Last updated 22 March, 2023

7 Strategies to dial up your self-confidence

The word ‘confidence’ comes from the Latin fidere, which means ‘to trust’. The American Psychological Association defines self-confidence as having ‘trust in one’s abilities and judgement … (and) belief that one is capable of successfully meeting the demands of a task.” 

In a nutshell, if you’re self-confident, you believe in yourself. You know you’re able to deal with difficult situations, handle new challenges, and succeed in achieving your goals. You have a sense of control in your life, and look forward to the future.

So, what does self-confidence look like? 

Being self-confident requires self-awareness – the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively, understand your strengths, and recognise your weaknesses. 

It also requires a healthy dose of self-esteem. While ‘self-confidence’ and ‘self-esteem’ are considered two different concepts, they do overlap and the terms are often used interchangeably. Generally, self-confidence relates to how you feel about your skills, abilities and knowledge, while self-esteem relates to self-love and how you feel about yourself

Self-confidence is not an innate trait. It’s an ability that can be developed over time. It can also fluctuate, depending on the situation; and it’s normal to feel more confident in some areas than in others. 

Being confident in yourself is different from narcissism, which is characterised by an exaggerated sense of self and what you’re capable of, and feelings of entitlement.

Confident people typically:

  • Are self-aware

  • Have a growth mindset

  • Own their mistakes 

  • Celebrate other people’s success

  • Are able to laugh at themselves

  • Are not easily offended

  • Don’t second-guess their decisions

  • Welcome feedback

  • Are optimistic

  • Practise self-care

What causes a lack of confidence?

Low self-confidence is a result of external circumstances, life experiences and/or negative thought patterns. Psychologists agree that growing up with highly critical parents or caregivers, unresolved trauma, peer pressure, bullying, ongoing medical problems, unhappy or failed relationships, or any other ongoing stressful life event (such as financial trouble) can lead to low self-confidence. 

Thought patterns that undermine confidence include harsh self-judgement, self-criticism and fear (for example, fear of failure, fear of embarrassment).

It’s completely normal to have bouts of self-doubt or feel insecure from time to time. However, if these negative feelings persist for extended periods, prevent you from achieving your goals or hold you back from living life to the full, it may be time to work on building your confidence.

Effects of low self-confidence

Simply put, a lack of confidence in yourself holds you back and can impact all key life areas: your career, your relationships, your wellbeing. It prevents you from taking risks and recognising opportunities. For example, you may not apply for that perfect role because you doubt your ability to succeed; or you may shy away from a potential romantic relationship because you feel you’re unworthy of being loved. You may avoid social situations for fear of being judged, or stop trying new things for fear of failure. 

But ‘playing it safe’ in life can reinforce negative feelings and underlying doubts, pushing you into a downward spiral of lower and lower self-confidence. It may impair your performance at work, hinder your professional progress, lead to conflict in your personal and professional relationships, create loneliness, cause stress, and chip away at your self-esteem, making you vulnerable to alcohol or drug abuse. It may harm your mental health and, over time, lead to anxiety or depression.

On the other hand, as a recent research review suggests, people who are confident and believe in themselves generally achieve more success in their careers, have healthier relationships, and have better mental and physical wellbeing. 

15 Signs you may lack self-confidence

So, what are the red flags to look out for? You may lack self-confidence if you: 

  • Are highly self-critical

  • Worry about what others think of you

  • Often envy others

  • Don’t trust your own judgement

  • Often feel sad, anxious or angry

  • Blame yourself when things go wrong

  • Are socially withdrawn

  • Don’t take care of yourself

  • Constantly seek approval

  • Struggle to set healthy boundaries

  • Take constructive criticism personally

  • Don’t like compliments

  • Struggle to build healthy relationships

  • Feel unworthy or undeserving

  • Are afraid of change

7 Strategies to supercharge self-confidence

If you recognise any one or more of the above signs, here’s what you can do to develop belief in yourself and cultivate healthy self-confidence:

#1. Take care of you.

Experts agree you can’t feel good about yourself if you fail to take care of yourself. 

According to Duke University, if you avoid activities that make you feel physically and mentally well, you deplete your confidence. On the other hand, in practising self-care, you’ll know that you’re taking positive action to improve your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing – and you’ll naturally start to feel more confident. Seeing the positive results of your efforts will further build your confidence. 

Basic self-care practices include the following:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a nutritious diet will boost your energy levels and help you feel healthier – this, in turn, can result in you feeling more confident.

  • Do regular exercise. Research shows regular physical activity improves body image, which also helps build self-confidence.

  • Get enough sleep. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioural Medicine found people who slept less than six hours had lower optimism and self-esteem than those who got adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to sadness and mental exhaustion – neither of which positively contributes to confidence building.

  • Make time to meditate. Meditation is a great way to disconnect from negative thought patterns that deplete your confidence.

#2. Let go of the past.

Staying stuck in the past only reinforces the negative emotions you experienced at the time – the self-doubt that crept in because the person you fell in love with didn’t love you back; or the shame you felt because you ‘failed miserably’ at something. Constantly looking back erodes your self-trust and self-belief. Instead of dwelling on what happened before and getting consumed by self-doubt or self-criticism, try to reframe your thinking. Rather than ruminate, reflect on what you’ve learned and the wisdom you’ve gained. Firmly shift your focus to the present, live fully in the moment, and commit to being open to new possibilities. As your positivity and optimism grow, so will your confidence!

#3. Stop comparing yourself to others.

While comparing ourselves to others is a natural human behaviour, doing so can seriously dent our self-confidence. Research shows comparisons trigger envy; and the more envy we have, the worse we feel about ourselves.

Comparing yourself to others also intensifies self-judgement, which leads you to focus on your ‘flaws’ or ‘shortcomings’ rather than your abilities. Instead, work on self-acceptance and learn to embrace your strengths.

#4. Reframe your mindset. 

When we doubt our abilities, it’s easy to feel inferior and unworthy. Recognising what you’re good at will help develop your self-belief and give your confidence a healthy boost. 

Write down your top five strengths, then add a few of your recent achievements. Keep the list on hand to help you appreciate your unique abilities, and refer to it whenever you’re feeling low in confidence. Add to your list as you go – acknowledging your wins and seeing how far you’ve come will help dial up your confidence.

Next, think about your self-talk and how your words may impact how you see yourself. Challenge any negativity. For example, if you catch yourself thinking, “I can’t handle this!” reframe that thought and say out loud, “All I have to do is try!”. If you think “I stuffed up!” say, “At least I learned something valuable”. Take care to focus on thoughts and statements that recognise your value and if you need help to silence your inner critic, start using daily affirmations. 

If a challenging situation has shaken your self-confidence, remind yourself that while you might not be feeling your best right now, you do have the strength and ability to get through it.

#5. Step out of your comfort zone.

Your comfort zone is a ‘default’ space – a place that feels safe and familiar. Pushing beyond those limits to try something new helps you learn more about yourself. 

It also takes courage to step outside your comfort zone. As you face your fear of the unfamiliar, you’ll prove to yourself that you can do ‘hard’ things; and you’ll realise how brave and capable you are. 

How do you push beyond your limits? Say yes to opportunities more often, stop making excuses and instead of worrying, get excited about what could happen. 

The more you continue to step out of your comfort zone, the better you’ll become at dealing with challenges resourcefully, and the more you’ll start to believe in yourself. 

As you gain a sense of achievement, it’ll get easier to keep pushing your boundaries again and again, and you’ll continue to build your self-confidence block by block.

#6. Surround yourself with positive people.

The people you spend time with – be that in your personal or professional life – can influence your thoughts and actions. Those who are critical of you can drain your energy and undermine your confidence; those who constantly express negativity can drag you down with them. 

Instead, choose to surround yourself with positivity – it’s contagious! Make an effort to spend more time with people who appreciate your strengths, and who make you feel good about yourself. Positive people will energise you, will encourage you to try new things, and won’t put you down if you don’t at first succeed. They’ll celebrate your wins with you which, ultimately, will help your confidence grow.

#7. Seek professional support.

Chronic self-doubt and insecurity can leave you feeling overwhelmed, unhappy and dissatisfied. If these feelings persist despite your best efforts to adopt the above strategies, it may be time to seek professional support in developing your self-confidence. 

Working with a coach will help you:

  • Recognise where your lack of confidence stems from

  • Identify your strengths and abilities

  • Master your mindset

  • Challenge your inner critic

  • Build a strong self-image

  • Set realistic goals

Remember, becoming more self-confident is an ongoing project for most of us. It takes time and vigilant effort to develop healthy habits and set positive change in motion. 

Need help to build your self-confidence so you can start living life to your full potential?

Book a session now to connect with one of our world-class expert coaches

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