I have recently been working on increasing my confidence, both at work and in everyday life. It is something I know I need to improve, and others have encouraged me to do. It’s tough to improve confidence when Merriam-Webster defines it as "a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances." How exactly do you improve a feeling? I found that I often feel more confident if I do certain things: prepare, practice, pretend and primp.

When we look to the root of a feeling, we must ask ourselves why we feel a certain way. Why don’t I feel confident? Perhaps I wasn’t prepared for a tough question a client asked me. Maybe I forgot someone’s name or something important about them. The more I prepare for things, the more confident I feel. When I was anxious about an upcoming meeting, I spent hours reading past meeting notes to better understand my client. The extra preparation helped me feel and act more confident when I met with them.

As Americans, we know that practice is important. Growing up, I was involved in many activities that required practice, including track, piano, vocals, choir, show choir, basketball. The list goes on and on. To be good at something, we must practice.

A year and a half ago, I joined Toastmasters. I truly hate public speaking and used to avoid it all costs, but I realized that I needed it after I bombed an internal presentation at my company. As I stood up in front of a small group of people, I started to sweat, couldn’t breathe, and was trembling. It was not eloquent.

As I give more presentations and speeches in the Toastmasters Club and at my office, I am getting better! It seems that practice and repetition have given me more confidence. Because I’ve been practicing, I can trust that I will be able to do it successfully again.

Fake it till you make it. If I pretend I am confident, I can convince myself to begin feeling more confident. I know it’s hard when someone tells me to "just be confident," but I can pretend. All that vocal and choir practice somehow paid off, so I can use a little stage presence and posture to become more confident. I can focus on standing up taller, looking people in the eyes, breathing deeply, and opening my body to take up more space. I can train myself to look confident even when I don’t feel confident.

This one’s a bit more difficult to admit, but there’s something to be said about feeling good about yourself. If I am comfortable with my body and how it looks, I will likely act more confident. This is one reason businesses have dress codes. If we look the part, we can often feel the part. We wear our best outfits for interviews to show that we should be chosen for the job. I know I feel terrific in a suit and heels and maybe stand a little taller with my favorite outfit on. When I ran track at the University of Northern Iowa, I would often put on makeup before my race. Obviously, mascara didn’t help me run faster, but I felt more confident because I was comfortable with how I looked.

While it is highly unlikely that I will ever become a professional public speaker, I hope that my hard work will pay off and I will grow in confidence, both professionally and personally. My goal is to become more confident by preparing, practicing, pretending and of course primping. Now, please excuse me while I paint my nails.

Brittany Heard works with Foster Group clients to help them define and pursue their financial goals. She enjoys helping clients make small changes that are intended to benefit them long-term.