8 Easy Ways to Build Your Backbone

Confidence teaser

Chin up. Shoulders back. Look them in the eye. Have confidence. Whether you listened or not, your mom was trying to steer you in the right direction—even if that direction was out of the basement and into your own apartment. In fact, a 2012 study from Australia’s University of Melbourne found that men who are confident in their abilities earn more than guys who have the same competence level but lower self-esteem. Those with the bigger cojones also reported more frequent promotions.

What Mom didn’t teach you (hopefully) is that more confidence also equals more sex, more fun…more everything, really. Ah, but what if you’re not the kind of guy who naturally carries his balls around in a wheelbarrow? Here are a few high-stress situations and tips for how to tap the keg of confidence quickly—without needing a few drinks under your belt first.

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In the Moment

Go big.

We’ve been telling you the importance of stretching for years, but maybe this time you’ll finally listen. “We conducted research about how nonverbal displays could make you feel more powerful,” says Andy Yap, co-author of the study “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance.” Subjects who held outstretched poses showed a surge in testosterone and a decrease in the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Before your next high-pressure approach, take a big stretch and hold it for about one minute— your confidence will expand as well.

On a First Date

Pump up your body.

“The best and easiest trick I tell guys before they go out is to work out,” says Bela Gandhi, founder of Smart Dating Academy. Hitting the gym not only releases tension but also endorphins and dopamine, the feel-good hormones. A little biceps pump won’t hurt your chances, either.

Pump up your ego.

Tracey Steinberg, a New York–based dating coach, recommends coming up with reasons why you’re a catch. “Your friends tell you that you’re really knowledgeable,” she says, “or you’re really funny, or you’re a great listener.” Remember, she wouldn’t have said yes to the date if she weren’t interested.

Pimp out your wardrobe.

Clothes are critical to confidence, too. Have a go-to outfit that you feel great in. And remember, if you’re not sure about it, don’t wear it on a date, because it will do more harm than good. Gandhi’s pick? “A great sport coat, a crisp shirt underneath it, a straight pair of dark jeans, a good belt, a nice pair of shoes, and a watch.” Cover your bases and you’ll feel ready to steal a few more.

Before the Job Interview

Get the inside dope.

“Most of the people who are competing against you for the job will not invest the time or energy to research the company and the manager who’ll interview them,“ says Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. “Spend hours beforehand on research about the company—its issues, needs, and what you can bring to the table. If you’re prepared, you’re guaranteed to feel more confident.”

Give yourself a grilling.

Got some résumé gaps? Unfinished degrees? Photos your college roommate swore he wouldn’t upload? “If you’ve thought about these awkward issues in advance and rehearsed answers to questions about them,” Cohen says, “you’ll be far more confident when they’re asked—which they will be.”

When the Game’s on the Line

Don’t get mad.

Anyone can be confident when they’re winning; true champions keep their cool when the odds are against them. “The victor will be able to bounce back quickly from negative things that happen in the game,” says Larry Lauer, director of coaching education and development at Michigan State University. Recognize negative feelings, then let them go. Acknowledging the need for a turnaround sets your mind up for a comeback.

Don’t lose your head.

You’ve shot a ball through a hoop before, yes? So whether you’re playing H-O-R-S-E for lunch money or vying for the NCAA championship, the ball isn’t any different. Tell yourself that you’ve done this before, and this time isn’t any different. “Redirect your focus to [the fundamental aspects of] the game,” Lauer says. “Move your thoughts away from the past and into the moment, and then force yourself to engage.” Snap back into the present, and give ’em hell.

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