When it comes to success, nothing is more important and influential than self-confidence and belief in oneself. In fact, if we want to be successful, self-belief is more important than intelligence, talent, background, or just about anything else. In addition to this, people who have self-confidence and believe in themselves are healthier, happier, have better relationships, and are more motivated and resilient.
There are many factors that affect our self-confidence, including our parents, our upbringing, our environment, our beliefs, past failures and successes, society, how other people treat us, the media, and our experiences at large. Research suggests that the beliefs individuals hold about their abilities powerfully influence the ways in which they behave and achieve (see Bandura, 1977, Parajes, 1996, p. 543). Interestingly enough, a lack of self-confidence is not directly related to a lack of talent, skill or ability. It is more related to our perception.
So what does it mean to believe in oneself and possess self-confidence? Loosely defined, it is the feeling of confidence in our judgment, abilities, and qualities. It is sometimes referred to as self-efficacy. This, in turn, affects almost every area of our lives, including how we think, feel and act. This is why it is so important.
All of us have made mistakes, experienced failure and felt disappointment in our lives. I know I certainly have had more than my fair share. Some of us have also been subjected to hardships and injustices. All these experiences affect a person’s self-confidence and faith in his or her own abilities. Fortunately, there are ways to develop a strong self-belief even though it does require some time and effort. It is important to remember that our past does not have to dictate our future. The only thing that matters is how we act today. So let’s look at some empowering ways to build our confidence.
How to Gain Self-Confidence and Start Believing in Yourself
1. List your past successes and accomplishments
Most of us are unduly hard on ourselves. We tend to recall our mistakes and failures more than our successes. Sure, we have fallen short and blundered as everyone has at one point. But we also have managed to overcome difficult situations successfully and accomplish things that we can be proud of. We tend to focus on our shortcomings rather than what we have achieved.
Make a list of all the things you have achieved in your life, both big and small. You will be surprised how many things you have accomplished that you overlook and do not give yourself credit for. Even more effective, add accomplishments to your list every day or every week and read it often. You are more capable than you realize.
2. Seek positive feedback from others
Ask the people closest to you to tell you about your positive traits, talents and skills. Since we tend to be extremely critical of ourselves, get positive feedback from others who are better able to see your virtues. You may be surprised by what you hear and may learn that you have more going on for you than you realized. Positive reinforcement from others can be very powerful and empowering. The more regularly you do this, the bigger an impact is has on your self-confidence and belief.
3. Question your current negative beliefs and replace them with positive ones
One factor that determines our level of self-confidence is our beliefs. Many people with low self-confidence hold limiting beliefs that are not based on reality. For example, you might believe that nobody likes you when, in actual fact, there are many people who love you and cherish your company. Or you might believe that you are terrible at math when, in actuality, you did not try that hard in math class or had a teacher that was not effective. Or you hold the belief that you are not good at running your own business when you have never really tried.
Take the time to write down your limiting beliefs and question their accuracy. Just as people once believed that the world was flat, acknowledge that many of your limiting beliefs are flat out wrong. Be honest with yourself and look for evidence that disproves your beliefs. Then substitute your beliefs with empowering ones that are based on truth. Review these beliefs often until they become part of your new belief system.
Personally, when I was overweight and out of shape many years ago, I had the limiting belief that I did not have the willpower to get fit and I believed that I had a certain body type that prevented me from being fit and strong. Once I challenged those beliefs, I realized that they were fallacies. This opened the door for me to develop confidence in my ability to get in shape. That change in my belief system changed my life. Similarly, I have questioned the accuracy of many other limiting beliefs in my life and now realize that they were wrong. This has been a game-changer for me.
4. Take tiny steps and make small changes
Many of us look too far into the future and forget that a journey starts with the first step. When we take tiny steps and make small changes in our lives, we slowly start to believe in our ability to take action. If you want to lose 40 pounds, start small by reducing your food intake by 100 calories every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for example. If you want to get in shape and exercise 5 days a week, start walking briskly for 5 minutes 3 times per week. If you want to read 50 books a year, start by reading for 5 minutes each day. The point is to do small actions which you can slowly increase over time. When you do this, you start to realize that you are capable and you begin to bolster your self-confidence. The worst thing to do is to take no action at all.
5. Build momentum
When we act and take small steps, we start to build momentum. We know intuitively that once we start moving, our momentum makes it easier to keep going forward. This is why it is so important to take action, no matter how seemingly small. Much like a rocket launch that uses the most fuel in the first stage, once you start moving, your propulsion becomes easier.
6. Think of a fear you have overcome
When we lack confidence and self-belief, we become fearful that we are not good enough or worthy enough. We fear the consequences associated with failing so we do not try. This fear can be paralysing as we all know. In order to counteract this fear, think of the times when you were scared of doing something but did it anyway and were successful. It could be the first time you dived into a pool, or when you asked someone out on a date, or the time you acted in a school play or played a musical instrument in front of a small audience. This might seem trivial, but write these instances down. We all have the ability to overcome fear. Very often, our minds exaggerate possible negative consequences and replay them over and over in our heads. Most of our fears are unwarranted. As Mark Twain said, “I have spent most of my life worrying about things that never happened”.
7. Celebrate the wins/give yourself credit
When you take small steps and accomplish small wins, celebrate them. If you walked for 5 minutes today, celebrate it and give yourself credit. If you successfully wrote 2 pages of your novel, celebrate it. If you ate 100 calories less today than you normally do, celebrate it. If you meditated for 3 minutes this morning, celebrate it. Focus on what you accomplished rather than what you did not. Keep a success journal and write in it every day. List the small victories you experienced and feel good about yourself. You deserve it. This is a very powerful habit that will help to change your mindset and give you confidence.
8. Do your homework and prepare
One way to overcome a lack of self-confidence is to prepare diligently. For example, let’s say that you lack the confidence to give a speech. What will help bolster your confidence is doing your homework by researching your topic, practicing in front of a mirror, and rehearsing in front of a small number of trusted friends or family members who support you. All too often, when we lack the confidence that we can achieve something we want, we become paralyzed and do not even make the effort to prepare ourselves. Practice and preparation go a long way in helping you to build confidence in your abilities.
9. Improve your skills/competence
Closely related to the previous point, make the effort to improve your skills through constant learning. If you want to start your own business, enroll in a small business class at your local college. If you want to write a novel, then read good books, read writing blogs every day, and take a writing class. If you want to lose weight, then study nutrition or seek advice from someone who has done it before. We should always be learning and improving our skills and competencies. The mere act of doing so helps to build confidence.
10. Change or adopt a small habit
Habits are powerful and play a huge part in determining who we are and the type of person we will become. I learned this many years ago and since then have made numerous habit changes. For example, when I wake up in the morning, I adopted the habits of drinking a glass of water, making myself a cup of green tea, reading something positive, meditating, and then heading to the gym. I made these changes slowly but they have had a cumulative positive effect on my life.
Pick one habit you would like to change or adopt and start today. You could start flossing your teeth twice a day, eating a piece of fruit in the morning, sleeping and waking up early, reading 25 pages of a book each day, watching less TV, etc. Small changes lead to big changes. More importantly, when you change or adopt a good habit, your self-confidence grows because you learn that you have what it takes to take positive action.
11. Focus attention on the solutions and not the problems
When we lack self-confidence, we tend to focus on all that can go wrong instead of on all the things that can go right. We get daunted and overwhelmed by problems rather than trying to come up with solutions. Whenever you are paralyzed by your fear of taking on something challenging, try to come up with ways to overcome potential hurdles instead of concentrating on all that can go wrong.
12. Watch your internal dialogue
The average person has thousands of thoughts each day and much of this is negative. We are constantly talking to ourselves in our heads so it only makes sense to pay attention to the tone of our internal dialogues. We say and think things such as, “I am a failure”, “I cannot be trusted”, “She cannot be trusted”, “Life is unfair”, “I am too short”, “I cannot do this”, etc. With proper awareness, you can catch yourself when you have negative thoughts and dialogues and replace them with positive ones.
13. Stop complaining
Most of us know one or more negative people in our lives. These are the negative Nancys who find fault in and complain about nearly everything. When we complain, we are in essence highlighting things that are wrong instead of focusing on what is right. Pay attention to your mindset and stop complaining about circumstances because it only amplifies negativity and does not help your self-confidence. Speaking positively and optimistically helps to change our mindsets and provide us with the confidence that things will get better.
14. Accept the current situation
Another way to help increase our self-belief is by accepting how things are. This does not mean that we should not make the effort to change negative situations. It merely means that we