By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
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.
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
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.
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
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
- Centre for Confidence and Well-Being
- How Pronouns Can Be Used to Build Confidence in Stressful Situations (ScienceDaily)
- How to Be Confident: 51 Proven Ways to Build Self-Confidence (Lifehack)
- How to Build Self-Confidence (WikiHow)
- Information on Self-Efficacy
- Self-Efficacy Theory (Simply Psychology)
- Shaken Self-Confidence? Certain Products And Activities Can Fix It (ScienceDaily)
Free Kindle eBooks
- 7 Core Tips For Self-Confidence: A Field Guide
- Confidence: Your Practical Training: How to Develop Healthy Self Esteem and Deep Self Confidence to Be Successful and Become True Friends with Yourself (Positive Psychology Coaching Series Book 10)
- Self-Confidence Boom: How to Build Confidence and Live a Happier Life (Happiness on Steroids)
Free PDF Workbooks
- The Bouncing Back Workbook (Source: South Eastern Health Care Trust)
- Building Self-Compassion (Source: CCI)
- Express Yourself! Assessing Self-Determination in Your Life (By Judith A. Cook, PhD, Carol Petersen, MA, & Jessica A. Jonikas, MA)
- How to Build Your Self-Esteem In a Weekend! (Source: Self-Esteem Experts)
- Identity and Self-Esteem (Source: “On My Own Two Feet” Series)
- Improving Self-Esteem (Source: CCI)
- Just As I Am (By Julia Armstrong, MSW, RSW)
- Self-Care Workbook (By Rebecca Zelis)
- Working on Your Self-Esteem (Source: NHS)
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.
- Andersen, L.P., Labriola, M., Andersen, J.H. et al. Bullied at school, bullied at work: a prospective study. BMC Psychol 3, 35 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-015-0092-1
- Bellis, M.A., Hardcastle, K., Ford, K. et al. Does continuous trusted adult support in childhood impart life-course resilience against adverse childhood experiences – a retrospective study on adult health-harming behaviours and mental well-being. BMC Psychiatry 17, 110 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-017-1260-z
- California Institute of Technology. (2010, August 9). Gain and loss in optimistic versus pessimistic brains. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 19, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100804151500.htm
- Ohio State University. (2009, October 5). Body Posture Affects Confidence In Your Own Thoughts, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 19, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091005111627.htm
- Suzuki, H., Tomoda, A. Roles of attachment and self-esteem: impact of early life stress on depressive symptoms among Japanese institutionalized children. BMC Psychiatry 15, 8 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-015-0385-1
- University at Buffalo. (2017, August 7). How pronouns can be used to build confidence in stressful situations: Self-distancing language can help us ‘see’ ourselves through someone else’s eyes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 19, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170807111459.htm
- University of Chicago Press Journals. (2009, January 28). Shaken Self-confidence? Certain Products And Activities Can Fix It. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 19, 2020 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090126112321.htm