Confidence is your belief in yourself and your ability to succeed. It’s not about having a particular set of skills or knowledge—it’s a state of mind that gives you the inner fortitude to take on life’s challenges.
Of course, it can sometimes vary from one situation to the next. We don’t always feel as confident as we want to be. Fortunately, there are things you can do to learn how to be more confident in different areas of your life.
What Is Confidence?
Confidence is about recognizing your own abilities. When you are confident, you are aware of how you feel. You feel good about yourself and are interested in doing things supporting your interests and goals.
Researchers also suggest that confidence involves your perceived self (i.e., how you see yourself) and your ideal self (i.e., who you want to be) being closely aligned.
When there is a big gap between our perceived self and our ideal self, the less confident we tend to feel.
But when our self-perceptions and ideal image are more closely connected, we are more likely to feel like we have the ability to tackle any challenge that life throws at us.
The Benefits of Being More Confident
Being confident can help you feel more secure about your place in the world–but that’s not the only benefit. For example, research has found that:
Confident people are more likely to succeed in academics. One study found that confidence was the greatest non-cognitive predictor of academic achievement. In fact, the study found that confidence accounted for 46.3% of the variance in academic achievement.
Openness to New Experiences
You’ll be more willing to try new things. It’s tough to put yourself out there when you lack confidence. Learning how to be more confident can give you that boost of self-reliance and motivation to pursue new experiences, even if they are a little scary.
You’ll feel better about your life. Having good self-esteem, which can help make you feel more confident, is associated with better subjective well-being. Your subjective well-being, as the name suggests, is all about how you feel about the overall quality of your life.
Other research has found that feeling positive about yourself is linked to better relationships, work performance, physical health, and mental health.
What Happens If Don’t Feel Confident
How confident we are can have an enormous impact on how we feel about our lives and how much we can achieve.
Anxiety and Depression
People who lack confidence are more likely to experience problems such as anxiety and depression.
They may be less motivated to pursue goals, which can negatively affect their ability to succeed in school and at work.
Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
People who have poor self-esteem and low confidence may also be more likely to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol and other substances. This can increase their risk of developing a substance use disorder.
Problems With Relationships
It can also affect a person’s ability to form and maintain relationships. People who lack confidence may be less likely to pursue relationships. Feeling negatively about yourself can also make maintaining healthy relationships much more difficult.
Loneliness and Isolation
Lack of close relationships can then lead to problems with loneliness and isolation. Research has demonstrated that loneliness can have a devastating effect on both mental health and physical well-being. The risk is so great that the U.S. Surgeon General has issued a report on the loneliness epidemic, citing it as a major health problem in the U.S.
Why We Might Lack Confidence
If you lack confidence, the reasons might be varied and complex. Some of the factors that can contribute to a lack of confidence include:
- Negative social experiences
- Poor body image and physical insecurities
- Perfectionism and overly high expectations
- Anxiety and depression
- Social comparison
- Fear of failure
- Parenting styles
- Discrimination due to gender, race, or sexual orientation
- Media messages
- Social media
- Traumatic experiences
While experiences can play a major role in determining your confidence, genetics and temperament can play a major part. Twin studies have found that personality is around 40% to 60% heritable.
Big 5 traits, such as extraversion and agreeableness, may be linked to higher confidence, while people high in neuroticism may be less confident.
Children who are born higher in behavioral inhibition might also be more prone to feeling less confident. Behaviorally inhibited kids tend to be wary and watchful in new situations; instead of walking into these situations with confidence, they tend to be more reserved and hesitant.
Strategies for How to Be More Confident
We all want to feel confident, but it doesn’t always come easily. While it can take some time and work, there are things that you can do to start feeling more confident in yourself and your abilities.
Gain Knowledge and Experience
One of the best ways to seem more confident is to boost your skills! When you feel comfortable with your abilities, you are more likely to feel confident in situations that require those abilities.
Researchers have found that improving your knowledge and competence is one of the most significant things you can do to improve your confidence.
Focus on Realistic, Achievable Goals
Setting goals that are too lofty can be a recipe for insecurity. The trick is to put yourself in situations that challenge you to grow but aren’t too difficult to achieve and offer plenty of support.
Setting SMART goals is a great way to do this. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
So, while “be more confident” might be your overarching goal, start by breaking down that goal into something more specific.
For example, you might say, “I want to be able to give a presentation at work by the end of the month.” Once you have that idea in mind, you can start taking steps to help you reach that goal.
Celebrate Your Achievements
Celebrating your achievements along the way can also be a great confidence-builder. Each time you do something that helps you on your path to your goal, take the time to recognize it. It doesn’t matter how small it is; it’s something that is helping you learn new skills and become more confident.
Hype Yourself Up
Positive self-talk can be a powerful tool for becoming more confident. If you catch yourself thinking negatively, focus on using more positive statements to boost yourself up.
Take Care of Yourself
Treating yourself kindly and taking care of your mind and body can also help you to feel more confident and secure. This includes getting plenty of sleep, managing your stress, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular physical activity.
Shift Your Mindset
It’s hard to feel confident when it feels like you’re stuck and unable to change. Instead of feeling like how things are right now is fixed and forever, work on developing more of a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is one where you feel your actions will make a difference. You feel like you can change and grow as a person–including becoming more knowledgeable, skilled, and confident in your abilities.
Focus on Gratitude (Instead of Comparisons)
Comparing yourself to others can be a confidence-killer. For example, it can be hard to feel good about your own life if you are always looking at the picture-perfect lives of other people on social media and feeling like your own just doesn’t measure up.
Remind yourself that these glimpses into other people’s lives are often unrealistic–and don’t necessarily reflect reality.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on feeling grateful for good things in your own life. Consider keeping a gratitude journal and avoid judging other people for their own mistakes. The more you judge others, the more likely you are to look at yourself with that same critical eye.
Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome can make you feel like a fraud, even in situations where you have considerable expertise and experience. In order to become more confident, it’s important to take steps to overcome these feelings and feel secure in your abilities.
Recognizing the problem is a good first step. You might also find it helpful to talk to a colleague or mentor who can help shift your perspective.
The Bottom Line:
If you want to learn how to be more confident, it’s important to start by understanding some of the factors that play a part in how you feel about your own abilities. Your personality can play a part, but so can your life experiences.
You can improve your confidence by building your skills, recognizing your achievements, and practicing positive self-talk. It takes time, and you may have to keep working at it for a while to see significant results. But, over time, you may find that it gets a lot easier to feel confident in who you are and what you can do. If nothing else, you may find that acting confident might actually help you to feel more confident.
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