This is what a top neuroscientist and coach wants you to know about getting that true glow. Follow her very do-able 5 steps
Have you ever had one of those days when someone crosses your path who may not be conventionally good looking, but they seem somehow magnetic? You find yourself thinking, “Wow, aren’t they simply beautiful?”
What you’re registering is probably not just what they’re wearing, their hair or their glowing skin, but something that has nothing to do with all those externals. It’s how they carry themselves. It’s a radiance that draws everyone into their orbit. They have an energy that radiates from the inside out.
This inner glow goes by many different names: it’s genuine confidence but it’s also joy, calm, serenity, centeredness, wisdom, grace, composure. And it’s what makes people genuinely attractive in love and work – the sort of person you look forward to being with. You want what they are having. Being around them rubs off on you in a positive way, helping you to raise your game.
As a neuroscientist and wellbeing coach, I help many people from CEOs to startup founders to people who are simply stuck, find their inner beauty and radiance. My invitation to you is to discover yours – and own it!
Inner glow goes by many different names: inner confidence, joy, calm, serenity, centeredness, wisdom, grace, composure. It’s what makes people genuinely attractive in love and work
That’s all very well, I hear you say, but that kind of ‘presence’ can’t simply be turned on like a tap! It might reassure you to know that even people who seem outwardly successful struggle with this. One of my clients is a senior executive in fashion media who sought my help because she felt as though she was ‘winging it’ a lot of the time. Many people at the top of their career often feel incredibly isolated. They may feel intense pressure to prove their worth. Heck, we can all feel this way; I do too at times.
In her case, the pressure of her role was sapping her energy and confidence, making that relaxed magnetism so much harder to bring to work. It created a vicious cycle: the more she worried, the more her energy and attention went into faking it, to putting on a mask. She’d cover up her insecurities with an expensive dress and a put-together look, but still had to make excuses to leave meetings so she could take a few breaths in the loo calm her rising anxiety. She used to feel joy in her life, she said, and she missed it.
However, the more we focus on what is missing, the larger the gap between that beautiful version of ourselves and the way we feel. We end up feeling like a lesser version of ourselves.
I like to champion a ‘whole person’ integrative approach to recovering your confidence and maximising your presence. I do this by helping people balance the needs of four aspects of themselves, some of which they might not have considered a luxury rather than a necessity: mind, heart, body and spirit. I have seen how supporting these four areas of ourselves equally, not letting one dominate the others, leads to that ‘inner beauty’.
Try this quick exercise. Look at the past week and see how much time you devoted to each of those parts of yourself: your mind, heart, body and spirit. I bet that your mind got the bulk of your attention, especially if you work in a desk-based or tech-driven industry, as many of us do. But how much space did you give to nourishing your heart, loving yourself or spending quality time with loved ones? Did you give your body some support at the gym or with a relaxing bath or a gentle walk? Did you do anything that fed your spirit, that made you feel like you were growing as a human being or connected to life in a bigger way (something as small as watching the morning mist or kids heading off to school can do that)?
I use a simple productivity and wellbeing approach called The Grid to help you schedule all of these things into your day, your week, your month so that the things you might neglect don’t get squeezed out. I’ve used it successfully with people at all stages of their careers and all manner of professions - most of all I use it myself. I know that if you’re after that inner glow, staying truly balanced and nurturing yourself brings more lasting and believable results than any face cream.
Inner beauty comes from genuine acceptance of ourselves – owning our flaws as well as our talents and successes, learning to be gentle with ourselves and embracing the less-than-perfect aspects of our being, rather than trying to wing it and hope no one notices. This matters a great deal more than we realise because our nervous system always notices! It’s wired for inner harmony, feeling joined up as a person across all the parts of you (what we neuroscientists like to call ‘integrated’ and well-toned nervous system) that brings you a feeling of ease, joy and playfulness. This is where true confidence resides.
So where to start? Here are five tips based on my Grid Method founded in neuroscience and how our minds really like to work in practice.
5 ways to increase your magnetism and find your irresistible inner glow
1. Do a relationship audit
Write down a list of all your current relationships, work and personal. These are the people you spend time with regularly including those you maybe don’t see often but chat to remotely. Now highlight the ones that you think genuinely support you and who have your back and vice versa.
Our nervous system is highly attuned to feelings of safety and love. It’s good at spotting fakes - people who are in our orbit either because they want something or because you exist in a co-dependent relationship. For example, it might be a person you use to help you feel socially well-adjusted but who you secretly dislike or someone who you know is only calling you to grab a favour but are suddenly too busy when you need help yourself. It may be that your relationship is simply part of an ‘old life’ and has become a habit rather than a source of energy.
Stop and ask yourself what each relationship brings. If it’s not joy - bin it! Being around people like this puts our nervous system into anxiety mode, even if we don’t consciously register it. It makes us feel insecure because deep down we can’t trust that person. Other people pick up on that too and will spot when you are their fake friend too.
Give more of your energy to the relationships you have highlighted that help you feel solid and support your growth. They will energise you back, recharge your batteries, and help you light up from within.
The more we help others shine by getting behind their dreams and ideas, the more space we make for our own brilliance too. There is space for everyone to do well if we stop giving power to the fixed mindset thinking. And it’s what you see in a group of women who genuinely work together without their insecurities running the show - each glowing in her own radiance, each beautiful in their unique way.
2. Trust your bullshit radar
Our nervous system seeks safety in positive affirmations (how we love a motivational quote!) but beware fake platitudes! Developmental psychology shows us that as children quite early on we stop trusting positive remarks that we don’t believe square up with reality. Our ‘bullshit’ radar grows stronger as we grow.
As adults, we can use it to manage our own internal bullshit too which is why the adage ‘fake it until you make it’ to my mind does not work so well in practice. Know that you have the ability to manage your inner critic. You don’t have to try to shut it off completely but by recruiting the opposite inner voice - your internal nurturer - who can remind you of your positives.
Getting trusted feedback from others who really do love you will help too. These are the people who will pull you aside and tell you what they see you being good at and where you too need help. Effective relationships that build our inner strength are not always with people who tell you what you want to hear, but people who love us enough to tell us what we need to know to be well and shine.
3. Give yourself a daily ‘joy IV’
We all love the promise of a quick fix, from the latest diet to the most hydrating day cream , but research across a number of scientific disciplines shows us that playing the long game with self-care is an important engine for inner beauty. For example, MRI studies show that practising positive affirmations strengthens neural pathways linked to resilience.
By thinking along positive affirming routes we are making our neurones create awareness states that imbue us with confidence to control outcomes and respond to situations that we find threatening. You may feel that your day has been highjacked by emotions of helplessness, anger or disappointment. It’s helpful to know that we need these emotions to alert us to what we need. But we also need to rebalance them and give the brain a positive injection of happy neurotransmitters: our very own ‘joy IV’.
A natural way to do this throughout the day is through self-care habits: creating routines and rituals that are easy to slot in such as a five-minute blast of fresh air, exercise, calming naps, seven hours of sleep or a bit of fun and dancing to our favourite song. Your nervous system will thank you.
4. Change the way you talk about work
How many of us moan about our job on a daily basis? How many of us enjoy being around moaners? Thought not. Everyone deserves to let off steam, but are you using the moan as a springboard to solving the problems – or just reinforcing the message to your nervous system (and your friends and colleagues) that you’re in a bad place and it’s not your fault?
Finding work we love or that genuinely interests us is, of course, the dream. But it’s important to remember that while the grass might seem greener, everyone has downsides to their work and aspects that are out of their control.
What we can do is change the way we talk about our work or our responsibilities. Imagine the difference in your mood that a simple change of words from “I need to…” to “I get to…” can make. “I need to take my children to school every morning,” becomes, “I get to spend 10 minutes every day chatting to my kids before work – they won’t always want me around.”
Language is very important and how we talk about our work affects how we feel and this, in turn, changes our physiology. For example, notice the slight easing in your muscles and a shift in your spine as you swap “need to” for “get to”.
So my tip is to change how you talk about what you do and bring more appreciation and pride into it. This often switches on our curiosity and desire to get better at what we do and with this comes genuine competence and expertise. Switch from worrying about work to doing work to a high standard because you choose to be a true professional.
5. Sign up for a course to build your strengths and make your self more compelling
Today’s constant ‘look at me’ culture has created an insecurity epidemic. Research shows that we’re more medicated and depressed by life than any other time in history. The uncertain state of the country, and indeed the world, also play into our sense of unease. All of this plays havoc with our baseline homeostasis (physiological balance) and encourages the nervous system to be over-active. We become more reactive, less resilient, more prone to anxiety.
So how can you cultivate a genuine strong sense of inner confidence that you’re still hireable and desirable instead of the feeling of being an imposter or not good enough?
Give yourself a skills boost; this could be learning something totally unrelated to work such as climbing or upholstery or something that gives you a side hustle such as taking a PT qualification.
A good way to check whether you could benefit from developing your work skills is to try this quick task. Sell yourself now by articulating how or where you can add value and to what. People pay for what you can do, not your current or past job title. For me, that learning continues each year. Acquiring new skills helps me constantly revaluate my work, adjust my path and grow my skills and knowledge.
Working with a career coach to help you do that reflective work can be instrumental and hugely motivating. A course or a conference or networking with people in different lines of work or hobbies can also help open up new perspectives. At the very least it gives you something new to talk about and get excited about. And that’s magnetic.
The bottom line
The proverbial advice for confidence since Susan Jeffer’s famous 1987 book Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway has been to fake it until you make it. That may have been right 33 years ago, but if you want to glow from within, my advice is to take the time to consider what life you really want to lead and how your daily habits and the people in your orbit help you cultivate inner calm and feelings of safety and how you support others. Pick work where these aspects are nurtured and consider whether the way you work gives sleepless nights and stress or daily joy and contentment.
This mindset will allow your key talents and natural brilliance to come forward. What you are good at is already within you. Your job is to own, cultivate it and let it radiate.
Now I’m not saying that an awesome outfit, lipstick, nail polish or blow-dry can’t help! Let them amplify what’s already inside you. Be your best and more beautiful self because you owe that to yourself.
Dr Magdalena Bak-Maier is a neuroscientist, productivity and wellbeing coach who has run programmes for the New York Times and NASA among many others. She is founder of maketimecount.com and author of The Get Productive Grid, £14.99 and Body Talk £19.95 To build your true inner glow, join her one-day Grid Retreat on Saturday 29 February 2020 in central London £175 (inc VAT). Get the Gloss readers can secure a special rate of £125 on full-price tickets with code: GTGBeautifulFem2020 Sign up at maketimecount.com