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The Link Between Confidence and Mental Health


Confidence is a feeling or belief that someone, or something, is reliable, robust or trustworthy. When we talk about self-confidence, we mean that we believe in ourselves, we think that we can achieve something and we believe in our own capabilities. Being confident is not the same as being arrogant or self-important; confidence is a realistic and secure belief rather than one driven by a big ego or narcissism.  

It has long since been established that confidence has a relationship with our mental health. A study by Dundee University found evidence that solidified this connection. In this article we will explore in more detail how confidence affects our mental health and wellbeing, as well as strategies that can help us to become more resilient, confident and happy people.

Defining Confidence and Mental Health

Defining Confidence and Mental Health

Self-confidence and self-esteem are sometimes used interchangeably; however, they are not exactly the same. Confidence is about believing in yourself and your capabilities, whereas self-esteem is an evaluation of your self-worth. Having both self-confidence and good self-esteem is vital for our overall wellbeing.

Confident people Unconfident people
Feel secured Feel insecure
Prepare to succeed Expect to fail
Feel ready to take on challenges, adapt to change and learn new skills Resist change and are less keen on trying new things
Think ‘I can’ Think ‘I can’t’
Growth mindset Fixed mindset

Mental health refers to our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel and behave as well as how we react to situations. Poor mental health often leads to bad decision-making and an inability to effectively deal with stress.

The Influence of Confidence on Mental Health

Low confidence can negatively affect our mental health and make us feel bad about ourselves. When we don’t feel confident, we may start to withdraw, avoid social situations and lose interest in things that we once enjoyed. This behaviour may put us at an increased risk of experiencing symptoms of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression

When we have low confidence, we can start to believe that we can’t do things right or that no one likes us. This can cause us to get trapped in negative thought cycles and distorted thinking, where we can view a minor setback as something major. Very low self-esteem can also cause us to blame ourselves for things that are out of our control.

A feeling of low self-worth can also make us turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms to make us feel better in the short term, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or having casual sex. In the long term, these types of coping mechanisms often make us feel worse about ourselves and make our self-confidence fall even lower.

Factors Affecting Confidence Levels

Self-confidence comes from within; however, our levels of self-confidence can be affected by other people, our environment, our upbringing and our current situation.  

Quite often, low self-esteem begins in childhood. Our parents, family members, teachers, peers and even the media can do or say things that affect how we feel about ourselves. Sometimes, when we face a lot of criticism or are told we do not live up to people’s expectations, we start to feel like a failure. 

Adverse experiences can affect our confidence levels, such as:

  • Being a victim of crime
  • Experiencing trauma
  • Facing discrimination
  • Experiencing financial troubles
  • Failing exams
  • Losing your job
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Bereavement
  • Suffering from illness or disability
  • Societal expectations placed on us
  • Being overweight or obese

Excessive social media use can have a negative effect on some people’s mental health, in particular young girls. It is really important to remember that people only post the highlight reel of their lives on socials, with the boring bits edited out, and that pictures of people looking flawless and likely to be airbrushed, filtered and do not reflect reality.

Ultimately, confidence has to come from within. No one else should be given the right to dictate our self-worth. Being confident makes us feel better and may provide some protection against developing poor mental health.

Confidence as a Protective Factor

Confidence is inextricably linked with resilience. If we feel confident, we are less likely to give up if things get tough and are more likely to be able to cope with the challenges life inevitably throws at us. 

Instilling confidence in children is key for them to develop resilience in later life. Confident children will usually grow up to be confident adults. They are more likely to have emotional resilience, better problem-solving skills and a positive self-image. 

Although being confident cannot provide definite protection from poor mental health, confident people may also be more likely to seek help if they are struggling. They may also be more likely to engage with treatment and be less concerned by judgement or stigma.

The Impact of Mental Health on Confidence

The Impact of Mental Health on Confidence

Having low confidence and low self-esteem makes us see ourselves in a negative light. A lack of confidence and low self-esteem can make the symptoms of mental health problems worse and poor mental health can also affect our self-confidence.   

Symptoms of mental health can affect our confidence levels because when our mental health is poor, we may be extremely vulnerable to feeling low, upset, depressed or overwhelmed. Severe depression can make us feel that everything is pointless and that life is not worth living, and severe anxiety can make us feel so on edge that we struggle to function. 

Left untreated, symptoms of mental health disorders usually get worse, therefore it is important to reach out for support and get the right treatment sooner rather than later. The root cause of mental health problems also needs addressing in order to give people a better chance of recovery. 

Strategies for treating mental health issues may involve a combination of:

Once your mental health starts to improve, your normal levels of self-confidence should start to return. It is vital that you keep up with your treatment plan to avoid a relapse and to make you feel in control of the situation. The more powerful and in control of yourself that you feel, the more confident you will start to become.

Strategies for Building Confidence and Improving Mental Health

Some simple strategies that you can try to incorporate into your daily routine to boost your confidence levels and make you feel more positive include:

  • Focus on your skills and what you can do well, rather than worrying about what you can’t
  • Practise self-compassion and kindness – don’t judge yourself more harshly than you would judge someone else
  • Take calculated risks
  • Don’t be scared to try new things
  • Embrace failure as a learning experience
  • Try not to compare yourself to others
  • Don’t listen to your self-doubt; when we doubt our abilities, we miss out on opportunities to learn and grow
  • Get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Start off small if necessary
  • Prepare to succeed rather than to fail. This means studying, doing your homework, being organised and not leaving things until the last minute
  • Persevere rather than give up when you find something difficult
  • Set realistic goals and expectations
  • Learn to acknowledge and accept the wrongs that you have experienced at the hands of others, but don’t let them define you

Having a more positive outlook and being happier will have a positive effect on your self-esteem, though this is easier said than done. Some practical, day-to-day tips that you can try to make you feel better and more confident include:

  • Manage your stress levels
  • Make plans and do activities that you enjoy
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet and stay hydrated
  • Practise good sleep hygiene
  • Exercise regularly
  • Try practising mindfulness or meditation
  • Build a support network
  • Talk to a trusted friend or relative if you feel down
  • Channel negative feelings into something creative such as art, music or journaling

Being confident can help us to perform better at work and in academia. Confidence can help us to embrace new technologies and new ways of doing things, be open to receiving feedback and be assertive when people are behaving in an unjust way.

Cultivating Resilience and Self-Compassion

Cultivating Resilience and Self-Compassion

Mindfulness and meditation techniques may help with developing confidence and improving self-esteem. When we make space for ourselves through the practice of mindfulness or meditation, we can learn to focus our thoughts and quieten some of the negative chatter in our minds. These techniques also help us to:

  • Identify unhelpful thoughts
  • Improve our concentration
  • Feel calmer and more centred
  • Learn to be kinder to ourselves

Mindfulness is a technique that helps us focus on what is happening in the present moment and takes our focus away from other thoughts. It can help people to quieten internal struggles that are going on in their minds and enjoy some moments of peace and tranquillity. 

Psychological resilience is key to not getting lost in victimhood and being able to cope mentally and emotionally with crisis or adversity. People who are resilient feel empowered and autonomous. Resilient people understand that they have agency and can affect change in their lives. 

Whilst it is great to feel powerful and ready to tackle life’s challenges head-on, it is equally important to be compassionate towards ourselves and not expect too much. Reward yourself for taking small steps or achieving little wins rather than chastising yourself for not doing more. This reduces the risk of overwhelm and burnout. 

Outcomes for people with positive support networks around them are usually better than for those who are isolated. Unfortunately, we sometimes surround ourselves with people who do not have our best interests in mind. If you have a partner, friends, co-workers or even family that routinely disrespect you and erode your self-confidence then sometimes it is best to walk away. You may want to speak to them first and tell them how you feel as this will give them an opportunity to reflect on their behaviour and decide whether or not to change. However, if their pattern of behaviour continues, it may be best to remove yourself from the situation entirely to protect your own mental wellbeing.

Addressing Stigma and Seeking Support

Addressing Stigma and Seeking Support

If you feel that your low confidence is affecting your daily life or you notice that you are struggling mentally, it is important to reach out and seek help. Mental health still has an unfortunate stigma attached to it; however, if we avoid talking about our own struggles and shy away from getting help, we are adding to the stigma rather than addressing it. 

Seeking support for our mental wellbeing puts us on a path to feeling and doing better. Depending on your symptoms and circumstances, you may decide to access support via your GP, who can prescribe medicine or make referrals, or you may wish to try talking to someone via online counselling or e-therapy. 

Simple self-help tips include:

  • Learn ways to cope with symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • Engage fully with treatment programmes
  • Practise healthy habits and self-care
  • Stop thinking that a mental health problem defines you
  • Speak kindly to yourself and try saying some daily positive affirmations
  • Learn to notice signs that you are struggling and address them immediately

If low confidence or poor mental health is affecting the way you perform at work, you have the right to ask for support. You could try:

  • Talking to your boss or co-workers if you are having difficulties
  • Asking for reasonable adjustments to your work
  • Taking some time off or reducing your hours
  • Moving to a different department or role

If your co-workers are contributing to your low confidence then your boss may be able to take action based on your workplace’s anti-bullying policy. Try to remember that although we often measure ourselves by how successful we are in our career, work is just one small facet of our lives and should not define our overall happiness!


There is a clear link between confidence and mental health. Confidence also goes hand in hand with resilience. The more confident we are, the more positive we feel, and with increased resilience comes a reduced chance of succumbing to life’s many challenges.

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About the author

Vicky Miller

Vicky Miller

Vicky has a BA Hons Degree in Professional Writing. She has spent several years creating B2B content and writing informative articles and online guides for clients within the fields of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, recruitment, education and training. Outside of work she enjoys yoga, world cinema and listening to fiction podcasts.

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