3 Nervous Habits That Betray Your Self-Confidence

There’s no arguing with the fact that we’d all like to be taken more seriously and perceived as being more self-confident.  In life, it’s the self-confident people that get the raises, the promotions, and the best looking singles at the party.

But no matter how much of an effort you put into your clothing choices, your posture and your body language, it’s possible that there are still nervous habits that are betraying your self-consciousness to others.

Do you have any of the following habits?  If so, follow the steps below to break them once and for all!

Habit #1 – Biting your nails

Biting your nails is widely regarded as one of the most common nervous habits.  In fact, it’s so prevalent that New York psychologist Penny Donnenfeld estimates that as many as, “[A] third of young children, 44 percent of teenagers and 19 percent to 29 percent of adult,” all bite their nails.

And while Donnenfeld posits that nail biting exists as an extension of thumb-sucking – a mouth-oriented self-soothing behavior that’s common with babies and young children – the bottom line is that it doesn’t look good.  Adults with the ragged nails of a nail biter are less likely to be taken seriously, and may even be seen as less competent by their peers and bosses.

To get rid of this nervous habit, consider painting your nails regularly (men can use a clear, matte-finish polish).  Doing so will make your nails taste bad, in addition to making the signs of nail biting more obvious – which may subtly pressure you into avoiding this habit.  Also, consider setting up a series of rewards you’ll receive, based on how long you’re able to go without biting your nails.

Habit #2 – Fidgeting with your hands

Another common habit that makes people appear less self-confident than they really are is fidgeting with the hands and fingers.  According to a Survey Central poll, fidgeting was listed as the third most common nervous habit – affecting more people than lip chewing, knuckle cracking and teeth grinding!

Although many practitioners of this habit can’t describe exactly why they do it (meaning that they don’t associate the behavior with observable instances of stress, pressure or other negative emotion), observers may still believe that those who fidget with their hands are uncomfortable or anxious.  Because both of these observations can lead to fidgeters being perceived as less confident, it’s important to nip this nervous habit in the bud!

To stop yourself from fidgeting with your hands and fingers, start by removing any external stimuli that may prompt unconscious fidgeting.  For example, if you tend to fidget with small desk items (like paper clips, rubber bands or other office supplies), store these products safely away in your drawers.  If you fidget with your watches or rings, consider removing these objects when you know you’ll be interacting with the people you want to impress.

Once you’ve removed potential fidget-inducing objects, try to become more aware of what your hands are doing at any given time.  If you notice that you’re unconsciously fidgeting, take a second to clasp your hands and focus on keeping them stationary.  Over time, it will become much easier for your hands and fingers to assume this calm, confident position without thought.

Habit #3 – Touching your face or hair

One final nervous habit you’ll want to eliminate from your personal and professional life is touching your face or hair.

According to Carol Kinsey Goman, PhD, former therapist and author of The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help—or Hurt—How You Lead, “These kinds of self-pacifying gestures can be interpreted as a signal of insecurity or deception.”  And no matter what type of interaction you’re having, odds are the last things you want to be perceived as are insecure or deceptive!

In order to stop using these subconscious behaviors to unintentionally convey weakness or a lack of self-confidence, you’ll first need to become aware that you’re doing them.  The next time you interact with a superior or other person of power, count the number of times you touch your face or hair.  The results may surprise you!

If you find that you use these behaviors to comfort yourself in frustrating or anxiety-laden interactions, you’ll want to practice keeping your hands at your side or folded on your desk (when seated) as much as possible.  It can be a challenge to minimize these nervous habits – especially when you find yourself in tense or uncomfortable situations – but doing so is an important part of being taken more seriously and perceived as more self-confident throughout your life.

Do you experience any of these three nervous habits?  Or do you have others that you’ve identified in your own life?  If so, share your experiences – as well as how you’ve banished your negative habits – in the comments section below.

5 thoughts on “3 Nervous Habits That Betray Your Self-Confidence

  1. Ray Todich

    I have been biting my nails for years and just cannot seem to cease. I will quite for a couple weeks, and then, BAM, back at it again! HELP!

  2. Catherine Tucker

    Well…I am a nail biter, a lip biter, a face and hair toucher, a knuckle cracker, and full-body fidgeter. I also am a very happy, healthy, confident person. I think these “nervous” behaviors often run in families. My mom and her siblings do all or most of these things constantly, and my 3 siblings and I all do them as well. My dad’s side of the family are very still people…and I feel like I drive them nuts whenever we eat dinner together or ride in the car. I also have a lot more energy than they do, and I believe a lot of it stems from needing to move more but living in a society that forces us to sit still for periods of time. When I was younger I was very self-conscious about the fidgeting, but as I have gotten older (I’m 34 now) I have decided that it’s just how I am, and I am fine with being this way. I do try regularly to stop biting my nails, and succeed at it for short periods of time…it’s a dirty, germy habit, so it’s the one that I would like to get rid of…the rest of them are fine with me. Oh, and I drive people nuts with my endless energy, but I’m also really nice and fun and caring, so people usually get over it quickly. Also, I was a military officer for 7 years and I don’t think I appeared un-confident…there are other things that can communicate your confidence and competence even if you are a nervous-habited person. 🙂

  3. strider sczeckow

    I have the habit fidgeting fingers and touching face.

    Recently i recongnized that if i´m in stressed situations, or uncomfortable days i tend to touch my face or my hair.

    The fidgeting fingers are another problem for me, but a mate talked to me to be aware of it and put it away. Since then i always put away things i´m fidgeting with. 🙂

    Thank you very much.

    I found this site today and im going to read all of it!!! 😀

    greets strider 🙂


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