Can acting confident make you confident?

I was boarding a half hour flight from Brussels to London last month, when I decided to play a joke on my fellow passengers. I decided to pretend I was scared. So using my tremendous ability (!) as an actor, I constantly thought, “what would I think and do if I was scared?” then thought and did it: I sat in the aisle, not my usual window seat, I sat at the back of the plane, I didn’t get up during the flight, I nervously asked the hostess why the plane was so bumpy, I didn’t talk casually with my neighbour, I just stared straight ahead the whole time, gripping the armrests. I was hoping to get lots of attention from lots of beautiful hostesses, have the privilege of being the first one off the plane and get an extra bag of peanuts. As it turned out, none of these things happened. But I was having fun, laughing inside – until we begun the descent. That’s when I realised that I could no longer let the armrests go. I could no longer get rid of the tension in my stomach, I could no longer bring the colour back into my face, I could no longer stop thinking “I hope we land in one piece!” I could no longer stop the tears which were rolling down my cheeks – I was absolutely petrified and had absolutely no control over my emotions. Within 30 minutes, I had instilled in myself a fear of flying.

“Nonsense!” I tried to convince myself. “I’ve flown all my life! I’m not scared of flying!” But when I next had to get onto a plane, my stomach tightened. My hands grew cold. I started sweating. My heart rate quickened – I was scared.

Can acting confident make us confident?

Acting afraid certainly made me afraid. And not just on the day. It impacted my emotions next time I was in that situation. I obviously didn’t want that fear and knew I had created it, so as I boarded my next flight, I acted confident and became confident again, but what about people who don’t know that they have control over their emotions? People who have been told to be afraid of something and started doing so before being able to make up their own mind?

Can acting confident make us confident?

What if it can? What if by pretending to be confident we influence our thoughts enough to have an impact on our feelings. What if these new feelings are strong enough to influence our actions? What if these new actions have an impact on our thoughts? Where does confidence start?

When I was at school, I was once on stage in a woman’s bathing suit (the old kind – with the skirt), which had cushions inside to make me fatter and on which had been stapled a whole lot of eye-shaped bits of green and yellow paper. Although I looked like a tree in summer, I was supposed to look like Papageno, the bird catcher from the magic flute. When I saw myself, prancing around in this costume, I almost died. Both of shame and of laughter. But in a very useful moment of shunting responsibility, I thought: “This costume was not my idea, I was against it the whole time – I accept no responsibility for it whatsoever.” Then ignored the little voice inside my head that was trying to convince me that the audience all thought I looked ridiculous. That made me feel detached from the potential ridicule associated with it, which in turn allowed me to act/pretend to be more confident. This fake confidence led to me acting better, which led to people congratulating me, which led to a boost in self esteem and a rise in my ‘real’ confidence (as we all know, confidence is merely the memory of past successes).

So, can acting make us more confident?

It can for me. Why not try it?

What would you do differently if you had more confidence?

As a Keynote speaker, trainer and coach, Kanuka helps people increase their confidence, thus increasing not only their bottom line, but also their quality of life, what they get out of relationships and how they feel about themselves.


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