- Self-confidence offers positive benefits, from motivating people to achieve their goals to helping them overcome obstacles.
- Self-confidence also plays an important role in boosting well-being and strengthening relationships.
- There are skills that almost anyone can learn to boost their self-confidence.
Self-confidence can be thought of as a person's sense of his or her own competence and perceived capability to deal effectively with various situations—for example, performance, appearance, romantic relationships, and social interactions (Cheng & Furnham, 2002). It is thought that a self-confident person can rise to new challenges, take advantage of new opportunities, and deal with challenges or difficulties. They may also be more self-motivated and more likely to pursue goals—and why not? They believe they have what it takes to succeed. That's why confidence is such a valuable characteristic and one most of us likely want to build.
If we are lacking in self-confidence, we may feel insecure, self-doubting, unsure, and self-conscious. Rather than approaching new situations, it may be our instinct to withdraw for fear of failure, ridicule, or incompetence. So we may also be shy, nervous, and apprehensive. On a more positive note, if we lack confidence, we are also unlikely to be arrogant, egotistical, or assuming. So low confidence—just like high confidence—is associated with many positive qualities.
How to build self-confidence
Self-confidence grows in a kind of spiral pattern. Successful experiences lead to self-confidence, self-confidence leads to more successful experiences, and so on. If we can get ourselves into this positive feedback loop, we can start growing our self-confidence, one experience at a time. Here are some tips to help with this.
1. Talk back to your inner critic. As a start, we may want to formulate affirmations that shift our negative beliefs about ourselves. For example, if we have thoughts like, "I'm not worthy," we can use affirmations like, "I have just as much worth as anyone else." Or if we have thoughts like, "I suck at making friends," we might replace them with something like, "I have the ability to make new friends." It may not feel natural to say positive affirmations that go against what we currently feel to be true, but by practicing saying and thinking these things, we help create new pathways in our brains that grow stronger over time.
2. Affirm your positive qualities. All this involves is saying out loud (or in your head) that you possess as many positive qualities as you can think of. For example, you might say, "I am kind. I am smart. I am determined," and so on. Even if you have some negative opinions of yourself, these affirmations can help you focus on the things you do like.
3. Reinforce your skills and abilities. In addition to affirming your positive qualities, you can also reinforce your abilities. In this case, you'd focus on statements that remind you of your skills. For example, you might say, "I am good at X. I am hard working. I am a good gardener," and so on. This can help you not only feel more confident in these skills, but it may also remind you that you were able to build skills in the past so you can build new skills again in the future.
4. Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion involves treating oneself with kindness, recognizing our shared humanity, and being mindful and gentle when exploring the negative aspects of ourselves (Neff, 2011). Self-compassion can help us hold a more positive attitude towards ourselves, which can aid self-confidence (Owens, 1993).
5. Cultivate self-focused optimism. Being optimistic involves looking toward the future with hope and positivity. Optimism has been linked to all sorts of positive outcomes, including greater well-being (Carver et al., 2010). For gaining confidence, there are some ways we can be more optimistic, specifically about ourselves and our abilities.
For example, you can do a visualization exercise where you imagine the best possible version of yourself in the future, focusing on the good things you do. You could also imagine yourself reaching your goals successfully. This can help your mind adjust to the idea of your success and help you feel more confident in pursuing your goals.
Many of us would like to have a little more self-confidence. Hopefully, the tools discussed in this post can help you gain some insight and build some skills that'll boost your self-confidence in the long term.
This post was adapted from an article published by The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.
Carver, C. S., Scheier, M. F., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2010). Optimism. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 879-889.
Cheng, H., & Furnham, A. (2002). Personality, peer relations, and self-confidence as predictors of happiness and loneliness. Journal of adolescence, 25(3), 327-339.
Neff, K. D. (2011). Self‐compassion, self‐esteem, and well‐being. Social and personality psychology compass, 5(1), 1-12.
Owens, T. J. (1993). Accentuate the positive and the negative: Rethinking the use of self-esteem, self-deprecation, and self-confidence. Social Psychology Quarterly, 288-299.