter. When she told the others she wasn’t coming out, they poked her a bit for being ‘boring’. But she just smiled and told them to have fun and she would see them on Monday. It felt good to reclaim her Friday evening.
The more authentic you can become (i.e the more your outer world reflects your inner environment) the more personal power you will have. This is because you won’t have any impostor syndrome going on; no feeling like you are ‘hiding’ in your life.
Where in life are you currently not being yourself? Getting aware and taking steps towards a more authentic moment or action will increase personal power.
Doing mindfulness meditation
Why did she always get picked on? All faces were on Eva. She was sat at a seminar and the leader had turned to her and asked her to answer the question. If she hadn’t spent the past month practicing her mindfulness meditation, the stress would have been overwhelming. Instead, she thought about the question and noticed the expression of kindness on people’s faces as their turned to her. She answered – straight from the heart.
It is often said that there is no pain in the present moment. It is really true.
The present moment is also your access to greater personal power. The more time you spend inhabiting the present moment, the easier life becomes and the more responsive (rather than reactionary) you are.
Mindfulness meditation (or just mindfulness) is popular for a reason: jump on that bandwagon.
Changing (the way you see) yourself
Wedding parties were always such a challenge. All those new people. All that small talk. What was Sam supposed to say? He wasn’t super charismatic like Mike.
And then he remembered. Actually, a lack of charisma was just a story he used to tell himself. And his new personal reality about charisma was that anyone could be charismatic – you just needed to be interested. He sat down at his allotted seat and gave his table companions a big grin. ‘Hi, I’m Sam’.
Notice the difference between identifying with shyness as a character trait (‘I am shy’) and with it being situational (‘I feel shy in this situation’). This is something author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss does to reframe things when breakdowns happen.Your shyness in certain situations is the result of stories you are telling yourself about you Click To Tweet
What scenarios do you feel the least confident in? There will be something you are telling yourself about you that keeps you nervous in the situation. Discover what that is, and shift it.
Try a beliefs clearing exercise around confidence.
Koby hadn’t been on a date in forever. He had been busy creating the company and there just hadn’t been the time. On the one hand he was looking forward to tonight’s Tinder date, but on the other he was kind of dreading it. Was he going to be expected to do all the work again? What if she wasn’t open?
Luckily, Rosy had told him about creative visualization. He used the technique that morning to envisage the date going really well later. It worked a treat. Seeing her be open and conversation flowing in his head meant he was more relaxed, and she opened up more. He even shared that he had done the visualization! They laughed about that and he taught her the process.
Creative visualisation techniques can be extremely powerful, especially when made experiential. The process is effective because you raise your energy and your ‘state’, so that you naturally behave in a way that is coherent with your desired outcome.Visualization techniques 'prime' you to feel more relaxed and confident in situations ahead of time Click To Tweet
So if you want to improve your confidence in a particular scenario, try imagining a more confident you in that picture. How would you feel? How would you be being? As author Joe Dispenza frequently says, ‘neurons that fire together, wire together’. The more you can connect with that image of yourself, the nearer that reality becomes.
Strengthening your will
This next project would be something Jared would really have to step up for. All that responsibility! He would not be able to sleep until it was over. But actually, he had implemented some pretty significant changes in his personal life recently. Just a month ago he thought he didn’t have the body or discipline for yoga; now look. This project is actually going to be exciting…
Really, every practice on this list is an exercise of will. They all have a ‘delayed gratification’ element to them. So this practice is kind of a ‘catch-all’ in case any of the others didn’t land with you.
How to strengthen your will?
By cultivating perseverance (or ‘grit’ as it is now more commonly known).
One of the most effective and high-impact ways you can strengthen your will is to bring discipline to what you are giving your mental air time to.
Get aware of how procrastination features in your day, and implement small steps to reduce it. Turn off your notifications. Make a habit of not checking your email or Facebook until late in the day. Take back control of your number one commodity as recognized by the world of advertising: your attention.
Although this is a little uncomfortable at first, it frees you up to become aware of where you do want to spend your attention; which life areas to invest in, what passions/hobbies to pursue. The impact on your personal power will be tangible.
Summary: List of techniques for improved personal power
The 7 techniques for improved personal power!
- Loving kindness
- Being yourself
- Changing your story
- Creative visualization
- Will strengthening