Preparing Yourself for Success!
Everyone admires a self-confident person. We may even envy them a little! Self-confident people seem at ease with themselves and their work. They invite trust and inspire confidence in others. These are attractive characteristics.
It's not always easy to be confident in yourself, particularly if you're naturally self-critical, or if other people put you down. But there are steps that you can take to increase and maintain your self-confidence.
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This article, and the video, above, explains what self-confidence is, and why it matters. It explores how to believe in yourself, and how to project this belief to others, so that you can be happier and more effective in your life and work.
What is Self-Confidence – and Why Is It Important?
Self-confidence is understanding that you trust your own judgment and abilities, and that you value yourself and feel worthy, regardless of any imperfections or of what others may believe about you.
Self-efficacy and self-esteem are sometimes used interchangeably with self-confidence, but they are subtly different.
We gain a sense of self-efficacy when we see ourselves (and others like us) mastering skills and achieving goals. This encourages us to believe that, if we learn and work hard in a particular area, we'll succeed. It's this type of confidence that leads people to accept difficult challenges and to keep going in the face of setbacks.
Self-esteem is a more general sense that we can cope with what's going on in our lives, and that we have a right to be happy.
Also, self-esteem comes in part from the feeling that the people around us approve of us. We may or may not be able to control this, and if we experience a lot of criticism or rejection from other people, our self-esteem can easily suffer unless we support it in other ways.
Confidence and Behavior
Take a look at the examples in the table below, which compares confident behavior with behavior that's associated with low self-confidence. Which thoughts or actions do you recognize in yourself and in the people around you?
|Confident Behavior||Behavior Associated With Low Self-Confidence|
|Doing what you believe to be right, even if others mock or criticize you for it.||Governing your behavior based on what other people think.|
|Being willing to take risks and to go the extra mile to achieve better things.||Staying in your comfort zone, fearing failure, and avoiding risk.|
|Admitting your mistakes, and learning from them.||Working hard to cover up mistakes, and hoping that you can fix the problem before anyone notices.|
|Waiting for others to congratulate you on your accomplishments.||Extolling your own virtues as often as possible to as many people as possible.|
|Accepting compliments graciously. "Thanks, I really worked hard on that prospectus. I'm pleased you recognize my efforts."||Dismissing compliments offhandedly. "Oh that prospectus was nothing really, anyone could have done it."|
As these examples show, low self-confidence can be self-destructive, and it may manifest itself as negativity.
Self-confident people are generally more positive – they value themselves and trust their own judgment. But they also acknowledge their failures and mistakes and learn from them.
Why Self-Confidence Matters
Self-confidence is vital in almost every aspect of our lives, yet many people struggle to find it. Sadly, this can be a vicious cycle: people who lack self-confidence are less likely to achieve the success that could give them more confidence.
For example, you might not want to back a project that's pitched by someone who's visibly nervous, fumbling, or constantly apologizing. On the other hand, you might be persuaded by someone who speaks clearly, who holds their head high, answers questions with assurance, and readily admits when they don't know something.
Confident people inspire confidence in others: their audience, their co-workers, their bosses, their customers, and their friends. And gaining the confidence of others is one of the key ways to succeed. In the following sections we'll see how you can do this.
Take our short quiz to find out how self-confident you are right now, and to learn about specific strategies that can improve your confidence level.
How to Appear More Confident to Others
You can show self-confidence in many ways: in your behavior, your body language, and in what you say and how you say it.
Projecting a positive image to others can help you to improve your self-confidence. It's not simply a matter of "faking it." If you project with confidence, others are more likely to respond well, and this positive feedback will help you to believe in yourself.
Our article, Body Language, explores the subject in more detail, but here are some general pointers to make you look – and feel – more confident.
Adopt an open posture. Sit or stand upright and place your hands by your sides. Avoid standing with your hands on your hips, as this can communicate a desire to dominate. And be sure not to slouch!
Keep your head upright and level. Don't lean too far forward or backward, as this can make you look aggressive. And if you're presenting, use open hand gestures. Spread your hands apart, with your palms facing slightly toward your audience. This indicates a willingness to communicate and to share ideas. Keep your upper arms close to your body.
People with low self-confidence often find it difficult to make a good first impression, whether they're meeting a client, addressing a meeting, or giving a presentation. You may be shy or unsure of yourself, but you can take immediate steps to make yourself appear more confident.
Engaging with people is important, so maintain eye contact while you talk. This shows that you're interested in what they're saying, and that you're taking an active part in the conversation. But bear in mind any cultural considerations when it comes to body language and communication.
Don't fidget or look away while the conversation continues, as this can make you appear distracted or anxious.
If shaking hands is the usual greeting in your workplace, be firm. Not too firm, though, and avoid being too upfront. Reaching for the other person's wrist or shoulder with your free hand is often seen as a way of establishing dominance, and it's not recommended for a first meeting. Avoid making the encounter awkward – or, worse, painful!
Meeting Short-Term Challenges to Your Self-Confidence
Even the most outwardly confident person can find themselves doubting their abilities sometimes. For example, you may have a talent for coming up with great ideas or solutions but struggle to make your voice heard in meetings. Or, you may suddenly find yourself having to work from home for a long period of time, and feel lost or isolated without the company of your colleagues.
To address short-term dips in confidence, first try to identify the cause of the problem.
If you have difficulty maintaining confidence because of things you feel you can't do, it makes sense to improve your skills. Carry out a Personal SWOT Analysis to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Then draw up an action plan to work on the areas where you're not so strong.
Other people's attitudes or behavior may contribute to your lack of confidence. If you're being bullied, if you're subjected to microaggressions in the workplace, or if you feel that people are making unfair assumptions about you, you need to call this behavior out.
You can use the Situation-Behavior-Impact Feedback Tool to make it clear to the person responsible that their behavior is harmful. If that doesn't work, seek help from your line manager. If they're part of the problem, speak to HR. No-one should accept workplace bullying.
Practice assertiveness to build a sense that you have rights and needs as an individual, and make sure that others understand and respect your personal boundaries. This will help to build the psychological safety you need to develop self-confidence.
People with low self-confidence often feel that they don't deserve to be happy, and that they somehow deserve to be treated badly. While the feeling may be true, the belief certainly is not!
How Do You Gain Self-Confidence, and Keep It?
Short-term action can fix immediate or acute issues with your self-confidence, but longer-term confidence-building needs more fundamental action. This can involve introducing changes to your lifestyle and making robust plans for the future.
Building Confident Habits
To build a strong sense of self-esteem, and the confidence that develops from it, aim to develop good habits (and to break bad ones!).
Look after your physical and mental health: regular exercise can improve both. Make sure that you're getting enough sleep and eating properly. Not doing so can lead to feeling bad in yourself, and likely about yourself.
Working on your personal branding can also have a positive impact on your self-confidence. If you can project a positive image of your authentic self, you'll likely start to receive the positive feedback that's so important to your self-confidence.
Reviewing Past Achievements
Your self-confidence can increase when you're able to say, "I can do this, and here's the evidence." As part of your Personal SWOT Analysis, you'll have identified things that you're good at, based on your past achievements.
List the 10 things you're most proud of in an "achievement log." Perhaps you came top in an important test or exam, played a key role in an important team or project, or did something kind that made a positive difference in someone else's life.
Review these achievements, and use them to make positive affirmations about what you can do. These affirmations can be particularly powerful if you tend to undermine your own confidence with negative self-talk.
You can learn to identify and defeat the negative self-talk that can harm your self-confidence. See our article, Positive Thinking, Thought Awareness, and Rational Thinking for more on this.
Setting Confidence-Boosting Goals
Setting and achieving goals is an important part of developing self-confidence. Goal setting is the process you use to set yourself targets, and to measure how successfully you hit them.
Inform your goal setting with your Personal SWOT Analysis. Set goals that make the most of your strengths, that minimize your weaknesses, that take advantage of your opportunities, and that mitigate the threats you face.
When you've identified the major goals you want to achieve, identify the first step you need to take for each one. Make sure it's a very small step, perhaps taking no more than an hour to complete.
If, as you're setting goals, you find doubts starting to surface, write them down and challenge them calmly and rationally. If they seem less serious under scrutiny, that's great. However, if they are based on genuine risks, make sure you set additional goals to manage these appropriately.
Breaking down large goals into smaller steps in this way makes them seem far more attainable. It also allows you to track your progress and reflect on how far you've come already.
When you're self-confident, you trust your own judgment and abilities. It means having a strong sense of self-worth and self-belief.
You can take immediate steps to project greater self-confidence in the way you behave, and how you approach other people. You can then develop these short-term strategies into ways to build and maintain self-confidence for the longer term.
Boosting your confidence means developing good habits that will improve your self-esteem, whatever other people think of you. Feeling good about your past achievements, and setting yourself achievable goals for the future, helps you to build and maintain that confidence.
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