13 ways to boost your confidence

  • (Detail) by Freddie Robins (Constructed Textiles (Knit), 1989)

Freddie Robins, Senior Tutor in Textiles at the Royal College of Art, gives her perspective on confidence. 

If you have not already had your confidence nurtured by family and friends and boosted through your achievements in life so far, then I am sorry to say, the job is now up to you. If you want confidence, you will just have to decide to have it.

I graduated from the School of Fashion and Textiles at the Royal College of Art in 1989 with little self-confidence but a lot of ambition, drive and energy. After endeavoring to do many different things with my creativity, I found myself eight years out of college, not where I wanted to be, frustrated and angry. I could see that I needed to commit to one area of my practice and be more confident about it. No one was ever going to ‘discover me’ or do it for me. It was up to me to go it alone. So I just decided to become confident.

Here are 13 (unlucky for some, but I do not believe in luck) things that have helped me be more confident:

People always say that they love the underdog but they don't really otherwise he wouldn't be the underdog

Freddie Robbins

1. Being positive; talking things up. It is much easier, funnier and perhaps ‘cooler’ to run things down, but it does nothing for your sense of achievement or self-confidence. People always say that they love the underdog, but they do not really - otherwise he would not still be the underdog, would he?

2. Being proactive. Take control. Initiate interviews or projects rather than waiting to be asked.

3. Not worrying what people might think or say. People can only say ‘no’. While that might be hurtful or embarrassing at the time, if you ask enough times someone will eventually say ‘yes’. My Dad always used to say, ‘What are you so worried about? They can’t kill you’, and I always thought, ‘Yes, but I wish they would.’

4. Standing up for yourself. Asking for what you want or need. Saying what you think.

5. Actually standing up. Stand up when you do a presentation. It really helps to be higher than your audience. If you were born tall, you have a fantastic advantage. If you were born short, like me, then you just have to be big on the inside. I am currently 6ft 4.

6. Shaking hands when you meet people - very firmly!

7. Smiling, even though it is not what my face does naturally. I have more of a worried, frowning look.

8. Arriving on time. I still have problems with this one, but it is so much better when I arrive somewhere without my heart racing.

9. Wearing clothes that you feel comfortable in within the situation that you are going to. It is important to wear things that will make the people you are going to meet feel comfortable too. Most people are not as confident as they seem. It is best not to alienate your audience. If you can put them at ease, they will have more confidence in you and your abilities.

10. Talking to yourself about your practice and yourself. Do this only in your head, of course (but out loud when you are alone is good too). It helps you focus on what you are trying to achieve. You might call this a mantra, a prayer or an affirmation. I am as cynical as the next person, but it works for me.

11. Not being cynical.

12. Writing an objectives and action plan. Committing your ambitions to paper brings you one step closer to achieving them. I write down my objectives for the next six months, one year, two years and five years. Then I write down my actions (how I am actually going to go about achieving those objectives) for the same time scale. You need to keep referring back to them, and every now and then you will have to re-write them. It is very satisfying to see how much you do achieve. But you must concentrate on what you have achieved, not what you have not achieved. Give yourself enough time. It takes a hell of a long time to get where you want to, and that does not matter because surely you are in this for the long haul.

13. Allowing other people their success and celebrating it with them. Don’t be jealous or resentful. Our society has a habit of resenting other people's successes or just putting them down to luck. People are never just lucky; they make their own luck - or at least recognise it for what it is and turn it to their favour.

I hope what helps me might help you, and I also hope that this does not read like an evangelical self-help book. I will leave you with four more irritating truisms:

  1. Confidence breeds confidence.
  2. Everyone has a crisis of confidence at sometime or another. I am currently having one about this article.
  3. Confidence is very attractive.
  4. No one said it was going to be easy.