Have you ever wondered how some people seem to face every situation with a sense of cool calmness? No matter what challenge they are presented with, they appear to have the utmost confidence that they can handle it. They speak their mind and stand up for their convictions. They are brave leaders and are not afraid to make decisions.
On the other end of this spectrum, you’ll find the individuals who rarely make eye contact. They stay quiet during meetings despite the fact that they have valuable insights to add. They rarely ask for what they want, and they often appear shaken in difficult situations. Making decisions can be difficult as they constantly question themselves.
If you're like most people, you lay somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Perhaps there are a few areas of your life where you feel that way. Maybe you go into a work project or a conversation with your family with a hint of anxiety, yet you can sing in front of a room full of people without breaking a sweat. Or maybe you know that you can master any task given to you, but the thought of speaking to a crowd of people turns you into a puddle of nerves.
This is the spectrum of confidence, and no matter where you find yourself on it, you can likely benefit from having more.
Can Confidence Be Learned?
Is confidence something that can be learned and improved upon, or are you just stuck with the hand you’ve been dealt?
In order to understand this, we need to first identify where low confidence comes from. Oftentimes, an individual will have low confidence because they’ve been fed negative messaging throughout their life. They may have experienced a difficult childhood with parents who consciously damaged their confidence, or they may have had parents who themselves were not confident (and didn’t teach it to them). Or they may have just experienced a trauma or challenge that shook their confidence in adulthood. No matter where your confidence issues originated, the key to improving them is found in what you do now.
Related: How Do You Rebuild Confidence?
The Psychology of Confidence
Researchers have long studied the Psychology of Confidence, searching to understand what causes one individual to have absolute faith in an overestimation of their abilities (also known as “overconfidence”) while another struggles to trust in themselves when they are capable of accomplishing anything (“low confidence”).
Thankfully, psychologists have deemed self-confidence as “volitional,” which means we have the choice to build it up. Even if your brain and belief system has been molded with negative messaging, you can actually rewire your brain and reshape your mindset.
One of the most important concepts that you can grasp regarding confidence is that it must come from within. When we become too dependent on external affirmations, we risk riding a roller coaster of confidence perpetuated by the outside world.
How Do I Build My Confidence Level?
Now that you understand what confidence is and where it comes from, it’s time to learn how to boost your confidence. There are a variety of ways to do this, including:
1. Positive thoughts and affirmations.
When you’ve been loaded up with negative messaging from childhood on, you internalize those beliefs. Select an affirmation that reinforces your self-worth and your ability to handle anything that comes your way, and then repeat that affirmation day in and day out to counteract the negative messaging you received early on.
2. Change your self-talk.
We say things to ourselves that we won't say to our worst enemies. Watch the language you use when speaking to others about your abilities, and pay special attention to the dialogue inside your head. You may not even be aware of it yet, and catching yourself will allow you to change your self-talk and improve your confidence.
3. Plan ahead.
Whether it’s walking into an interview, approaching a new responsibility at work, or taking a class to enjoy a new hobby, when you know what to expect, you’ll feel more confident about your abilities to handle it.
4. Get the necessary training.
Sometimes, we aren’t confident in our abilities to do something because we don’t actually have the necessary skills or knowledge to accomplish it (yet). By taking a class, signing up for a training program, working with a mentor, or asking your supervisor to outline precisely how a job needs to be done, you’ll gain the confidence to succeed.
5. View your mistakes as learning opportunities instead of beating yourself up.
We all make mistakes, and there is no way to do everything perfectly the first time or avoid mistakes entirely. What you can do is accept that you will make them (all the time) and find a way to learn something each time. This will not only cut down on the negative self-talk, but it will also improve your abilities moving forward.
6. Surround yourself with positive influences.
While feedback is a necessary (and useful) tool, if you have people around you who are constantly putting you down and knocking anything new that you do, it’s time to find a new social circle. Obtain feedback from friends, family, and coworkers that builds you up and makes you better instead of tearing you down. If it’s not, limit the amount of time you spend with them.
7. Take risks.
One of the best ways to build self-confidence is to step out of your comfort zone and learn exactly what you’re capable of. (Hint: It’s much more than you are aware of.)
Confidence is a necessary part of life, and the more of it you have, the further you will go in your career and your personal life. While some people may appear to be “naturally” confident, it’s something that you can learn and improve throughout your life. By incorporating the strategies above, you’ll be able to face challenges with the knowledge that you can handle anything.