A recent article in the New Scientists writer William Lee Adams speculated whether self-confidence can be increased. Self-confidence is something that is often thought to be something one has, or one doesn’t. However, social psychologist Amy Cuddy, would disagree, her TED talk, lecture, currently ranks as the second most viewed TED talk. Speaking of self-confidence, Cuddy recommends standing with your hands on your hip and stretching, to increase self-confidence before any stressful situation, such as a job interview. With her mantra “fake it till you make it”. In fact, there is something to be said for the body language of people, especially those people who are depressed.
Researchers found that people who are depressed tend to hunch, as if threatened. Observing primates in the wild, and in captivity, gives rise to the view that spreading one’s arms out, and making oneself big is a dominant/confident position, and thus this is the origin of Cuddy’s hypothesis.
An interesting point was brought up by the article stating that lower status people, whilst amongst friends or in a work environment are always monitoring the higher ranked individuals, in their group. The research suggests that, because of this constant monitoring, an additional cognitive load makes it difficult for them to stay focused and achieve personal goals. This constant monitoring, in of itself can cause more depression, as goals are not met, or fall short of expectations. Research carried out suggested that more confident people have high levels of testosterone and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It was found that less dominant/depressed people have high levels of cortisone.
Of course, being overconfident can have its downside, a recent radio programme investigating air disasters, stated that because hierarchy is hardly ever challenged, particularly in the work environment, and most notably in airline infrastructure, this in of itself, can cause problems. One of the worst air disasters on record the Tenerife air disaster is such a case. For those who don’t remember the 80s, the crew was asked to go to a holding pattern before landing, the commander took the plane over dangerously high terrain, contrary to the orders from the control tower. It is now considered that if someone had questioned the flight commander, this would not have taken place; this disaster was compounded by dubious instructions from the Spanish air traffic controller.
Clearly, confidence is a complicated issue, too much and problems occur, too little and one can become stressed and thus doesn’t get that killer job one has been looking for.
If you’re worried about your self-confidence, there may be psychotherapy can help.
Eleos Counselling is a counselling organisation offering counselling, in Crawley West Sussex.