How to improve self-confidence?

We’ve all heard the statement “Just be confident!” at some stage in our lives. However, it may be challenging to feel confident in yourself, mainly if others put you down or you’re self-critical.

What is self-confidence?

Self-confidence means trusting in your judgment, capacities, and abilities and valuing yourself regardless of what others may believe about you. It represents an individual’s interactions with the external world, whereas internalized self-esteem refers to their feelings about themselves. Self-esteem also comes, in part, from the approval of others and if we are criticized or rejected by others, it may impact our self-esteem. Put simply, self-confidence is faith in your abilities, whereas self-esteem is faith in yourself. Although there is some overlap between self-confidence and self-esteem, they are distinct. For example, having high self-esteem does not guarantee self-confidence; similarly, an extremely confident person might still have low self-esteem.

Self-Confidence: Self-Limiting Beliefs and behaviours.

Within the literature (Ray, 2017), research highlights those with higher self-confidence levels enjoy: better mental health as they can deal with difficult emotions and stress and use healthy boundary-setting to improve relationships with friends and family. In contrast, a lack of self-confidence can have a knock-on effect within our lives, from relationships to mental health. When your self-confidence is low: relationships are challenging, your mood is reduced, you don’t cope well with stress, you have no direction or motivation, and you feel a sense of uselessness and worthlessness.

People who have low self-confidence may also suffer from limiting self-beliefs; these are beliefs that constrain individuals from thinking, saying, or doing the things they want to do and the things that can help them grow.

These limiting self-beliefs can be categorized below:

I do/don’t –regarding how we define ourselves.

I can’t –in terms of our self-image and self-efficacy.

I should/shouldn’t –keep us stuck in self-judgment and even self-shame.

I am/am not – that centre on what we are or are not (e.g., “I am intelligent” vs “I am stupid”).

Others are/will – focus on other people, and what we assume they are thinking.

The table below compares high and low confidence behaviours. Do you recognize any of these thoughts or actions in yourself?

Confident BehaviourBehaviour associated with low self-confidence
Doing what you believe to be correct, even if others mock or criticize you for it.You are governing your behaviour based on what other people think.
Being willing to take risks and go the extra mile to achieve better things.You stay within your comfort zone, fearing failure and avoiding risk.
Admitting your mistakes and learning from them.Covering up mistakes to fix the problem before anyone notices.

Reprogram your thoughts – Activity

Individuals with low self-esteem tend to be self-critical, find it hard to be kind to themselves and accept compliments from others. Try not to put yourself down; instead of focusing on the negatives, draw positives from your experiences. Additionally, learn to challenge your negative self-beliefs to help your self-esteem. Identify recurring negative thoughts like “I’m useless” and find ways to challenge them and adjust your internal voice.

Try this activity below:

  1. Take a page of paper and draw a line down the middle
  2. On the left side, write down your good qualities (e.g., I make people smile) and, on the right, your achievements (e.g., I taught myself how to swim). 
  3. Next, fill the page. It may be challenging, but it is important to remember to feel ok when recognizing positive aspects of yourself.

This blog post was created with ❤️ by Sarah Louise Watson (CSMCOSCA, MBPsS)

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