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Building self-confidence

Self-confidence is extremely important in almost every aspect of our lives, from the decisions that we make on a daily basis to the careers we pursue and the relationships that we establish. It is a key component to persevering and reaching your potential.

  • Explore key elements of self-confidence
  • Identify what can boost and hinder confidence
  • Identify what next steps to take to increase your self-confidence and reach your potential

What is self-confidence?

Self-confidence is trust in your own abilities, capacities, and judgments that you can successfully face the demands of a task (Psychology Dictionary Online).

Others have described it as simply believing in yourself, and having a positive view about your skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses. Influencing goals, communication, feelings and thoughts.

Suggested task

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Think of a specific person who you identify as self-confident

Suggested time: 5-10 minutes

How would you describe this person?
Make a list of what you think they:

  • Do
  • Think
  • Feel

What do you notice from this exercise in terms of what you define self-confidence to be?

Seven steps to self-confidence

1. Make your goals specific

You might be confident in some areas of your professional career but maybe less so in others.

Self-awareness of strengths and areas for development is the first step in ensuring that you can be specific about what you want to achieve and ensure measurable outcomes.


  • What is your goal?
  • In what specific area of your life do you want to become more confident?
  • Why is this important to you now?
  • How will you know you have achieved your goal?

2. Visualise confidence

Self-efficacy: beliefs about your capacity to influence control over the events in your own life and handle future situations. Reflecting confidence in your ability to handle motivation, behaviour, and social environment.

Self-esteem: is how we value and perceive ourselves. It’s based on opinions and beliefs we hold about our worthiness. It can be difficult to change.

Self-confidence incorporates both of the above concepts as it relates to beliefs and opinions about yourself in the past and future.

Note: as self-confidence and self-esteem are two closely related psychological phenomena, we will refer to them here as similar concepts.

3. Practice and prepare

To build confidence you need to practice confidence.

For example, learning to ride a bike requires repetition, deliberate practice and persistence to become more and more confident in riding the bike.

Consider the following:

What is the deliberate practice needed for you to undertake in order to become more confident in the area of your life where you would like to increase your confidence or reach your potential?

4. Learn from you failures

Become a learner by reflecting on both what does and doesn’t work currently and especially in what might be perceived as a failure.

Learning from failures builds resilience and pushes one to persevere and to try do things differently:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

Thomas A. Edison

After experiencing failure, reflect upon the following:

  • What could I have done differently in that particular situation?
  • What assumptions did I make?
  • What new skills and knowledge have I developed through this process?

5. Identify self-limiting beliefs

We all have reoccurring thoughts, narratives or mental scripts that can be disempowering. They can interfere with your ability to take action and impact on your self-confidence.

It is important to become aware of the thoughts and beliefs that might be limiting and sabotaging you.

Consider the following:
  • What reoccurring thoughts do you have that you feel are holding you back from achieving your goals?
  • How have your limiting beliefs held you back from achieving what is important to you? Write down all of the possible situations you can think of.

6. Use positive affirmation

Affirmations are positive statements that can help overcome self-sabotaging and self-limiting beliefs. Studies show that using affirmations can remind you of your values and strengths and raise confidence and improve self-esteem (such as before a high-pressure event like an appraisal or going into an interview think of and note your strengths and best qualities)

You can modify negative statements about yourself by thinking about what you want to achieve instead and write them in present tense, for instance if you habitually think you are too nervous to deliver presentations, you can rewrite it in a positive affirmation: “I am well-prepared and confident I can give a great presentation”.

7. Ask for and offer help

A core feature of self-confidence also lies in being valued by others; when we play a positive role in our relationships and communities this makes us feel good about ourselves and our contributions. A sense of belonging within our social system is fundamental to our personal well-being

When we reach out to others, we can see our efforts and collaboration among people creates powerful results.

A study by Frank Flynn, professor of organizational behaviour at Stanford, revealed that people tend to underestimate by as much as 50% the willingness of others to help.

Flynn says “our research should encourage people to ask for help and not to assume that others are disinclined to comply”. So, if you need help, just ask.

Suggested tasks

Login or register to add these tasks to your personal development plan.

Login or register to add these tasks to your personal development plan.


Bandura, A. (1997) Self-Efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.

Baumeister, R. and Leary, M. (1995) “The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a Fundamental Human Motivation”, Psychological Bulletin, 117, pp. 497-529.

Benabou, R and Tirole, J. (2002) “Self-Confidence And Personal Motivation”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, pp. 871-915.

Cuddy, A.J.C, S., Schultz J. and Fosse, N.E. (2018) “P-Curving a More Comprehensive Body of Research on Postural Feedback Reveals Clear Evidential Value for Power-Posing Effects: Reply to Simmons and Simonsohn (2017)”, Psychological Science, 29(4), pp.656-666.

Flynn, J.F and Lake, V. (2008) ““If you need help, just ask”: Underestimating compliance with direct requests for help”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(1), pp.128-143.

Kang, S.K. et al (2015) “Power Affects Performance when the Pressure Is On”, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(5), pp. 726-735.

Maslow, A. H. (1954) Motivation and personality. New York: Harper and Row.

Rosenberg, M. (1965) Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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