Believe In Yourself
How do you build self-confidence? It’s a popular question that has provided the basis for untold numbers of articles, videos, and podcasts. And yet even with all this knowledge on the subject, people still struggle with it and have difficulty believing in themselves.
There is a story about a bird who, while flying, decided to land upon a small branch. The branch was stable and held the bird. But while the bird rested there, the wind started to blow and the tree began to sway.
As the bird’s foundation wavered, however, the bird remained unconcerned because it understood two valuable truths.
First, the bird knew that it could fly. No matter what happened to the branch, the bird could always rely on its own ability. And second, the bird knew there were other branches upon which it could settle if this one happened to fail.
This story reveals some valuable insights into healthy self-confidence – about ability as well as resilience. But what exactly is self-confidence?
When you think about self-confidence, one way of understanding it is on a continuum. At one extreme are insecurity and low self-esteem. Here, you don’t believe in yourself or in your abilities to accomplish things in life and be successful. Having this type of self-perception can be debilitating and even devastating.
At the other extreme are overconfidence, arrogance, and narcissism. Here you hold unrealistic beliefs about yourself and even begin to see yourself as better than other people. You may even think you can do things beyond your abilities. This can also be dangerous because you can set yourself up for failure and destroy some of your most important relationships.
A healthy self-confidence strikes a balance between these extremes. As Aristotle might put it, healthy self-confidence is the mean between insecurity and narcissism.
It’s also important to distinguish between self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-esteem. Here are some clarifications:
Self-esteem: self-esteem is an overarching term which refers to your evaluation of your self-worth. In other words, what you think of how valuable you are as a person. It can be high or low depending on your own perception.
Self-efficacy: Self-efficacy refers to how well you can execute courses of action required to deal with the particular situations you encounter in life. It is about the beliefs you hold regarding your own power to affect situations; your belief in your ability to succeed in specific situations or to accomplish certain tasks. Self-efficacy relates to the specific situation and is a specific self-confidence in a particular area.
Self-Confidence: The concept of self-confidence is a self-assurance in your personal judgment, ability, power, etc.; a trust in your ability to accomplish a goal; and a general positive belief in your capabilities. Self-confidence in this sense is a more general self-perception of your abilities to do and accomplish what you want in life.
The philosopher William James wrote in 1890 in his Principles of Psychology, “Believe what is in the line of your needs, for only by such belief is the need fulfilled…Have faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its accomplishment.”
Self-confidence is believing in yourself and, according to James, it is the first step to accomplishment. Scientific research has shown several incredible benefits from having a healthy self-confidence.
12 Benefits of having a healthy self-confidence (according to science):
1 Healthy self-confidence increases your general well-being. Science shows that when you have self-confidence, it improves your overall well-being and the happiness of your life.
2 Healthy self-confidence increases your motivation to do other things. When you are confident, you are more likely to be motivated to start new tasks and take on bigger challenges.
3 Healthy self-confidence improves your overall performance. Having self-confidence has been shown to help you perform better at tasks than when you may be insecure.
4 Healthy self-confidence increases your ability to deal with stress. Research shows that a higher confidence in yourself gives you more tools to deal with the stress factors in your life and enables you to see things more optimistically.
5 Healthy self-confidence can lead to better overall health. Science shows that a healthy self-perception can even lead to a greater physical health.
6 Healthy self-confidence can help you to be open to opposing beliefs and attitudes. When you are confident, you are more willing to listen to perspectives and beliefs that may be opposed to your own. Low self-confidence can lead to defensiveness and an unwillingness to hear other sides.
7 Healthy self-confidence makes you less susceptible to the judgment of other people. When you believe in yourself, what other people say about you doesn’t matter as much.
8 Healthy self-confidence makes you more likely to be seen as a leader and influencer. People are more likely to follow and listen to people who they perceive as confident.
9 Healthy self-confidence makes you more likely to set higher goals for yourself. When you believe in yourself, science shows that you are more likely to reach beyond your limitations and set higher goals, which then could lead to even greater accomplishment – a positively reinforced feedback loop.
10 Healthy self-confidence can make you more likable. Research shows that people like confident people. However, overconfidence can be seen as arrogance or even narcissism and can be detrimental to likability.
11 Healthy self-confidence can make you more persuasive. Self-confidence has been shown to affect how believable someone is and increases a person’s ability to persuade others to their point of view.
12 Healthy self-confidence can make you more mentally tough and resilient. A healthy self-confidence can increase your grit and it gives you the determination to press through during difficult times.
How to build your self-confidence:
Having seen the benefits, what are some practical steps that you can take to build self-confidence? After all, you can’t receive the benefits if you don’t possess the character trait.
1 Learn new things.
When you possess knowledge about things and you learn, you build an information base that gives you confidence. We may be tempted to outsource our learning to technology, leaning upon smartphones for all our information, and it is true that we can never know everything, but learning new things increases your confidence in yourself. Not just that you know something, but that you have done something substantial that you can measure and actually realize.
2 Save money.
Research has shown that confidence can be related to something as basic as saving money. Why is this? Well, partly because money is such a huge thing in our society and when we don’t have it, we start to believe that our lack of financial security directly relates to our abilities – specifically an inability to generate the finances to maintain our own sustenance. You can see how this would lead to lower self-confidence. So saving money provides a measure of security and can tangentially build self-confidence in your abilities to provide for yourself.
3 Master something.
When you get better and more proficient at something, it builds your self-confidence because you have expertise. The fact is, we can all get better at whatever we want and many of us – if we want to put in the time and effort – can even become experts. Expertise in an area helps to overcome imposter syndrome and leads to greater self-confidence.
4 Get some wins.
When we have small successes, it creates a positive narrative in our lives that can build us up and even lead to greater challenges. When we win, we start to believe that we can win, and this belief – in our ability to succeed – breeds greater confidence. So find some small things you know you can succeed at and do them to build your self-confidence.
5 Get around uplifting people.
The feedback you get from your inner circle has consequences when it comes to defining your belief in yourself. The research shows what we all would naturally expect, that what other people say – their feedback about our performance – affects our self-confidence both for the positive and the negative.
When the feedback about our performance is good, it results in increased expectations on our part, a higher estimate of past successes, and more favorable self-evaluations.
When it’s negative, however, it leads to lower expectations, lower estimates of previous successes we may have had, and more negative general self-assessments. In other words, negative feedback affects not only our perception of the specific aspect of the feedback, but it creates a more negative perception of ourselves as a whole.
Negative feedback can also lead to negative goal setting – where we set goals that are unrealistic in order to compensate for our bad performance. Of course, this leads to greater failure, more negativity, and less self-confidence – a downward spiral in our self-concept.
Too much “good” isn’t good either. Though positive feedback leads to greater self-confidence, too much can lead to an unrealistic self-perception. We start to “believe the press” so to speak, and develop an unrealistic, and sometimes even a fantastical perception of ourselves. So find people who will uplift and encourage you, but who are also grounded in reality.
6 Use positive language.
How we speak to ourselves matters because it forms the narrative of our beliefs about ourselves. When we speak negatively, it creates a negative perception and ultimately works against our confidence. When we speak positively, it creates a belief structure that works with confidence rather than against it.
Find and write down positive affirmations that you can speak to yourself to create that positive and confident persona. You may want to read this about how positive thinking makes you happier.
7 Critique your critical thoughts.
We all have critical thoughts about ourselves. Times when we look at ourselves in a negative light. However, many times, those critical thoughts aren’t based in reality. It’s important to examine these thoughts to understand when they don’t have a basis in reality. If you critically examine your negative perceptions and then take a realistic view of them, you will probably find that many of them are false. When you realize these thoughts aren’t true, it’s a big step to greater confidence.
Realize that many “negative” thoughts happen on autopilot, below your conscious awareness, and don’t reflect reality but just happen because of past conditioning. It’s possible that your lack of self-confidence is due to negative thinking that has no basis in fact. So examine those thoughts to see what’s actually real and what’s not.
8 Improve your appearance.
Our self-presentation is a means of nonverbal communication, not only with other people but with ourselves. What we wear, our level of fitness, and our personal grooming reflects to a certain extent our inner attitudes and perceptions about ourselves. So improving your appearance, in a reverse way, can also change your thoughts and perceptions. The feelings, as it were, come after the actions.
So, work out, dress nice, eat healthily, style your hair, etc. All of these things communicate a message to your inner self and help to mold that thinking into a positive and confident self-concept. Your outward appearance is a non-verbal message to yourself – make it one of confidence!
9 Watch Your posture and gestures.
In the same way, how you carry yourself and how you move your body is a form of nonverbal communication – how you stand, how you sit, what you do with your hands, how you speak. When you begin to get intentional about your own body movements, you can use that to affect your inner perceptions and build self-confidence.
Scientific research shows that we can improve our self-confidence through posture and what’s called power posing. So stand up straight and tall and give the Superman pose regularly.
10 Know What You Believe and Why You Believe it.
You can be more confident when you have thought out your perspectives. When you know what you believe and why you believe it and have the research to back it up, it gives a tremendous sense of confidence.
Having solidly thought out values and beliefs provides a foundation for your life and a launching pad for everything else you do. If that pad is weak or susceptible to easy erosion, it can undermine your entire belief structure including what you believe about yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers to life or that there’s no room for mystery. And every belief can be countered to some measure.
Just realize how your beliefs can be countered, understand the arguments for and against them, and know why you believe something even when you may not be able to prove it completely.
11 Get organized.
Chaos breeds uncertainty which leads to doubt. When you live a life that is chaotic and unorganized, it can be an environment which may not be conducive to high levels of self-confidence.
When you are organized (and by organized I mean you know where everything is and how it all fits together) it gives you a sense of security which leads to the self-perception that you have it under control. This is a confidence booster.
When everything is out of control and up in the air, it’s difficult to be confident in your abilities because it seems that so much is up to chance. Organization creates an environment where confidence can thrive. I’m not espousing for particular organizational methods here, but I am speaking about you organizing your life in a way that works for you.
12 Take some realistic risks.
Taking risks and facing failure can be opportunities to boost your confidence. This is especially true when you succeed but can even work when you don’t.
Because the fact that you stepped out and took a risk is a success in itself. Even if you failed at the task, you succeeded in stepping out of the comfort zone and that can be liberating and exciting.
Think about it.
When you take a realistic risk (emphasis on realistic), there are three options.
(1) You succeed – it’s a positive all around.
(2) You partly succeed – a positive because you now see what you need to do to be successful and you stepped out and took a risk.
(3) You fail. Partly negative but partly positive. Yes, you failed, but how you look at failure is important and at the end of the day, you can be confident that you took a risk and did something to move forward. (here’s a podcast on overcoming fears and dealing with failures in a positive way)
Take it to the Next Level
Self-Confidence is so powerful and so integral to a happy and fulfilled life that we should all examine the ways we can improve in this area and then actually do them.
Make it practical:
Pick 3 of the ways to boost your self-confidence and do them this week. Don’t just read this article and move on – TAKE ACTION AND DO IT!!
This article is part of the 52 Essential Skills Course at Mind For Life. You can join us on this journey of personal development throughout 2018 – it’s ABSOLUTELY FREE!