OWN YOUR CONFIDENCE: Overcoming Nervousness in High-Stakes Situations

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to speak at TEDxEmory. The overall theme was: What makes your heart beat? And my topic was Owning Your Confidence: How to Overcome Nervousness and Exude Confidence in High-Stakes Situations. I discussed several practical techniques to help you excel in even the most stressful of situations. They are practices I’ve developed over many years of being on television and speaking professionally around the world.  

While neuroscience describes what happens when we get stressed and nervous as fight, flight or freeze, it doesn’t necessarily give us practical advice on how to overcome these moments. And that’s where my techniques come in.

The first one is building what I call a Positive Emotional Memory Database™. This is essentially a mental library where you store memories of experiences that make you feel confident, and you can “check out” or “access” any time.

Think of moments from your past when you feel you really excelled. Maybe it’s a presentation where you came across as particularly confident, or a meeting where you shared an idea that was well received. Make a mental note of those experiences so they can be readily called to mind during stressful moments.

Its important plan ahead rather than wait until a high-stakes situation arises. And you can start now:  Take some time today to think of several noteworthy experiences you’ve had that made you feel like the best, most confident and competent version of yourself. Recalling those experiences beforehand, when you are relaxed, will make it easier for you to bring them to mind later when you’re about to walk in to a job interview, give an important presentation or start a critical conversation. 

Remembering occasions in your past when you accomplished what you set out to do – when you interacted successfully with a group or manager, or got a promotion– will remind you that you do indeed have what it takes to excel. And this, in turn, will boost your confidence so you can do it again.

And what’s more, neuroscience supports this practice.  As we repeatedly access these positive thoughts, neural pathways are created in our brains.  This makes us more likely to continue thinking positively about ourselves in the future.

This first technique you can begin implementing today. Stay tuned for the next one!