The term self-confidence is often misunderstood. People assume that having self-confidence is a personality trait that some are born with while others must work hard to obtain. To some extent, there is some truth to that, but self-confidence is far from being a genetic build. Self-confidence is the result of success, and herein lies the conundrum. People assume that to succeed, you must first have the self-confidence to rely upon. So then which comes first? The reality is that to grow self-confidence, you need to act, fail early, win eventually, and then reflect and take the victory lap. That is the magic ingredient that feeds your self-confidence. It’s never the other way around.
What Is Self-Confidence?
Psychology defines self-confidence as “an individual’s trust in his or her own abilities, capacities, and judgments, or belief that he or she can successfully face day-to-day challenges and demands.”
In other words, if you can look at a task and think, “I can do this shit,” and genuinely believe it, then you are more likely to go ahead and attempt to do it.
If you have doubts about that ability, you might take a step back and refrain from action. At that point, another person whom you trust might come along and pat you on the back, saying, “You can do it, buddy. I know you can. I believe in you.” Hearing that might be enough to push you to try anyway.
But what if that person doesn’t exist? What do you do?
This is where the concept gets turned on its head. To believe that you can do things, you must first do many things and complete them successfully.
For example, if you’ve never run a marathon before, you may not have the confidence that you could ever run one.
But if one day you go outside and run 100 feet and focus on that small win, the following week, you might be confident enough to attempt half a mile. And so on, until you break your first 5k. With every victory, your belief in your abilities grows, and the higher the challenge, the more those tiny wins will sediment that belief.
Note that this way of building self-confidence is long-lasting and deeply rooted in your mind. The pat on the back from the supportive person is excellent, but it will not, in and of itself, build your self-confidence. It might help give you that extra push to take the first step, but it is not enough.
Two other terms are positively related to self-confidence, and I would like to briefly address them because they will come in handy through the rest of this article.
Self-Efficacy = “I can do anything”
Albert Bandura defines self-efficacy as an individual’s beliefs about their capacity to influence the events in their own lives. So, self-efficacy establishes a person’s understanding of their own potential to do something, such as in “if you believe it, you can do it.”
A study at Yazd University of Medical Sciences analyzed the correlation between self-efficacy beliefs and internal locus of control. The research showed a high relationship between the degree by which people believe to directly affect the events in their lives (internal locus of control) and their self-efficacy.
The subtle difference between self-confidence and self-efficacy is that self-efficacy is a forward-looking concept that applies to your entire life, in general. So, a person with high self-efficacy believes that they could accomplish anything in the future if they set their mind to it.
Self-confidence has a more concrete and present application. You might be self-confident only about a particular type of activity, while your overall self-efficacy might cover multiple.
Self-Esteem = “I am worthy”
The second concept we need to look at is self-esteem. Broadly defined, self-esteem is a belief about one’s overall worth.
Nathaniel Branden, an authority on the concept of self-esteem, asserts that self-esteem is made up of two components: self-efficacy and self-respect.
Self-respect is an internal belief that we are deserving of love, happiness, and success.
So, if you believe that you deserve happiness, love, and success and have a high belief that you will accomplish the things you set your mind to, you have high self-esteem.
All four components described—self-efficacy, self-esteem, self-respect, and self-confidence—are highly related and act as levers.
You see, if you don’t honestly and sincerely believe that you deserve to be loved, happy, and attain success, you can’t picture a future in which you accomplish things. The opposite, on the other hand, gives you the platform on which you can start building.
From there, you need to develop the belief that if you set your mind to accomplish something, you can do it.
Only when those pieces of the puzzle are present, your self-confidence will begin to develop.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that a study (Mann, Hosman, Schaalma, & de Vries, 2004) found that individuals with high self-esteem show better health, protection against mental disorders, fewer social problems, better social lives, and better mental wellbeing.
Why Is Self-Confidence Important?
As you may realize, self-esteem is quite vital for success in life. But it’s not sufficient to have just self-esteem. Self-esteem is an overarching life-long mindset that makes you believe that you not only deserve love and happiness but should you attempt to go after those things, you would succeed.
That’s a forward-looking mentality that is extremely helpful when applied to your entire life.
On the other hand, self-confidence is much closer to the present moment, and it manifests differently in various aspects of life. For example, a person who’s been practicing law for many years can feel self-confident in legal matters. Still, they might not call themselves self-confident when it comes to their ability to run a marathon or bake a cake.
That can happen regardless of the way their self-esteem manifests. That’s because self-confidence is specialized and spawns from success, not from a theoretical belief.
The person in the example above can feel self-confident about the law because they went to law school and practiced it long enough. In other words, practice, experience, and success contributed to that self-confidence building up.
Captured once, self-confidence now acts as a catalyst. If you were successful at personal injury law, now you have the confidence to tackle immigration law because you have built self-confidence in a closely related field.
But when it comes to a marathon or baking a cake, no law practice level or people telling you that you can do it will give you the self-confidence you need. What would, then?
Simple: running a yard first, then half a mile, then a mile. Later, a 5k. These—including the minor step of getting off the couch to run the first yard—are small victories that add to the self-confidence in that field.
The more you create self-confidence in multiple areas of your life, the more your trust in yourself grows. Over time, it starts to become a way of thinking, and you’ll begin approaching all tasks with a sense of self-confidence, even if true confidence is not really there. It becomes a new mindset. Now, you are approaching everything as if you had self-confidence about it, which is really the secret juice of being confident.
Once you get a tiny drop of that juice, it starts multiplying. Now you are unstoppable.
How to Build Self-Confidence?
As I said above, self-confidence spawns from success and not the other way around. That means that to build your self-confidence, you must create deliberate practice grounds where you can be biased toward action and force your self-confidence to bloom.
In the beginning, this is hard to implement because at the opposite end of self-confidence are self-doubt and limiting beliefs. Those are going to act as hurdles to your actions, and therefore, they’ll hold you back from practicing your self-confidence.
So, in the beginning, you need to tip-toe your way to self-confidence. Take small yet bold steps.
For instance, if you are afraid to send an email to your boss with a grand idea, start smaller. Answer an email with a less critical issue. Get into a conversation that is not terribly difficult. When you identify such opportunities, you’ll be able to push easier through the fear.
Note that the fear won’t completely go away no matter how much you practice. It will always be there, even for people who have developed high self-confidence. Fear is a natural, biological emotion that exists in all of us. What you do in the face of fear is what you need to practice.
When you manage to push through fear and anxiety and take the smallest step—that’s a victory. You need to bask in that win for a bit and allow yourself to acknowledge what you were able to accomplish. That will feed the next cycle and then the next.
Be wary that solely the passage of time won’t increase your self-confidence. Merely getting older won’t make those fears go away.
Others giving you praises won’t boost your self-confidence either; they’ll energize you for short bursts, but they’ll be short-lived. The longer you wait without doing anything, your circle of comfort gets smaller and smaller, and your self-confidence erodes.
So, to build self-confidence, you need to start boldly, and you need to start now.
Why Appearances Matter
There’s one more critical point about self-confidence, which often makes people raise a brow and go, “Really?”
Stay with me.
Do you know how you can recognize a person with great self-confidence based on how they talk, walk, or even sit or stand? Why is that?
It turns out that there’s a direct connection between the way you feel and the way you present yourself or appear. Most people inadvertently assume that this connection is one way, as in those people with great self-confidence hold themselves a certain way that projects self-confidence.
Studies have shown that there is a similar connection in the opposite direction. Behavior and appearance have a direct influence on your self-confidence. That means that if you “act” or “look” self-confident, you will feel and become more self-confident.
I know this sounds a bit crazy and a lot like thinking yourself into happiness, but it’s not.
Amy Cuddy, Harvard psychologist and author of the best-selling book, Presence, studied the positive effects of confident postures on our bodies. She asserted that when we take power poses, we feel more powerful. I highly recommend listening to her TED Talk about how body language shapes who you are.
Based on this research, it’s quite clear that building your self-confidence is not only done through fighting fear and negative self-talk but also through a deliberate change of your appearance.
Together, they will act as a compelling catalyst to your self-confidence. Over time, that attitude will translate into better health, more robust and healthier relationships, and living a happier life in general.
10 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence
Now, let’s look at ten easy ways you can employ to work on your self-confidence. I say easy because each step is relatively straightforward but make no mistake—they all require consistency, self-discipline, and dedication. Only by applying them day in and day out you will start seeing meaningful results.
Learn confidence postures
I’ll start with the last point I made above because I believe it is truly critical. If you’ve ever seen a person who is sad or defeated or, just the opposite, happy and victorious, you can probably tell their state of mind only by looking at their body. You can tell how people feel by how they stand or sit, how they walk, and what they do with their hands. That’s because there’s a very tight connection between our minds and our bodies.
But the connection works both ways, as I mentioned. You can affect your mood and feelings by adopting a particular posture. That’s why it’s a great practice to learn and emulate the poses of a self-confident person. Self-confidence oozes from self-confident folk through the way they carry themselves. When you start to adopt those postures every day, regardless of how you feel, the feeling of self-confidence will grow within you.
If you are interested in this vast topic, I highly recommend the book The Definitive Body Language by Barbara Pease.
Take care of your body
But body language is not all there is about your appearance. Your outside image is a massive driver of self-confidence. Look in any magazine where people are depicted in their best positions and light, and even a low-confidence person will appear self-confident. The way that we look on the outside directly connects with how we feel on the inside.
That is not to say that you must fake your way into the world by pretending or trying to be someone you are not. Instead, it simply means taking care of your body.
That implies taking good care of your appearance, which includes proper nutrition, exercise, and grooming yourself. When you take care of your body, you are telling yourself that it’s essential. Especially grooming yourself is a first step toward understanding your self-worth and the fact that you are important.
Learn new things
I’ve long been an adept of the concept that we, as humans, should never stop learning. I think it’s a paramount necessity currently and one that will contribute significantly to your self-confidence. Improving your knowledge in any aspect—not just those in which you are already confident because you have a strength or a skill—will boost your self-confidence.
When you learn new things and then either discuss them in groups or apply them in your own way to create new experiences, you will sharpen your judgment and improve your decision-making skills. Both of those will lead to you making more and better decisions over time, which, in turn, will boost your self-confidence.
Take leaps of faith
Have you ever stayed in front of a large puddle and wondered if you could leap over it without wetting your shoes? Sometimes you’d walk around and then be left with that wonder if you could’ve done it. Other times you’d leap and clear the puddle. How do you feel differently?
That’s why taking calculated risks will improve your self-confidence. When you take a leap of faith and engage yourself in an activity where you don’t have all the pieces perfectly lined up, you step into the unknown.
Your history can prove that stepping into the unknown is not deadly, at least not for most situations. But when you take that chance and come out on the other side unscathed, regardless of if victorious or a failure, you grow. You become more conscious of your abilities and trust yourself more.
Next time, you’ll start even sooner and take even bigger leaps of faith.
Set up small goals and work on them
Having goals in life is a must, regardless of if you have low or high self-esteem. Only by setting up proper goals derived from your vision for your life will you be able to take deliberate steps toward the life that you genuinely want to live.
Sometimes, when you have low self-confidence, it’s challenging to set up goals, especially the big, audacious kind of goals that a holistic life vision implies. To begin on that road, start small. Establish a few smaller goals, and by small, I mean in scope, time, and complexity.
When you set up those kinds of goals and then work toward them with discipline and consistency, you train yourself toward bigger, bolder goals. You need this boost because those smaller, accomplished goals will prove your abilities in the future.
Create healthy habits
Consistency over intensity is a great concept that helps us drive healthy, long-lasting behaviors in all aspects of our lives. You need intensity now and then to jump to the next level, but it’s the consistency that is the primary driver of growth.
Habits are the end-result of consistent behavior and a significant part of our daily lives. When you design healthy habits for yourself and implement them, you begin to create a structure, a framework for your life in which consistency becomes the main driver.
Over time, those habits will begin to execute on autopilot, which means that your body and mind will drive you to do them without much thought or having to push yourself. When you get to that point, you will feel more confident in your capacity to self-discipline yourself and your self-confidence will grow exponentially.
Often, looking at ourselves and taking care of our immediate needs feels more challenging than looking outwardly and assisting others with their needs. When you reach out to a person in need not because you want to feel better by doing so but because you genuinely want to help, you grow your trust in yourself. You become a hero to some extent, albeit on a small scale.
But that is all you need to start trusting more in your abilities. You can help people in your immediate environment, such as your family and friends, but you can also get out of your closest circle and help people that are remote. You can reach out to shelters, donate food or clothing, or feed the homeless.
These acts of kindness, done wholeheartedly and with a clear desire to help, will improve your self-image, and you will believe in yourself more.
8. Take care of your environment
No matter where you are in your life, you always operate in an environment. That includes the physical space such as your home, office, and places of entertainment. It also consists of the people you surround yourself with and the kinds of inputs you allow to come into your life.
By keeping your physical space clean, organized, and decluttered, you create structure. A habit of cleaning up all the areas where you operate is critical to ensure you conduct your life in a proper space.
Cleaning up your relationships and surrounding yourself with the right kinds of people serves the same purpose. Altogether, the way you set up your environment will significantly impact your self-confidence and drive the right types of behaviors.
Together with taking care of your body, keeping your environment in an optimal state adds another brick to your self-respect.
Learn to recognize fear and self-doubt
No matter where you are in relation to your self-confidence, there will be times when you will still be afraid. You’ll face different kinds of fears, including fear of rejection, fear of failure, or fear of not being good enough. That kind of self-doubt happens even to self-confident people and even in situations that they’ve been successful at before.
That’s normal. What you need to work on is self-awareness about those moments. You need to recognize when they happen and catch them early on. You won’t make them go away, and this is not about suppressing those uncomfortable emotions. Instead, you must allow them to pass by without deterring you from your path.
It’s also essential to understand how they make you feel and the kinds of thoughts they spawn in your mind. With that knowledge, you can allow them to exist without changing your attitude or behavior.
Only when you learn how to feel those feelings and almost enjoy them in a twisted kind of way, you’ll be able to act despite them. Pushing through those difficult moments of self-doubt will represent a colossal point added to your self-confidence.
Practice positive thinking
Finally, you need to learn how to practice positive thinking. Now, keep in mind that just thinking positively about anything won’t truly change those things one way or another. But this step is a requirement for your mindset.
When you focus on the negative, it’s hard to work on self-respect, self-esteem, or self-efficacy. That’s because the negative chatter will continuously try to push those things away. But by getting into a practice of positive thinking, you start controlling the situation and take charge.
Positive thinking includes practicing gratitude toward your accomplishments and looking at your past to find those golden nuggets that you can use to prove to yourself your abilities and capacity.
If you have difficulty starting with positive thinking because it feels weird, at least stop the negative thinking. Catch it as it happens and nip it in the bud. The quicker you stop thinking negatively and falling prey to negative chatter, the sooner you’ll open up space for positive thinking.
Work on Your Self-Confidence Every Day
I’m going to repeat this because it’s a huge point: self-confidence is not built overnight. Instead, it’s built over many, many nights and days, one step at a time. You cannot merely think yourself into a self-confident person, nor can anybody else make you self-confident.
Self-confidence is created consistently through experiences and successes. Although having a good support group or a mentor and having a positive mindset are great helpers, they both pale in the face of personal practice when it comes to boosting your self-confidence.
Work on it every day, little by little. Soon enough, you will feel unstoppable.
Then, you will be unstoppable.
Oh, and one more thing: don’t wait for a better time. There is no better time.
Other Self-Confidence Resources
- 5 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence
- How to Build Confidence
- Building Self-Confidence
- 25 Killer Actions to Boost Your Self-Confidence
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- Do you remember the last time you felt super-confident about something? What was it?
- When self-doubt comes along, what methods do you use to push it away and reclaim your self-confidence?
- How important do you think self-respect is, and what are some ways it manifests for you?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!