Therapists often talk about the importance of being “authentic,” or true to yourself and how you really feel. As a psychologist who specializes in relationships, I completely agree – except when we’re talking about confidence. If you’re not a confident person by circumstance or nature, there are simple behaviors you can practice to become more confident. But make no mistake: Confidence is an opiate when it comes to attracting others to you.
Neediness and rabid insecurity are huge turn-offs in the dating world. The reason? No one wants to constantly reassure another person for years on end. We all want someone who is okay on their own, not someone who is going to come with gobs of emotional needs we inevitably fall short in meeting. Singer Bruno Mars comes to mind, as he sings in his song Just the Way You Are, “If you ask if you look okay, you know I’ll say…” I don’t know Bruno and have never treated him in my Los Angeles office. However, if he has a pattern of falling for insecure girls, it means he likes broken-winged birds and instinctively tries to save them.
Don’t ask for reassurance about your appearance or overall attractiveness.
Simply put, don’t be a date like the one Bruno Mars sings about. Sure, everyone wants to look good and be attractive to their date, but don’t ask your date to reassure you. You don’t need anyone to tell you how you look because, uh, you have access to mirrors – and mirrors don’t lie! Now, if your date tells you that you look good, hooray! Say “thanks” and move on.
You will convey confidence by not asking your date how he – or she –thinks you look. Trust me: Men and women can smell insecurities a mile away, so try to convey confidence in the beginning. As you get to know your date better and have a sense that you can trust him with very personal and private information, you can share some of your insecurities with him point-blank later. But wait until you know him and trust him – and you might even be more confident by then if you practice!
Get comfortable doing things on your own.
In my clinical work, I practically beg my clients to get involved in some meaningful extracurricular activity that provides a healthy social network: church, an adult sports league, volunteering for a political campaign, or an outdoor adventure group. When I talk about this with my clients, most of them frequently respond the same way: “Okay, I’ll ask my friend and see if she wants to do it with me.” No, no, no!
You’ll become a much more confident and secure person when you learn to venture out more socially on your own. If joining a group by yourself isn’t your cup of tea, then make sure to take yourself occasionally to lunch or the movie theater on your own. Worried about what people will think if they see you alone? If you run into anyone you know and they ask with whom you came, laugh and say, “Actually, I’m here by myself because I can have just as much fun on my own.” The more you seek out activities on your own, the more confident you will become. I promise! And as an aside, I’m living proof as a formerly insecure person myself.
Watch your body language as you walk around and enter a room or crowd.
Without you even knowing, your body language may be sending a sad or insecure message. I watch a lot of people enter a crowded room, and they often shrink: shoulders held low, eyes averting contact with others, and chin held down. People often fuss with their jewelry, bag or purse to have something to do while they feel nervous or uncomfortable. The truth: It doesn’t matter what anyone really thinks of you except for the people who you know well. A crowd of people, most of whom you don’t know? Blink and forget about them – but do it with a smile.
To convey confidence with your body language, walk, stand or sit with good posture; keep your chin up; make eye contact and give a little smile to random people; mouth a quiet “hi” under your breath to someone across the room. On a date, try the same behaviors and add these to the list: say supportive, encouraging things when your date reveals something about himself; mention something you’ve done in your life that you’re proud of; and talk about your interests.
No one is one hundred percent confident. We all have some insecurities – movie stars and presidents included. The point, however, is to understand that conveying confidence is important in two major ways: It attracts healthier partners to you, and you start feeling better about yourself, too.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.