Ask A Therapist: How can I build self confidence?


Within my clinical practice, this is one of the most commonly asked questions.  It’s not too difficult for most of us to identify that a lack of self confidence or self esteem can make life more challenging.  It’s not hard to decide we want to build our self confidence.  So why is it that what comes next is often a puzzled look.

We’re bombarded by messages that ‘self confidence is sexy’ or that ‘you just have to believe in yourself.  Yet live in a world where in a 2018 study,  87.3% of adult participants admitted to feelings of ‘impostor syndrome’ .

Ok, ok, I made that statistic up and the study (to my knowledge) doesn’t exist… but I’m surrounded by super successful people who don’t quite feel good enough or who feel like they are one slip up away from being found out as a fraud.

The truth is, that none of us know what we’re doing all the time.  Life seems to be largely made up of people ‘winging it’ and people looking for a ‘proper adult’.  No matter how much education, training or knowledge we have – ultimately life comes down to a series of decisions we have to make… and we make them based on scary things like our feelings, intuition or judgement.

The annoying thing about self confidence, is that no-one can make you have it.  There’s no magic wand or secret code.  Similarly to self esteem: There’s things that can help, but no about of other people believing in you will make you believe in yourself.

So what can I do?

There is not a one size fits all answer for this either. But here’s some things you can try;

  1. Do the things that scare you: In the book ‘feel the fear and do it anyway‘ Susan Jeffers explains that the only way to get rid of fear is to go the thing we’re afraid of – and prove to ourselves we can cope.  Widening our experiences and reassuring ourselves that we can cope, is a great way to boost self esteem.
  2. Positive Self Talk: If this statement conjures up cringey images of completing affirmations to yourself in the bathroom mirror – there’s more than one way to change your self talk.
  3. Positive Affirmations: If number 2 on this list didn’t make you eye-roll – why not take it one step further and Affirm yourself out load.  Affirmations are a powerful tool to deliberately install desired beliefs about yourself.” — Nikki Carnevale 
  4. Question your inner critic: Find opportunities to congratulate, compliment and reward yourself, even for the smallest successes.  “You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” — Louise L. Hay
  5. Try Therapy: I swear I’m not trying to drum up business here, but self exploration is an invaluably useful tool in building self confidence.  Finding your own personal answers to why you lack self confidence. We all have our own reasons for self confidence wobbles (or self confidence avalanches) and healing some of the underlying cause will build you a more solid foundation for confidence in yourself moving forward.
  6. Self Help Books: If you can’t access therapy, or you need an extra boost. There are loads of amazing self help books that can help. Check out my current top 10 here.  Additional plus: there are so many of these on the market- you’re bound to be able to find one to suit your style.
  7. Podcast yourself confident: Not a reader? No problem – I’ve got a list of positive postcasts too.  Not all of these are about confidence. But surrounding yourself with positive messages can make you feel more positive about yourself too.
  8. “Fake it ’till you make it!”: not the most congruent answer – but sometimes the best way to make ourselves believe we’re amazing is to do amazing things.  In psychology terms, this is called behavioral activation.
  9. Assert your boundaries: The more control and say that you have over your own life, the greater will be your self-confidence. Here’s the “no BS guide to setting healthy boundaries” by healthline
  10. Learn to say no: You’re never going to be able to prove you’re great if you’re constantly taking on too much and therefore under-preforming. Be your own boss and make sure you’re only saying yes to the things you really want to have in your life.
  11. Help someone: If you’re finding it hard to focus on the good in you, doing something to help someone else can give you the feel good factor.  It also gives you something to focus on other than how you feel about yourself.
  12. Work out your goals: We often beat ourselves up for not achieving the things we want to – without actually having proper aims.  Try taking some time to make some goals (short/medium/long term ideally). You could write them down, create a mood board, put a note in your phone. Then use the tips above to motivate yourself into making it happen!

In short – the keys to building and maintaining a steady and constant level of self-confidence are:

  • recognising that no one is confident all the time (even if they may appear to be)
  • avoiding comparing yourself to other people (they have their strengths, you have yours)
  • acknowledging your own strengths, skills and abilities (and building on them)

What helps you feel more confident in yourself?

Have you got any top tips?

Let me know in the comments if you have a question or a topic you’d like me to write about in my #askatherapist series.

Header Image Credit: BCS Group

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