How to be confident, by Jo Hemmings

27 October, 2022

Our insightful psychologist, Jo Hemmings, shares the science behind confidence and how you can take action to build your own confidence and self-esteem.

Confidence. Everyone wants it, but some seem to struggle with it, while it seems to come naturally for others; what is it?  

Firstly, we need to establish the difference between confidence (or self-confidence) and self-esteem. The two are often conflated, but they have distinct differences. Confidence is often the projection of ourselves that we want others to see and ourselves to feel. But it comes much more naturally when it is accompanied by healthy self-esteem. Self-esteem is about our sense of self or identity. It's about the way we think about ourselves and our emotional worth.  

So, let's look at confidence in more detail.   

Many people think of confidence as something the lucky few are born with, and the rest are left wishing for. That's partially the case - some people are naturally more confident than others, but it's important to remember that confidence (and self-esteem) is not a fixed asset. It's more often the outcome of the thoughts we have, the experiences we live and the actions we take. Projecting confidence helps people gain credibility, make a strong first impression, deal with pressure, and tackle personal and professional challenges. It's also an attractive trait, as confidence helps put others at ease, so you're likely to feel a little burst of dopamine – the reward hormone that makes us feel good.  

Social confidence can be developed by practicing in social settings. Observe the structure and flow of any conversation before jumping in. Think about where you are at your most confident. With close friends and family? At work? You already have the skills, and they are transferable to other situations.  

You may find an internet search that tells you how to 'fake it to make it. In the short term or for one important event, this theory can help, but it doesn't do much to improve your confidence in the long term and, most importantly, reinforce your self-confidence for any situation. In my opinion, there are five ways to improve your confidence.  

Set realistic goals

When pursuing your goals, it's common to experience multiple failures before figuring out what works. This may cause you to doubt your ability to achieve. It could also make you wonder how you might have more self-assurance and still accomplish your goals. Realistic goal setting is the solution. People usually fall into the trap of aiming for the moon, which affects your confidence level when they miss. Instead, aim for a far more realistic goal. On the other hand, achievable goals are realistic. And your confidence in yourself and your abilities grows as you accomplish more of your dreams. 

Practice positivity

By persuading your subconscious that you "can't handle" something or that it is "too hard" and you "shouldn't even try," negative self-talk can restrict your abilities and lower your self-confidence. Contrarily, positive self-talk can promote self-compassion, assist in overcoming self-doubt, and encourage you to take on new challenges. Your confidence and self-esteem will rise if you adopt an optimistic outlook. You become more conscious of your thoughts when you are kind to yourself and engage in constructive thinking. You decide to quit using negative language and look for the good in every circumstance. Make sure to start and finish each day by outlining your accomplishments if you want to increase your confidence. 

Follow your heart, not other peoples’

If success depended on people believing in you and your goals, most of us would never succeed. What YOU perceive of your own self-worth and self-efficacy is far more significant than what others may think can cause low self-confidence. You must make decisions based on YOUR objectives and aspirations rather than those of your parents, friends, spouse, kids, or co-workers. This is because their goals, desires, opinions, and judgments may differ from your own. Follow your heart and stop caring what other people think of you. 

Surround yourself with positive people

Perhaps more than you realise, the people you spend time with can affect how you think about and feel about yourself. So, be aware of how other people affect your mood. It might be time to split ways if you feel self-conscious after spending time with a specific person. But, on the other hand, it's acceptable if our friends don't always make us feel happy. All you have to do is spend more time with those that value and care about you. They don't even have to be your mates; they could be members of your family, internet acquaintances, or even your neighbours. You'll feel better about things in the long term if you strengthen your ties and friendships. 

Face your fears

Try things you've always been scared to try. Yes, push the limits of what you feel comfortable doing and feel your confidence soar. Practice tackling some of your insecurities that are brought on by low self-esteem. Try even if you're worried; you'll look foolish or make a mistake. Even a little self-doubt can help you perform better. Test yourself and observe the results. 

If Jo's wisdom has inspired you as much as it has us, then you'll want to hear her tips for getting a good night's sleep and the scientific connection behind it.  

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