We explore what confidence means, why it’s important, and how you can build confidence in your daily life.
Confidence is a trait that can help us face life’s experiences head-on. Many of us know what it feels like to carry out a task with assurance, while equally, it’s a common experience to feel a lack of confidence. But how can we build confidence?
Here, we a look at what confidence is and why it’s important. Is it a skill that can be learned? And how can we build it? We’ll explore these questions and more, as well as suggesting courses that can help you build self-confidence.
Table of Contents
What is confidence?
In its simplest form, confidence is the feeling of trust in something. When we’re talking about self-confidence, it is the belief that you can trust in yourself and your abilities or knowledge.
In our open step from Goldsmiths University of London, self-confidence (also known as core self-evaluation) is defined as being made up of two elements; self-efficacy and locus of control.
Self-efficacy refers to your belief in your ability to succeed in specific situations. Factors such as direct experience (trying something new and succeeding), observed experience (a significant role model succeeding or failing at something) and social persuasion (being told you are good at something) shape your self-efficacy.
Locus of control refers to your belief in your ability to influence situations in your life. Those with an internal locus of control believe that their own hard work, attributes and decisions determine their success. Those with an external locus of control are more likely to believe that good or bad luck, circumstances and fate determine their success.
As we explored in our post on developing a growth mindset, those who believe in self-improvement and development over time often perform better than those with a fixed mindset, the belief that abilities are innate and fixed from birth.
Confidence vs arrogance
There is sometimes a fine line between confidence and arrogance. As we saw in our confidence definition, being confident is about having belief and trust in your abilities and knowledge. Arrogance, on the other hand, is when someone believes that their abilities or knowledge make them better than others in some way.
Confidence is about positively expressing your abilities to succeed in (self-efficacy) or influence (locus of control) specific situations. Arrogance is about boasting to others of your ability to do so.
Confidence vs self-esteem
These two terms certainly overlap, but there are differences between them. As we explored in our post on improving self-esteem, this concept relates to our perception of ourselves. Do we like the person we are? What do we think about our own strengths and weaknesses? Can we recognise our mistakes, and are we able to forgive ourselves for those mistakes?
Self-confidence is more about our belief in ourselves and our abilities. As we’ve seen, this can come from our direct or observed experiences, as well as a belief in our own hard work. A person can have faith in their abilities (confidence) but not like the overall person they are (self-esteem).
The importance of confidence
The feeling of self-confidence can be immensely rewarding. What’s more, studies have shown a variety of benefits associated with confidence. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the reasons why confidence is important:
Confident people are more likely to live longer
A study from Brandeis University in Massachusetts and the University of Rochester in New York found that those who are self-confident and resilient are more likely to live longer, healthier lives.
The research found that those who had a high sense of control (more confidence) seemingly negated the mortality risk that comes with lower levels of education.
Confident people are happier
A 2003 study found that (aside from some variation across cultures) those with higher self-esteem were happier, more satisfied, and had fewer negative moods. You can learn more about building confidence and managing stress in our course from Luleå University of Technology.
Confidence impacts physical and mental health
Research suggests that there is a benefit to having positive self-esteem. Confidence is linked to mental wellbeing and happiness and is also associated with better recovery after severe disease.
Confidence is linked to success
Although the exact link is unclear, there is often a positive correlation between self-esteem and success. Of course, this could be that success makes people feel more confident, rather than that confident people are more successful. However, as we saw when we looked at growth mindsets, believing that you can persist and work hard often help deliver success.
Is confidence a skill?
There is some debate as to whether confidence is a skill or an attribute. While it’s easy to feel that it’s something that we’re born with, confidence is not a fixed attribute. If we go back to our definition, confidence is made of our belief in our ability to succeed and our belief that we can influence situations in our life.
Again, much of this echoes the concept of a growth mindset; the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. So, while things like intelligence and personality are relatively fixed, our belief in ourself and our abilities can be trained.
What’s more, we know that there are ways to build self-esteem, which shows that it’s something we can work on and improve. As a result, it’s relatively easy to make the argument that confidence is a skill. However, others argue that confidence is an emotion that can be managed, rather than a skill.
What does a lack of confidence look like?
Someone lacking confidence isn’t necessarily easy to spot. You may be surprised to learn that some of the people you find to be self-assured are actually just good at pretending.
However, there are sometimes more obvious signs that someone is unconfident. Below, we’ve picked out some of the classic signs of a lack of confidence:
- Anxiety. Low self-esteem and generalised anxiety disorder are often closely linked. Someone lacking confidence may seem anxious in unfamiliar situations. Anxiety can make us doubt our faith in our abilities, and we know that confidence is often a matter of belief.
- Avoiding challenges. Those without confidence are often unwilling to try new things as they don’t trust in their abilities to succeed at them.
- Avoiding social situations. Meeting new people (and even familiar ones) can be tough when lacking confidence. A lack of belief in social skills will often mean avoiding social settings.
- Lacking self-care. If someone is feeling negative about themselves and their abilities, they may also neglect to take care of themselves. This could mean a poor diet, lack of exercise, or mentally chastising themselves.
- Worrying what others think. Those who have low self-esteem will often worry about how others judge them. Often, they’ll project their own feelings about themselves onto how they think others will feel about them.
How to build confidence: five top tips
If you feel like you lack confidence, there are some commonly suggested ways to build it up. Many of these have evidence to back them up, while all have the potential to help you to feel better about yourself and your abilities.
Here are our top five tips to build confidence:
1. Practise self-care
Self-confidence and self-care are often closely linked. As we saw in our article on self-esteem, exercising regularly, sleeping well, and developing a healthy diet can all make you feel better about yourself.
Taking time to assess your needs can help you to identify what makes you feel good about yourself. Practices such as mindfulness and gratitude can also help to reduce stress, improve emotion regulation, and improve sleep.
2. Build positive relationships
Those who are negative and try to bring you down can often drain your confidence. As the NHS suggests for improving self-esteem, try to spend less time with those people. Instead, aim to build relationships with people who appreciate you. Their positivity can help you to feel more confident.
You can learn techniques to foster positive interpersonal relationships with our course Build Trust and Grow your Self-Confidence.
3. Work on a growth mindset
Some research shows that those with a growth mindset tend to have higher self-esteem and resilience than those with a fixed mindset. While there is an argument about whether confidence affects a growth mindset or vice versa, building a growth mindset can help with other areas of your life.
4. Challenge yourself
The NHS recommends setting yourself a challenge to help build confidence. Although it’s natural to be nervous about trying new things, those with confidence will take on the challenge regardless.
They also recommend setting goals, which can help with forming new behaviours, giving focus, and starting to make gradual progress.
5. Practise self-affirmations
Various studies have shown the power of affirmations. Essentially, by telling yourself about your strengths and how confident you are, you can reinforce these positive thoughts. One particular study demonstrates that self-affirmations can help to maintain our self-efficacy, which is a key component of confidence.
Other studies have shown that neural pathways in the brain respond when people practise self-affirmations. Some examples of positive affirmations for confidence include:
- I choose to believe I am confident
- I am confident and value myself
- I am confident in my abilities
- I let go of limiting beliefs and choose to trust myself
Examples of confidence
As explored in our open step from Goldsmiths University, to boost self-confidence, it’s important to focus on the positive, both in your own experiences and in those you observe in others. One way of doing this is to address any negative thoughts that you may have by reframing them in a positive way.
Below, we’ve outlined some examples of confident thinking by having these positive thoughts:
|Situation||Example of negative thought||Reaffirmed positive thought|
|You achieve something at work or in your personal life||“Anyone could have done that, it wasn’t that impressive.”||“I am good at what I do. My skills are impressive and I made a big achievement.”|
|You interview for a job but you don’t get it||“It’s all my fault that I didn’t get that job.”||“I was partly responsible for not getting the job, as I know I could have prepared for the interview more. However, there were some factors that were out of my control, such as the number of people who applied and the quality of the other candidates.”|
|You’re applying for university but aren’t sure whether to go||“Going to university will be too much for me to cope with.”||“I’ve faced many challenges before, and have overcome them.”|
As we can see from these confidence examples, someone with self-confidence acknowledges their strengths, is realistic about their capabilities and situation, and has resilience when things seem tough.
How to build confidence at work
One of the places where many people want to have more confidence is within the workplace. As the video below shows, wellbeing at work is a crucial issue, and confidence can play a big role in this:
This topic is explored in more detail in our course Workplace Wellbeing: How to Build Confidence and Manage Stress. Here, you’ll learn how to build self-esteem and healthy relationships, while also learning about stress management and task prioritisation.
For those looking to be more confident in their leadership role, our course, Awareness and Confidence for Effective Leadership explores some key ways to develop your skills and confidence.
You can also check out our ExpertTrack from Allbright on how to supercharge your career.
How to speak with confidence
Whether it’s speaking with strangers or having to present to a room full of people, it can be easy to lack self-assurance when communicating with others. However, speaking with confidence is a skill that you can work on.
In our blog post on the art of public speaking, we look at some of the ways to improve your confidence with speaking. As well as working to develop your self-efficacy and locus of control, there are other techniques you can use for speaking in public:
- Change your mindset
- Learn breathing techniques
- Research your topic
- Know your message
- Understand your audience
- Get constructive feedback
You can learn more about how to improve your public speaking with our course from the Royal Observatory Greenwich. You’ll learn how to improve your presentation skills and add personality to your presentation style.
If you’re looking to improve your presentation skills, you can learn about presenting your work with impact in our course from the University of Leeds. Working on your communication skills can also help you work on speaking with confidence and building confidence at work.
Start building confidence
Confidence is an important and valued trait. A lack of confidence can be difficult, but there are ways to improve it. By practising self-care and self-affirmations, building positive relationships, challenging yourself, and developing a growth mindset, you can work towards being more confident.
With an online course, you can also work on skills that are adjacent to confidence, such as communication, mindfulness, and leadership. Remember, confidence is about having belief and trust in your abilities and knowledge.