Should You Fake Confidence?

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
-Norman Vincent Peale

In business and in life, confidence is a very important trait. It can help us get a new job, win over a new client, and build relationships with new business partners.

For some, confidence comes naturally. They walk with their heads held high and make decisions with ease. They go into every situation with an optimistic outlook, and even if things don’t turn out quite as they hoped, they keep looking forward. It seems that nothing can stop them.

But for others, self-assuredness doesn’t come so easy. Sometimes they aren’t confident in their abilities. Others, they simply don’t believe in their own people skills. Whatever the reason, a lack of confidence can be a deal breaker in all sorts of situations, from getting a date to getting into the college of your choice to scoring a new account at work.

Many a business guru has suggested that those who lack confidence simply pretend to be sure of themselves. This “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality has been the subject of many books, seminars and coaching programs.

But does it really work?

In the short term, it can. If you’ve got a big meeting with a prospective client coming up in 20 minutes and you’re sweating bullets, faking confidence may be your only option. So you take a deep breath, go over your key selling points, walk in with a smile on your face and give a firm handshake. After much eye contact and tooting your own horn, you walk out with a deal. But then what?

You accomplished your immediate objective: getting a new client. That’s wonderful! But this is only the beginning of your relationship with that client. You’ll probably be meeting with him again, and talking on the phone to him, and exchanging emails. Will you be able to keep up the façade? Or will your “confidence” erode a little with each encounter? And what about interactions with other potential clients – will you be able to fake it convincingly with them?

Instead of Faking It, Build It

“Getting ahead in a difficult profession requires avid faith in yourself. That is why some people with mediocre talent, but with great inner drive, go much further than people with vastly superior talent.”
-Sophia Loren

When you fake confidence, you’re just putting up a temporary front. That can work in some situations. But it’s not a long-term solution. In order for confidence to work, it must be genuine. It must emanate from deep inside you. It must be natural and effortless.

That doesn’t mean that if you lack confidence, you’re doomed to a life of failure. It means that you must build up your confidence. It’s really not as hard as you might think.

It’s okay if you have to fake it at first. In fact, that’s not a bad idea at all. Faking confidence is certainly better than going into a situation feeling that you’re destined to lose and letting it show. And when you’re dealing with someone for the first time, it’s quite possible that they won’t know the difference. As long as you do your best impersonation of a confident person – pay attention to your posture, keep your voice steady, participate fully in conversations and call everyone by name – there’s a good chance that it will work out to your advantage.

It’s what happens after that initial success that counts. You must let yourself enjoy your victory, and take full credit for it. All too often, businesspeople who lack confidence fail to do this. They are happy that things worked out in their favor, but they don’t realize that they made it happen. They call it a fluke, or chalk it up to the forces of the universe, or think “Boy, I really pulled the wool over his eyes!”

Instead of continuing such a pattern of negative thinking, why not use your victories to build up genuine confidence? Now that you have an accomplishment under your belt, use it to remind yourself that you are capable of great things. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t reached your big career goal. You’ve won a battle that puts you one step closer to it. And that’s certainly something to be proud of.

To make the most out of the experience, replay it in your mind and analyze what you did to make it a success. The way you carried and expressed yourself likely had a hand in it, but that will only get you so far. In order to convince a client that you’re the best man or woman for the job, you’ve got to have something that sets you apart from the competition. Was your presentation spectacular? Did you create a sample that blew them away? Put yourself in the client’s shoes and figure out why you made the cut. Then file that information away to boost your confidence when you need it most.

The next time you have a client meeting, you might be a little nervous. That previous victory might not have provided all of the confidence you need to get through another one. But if you allowed yourself to take credit for it, you should have at least a little more confidence than you did before. Use that to propel you through, and fake it a little if you must. When you succeed once again, you’ll have something else to bolster your confidence in the future.

Of course, we can’t all be victorious every time. But it’s crucial not to let that knock down the confidence you’ve already built up. If you experience a setback, analyze it just as you would a victory. Determine where you went wrong, or if the result was even any fault of your own. File your conclusion away for future reference, and then return your focus to the times when you have been successful.

After a few successes and acknowledgements that you are responsible for those successes, confidence should no longer be an issue. You should be able to walk into any situation with a positive attitude, and that should show in both your speech and your body language. Instead of faking it, you’ll have a natural aura of optimism and self-assuredness. You’ll attract the respect – and the success – that you deserve.