25 Fun and Helpful Quotes About Self-Confidence
These quotes show the many faces of confidence. Which ones will inspire you?
Posted September 14, 2018
When I need to stimulate my thinking on a topic, I often turn to quotes, mottoes, and mantras. Recently I’ve been writing a series of blogs about confidence, and I've noticed a number of startling, funny, and wise quotations that I wanted to remember. Some are good for a quick pick-me-up on a low-confidence day—and we all have those. Others reflect a variety of views on what self-confidence is and isn’t. Still others are inspirational or humorous.
Here are my current favorite quotes about confidence, self-confidence, and self-esteem, loosely organized into categories. I intend to memorize a few and pull them out of my mental library as I need them. Feel free to do the same! I’ve added a few editorial comments here and there. Sources for the quotes are found below.
What Is Confidence?*
1. “’Confidence’ comes from the Latin fidere, ‘to trust.’ To be self-confident is to trust in oneself, and, in particular, in one’s ability or aptitude to engage successfully or at least adequately with the world.” –Neel Burton, M.D
2. “Confident… is how you feel when you are being your best self.” --Caroline Webb, How to Have a Good Day at Work
3. “I think confidence is the way we meet our circumstances, whether they are wondrous and wonderful or really bad and difficult. It’s almost like a wholeheartedness, where we’re not holding back.” --Sharon Salzberg, Buddhist teacher and author, in The Confidence Code
4. “Confidence is just entitlement….Entitlement is simply the belief that you deserve something.” --Mindy Kaling, actor/author
5. “(B)y “genuine confidence,” I mean the ability to act on your values, regardless of how you are feeling: to trust and rely on yourself to do what matters, even if you feel terrified!” --Russ Harris,The Confidence Gap
Self-trust. Your best self. Wholeheartedness. Entitlement. Acting on values regardless of fear. We often think of confidence as something akin to fearless self-assertion along with a slightly cocky self-presentation, but these five definitions show that there is more than one way to think about confidence. Which definition could you adopt to guide your journey toward more confidence?
Confidence or Con?
6. “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” –Mark Twain (Who else?!)
7. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” --William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”
8. “Women who are confident of their abilities are more likely to succeed than those who lack confidence, even though the latter may be much more competent and talented and industrious.” --Joyce Brothers, psychologist
I had a hard time believing this quote by Joyce Brothers, but unfortunately it's backed up by research. Without a confident presentation of self, anyone—man or woman-- could get short-changed in the world of work or relationships. Knowing this research motivated me to write this blog on ways to present yourself as more confident while staying true to yourself.
Can You Feel Self-doubt and Still Have Confidence?
9. “A huge light-bulb moment for me personally has been noticing that I need both periods of self-confidence and self-doubt to produce my best work.” --Alice Boyes, Ph.D., author, The Healthy Mind Toolkit
10. “I have a friend who is going to write a book called All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem. It’s true! I think self-esteem is overrated. I think a certain degree of self-loathing is good. If you’re going to push yourself and continue to grow, I think you need a really healthy amount of self-doubt.” –David Sederis, humorist/author
The quote above by Alice Boyes expresses one of those truths that may seem obvious but most definitely is not! One of my biggest insights from writing six blogs on the topic of self-confidence is that there is a natural ebb and flow to feelings of confidence. It’s helpful to realize that everyone has periods of self-doubt, and that self-doubt can even be helpful to your personal progress.
“Self-loathing” is a difference story. Most research shows that harsh self-criticism can sap motivation, increase the risk for depression, and block the ability to be self-compassionate. I’m glad Sederis added the phrase, “a healthy amount of self-doubt.” (Italics added.) Presumably, he is exercising his right to poetic license. At least I hope so.
How Does Self-confidence Help Us?
11. “High self-esteem seems to operate like a bank of positive emotions, which furnish a general sense of well-being and can be useful when you need an extra dose of confidence to cope with misfortune, ward off depression, or bounce back from failure.” –Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, Willpower
12. “Being for yourself, not against others but on your own side, is the foundation of all practices of health, well-being, and effectiveness.” --Rick Hanson, Hardwiring Happiness
13. “Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle.” --Virginia Woolf
14. “Scholars are coming to see (confidence) as an essential element of internal well-being and happiness, a necessity for a fulfilled life.” --Katty Kay and Claire Shipman,The Confidence Code
15. “To produce anything great—to even sit down and try—often requires feeling that we’re capable of greatness, hardly the humblest state of mind.” --Craig Malkin, Rethinking Narcissism
I love the idea that confidence is linked to being “on your own side,” as psychologist Rick Hanson puts it. Ask yourself: Are you “on your own side?” Or do you undermine yourself with bad habits, harsh self-criticism, and bad choices? It’s reassuring to remember that every healthy step forward in your life can give you a little more confidence.
How Do You Gain Confidence?
16. “Confidence is like respect; you have to earn it.” --Mindy Kaling
17. “The confidence you get from mastery is contagious. It spreads. It doesn’t even really matter what you master. For a child, it can be as simple as tying a shoe. What matters is that mastering one thing gives you the confidence to try something else.” --Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
18. “We never feel genuinely self-confident when we bury our true nature.” –Craig Malkin
19. “Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” --Theodore Roosevelt
20. “Have confidence that if you have done a little thing well, you can do a bigger thing well too.” --David Storey, author/professional rugby player
21. “Self-confidence is the memory of success.” --David Storey
22. “An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” --Arthur Ashe
23. “Self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-motivation are all far more important than self-esteem.” Russ Harris, The Confidence Gap
24. “Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.” –Thomas Carlyle
25. “The reputation you have with yourself—your self-esteem—is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.” –Nathaniel Branden, psychologist and author
I agree with Craig Malkin that being oneself is the foundation of authentic confidence. And more and more I find myself appreciating the point of view expressed by Russ Harris in The Confidence Gap-- that self-esteem will emerge on its own as long as we engage mindfully with the world and act in harmony with our values, despite our fears and negative feelings.
My Top Three
Although each quote contains a gem of insight, my favorites are #3, #5, and #20. The David Storey quote (#20) expresses one of my favorite ideas—that confidence can be built from remembering and relishing one’s small successes. I also love the Russ Harris idea (#5)—that confidence involves the decision to act on your values despite your fears and frustrations.
Of all, I currently think most often of the Salzberg quote about wholeheartedness. Even just saying the word “wholehearted” to myself can evoke a decision to engage more fully with what lies before me and ahead of me. If I am less than enthusiastic about something I must do, I try to pry open my mind and approach the challenge ahead with a wholehearted spirit. More often than not, it works.
If you have a favorite quote about confidence, please share it in “Comments.”
© Meg Selig, 2018. All rights reserved. For permissions, click here.
*Most students of “confidence” distinguish between “self-confidence” and “self-esteem.” “Self-confidence” is linked to the skills you have mastered—a sense of capability; self-esteem tends to be a more global sense of self-worth, possibly linked to both genes and upbringing—the sense of being valued and loved. The two terms are often used interchangeably, as I do in this blog.
Malkin, C. (2015). Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad—and Surprising Good—About Feeling Special. NY: HarperCollins, p. 192.
Kaling, M. (2015) Why Not Me? NY: Crown, p. 218.
Kay, K. and Shipman, C. (2014). The Confidence Code. NY: HarperCollins, p. 24 ff., 40.
Boyes, A. (2018). The Healthy Mind Toolkit. NY: TarcherPerigee, p. 206.
Burton, Neel (2015). “Self-Confidence Versus Self-Esteem,” psychologytoday.com.
Webb, C. (2016). How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life. NY: Seven Shift, p. 236
Selig, M. “11 Ways to Project Confidence and Be Taken Seriously,” psychologytoday.com.
Small successes. Selig, M. "How to Become More Self-Confident in Just 3 Minutes a Day," psychologytoday.com.
Baumeister, R. and Tierney, J. (2011) Willpower: The Greatest Human Strength. New York: Penguin Press, p. 192.
Hanson, R. (2013) Hardwiring Happiness. NY: Random House, p. 65.
From Q & A Interview with David Sedaris by Hugh Delchanty, July/August 2018, AARP Bulletin, p.39