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Lessons from AOC: Confidence hacks from America's youngest Congresswoman

Last week I experienced a perfect day. It scored 10 out of 10. 100%. No improvement needed.

It began with a school run in the sunshine with two happy kids and a feeling of personal awesomeness due to the rare occurrence of remembering the full requirements of the day. Think games kit, a signed reading record, ukulele for music lesson etc.

I then spent the day delivering our ‘Compelling Storytelling’ course to a group of smart, funny, opinionated, awesome people. Energy in the room was high and the work they created over the course of the training literally gave me goosebumps at the end of the day.

This training is formed of two parts; we look at how to craft a compelling story but also how to deliver a great story in your own, authentic, confident way. We share techniques and tricks to get yourself in the right state of mind to stand up and be heard.

Home to giggles, tales of the school day, bath-time, stories, bedtime cuddles and sleeping silence. (There is ALWAYS at least one tantrum in this daily routine. But not today my friend. Because this day was a perfect day!)

I then sat down to watch Knock Down the House on Netflix (is it wrong that a perfect day is one where my husband is out so I have full control of the remote!?) I thought the day couldn’t possibly get any better - until 61 minutes into the documentary the awesome Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) made me jump off the sofa and giddily announce to my empty lounge, “I taught that today! I tell people to do this!”

The scene was AOC preparing herself before a televised debate with sitting congressman Joseph Crowley. Watching someone as authentically kick-ass confident as AOC use two of the techniques we share in our training was the cherry on the ‘perfect day’ cake.

I need to take up space

The first technique AOC used is a version of “power posing.” Social psychologist Amy Cuddy first brought this idea to the stage during a TED talk in 2012. She shared how our body language has a large influence on how we think and feel about ourselves. So, if we adopt a more expansive stance, we can make ourselves feel more confident and powerful.

AOC stands in her home, arms wide and tells herself;

“Take up space

Take up space

I need to take up space

I am here”

I loved watching this. I think it’s an amazing technique for women to embrace as the narrative from society is often that women should be small, that we should shrink ourselves a little rather than try to dominate a space. We’ve moved on a lot from the 1950s where many believed that a man's opinion was more valid than a women’s but there is still a vague legacy that pervades. But beyond women, I think this technique is hugely empowering for anyone who sometimes feels intimidated in meetings or too nervous to stand up and share your ideas. Take this mantra from AOC and tell yourself over and over “I need to take up space”.

I am enough

The second thing AOC did was to tell herself clear reasons why she should believe in herself, reasons why she should feel confident. Each time we state self-affirming statements, we are building and strengthening neural pathways in our brains that will help us to naturally feel more confident. The more we practice confidence, the more it becomes a behaviour we can own.

If you aren’t a naturally confident person, this is a great technique to use. Confidence can be built up by thinking confident thoughts. So tell yourself out loud, just like AOC does, why you have the ability to succeed.

In the documentary, we watch AOC say:

“I can do this

I am experienced enough to do this

I am knowledgeable enough to do this

I am prepared enough to do this

I am mature enough to do this

I am brave enough to do this”

“The whole time he’s going to tell me that I can’t do this,

That I’m small, that I’m little and that I’m young, that I’m inexperienced”

Then she visibly pushes these negative labels away along with a big exhale of breath.

Most of us aren’t working on quite the same stage as AOC. But we all deserve to be heard and to feel confident in our own little corners of this world. So take up space and tell yourself regularly that you are enough. Because me and my new best mate AOC know these small hacks can have a big impact on your self-belief.

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