Developing Self-Confidence

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Strategies & Resources for Developing Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is “the belief that you can do things well and that other people respect you.” Someone who is self-confident feels worthwhile and is optimistic about their abilities.

Early Experiences Influence Self-Confidence

How do we develop self-confidence? Early childhood experiences with parents (or caretakers) shape how we view ourselves and our capabilities. A child whose parents are supportive and encouraging develops a sense of self-efficacy; they feel nurtured and secure. In contrast, children who are neglected or abused may be fearful or uncertain.

Peer relationships also impact the development of confidence; positive social interactions foster self-assurance and high self-esteem. Conversely, a child who is rejected or teased may experience a sense of unworthiness or feel unsure about their abilities.

Once a child develops low self-worth, it can be difficult to bounce back. Children who are ostracized or bullied by their playmates become hesitant to initiate or engage in play. The absence of peer socialization leads to further isolation. As a result, critical social skills are not learned, making the child an even less desirable playfellow, which only reinforces the belief that they’re undeserving.

Lack of Self-Confidence

The patterns formed in early childhood tend to repeat themselves. A child who never develops a sense of competence will not grow up to be a confident, self-reliant adult.

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”

John Connolly

Traits of low self-confidence include discounting yourself and doubting your capacity for effectiveness. A person who lacks self-assurance may believe they’re inferior to others. They may experience anxiety or depression and struggle with learned helplessness (the belief that one has no control over what happens to them in life).

A lack of confidence can also lead to fear of rejection or criticism. Constructive feedback can feel like a personal attack. This person may have trouble accepting compliments or expressing their opinion.

When someone is highly insecure, they avoid social events. They’re more likely to be bullied at work or involved with an abusive partner. As a result, their relationships and overall quality of life suffer.

Self-Confident Traits

In contrast, someone who is self-confident views themselves as competent; they feel good about themselves. They have a positive outlook on life and are generally optimistic. A self-confident person is often resilient and able to quickly recover after experiencing setbacks.

“The most beautiful thing you can wear is confidence.”

Blake Lively

10 Traits of Self-Confident People

1. Genuine

2. Optimistic and positive

3. Ask questions and are eager to learn

4. Open to feedback and constructive criticism

5. Take healthy risks

6. Able to laugh at self

7. Don’t internalize failure

8. Take ownership (of both successes and mistakes)

9. Take pride in accomplishments

10. Able to make decisions without too much difficulty


Strategies for Developing Self-Confidence

Correct cognitive distortions

A cognitive distortion is an error in thinking or a self-defeating belief that is not an accurate reflection of reality. Cognitive distortions impact how we view ourselves and our abilities. For example, black-and-white (or all-or-nothing) thinking is a distortion of “absolutes” (i.e. “If I fail at something, I’ll fail at everything”).

By replacing irrational views with ones that are reality-based, you’ll feel more confident. (See 50 Common Cognitive Distortions for a list of thinking errors from Psychology Today.)

Adjust your attitude

Your overall perspective greatly impacts confidence. If you’re generally negative and believe that failure is inevitable, it will become your reality. Instead, practice optimism and gratitude. A positive attitude enhances self-confidence.

Self-belief does not necessarily ensure success, but self-disbelief assuredly spawns failure.

Albert Bandura

Track your achievements

Is optimism challenging due to circumstances, barriers, or obstacles? Try creating a list of all the things you’re proud of – your biggest accomplishments in life. Did you graduate college? Quit smoking? Pay off a loan? Raise a child? Earn an award? To enhance self-confidence, take pride in your successes. Review the list often and update it with successive achievements.

Identify talents, skills, and knowledge

In addition to acknowledging accomplishments, recognize your unique talents, skills, and knowledge. What are you good at? What are your areas of expertise? Instead of lamenting a lack of athleticism, relish in your ability to make others laugh or your mastery of the Dothraki language.

mistakes happen

You’re only human after all, and as a human, you are going to make mistakes. You will never achieve perfection, so let go of unrealistic standards or expectations you have for yourself. Also, don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes; be kind to yourself… and be wise. When you mess up, own it, and then learn from the error. Every mistake is a growth opportunity; you only fail when you give up.

Don’t compare out

(Or if you do, compare yourself to others who lack what you have!) There will always be people who are better off and there will always be people who have it worse than you. To build confidence, use yourself as the measure for success, not someone else.

Fake it till you make it (“act as if”)

To feel confident, act confident! Be intentional in your speech, actions, and how you carry yourself. Act like you know what you’re doing, and people will believe it, which in turn will influence how you feel about yourself. Just like thoughts have the power to alter behaviors, behaviors can impact thoughts and beliefs.

“I taught myself confidence. When I’d walk into a room and feel scared to death, I’d tell myself, ‘I’m not afraid of anybody.’ And people believed me. You’ve got to teach yourself to take over the world.”

Priyanka Chopra

Seek support

Ask for help when you need it. Rely on trusted family and friends for support and encouragement. (It should also be noted that if you have a mental illness, you may require professional help. Feelings of worthlessness, panic, and extreme self-consciousness are examples of symptoms that interfere with someone’s ability to feel confident; they can be treated with psychotherapy and/or medication.)

Lastly, practice regular self-care

When you’re tired or rundown, it’s difficult to feel good about yourself. It’s also true that you won’t function as well when your basic needs aren’t met. If a vehicle is not well-maintained, its performance suffers; the same is true for people. Eat healthy foods, get adequate rest, drink plenty of water, exercise daily, and seek treatment when ill.

Resources for Self-Confidence

Articles & Links

Free Kindle eBooks

Free PDF Workbooks

Conclusion

Everyone is good at something. Recognize your unique abilities, and take pride in them. Allow yourself to feel confident; life is too short for inaction related to self-doubt.

At the same time, assess and remain aware of areas for growth. Strive for self-improvement; be assured that you can learn new skills and make positive changes in your life.



References

25 Journal Prompts for Self-Discovery

By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Use the following 25 journal prompts to explore your beliefs and values. Reflect on the answers to better understand who you are and what drives you.


25 Journal Prompts for Self-Discovery

1. Who am I when no one is around?

2. What are my personal boundaries?

3. What values are most important to me?

4. How do my values impact my choices and actions?

5. What is my personal “code for life”? What rules or ethics do I abide by?

6. What expectations do I have for myself?

7. What advice would I give to my younger self?

8. Am I living up to my full potential in life? If not, what is holding me back?

9. If I die today, how will I be remembered? How do I want to be remembered?

10. What (or who) am I holding on to that I need to let go? What are the reasons I’ve held on to them? What could happen if I let go of them?

“Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.”

Mina Murray

11. What are my resentments? What role do I play in each resentment?

12. For what moment today (or recently) am I the most grateful? The least grateful?

13. When today (or recently) did I ask for what I needed? When today (or recently) did I not ask for what I needed? What was the outcome?

14. What was my biggest struggle today?

15. What helped me most with my negativity today (or recently)? What helped me least with my negativity today (or recently)?

16. What are some of my biases? Where did they come from?

17. What parts of myself do I tend to hide from others and why?

18. What is my definition of love?

19. What qualities do I look for in a friend? Am I someone I’d want to be friends with? Why or why not?

20. What are my relationship values?

“Journal writing, when it becomes a ritual for transformation, is not only life-changing but life-expanding.”

Jen Williamson

21. What is a reoccurring dream that I have?

22. What are my biggest regrets in life?

23. What are my motivations in life?

24. How have I changed in the past year?

25. What do I want to change the most about myself and why?

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

William Wordsworth

For additional questions for self-discovery, see 161 Questions to Explore Values, Ideas, & Beliefs.