Building self-confidence

by Jake Smolarek
Businessman in a suit on building stairs looking confident

It seems a little bit ridiculous, but being confident in the modern-day and age is actually super tough. Not only are we bombarded every day by messages and images in the media, which make us doubt our talent, appearance, and skills. But if we manage to overcome these doubts, a large group of people is just waiting to call us cocky, arrogant, and egotistical.

Navigating the line between confident and doubting, self-assurance, and stroking your own ego is not easy. For many of us, confidence is false. We project a confident exterior only to feel sometimes crippling self-doubt on the inside.

But being quietly confident in yourself is the key to living your life to the fullest. So, learning to develop self-confidence can have a considerable impact on your life. But how do you improve your confidence? Why is self-confidence important? And how do you make sure you aren't overly cocky?

Let me help.

What is confidence?

Confidence is confusing. What it comes down to is having faith in yourself. Believing in yourself. Like all things, confidence fluctuates. Some days you might wake up feeling like you could take on the world. Other days you question all your judgements and aren't sure of anything.

Confidence is a reflection of how we were brought up, who we surround ourselves with and what we do. Confidence is the culmination of all our actions and thoughts. Because of this, confidence isn't fixed or static. It can be grown, destroyed, improved. Confidence can be strong in some areas and weak in others.

Think about it if you practice a new skill a lot. You get better at it. As you get better, you see results, and your confidence grows. You know you can replicate the results time after time because you've already done it. You have confidence in your new skill. But if you were asked to do something else, you may not be confident because you don't know you can succeed.

Confidence is believing in yourself and having faith in your own talents and abilities. Just as you need to practice a new skill, so you need to practice self-confidence. Just as you train your body, you need to train your confidence levels until you believe in yourself.

What confidence isn't

Confidence is not cockiness. Have you ever met someone, and they are just so overly confident it seems fake, and it's annoying, and it makes you feel bad about yourself? That person is cocky. Not confident.

Having belief in yourself is a quiet, personal thing. It doesn't need to be shouted to the rest of the world. Usually, if someone is showing off, they aren't actually that confident. They are trying to make you believe they are confident because they know the benefits of being confident (more on those later). But in reality, they don't possess any self-confidence, so they try to trick you.

You've probably heard the expression "fake it until you make it." Well, this actually applies to how you should try to fool yourself into being confident, not try to fool other people.

Another great expression to clarify the difference between confidence and cockiness is this:

Confidence is not walking into a room and thinking that everyone will like you.

Confidence is walking into a room and knowing that you'll be fine even if no one likes you.

Confidence is personal and intimate. It's a belief in yourself. Any performative acts of overconfidence stem from insecurity. They only show a lack of confidence and the respective compensation, being cocky.

Why do we lack self-confidence?

Understanding confidence, and a lack of it, is crucial to developing more. When you think about it, it's not really a surprise that so many of us suffer from a crisis of confidence. With the introduction and growth of the internet social media in recent years, everywhere you look, you can see people who are more successful, more beautiful, happier, richer, smarter.

It's hard not to feel a little bit unsure when there are so many opportunities to see how amazing other people are. The critical thing to remember is that low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence is totally normal and not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you.

Confidence can come from many sources and can be torn down by many more sources, including family, relationships, school or work, appearance, a loss or failure, and, of course, social media. This means a lack of self-confidence is more common than you think.

Businesswoman looking confident pointing a finger at the viewer

How to build self-confidence?

So, if self-confidence can be destroyed and improved, you'd be right in think there are things you can do to actively improve your self-esteem. You can learn how to become confident in yourself. Over my career, I've helped many people go from shy, unsure, and lacking confidence to self-assured, confident kings and queens. The difference is truly remarkable and affects every aspect of life.

If you're wondering how to get more confidence, these are my top tips for building confidence and self-esteem:

1. Find a confident role model

It's a bit cliché, but the idea of fake it until you make it can be helpful. Spend some time thinking about people that you look up to for their confidence. Think about people you feel are cocky and think about why they come across as cocky instead of confident. Identify key traits in other people that you want to emulate and other things you want to avoid. Then, start acting as they would. Ask them what they do to stay confident, look at what they don't stand for, and what they do to be confident. This will help you identify things to make you more confident.

2. Know your worth

Nobody is perfect. Nobody. But that doesn't mean you aren't worth or respect, love, care, and attention. When you catch yourself being poorly treated, either by others or in your own mind, try to take a second and remember that you don't deserve to be treated this way. It's hard to be confident when you are constantly being put down. If you can identify a basic level of respect that you deserve from other people, you'll find yourself confidently aware of when you deserve more. This can be a real confidence boost as you discover how much you are worth.

3. Identify and remove negative influences

Lots of feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing stem from social media and other people around us. Some people might deliberately try to bring you down to make them feel more confident. Social influencers might post fake, edited photos or lie about their lifestyle. If something or someone regularly makes you feel bad, remove them from your life. Go through your social media and unfollow accounts that are no longer inspirational or aspirational. If they make you doubt yourself, delete them. You'll feel happier without negative influences in your life.

4. Find a self-care routine

Whether it's writing in a journal, meditating, going for a walk, or taking a long bath, try to find a little moment of self-care every day. Use this time to think about your strengths, identify weaknesses you could work on, and reflect on how far you've come. Taking time to really think about these things will allow you to grow in confidence as you really get in touch with yourself, your mental health, and how great you actually are.

5. Surround yourself with positive people

Confidence can be found in all sorts of places. It's much easier to see the good and wonderful things in other people than in yourself. Surrounding yourself with people who see the good in you, who believe in you and your abilities even when you don't, can really boost your confidence. Make sure you spend time with people who will support you, help you improve, and can show you all the things you should be proud of. It's easier to be confident when other people are confident in you.

6. Face your fear

Your confidence will grow as you improve yourself. Striving to get better at difficult things, learning new skills, and practising them will help you develop confidence. So, if something is scary, you need to face this fear. Facing your fear will show you how strong you can be. Challenge yourself and be amazed at how much stronger and more confident you feel after tackling something difficult.

7. Switch negative speech for positive speech

It's easy to catch yourself thinking, "I can't do this." We often put ourselves down and have very negative thoughts about ourselves. When you catch yourself thinking this, try to reframe your thoughts along the lines of "I can't do this until I get that." Accepting you have limitations is normal. But try to think positively; what could make this easier in the future? Do you need to learn something? Do you need support? More time? Look for ways to achieve something rather than just saying "I can't." You'll develop confidence in your own abilities by recognising when you need support. Confidence doesn't mean being good at everything. Confidence means accepting when you can't do something and being happy asking for help.

8. Take each day as it comes

Confidence is tricky. It comes and goes each day. Sometimes, several times a day. If you have a bad day where you lose confidence in yourself and doubt your choices, don't punish yourself for it. Accept that today wasn't great and get ready to face tomorrow. Take each day as a new chance to test and grow your confidence. Today might have been hard, but you probably learnt a lesson. This makes tomorrow a bit easier. You won't develop confidence overnight, so take it slowly and prepare for bad days.

Why confidence matters

As I've mentioned, growing confidence takes time and effort. It isn't easy, and even once you've grown confident, it can be taken away and destroyed for many reasons. This makes it sound like a lot of work. So, what is the reward? What are the benefits of self-confidence?

Well, the benefits of self-confidence are never-ending. Truly. First and foremost, confident people tend to be happier because they aren't always doubting and questioning themselves. Being comfortable in your own skin and in your own mind is a huge achievement.

Self-confidence won't stop you from having bad days, feeling rubbish, or making bad decisions. But it will give you an underlying feeling that even on your worst day, everything will eventually be alright. Confidence in yourself means knowing that even when things go wrong, you will find a way to make it okay, even if that means asking for help. Confidence gives you the strength to tackle problems and make it through bad days. This can pay off across all areas of your life.

Here are just a few of the things that come with increased self-confidence:

  • Better decision-making abilities
  • Improved mental health
  • Ability to think rationally
  • Better personal relationships
  • Greater leadership skills
  • Increased motivation
  • Aptitude for learning new skills
  • Positive outlook
  • Perform well under stress
  • Increased energy levels

Growing your self-confidence is hard, but it's definitely worth it! Confidence impacts every aspect of your life, including your career, personal goals, relationships, and mental health. You can be confident, but it takes time and hard work. If you need some support, don't be afraid to get in touch and start your journey to being more confident today.

About the Author

Jake Smolarek

Life and Business Coach & Entrepreneur

For over 10 years I have been helping people achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals faster and easier than they've ever imagined.

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