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Knowledge Base » Mental Health » The Journey to Self-Confidence: Strategies and Techniques

The Journey to Self-Confidence: Strategies and Techniques

Self-confidence can be defined as trust and belief in our own abilities and a feeling that we can face life’s challenges head-on and achieve success. Confidence is linked with academic success and better performance at work. Additionally, confident people usually feel happier and more contented, they are often more willing to seek out new experiences and may enjoy healthier and happier relationships. Some people are naturally more self-confident than others; however, confidence is a skill that can be learned and improved through various strategies and techniques.

Our levels of self-confidence can fluctuate throughout our lives and can be affected by stress, trauma, adverse life events and the words and behaviour of others. Some research suggests that the UK may be facing a confidence crisis in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and pressures caused by the rising cost of living. A 2022 poll of 2,000 adults found that close to half (46%) reported struggling with self-confidence and more than one third (37%) said that their self-belief was at an all-time low. Higher levels of confidence make us more resilient and can improve our mental health and wellbeing.

In this article, we will look at some of the strategies and techniques that you can use to help you to feel more confident. We will begin by looking at what it means to be self-aware and accepting of ourselves. Next, we will think about how we can disrupt negative thoughts and challenge limiting beliefs. We will also consider the roles of goal setting, stepping out of our comfort zone and the effects of using positive self-talk and body language in confidence building. To conclude, we will discuss the role of others in our journey to self-confidence. 

Self-Awareness and Acceptance

The journey to self-confidence begins with self-awareness, which means understanding who we are, accepting our limitations and accepting ourselves. 

Steps to increasing self-awareness and acceptance include:

  • Take some time for yourself and take a deep breath and relax.
  • Think about some of your strengths and unique skills. Recognise your inherent worth and value. Next, take some time to identify your weaknesses (but try to do so with compassion).
  • Reflect on your values, passions and skills and how they align with your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Think back to some of your wins and achievements, no matter how small. Allow yourself to celebrate your success and think about what it is you do well. Let a warm feeling of calm and happiness wash over you – let the corners of your mouth lift into a smile.
  • Start to plan what you want to achieve next and how you want to improve – is a particular weakness holding you back? How might you overcome it? What tools do you need?
Young-man-taking-deep-breaths

Much of self-confidence is about accepting who we are. When you identify your weaknesses, try to think of them as areas for improvement rather than as personal failures. It is also important that we strive to be our best selves, whilst recognising that perfection is unobtainable. 

Some people experience persistent low confidence that causes them problems in many areas of their lives, whereas others experience situation-specific low confidence. A common example of a situation lots of people lack confidence in is public speaking. Becoming more self-aware about which areas you are lacking confidence in and how your low confidence manifests itself, will help you to learn how to best address (and overcome) it.

Challenging Limiting Beliefs

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to self-confidence. We get stuck in negative thought patterns or start to worry about how others view us. A common thread amongst social media personalities is the tendency to obsess over one negative comment rather than focusing on hundreds of compliments and positive reactions. On the journey to self-confidence, there will be a point when you begin to recognise that your sense of self-worth has to come from within rather than from others. 

Many of us are held back from reaching our potential because of our tendency to over-emphasise self-limiting beliefs. Common beliefs and behaviours that can undermine our self-confidence include:

  • Fear of failure
  • Self-doubt
  • Perfectionism
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Focusing on past failures

Feeling inadequate To begin to counteract these self-limiting beliefs we can begin to:

  • Recognise that failure is a valid part of learning
  • Embrace risks and challenge ourselves
  • Focus on self-improvement rather than perfection
  • Cultivate a growth mindset to help deal with setbacks

High levels of confidence are often associated with having a growth mindset, whilst many people with low confidence demonstrate a fixed mindset.

A growth mindset represents freedom and the belief that we can nurture our skills and abilities and achieve our dreams. In contrast, fixed mindsets are limiting. If you have a fixed mindset, you probably believe that your skills are innate and that you have limited control over your destiny. 

  • A growth mindset says I can.
  • A fixed mindset says I can’t.
  • A growth mindset keeps trying.
  • A fixed mindset gives up easily.
  • A growth mindset wants to learn and improve.
  • A fixed mindset thinks I am either good at something or I am not.

Learning to nurture a growth mindset can help you to break free of limiting beliefs and negative thought patterns.

Setting and Achieving Goals

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Using the SMART goal structure ensures that we have a cohesive goal in mind and a quantifiable way to measure our progress. SMART goals have clear parameters and keeping our goals relevant and time-bound also helps us to stay motivated. 

Once we achieve our goals, we can take a moment to celebrate our success and congratulate ourselves for persevering. However, if things go wrong, it is important to reflect on what happened and what we could do differently to change the outcome. To keep our confidence levels up we should respect the learning process as much as the final achievement.

Ensure that your goals align with your personal values and aspirations and remember, even though we want our goals to be manageable, you shouldn’t be scared to aim to achieve something that is a little out of your comfort zone!

Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

We tend to experience the most significant levels of personal growth when we challenge ourselves. This may include:

  • Stepping out of our comfort zone
  • Trying something new
  • Doing something that scares you

How we behave when we are exposed to new situations and environments can teach us a lot about ourselves. Although our initial reaction may be avoidance or rejection, once we step out of our comfort zone and face a challenge head-on, we will learn resilience, perseverance and new skills. 

You know yourself best and will have an idea of what works for you. For some people they may need to dive straight into the deep end, while others may need to start with a small challenge and work their way out of their comfort zone gradually. 

Confidence building activities that may push our boundaries vary between people and will depend on their goals and personalities. Perhaps some of the following ideas appeal to you – if not, that’s fine! Your journey is unique to you.

  • Signing up to an art or yoga class full of strangers
  • Joining a gym
  • Giving a presentation at work
  • Attending a team building weekend
  • Going on holiday alone
  • Posting a selfie without make-up
young-women-giving-a-speech

Cultivating Positive Self-Talk and Body Language

We often hold ourselves to standards that we wouldn’t hold others to. This can lead to us judging ourselves too harshly. When we talk to ourselves negatively or are unnecessarily critical, it damages our self-esteem and makes us feel low. 

Positive self-talk and self-affirmation techniques can counteract some of the negative thoughts we have about ourselves. When we speak to ourselves with kindness and understanding, we can improve our psychological resilience.

Positive affirmations are popular in self-help circles. They are positively loaded phrases or statements that are usually snappy and memorable. Positive affirmations can be used to challenge and disrupt negative thoughts and cultivate a mindset of self-belief and motivation. 

According to research that has come out of the University of California, Berkeley, using positive affirmations and demonstrating self-compassion can actually boost mental health even if we only practise for one minute per day!

People may use positive affirmations to:

  • Boost their self-esteem
  • Inspire positive change
  • Improve their motivation
  • Sharpen their focus
  • Help them to overcome self-doubt
  • Negate toxic or unhelpful thoughts

Some simple, positive affirmations you can try to build confidence include:

  • I am a strong and independent person
  • I am confident and powerful
  • I am learning and improving every day
  • My past does not predict my future
  • These feelings will pass
  • I know my worth
  • It’s okay to do things a little at a time
  • I am making progress
  • I accept and love myself for who I am
  • Failure is an opportunity to do better

Some people like to say their affirmations out loud whereas some prefer to say them silently in their head. Others may benefit from writing their affirmations down in a journal or on strategically placed sticky notes. You can also buy books that are full of positive affirmations to boost your mood, as well as affirmation cards; you can pick a page or card at random and make that your affirmation for the day. 

Sometimes people like to complement their positive affirmations by using positive visualisation. This involves focusing on a mental image of what you want to achieve. This technique is said to help improve confidence as it forces you to create a mental picture of your own success, essentially you are already seeing a goal that you want to achieve and imagining achieving it. This can boost your morale and make you more determined and motivated to recreate the visualisation in reality. 

We know that self-confidence comes from within; however, we often internalise other people’s thoughts and words and allow them to change how we feel about ourselves. Getting into the habit of repeating some positive affirmations on a regular basis can help to counteract the negative thought patterns we fall into when other people speak badly about us. If you are struggling with reframing your negative thoughts, you may also benefit from some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a popular type of talking therapy that aims to help us to identify problematic or negative thoughts and develop skills that will reframe our way of thinking. CBT techniques break apart overwhelming and toxic thoughts into their component parts that can, with practice, be replaced with healthier, more positive thinking. CBT sessions also focus on the power of self-belief and self-compassion. 

CBT has been proven to be helpful to treat a range of conditions including phobias, depression and anxiety. Research suggests it is one of the most effective treatments for low self-esteem. 

If you find that you struggle to quieten the negative chatter in your mind but aren’t ready to try cognitive behavioural therapy, you could try out some mindfulness or meditation techniques. These techniques can help you to relax, focus your mind and be present in the moment. 

In the practice of mindfulness, we try to become aware of thoughts and feelings as they happen, moment by moment. We learn to acknowledge and accept our thoughts without becoming overwhelmed by them. The art of mindfulness can also be accompanied by deep breathing techniques or meditation. 

A brief guide on how to meditate for beginners:

  • Find a calm and quiet spot, indoors or outdoors – some people even meditate in the shower!
  • Sit, kneel or stand in a comfortable position (one that you can easily maintain for a few minutes)
  • If it feels right, close your eyes or soften your gaze
  • Begin to focus on your body and how it feels and think about your breath and feel the sensation of your diaphragm as it rises and falls
  • Pay attention to your thoughts and notice when your mind begins to wander
  • Avoid obsessing over your thoughts, simply bring your focus back to your breath and bring your thoughts back to the present moment
  • Gently end the practice when it feels right for you. Take a moment to notice how your mind and body feel afterwards
Young-lady-meditating

Both meditation and mindfulness can reduce stress, boost your mental wellbeing and help with self-acceptance and tuning out negative thoughts. 

In addition to using positive self-talk and affirmations, our body language can also affect how confident we feel. When we lack confidence, we may want to appear small and not be seen. To give an air of confidence you want to take up space and be seen. To do this you can try striking a power pose:

  • Stand tall and strong
  • Tilt your head slightly back
  • Make eye contact
  • Use open gestures

Psychologists can’t quite agree on just how power posing affects our confidence; however, it is widely accepted that open body language is a key facet of non-verbal communication that can help us to be more engaging, build positive relationships and increase our feelings of confidence. 

Seeking Support and Building a Supportive Environment

The people you choose to have around you can seriously impact your self-confidence. If you want to cultivate positivity in your life it is important to surround yourself with positive people who have your best interests at heart. 

It may be necessary to tweak your social circle or learn to communicate more assertively on your journey to self-confidence:

  • Seek out people who inspire you
  • Learn to say ‘no’ and to assert boundaries
  • Avoid drama and toxic people or situations
  • Be friends with people who root for you and want you to succeed
  • Avoid jealousy (from yourself and others)
  • Learn to embrace constructive feedback
  • Know your self-worth and never let it be dictated by others
  • Avoid comparing yourself to other people
  • Remember that you are unique and so is your journey to self-confidence

If you are not making the progress you would like, you may also want to seek out networks or support groups where you can meet like-minded people. Some people may benefit from talking to a professional about how they can overcome barriers to self-confidence, such as a counsellor, therapist or life coach.

You can also work with a professional alongside trying self-help techniques to increase your confidence levels.

Conclusion

Your journey to self-confidence is fluid and will require you to embrace change and face challenges along the way. If you want to become a more confident individual, you will benefit from learning to accept yourself, practising self-compassion and cultivating a growth mindset. 

As you learn to become more confident, continue using self-help techniques such as goal setting, positive self-talk and daily affirmations to support your personal growth. 

Lastly, remember that positivity attracts positivity, so strike a power pose and surround yourself with genuine, confident people who are rooting for your success!

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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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