How to Gain Confidence by Rewiring Your Brain
I'd rather die than speak in public.
It's not just me. Seven percent of Americans fear public speaking. That's equivalent to approximately 27 million people, in the US alone. (Khoury, 2019)
I remembered well the day I told a story in front of at least a hundred people. I was ten years old then. My knees played a trembling cadence. My heart drummed a loud, rhythmic salvo. My mouth was Sahara. I felt like bolting and yet, people were staring at me as if my nervous presence was half of the entertainment. I did not remember the story, only the swelling fear before I delivered it.
Experts named our condition glossophobia. (Black, 2019) The nerve!
After that mortifying experience, I swore never to speak in public again. But many years later, now an adult, I discovered how unfounded that fear has been. I thought that I cannot speak in public because I am not confident enough to do it. The fear rooted from that single, paralyzing thought. I'm not confident.
But it turned out that just as the mind can be dictated to believe what it wants to believe, the opposite can be true. I can rewire my brain and thus, make myself confident.
It's all in the brain.
Confidence is a state of mind. A study already proved this claim. Dr. Aurelio Cortese and colleagues from Advanced Telecommunications Research (ATR) Institute in Kyoto, Japan found out that the brain can indeed be manipulated to make a person more confident.
"How is confidence represented in the brain? Although this is a very complex question, we used approaches drawn from Artificial Intelligence to find specific patterns in the brain that could reliably tell us when a participant was in a high or low confidence state. The core challenge was then to use this information in real-time, to make the occurrence of a confident state more likely to happen in the future," explained Dr. Mitsuo Kawato, director of the Computational Neurosciences Laboratories at ATR and one of the study authors. (ATR Group, 2016)
The study does not say how, only that it's possible to induce confidence in people through the unconscious. With a billion neurons talking to each other inside the brain, is there an easy way to make them say one thing? That I'm confident?
How do I rewire the brain, specifically?
Enter neurolinguistics programming (NLP). No, it's not alien talk. NLP is an easy study on how we can consciously direct our minds through verbal and non-verbal language. It's self-hypnosis, in a way, minus the complications. I came across NLP through Kent Sayre's book Unstoppable Confidence: How to Use the Power of NLP to Be More Dynamic and Successful.
In Sayre's words, "This book differs from the other self-help books on the shelf because it is not about theory. It is about doing what works. It is about finding what has worked for others who are confident, figuring out how to do that, and then doing it yourself."
The techniques described in the book involve rewiring my brain to achieve that state of "being able" and "can-do" moments. It does not involve complex science or brain surgery. In fact, the techniques are easy, practical and everyday exercises that can help me gain the confidence that I want. As long as I'm willing to do it, of course.
Don't underestimate the power of positive thinking.
Based on Sayre's list, I've summarized and highlighted my top exercises.
One exercise is becoming aware of your 'lack-of-confidence' state. Then, switch. Pay attention to your internal voice. It's probably saying along the lines of ''I'm incapable'', ''I don't have the knowledge or skills to get things done''. The sense of incapability and inadequacy can stem from a lot of factors. If you think you don't know, then go and learn your stuff. Pinpoint the trigger, switch it off and do something to eliminate it.
Another exercise is to visualize. Imagine yourself winning. Your imagination may be rooted in the past when a win happened. Or you can imagine the "future you" getting the things you want. For example, if you compete a lot, recall that particular scene when they announced you as the winner. What was it like during that day? Recall the vibes, the sounds, the feels. Then, anchor it to your current situation. You're winning all over again.
If you want to go farther, one more technique is to eliminate the use of these phrases from your vocabulary: "I'll try", "would", "could", "should". These words evoke uncertainty and possibility only. Two powerful phrases are "I will" and "I can". These words are affirmative, definite and provide more assurance to both you and the one you're speaking to. In every conversation, catch yourself before the uncertain words spill out. Then, instantly replace them with affirmative phrases.
"Confidence is not a thing, it is a process," according to Sayre.
Rewiring the brain to be more confident will require a certain amount of discipline. The above techniques are merely stepping stones, not the end goal. You will eventually achieve your desired confidence level by applying them but the timing depends on the constancy of your actions. The important thing is, you took the first step in knowing, and that in itself, is already an act of confidence.
Khoury, Peter. (2019). 7 Unbelievable "Fear of Public Speaking" Statistics. Retrieved February 20, 2020, from https://magneticspeaking.com/7-unbelievable-fear-of-public-speaking-statistics/.
Black Rosemary. (September 2019.) Glossophobia (Fear of Public Speaking): Are You Glossophobic?. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from https://www.psycom.net/glossophobia-fear-of-public-speaking.
ATR Brain Information Communication Research Laboratory Group. (2016, December 15). Manipulating brain activity to boost confidence: New breakthrough in neuroscience: Self-confidence can be directly amplified in the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 10, 2020, from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161215085902.htm
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2020 Chris Martine