Self-confidence is the motor that powers our ability to grapple with life. When the motor is powerful and well-tuned, we can ride the many challenges life throws at us, from making that first speech in school to coping with work pressures and developing meaningful personal relationships. When self-confidence is low, we feel incapacitated, helpless, and anxious.1
We all have moments when our self-confidence takes a hit. But when low self-confidence becomes a long-term condition, it affects our mental well-being and can lead to several problems, ranging from difficulty in communicating and social awkwardness all the way to anxiety, depression, and addictive coping habits like smoking and drinking2 3 Building your self-confidence doesn’t have to be an abstract, overwhelming challenge. Try these simple but proven ways to improve your self-confidence and live more happily with yourself.
1. Silence Your Inner Critic
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs:23:7
Nobody’s perfect. But some experiences while growing up may shake our self-confidence and negatively impact us later in our lives. Experts say it’s definitely possible to grow out of the past and look at yourself in new ways.
Self-affirmation or self-enhancing thoughts have been proved to work in the most challenging, even life-threatening of situations. A UCLA study, for instance, found that self-affirmations helped breast cancer patients have a sense of better control over their lives, cope with stress, and, overall, feel happy and contented. Other studies show that self-affirmation works in two ways. It helps reduce the anxiety and defensiveness that are linked to our feelings of low self-worth. When these two foes are silenced, we are more open to self-improvement and acceptance of our shortcomings.
Is there a voice in your head that keeps putting you down? “You’re just not smart enough for that job.” “You’re such a bore. Who’d want to spend time with you?” “You’re don’t stand a chance for this race – you’re overweight.” These are examples of negative self-beliefs that take your self-confidence on a downward spiral.
Experts suggest this step-by-step strategy to still your inner critic and revive confidence in yourself:
- Identify destructive thoughts by noting them in a diary whenever they pop into your mind. When did they first begin to occur?
- List out what you know about yourself that challenges these thoughts. “I’m pretty good at cracking math puzzles,” “My three best friends and I meet every fortnight,” or “I used to be a good athlete in school. I’m going to retrain for that marathon.”
- Also jot down positive, self-affirming statements that others make about you:
Family: “I cook great Italian food.”
Buddy: “I’m a trustworthy friend.”
Coworker: “I have a great eye for detail.”6
Now, keep adding to this list. Display it prominently where you can see it and watch yourself stand a bit taller with each passing day! Self-affirming thoughts will help build self-confidence.7
2. Challenge Yourself – And Be Surprised
Every one of us experiences moments of self-doubt, hesitation, and feelings of paralysis. If your self-confidence is strong enough, though, you can push back these thoughts that prevent you from facing challenges.
Set yourself a goal, preferably something you’d normally hesitate to do – public speaking, a tough sport, meeting new people – and then work toward it. Join a debating club, sign up for a long trek, or enroll in a book club. Achieving that goal will boost your self-confidence.8
3. Embrace Change, One Step At A Time
In the process of monitoring your self-confidence, you may conclude that you must change some aspects of your life and how you deal with it. Set yourself achievable targets and work towards them in small, manageable steps.
If you’ve always been diffident about your public speaking skills, for example, and want to change that, first practice expressing your viewpoint on any subject among close friends. That will make it easier for you to take the next step, perhaps participating in a seminar on a topic close to your heart.9
4. Stay In A Positive Environment
Increase the number of positive experiences by spending more time with people who like you for what you are. This can build self-confidence. On the other side, avoid the company of negative thinking people or those who are overly critical. It’s important, however, to strike a balance between engaging in social contact and being overly withdrawn.10
5. Reward Yourself
Every time you accomplish something that you consider difficult, give yourself a treat – a favorite dessert, a movie night, or a weekend trip. Whatever works for you!11
6. Learn From Others
Assertiveness is all about getting people to respect your point of view or your needs and, in turn, respecting theirs. If you find it hard to be assertive, you may be succumbing too often to people’s demands, a surefire way to derail your self-confidence.
Watch others around you who are assertive and channel their behavior. It’s not about just copying them or being a fake. Rather, it’s about picking up tips from those who inspire you and growing into a more effective person. 12
7. Deal With Failure Positively
Failures at school, work, or play are a part of everyone’s life. Judging yourself harshly – “it’s true, I’m no good at this” – will feed into low self-confidence. Consider your mistakes as an opportunity to learn, forgive yourself, and move on.13
8. Stop Comparing
It’s easy to believe that someone else has better looks, a shapelier body, or a larger number of online friends. In truth, each of us is a unique blend of traits with individual strengths and weaknesses. Stop comparing yourself with others unfairly. Focus on what you have and not what’s “lacking” in you.14
9. Start Volunteering
When there’s too much time to brood on your shortcomings, self-confidence inevitably takes a hit. Volunteering for a community activity where you can contribute effectively can fill those empty hours with positive energy. Helping others will make you feel good about yourself and improve your self-confidence.15
10. Build Self-Assurance With Yoga
Yoga, with its holistic approach to health and wellness, can show us how to improve self-confidence. One study of teens who practiced a half-hour of yoga daily – specifically surya namaskar, yog nidra and chanting of “Om” – found significantly improved levels of self-confidence among the young participants.16
Here are four yogasanas combining strength and balance, to be accompanied by deep and even breathing. They encourage you to try something new that you’re diffident about – a typical symptom of low self-confidence – and help you approach the challenge from a light-hearted perspective. What’s more, faltering or even falling in the process of achieving these poses is good, say practitioners – this being a metaphor for building both mental and physical strength. The four poses are:
- Tadasana (mountain pose)
- Garudasana (eagle pose)
- Virabhadrasana (warrior pose III)
- The twisted prayer lunge17
If you’ve never tried yoga before or have existing health problems, speak to a qualified yoga teacher and consider enrolling in a basic course before you try out these poses.
11. Turn Inward: Meditation Can Help, Too
Meditation practices relax your mind and release you from the cycle of anxiety, stress, and fear that reinforces low self-confidence. Mindfulness meditation, for example, with its focus on breathing techniques, can help a person develop behavioral strategies to respond positively and boldly to life events, says one study.18
More on what happens when you meditate:
- Your awareness of each moment, pleasant or stressful, increases. As you learn to still your mind, you become comfortable with all situations.
- Meditation helps you to gently stop recycling old worries and fears. You emerge stronger in the present.
- With practice, prana or the life force increases. Living in the moment, you feel a surge of energy, inner strength and the confidence to take on life.19
Enroll for classes that combine yoga and meditation and slowly build up your capacity for introspection.
12. Get Professional Help: CBT And Counseling
For some of us, simple self-help techniques may be insufficient. If you are frequently anxious or depressed (or both), seek professional help. Counselling or cognitive behavioral therapy, where you talk about your problems and are guided toward more positive ways of living, can help you achieve healthy levels of self-confidence.20
|↑1, ↑6, ↑8, ↑12, ↑20||Raising low self-esteem. NHS.|
|↑2||Raising low self-esteem. NHS.|
|↑3, ↑7, ↑9, ↑10, ↑11||Self-Confidence. The University Of Queensland.|
|↑4||Self-enhancement and Self-affirmation: The Consequences of Positive Self-thoughts for Motivation and Health. UCLA.|
|↑5||Self-Affirmation Enhances Performance, Makes Us Receptive to Our Mistakes. Association For Psychological Science.|
|↑13, ↑14, ↑15||Boost your self-esteem and self-confidence. Girlshealth.gov.|
|↑16||Empirical Study Of The Effect Of Surya Namaskar Yognidra And Chanting Of ‘Aum’ On The Self Confidence Level Of Children. The International Journal Of Indian Psychology. Vol.III. Issue 4. No.67|
|↑17||4 Poses To Build Self-Confidence. Yoga Journal.|
|↑18||Astin, John A. “Stress reduction through mindfulness meditation.” Psychotherapy and psychosomatics 66, no. 2 (1997): 97-106.|
|↑19||Building Courage With Meditation. Art of Living.|