How to build confidence

Confidence is as highly coveted a quality as it is a tricky and mysterious and (seemingly) elusive one, something that the most successful among us seem to have always unfairly possessed the lion’s share of. But what is it, really? How can we become it, whatever it is?


Confidence is a multifarious thing; the many ways in which confidence can and does manifest itself is possibly inexhaustible, which makes it inherently difficult to pin down and define. All the same, we have an instinctive idea of what confidence looks and feels like – in essence, it boils down to a belief and a faith in ourselves.

Unfortunately for us all, there is neither a quick-fix, nor an instant recipe for success, nor a prepared list of solutions – but stick with us! What we can do is provide a couple of tips which will hopefully prove helpful in your journey towards greater self-confidence.

1. Set (achievable) goals

We may not have an indisputable list of all the ingredients necessary for confidence and the proportion in which they should be combined, but what we do know is that confidence is often built on a person’s perception of their achievements and accomplishments. The feeling that you’ve achieved something – whether it’s finally getting your desk cleaned up or winning an Emmy – is vital to confidence; it bolsters your opinion of yourself, and therefore your confidence. A good habit to form is to break a large goal into smaller, more manageable ones; goals against which our performance can be quantifiably measured. As we see ourselves ever so surely making progress, we build confidence. As Creighton Abrams, a general of the United States Army once said: “When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.” Most seemingly impossible things become possible once broken down into concrete, clearly achievable steps.

2. Take care of yourself

Exercise; get more sleep; dress nicely; groom yourself; in short, do whatever you think will make you feel good. Chances are, it will also improve your mood, and therefore your confidence; doing what we enjoy tends to have a therapeutic, cathartic effect, contributing to a sense of accomplishment.

3. Don’t fear failure

Often, an acute fear of failing is what cripples our confidence; we feel overwhelmed and underprepared and inherently inadequate. To bolster our own confidence, then, we must learn to overcome our fear of failure; we must learn to be comfortable with it. It’s okay to fail and to fall; we have to learn to take it in our stride and bounce back from it. Everyone who’s ever been successful has faced failure. What’s crucial is to avoid letting it cripple you. Think of it this way, perhaps – fear means that you’re growing, that you’re challenging yourself, that you’ve stepped boldly out of your comfort zone.

4. …or what other people think of you

Basing your confidence off of how you think other people perceive you leaves it in uncertain, treacherous waters. Insecurity rarely makes for confident people. And at any rate, just think of JK Rowling and Albert Einstein, Walt Disney and Stephen King. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by 12 different publishers before Bloomsbury accepted it; Albert Einstein’s elementary school teachers thought him lazy and, indeed, stupid; Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper for an apparent lack of creativity; and Stephen King’s debut novel, Carrie, was rejected some 30 times. All four were repeatedly told that they weren’t good enough, but they made it despite the apparent general consensus!

5. And think positive!

Make a conscious effort to think positively and to quash negative thoughts – negativity can often be paralysing. Indeed, there is some scientific evidence that ‘power posing’, a concept pioneered by the social scientist Amy Cuddy, can make you feel and then become more confident. Research on this has been divided due to difficulties with consistent replication of the results, but all the same, you may find that it works for you! As the saying goes, fake it ‘til you make it; or, as Amy Cuddy says, fake it ‘til you become it.


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