How to Be More Confident: 15 Science-Based Tips, Exercises, & Confidence-Boosters
Want to be more confident? Learn about what confidence actually is, science-based tips for how to boost confidence, and examples of what true confidence can look like.
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What Does It Mean to Be Confident?
Confidence can be defined as having a feeling of trust in one's abilities, qualities, and judgment. We feel good about ourselves and our ability to take control of our life circumstances.
Sure, that all sounds great but how do we become more confident? What actually leads people to feel confident about themselves? In this article, we'll take a look at some research to better understand the different things that contribute to confidence. That way, we can identify which parts of confidence we personally need to work on.
Why Is Self-Confidence Important?
Of course, we want self-confidence because we want to feel good about ourselves. But, self-confidence is also important for other things. The higher our self-confidence, the higher our motivation to act. Plus, self-confidence helps increase the chances of success when we do act. That's because when we expect to fail, we are more likely to do so (Bénabou & Tirole, 2002). For all these reasons, it makes complete sense that we would want to increase our self-confidence. Here are some tips and techniques on how to do it:
How Confident Are You?
Before we talk about tips, first ask yourself these questions to get clearer on your current level of confidence:
Your answers to these questions can help you better identify the areas of self-confidence that you may need to work on. If you lean towards saying 'no" to any of these questions, these are the areas to focus on. We'll discuss each of these in more detail below.
How to Be More Confident
In the research, the idea of confidence is usually referred to as self-esteem. When we have positive self-esteem, we tend to have relatively more positive thoughts about ourselves and fewer negative thoughts. As a result of these positive thoughts, it's easier for us to take action on our own behalf and act in ways that portray confidence. That means that confidence originates in the mind, with the types of thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. So let's take a look at the types of thoughts and beliefs we need to develop in order to have more confidence.
1. Be More Confident by Believing You Have Worth
Perhaps the most important part of being confident is knowing your worth (Owens, 1993). We are all worthy, none of us more so than others. Yet, some of us have a deeply rooted belief or sense that we're worthless. Maybe we feel like we're disposable, unlovable, or just not good in some way. But that's not true.
If this sounds like you, know that you were taught to believe these things about yourself. Perhaps you learned this from overly critical parents, from bullying kids at school, or from a culture that suggested that your gender, race, or other features made you less worthy than others. Early messages about our worth are internalized and become the basis for our beliefs about ourselves. So the longer we've had negative self-beliefs, the harder they are to override. It may require ongoing efforts to replace internal monologues of "I'm not worthy", with "I am worthy", or "I have just as much worth as anyone else." Using positive affirmations like these can be a good way to retrain your brain to believe you have worth.
2. Be More Confident by Believing You Have Good Qualities
Another important aspect of confidence is thinking that you have good qualities (Owens, 1993). This goes beyond simply having worth and involves recognizing that there are things about you that are good, maybe even great.
Indeed, we all have good qualities. But if we spend our mental energy thinking about the qualities that we lack, we often have little time left to think about the good qualities that we have. If this is something you struggle with, you might benefit from making a list of all your positive qualities. That way you'll know what they are. Then it's just a matter of shifting your mindset to try to focus on the positive things more than the negative.
3. Be More Confident by Believing You Do Things Well
Similar to knowing our positive qualities, it can be beneficial to recognize our strengths (Owens, 1993). Everyone has things they do well. By knowing what these things are, we can put ourselves in situations where we thrive. When we use our strengths, we can end up feeling more confident because we regularly experience being good at something. This reminds us that we are indeed good at things and have reasons to be confident in our skills. So, make a list of your strengths and see if you can find ways to use your strengths more often.
4. Be More Confident by Being Nice to Yourself
When building confidence, it can be helpful to develop a more positive attitude towards ourselves (Owens, 1993). Sometimes, the person who is hardest on us is us. Many of us have a cruel inner critic, always dinging us for doing the smallest things wrong or for failing to be perfect. If this sounds like you, it can be helpful to start talking back to your inner critic.
For example, your inner critic may say something like, "What's the matter with you?! You should have done better." If you notice these self-critical inner thoughts, try to stand up for yourself by saying something like, "I did the best I could, and I'm proud of myself for the effort I put in." This self-talk can help you re-write internal scripts that can help you become more confident.
One more strategy to be nicer to yourself is to work on developing self-compassion. Self-compassion is when we treat ourselves compassionately—or with kindness, gentleness, and consideration. We can cultivate more self-compassion by doing self-compassion exercises, like writing ourselves a self-compassionate letter.
5. Be More Confident by Finding Ways to Be Useful to Others
One more part of our confidence involves feeling useful to others (Owens, 1993). Perhaps we don't currently feel useful because our boss doesn't believe in us, our partner takes charge at home, or our day-to-day tasks are mindless. If we're comfortable, we can try to take on more responsibility for things we know we can do well.
If more responsibility in our day-to-day lives seems too overwhelming, we can find other ways to feel useful when we have the time and energy. We might start volunteering—doing things like helping the elderly or cleaning up trash on the side of the highway can be good ways to see that we are indeed useful. We could also practice random acts of kindness so that we bring a little happiness to others. Or, we can do little things like make our beds or clean up the house. Relatively small efforts can make a big difference.
6. Be More Confident by Doing Your Best
By doing our best, we have a locked and loaded response to our inner critic. Any time we hear those inner monologues starting to put us down, we can respond with, "I did my best." And that is all we can do. When we do our best (while not striving for perfection and telling ourselves we could do more), we may be able to give ourselves a bit more of a break and perhaps be more self-accepting.
Not sure what "your best" is? This Best Self exercise may help.
Video: Tricks to Build Unstoppable Confidence
9 Tips for Boosting Confidence
In each of the sections above, I've talked about strategies you can use to boost confidence. Here is a list of all of them so you can check them all out.
The Impacts of Being More Confident
Now that we have a better idea of what contributes to confidence, what are some other examples of things confident people do? Well, given that confident people believe they have worth and feel good about themselves, they may be more likely to stand up for themselves. They're not as likely to let others push them around or mistreat them. For these reasons, they likely set better boundaries—they let people know what they are willing to tolerate and enforce consequences when those boundaries are crossed.
Confident people may also be easy to be around. They are not so worried about what others think about them, so they may be more relaxed and carefree in social situations. They may act in more authentic ways because they are not trying to hide the parts of themselves they are ashamed of or embarrassed about.
Can Confidence Be Mistaken for Competence?
Ever wondered why so many incompetent people easily rise in the ranks and become leaders? One reason is likely because we humans perceive people who are confident to be more competent. Confident people believe they are good at things (regardless of whether or not they really are). They display this in communication, body language, and actions. As a result, the rest of us believe they can do what they say they can do.
This may explain why confident people do better in job interviews. For example, one study showed that engaging in high-power poses before a job interview—poses which are thought to increase confidence—improved performance during the job interview (Cuddy, Wilmuth, Yap, & Carney, 2015).
Another series of studies showed that narcissistic people tend to rise to the top of the ranks and become leaders in leaderless groups (Brunell et al., 2008). The authors speculate that this may be because narcissists' high level of confidence leads them to speak up in groups. Others misperceive this confidence as competence.
All this is to say that it's human nature to believe that people who are confident are also competent. Therefore, the importance of portraying confidence goes beyond feeling good about ourselves; it's also important for aiding our ability to move forward and succeed in the world.
Self-confidence is a much desired and important personality characteristic. Although boosting self-confidence can be difficult, it is possible with some effort and by focusing on key areas of self-confidence that are lacking. Hopefully, these tools put you on the right path towards increasing your own self-confidence.