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5 Confidence Building Exercises

Last week I experienced a very big first for me: doing a talk on television! It was equally invigorating and nerve-wracking, and also, of course, very fun. What helped me to get through the nerves and enjoy the moment was a series of confidence building exercises. I have grown to lean on these before big appearances and they really help me with my self-belief.

I started using them last year when I was feeling somewhat apprehensive about speaking to an audience of 1250 people at TEDxBrighton. Luckily, I not only survived it but even thrived in it. I am really proud of the end result which you can see in this video of my talk.

As I was preparing for my talk for the Brainwash Festival on Dutch TV, I was reminded of everything I felt before TEDxBrighton the year before. Questions like, Why did I sign up for this?, Why do I do this to myself?, and Who am I to share anything useful? populated my mind. This was combined with feelings of anxiety, nauseousness and serious queasiness.

Yet once I am on stage, I always perform – and I love every second of it. I feel empowered, confident and calm. I am clear about the message I am sharing and why I am there to share it. Afterwards, the post performance high lasts for days.

Now I realised that nerves aren’t always bad things and the adrenaline rush I get before actually helps me to show up and do the work. I’ve also realised I’ve come to rely on a few confidence building exercises which helps me to stay sane and look outwardly calm even though I might be panicking in the inside. These exercises can be used before any situation you’re nervous about – from doing a talk to doing a job interview to meeting the in-laws. Whatever the situation is, I hope you will experience the same positive effect they have on me.

1. Do the power pose.

This one we all have the incredible Amy Cuddy to thank for. Her TED talk on this has over 36 million views (and the number just keeps going up!), and it is rightfully so. Her research on doing the power pose, like Superman or Superwoman, for two minutes before a stressful situation has shown that it improves your confidence and performance. Now, without fail, before big talks I always do my power pose for two minutes. I stand with my feet wide apart, posture upright, chest out and hands on my hips. I make myself as big as possible to occupy as much space as possible and I say I am here to share my message. It always makes me feel like Superwoman before my performance.



2. Remind yourself why you are doing this.

Is it because you are passionate about the message you have to share? Is it because you believe that what you are about to say will help others? Is it because someone appointed you to do this because they believe you are the best person to do this? Is it because it gets you one step closer to your goal? And the list goes on.

Whatever your why is, remind yourself for it because it will motivate you through the moments of doubt and make you even more passionate about the performance you’re about to give.

3. Think of your past similar successes.

Identify some time points in your past when you have succeeded under stress or pressure. As I was getting ready for my talk on Dutch TV, I re-watched some of my past talks to convince myself I could do this. I also looked into my success folders to see some testimonials from people who had attended my previous talks. I reminded myself of TEDxBrighton the year before and how I had pulled that off. That’s when I realised this was no different and me just doing my thing like before.

I also believe that everything in your past has somehow led you to be ready for exactly this right here right now. Trust that the world offers you only things you are ready for, and trust in yourself and your abilities to enjoy it.

4. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen?

What if I totally freeze and forget what I’m about to stay? Trip when I come on stage? Pass out on front of the crowd? What if I do a talk and everybody hates it? Well – so what?

It’s not like this is a life or death situation. It’s not like if I fail at this my life is over. It’s always good to have a little bit of perspective to calm the nerves.

5. Turn a pre-performance ritual into a habit.

There are many rituals I now follow before my talks. I start by outlining the talk, writing it word for word, recording me doing it, and then listening to my recording again and again. I play parts of it in my head when I’m sitting on the bus or driving the car, and sometimes I rehearse the whole talk a few times as well.

On the day itself, I try to eat what I can but I don’t force anything down if I physically can’t. I do however stay hydrated with plenty of water and throat lozenges to keep my throat moist so I don’t lose my voice.

Right before the performance, I have a quick skim of my notes, go to the bathroom, check myself in the mirror, and then go into the two minute power pose straight before going on stage. Even as I was on the sidelines waiting to be announced and invited on stage by the program host, I was still doing my power pose. I only let it go once I start walking towards the stage.

Then, I get on stage, pause for a few seconds as I take a deep breath, and then I begin my talk. The rest is flow.


You can see me in flow doing this TV talk titled ‘Screw Finding Your Passion’ at the Brainwash Festival site. They start talking about me (in Dutch) four minutes into the program and my talk starts at six minutes. I hope you enjoy it!

Now I’d love to hear from you: Do you do something that helps you to perform in high stress situations – and will you be adding any of these tips into your rituals? Please comment below, I’d love to hear your inspiration!

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With that, I wish you the best of luck in your adventures & until next time!

With light, love & happiness,

Susanna :)

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  • Gez says:

    I love the Power Pose idea and will try it next time I give a talk…..thank you.

    I think what gives me strength when giving talks, is that I know what I’m about to say will inspire at the very least one person to change their life for the better and that surely this will have a knock on effect on the people they know.

    I think it’s important to speak from the heart and get a little personal, which I do……I find that people can relate to what I’m saying and see me as a real person who has been there and can empathise with them.

    For me, it’s all about helping others to help themselves……giving the knowledge, understanding and skills, to make healthy lifestyle choices.

    • This is brilliant Gez – thank you so much for sharing :)
      I totally agree speaking from the heart & getting a little personal helps people to connect with you in a much deeper way.
      Keep up the great work on helping others to help themselves :)

  • Sayta Singh says:

    Thank you for these beautiful tips on overcoming fear when speaking publicly. Resonated as an idea of programming the mind to listen to you.

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