Loganholme Psychologist Dr Amanda White shares some ideas on how to go about building confidence, and the many benefits …
Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. —Lao Tzu
What would you be doing differently if you had a higher level of self-confidence? Imagine what would become possible in your life if you were truly confident that you could make it happen.
What is Self-Confidence?
Self-confidence can seem like an abstract concept, difficult to define or set practical goals around. However, there is a commonly held assumption that believing in our personal attributes, abilities, and ideas is both healthy as well as a key to facilitating constructive goal-directed activity.
It’s true: confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Confident people often accomplish what they set out to because of conviction and effortful behaviours, rather than any innate ability. Thus, a confident person is also developing competence, likely leading to more success over time.
In comparison, those with low self-confidence may be unwilling to try or persist when confronted with perceived failures. Being fearful of failure can mean no longer taking risks or moving beyond a comfort zone. By not engaging with activities or life goals, we can face an escalation of stress and dissatisfaction. As a result low self-confidence may translate to a person rarely experiencing success.
Self-Efficacy & Self-Esteem
To explain further, consider the two attributes that are said to contribute strongly to building confidence: self-efficacy and self-esteem.
Self-efficacy, the belief in one’s own ability to reach a goal state, rises with mastery. As we witness ourselves and similar others mastering skills, developing competency, and achieving goals there is a sense that success is inevitable if we work hard enough. Confidence built from self-efficacy guides us to persist in the face of setbacks and take on new complex challenges.
Self-esteem is a corresponding idea to self-efficacy, but is a more wide ranging concept of resilience. High self-esteem means feeling that we deserve happiness, can cope well with life demands, are competent, and have a sense of approval from others.
Given these two core attributes, it’s understandable that confident people are frequently described as optimists. After all, confident people started by developing the evidence needed to believe in themselves and their skill base, which is then projected to others.
What can happen if a person portrays a confident self, but lacks the underlying self-efficacy or self-esteem? Unmerited self-confidence – being over confident – may be labelled as arrogance. Such excessive and undue self-confidence has been linked to three cognitive illusions: illusory superiority, illusion of control and optimism bias. These mental states can give rise to not only overly positive self-appraisal, but socially problematic behaviours, such as hostility or irritability and anti-social behaviour (Colvin et al 1995; Sedikides et al, 2007; Shedler et al, 1993).
Tips to Start Building Confidence
Building confidence is clearly worthwhile. However, such evidence-based positive self appraisal is both effortful and earned, so cannot happen overnight. Nevertheless, high self-confidence is achievable. The exciting part is that building confidence asks for persistence, problem solving, and goal directed behaviour – which presents us with the tools for real world success, generating motivation to continue the building process.
Here are some tips to start confidence building:
- Understand this process is a journey. Like any journey, be prepared. Develop a plan for where you are going and how you are going to get there, in a step by step manner. List your strengths and weaknesses to upskill where necessary. You may need to periodically rest, reflect, and review your progress. Remember there may be more paths to travel than what was initially apparent.
- Commit to a successful outcome. Goal directed behaviour is about persistence, but also trust. Make a promise to yourself and be prepared to keep it.
- Set small goals and achieve them. Remember success occurs step by step, so break down what is immediately required and do it. No matter how small that step might seem, it is demonstrating trust and developing mastery. Habits are formed by consistent behaviour.
- Be mindful of your mind. You can turn into your biggest support or worst detractor, depending on your thought process. You will take chances that make you feel uncomfortable. Tools such as affirmations, positive thinking, and meditation can strongly enhance your inner support base.
- It’s okay to be wrong; in fact it can be great! Failure is a steadfast teacher, in that it shows us what we did not know and need to adapt for in the future. It helps to build our knowledge base. Yes, it can be painful, but failing teaches resilience in the long-term.
- Begin NOW. After all, not starting is the best guarantee you will never achieve what could be possible in your life. Start the plan, see where it takes you.
A final point that requires special attention is social confidence. Interpersonal skills and a strong social support network improve our ability to connect with others meaningfully. This then reduces vulnerability in times of stress, such as depressive factors including low motivation or persistence.
If possible, find a mentor or collaborator whom you can trust to share this journey. By looking towards others, we can improve ourselves. Consider behaviours you wish to cultivate, such as complimenting others, smiling, showing kindness and generosity. Do also consider the behaviours you might wish to let go of, those which undermine social confidence, such as gossiping, incidental neglect, and backstabbing. Finally, personal grooming is important for self-esteem and nurturing your confident self.
If you feel as though your social skills and/or social confidence are wanting, interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) is a well established psychological treatment that works to improve interpersonal functioning. IPT helps people to develop insight into how we each communicate; and teaches new communication skills. IPT also emphasises the importance of functional social support networks, so therapy includes strategic planning to establish this healthy support base.
Should you like to learn more about building confidence, or engage with psychological services to assist you build greater self-confidence, I welcome you to book a session with a qualified professional at Vision or M1 Psychology (Brisbane and Loganholme).
Author: Dr Amanda White, PhD, B Psych (Hons), B Beh Sc, DipH, MAPS.
Amanda is not currently taking bookings, however, we have a number of clinicians available for bookings. To make an appointment please visit our webpage here to learn about our highly qualified clinicians, or call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129.
- Chamorro-Premuzic, T. ( 2013). Confidence: The surprising truth about how much you need – and how to get it. UK: Profile Books.
- Colvin, C. R. et al (1995). Overly Positive Self-Evaluations and Personality: Negative Implications for Mental Health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(6), 1152–1162.
- Giladi, E.E. & Klar, Y. (2002). When standards are wide of the mark: Nonselective superiority and inferiority biases in comparative judgments of objects and concepts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 131(4), 538–551.
- Robertson, M. et al (2008). Interpersonal Psychotherapy: An overview. Psychotherapy in Australia, 14 (3), 46-54.
- Shedler, J et al (1993). The Illusion of Mental Health. American Psychologist, 48(11), 1117–1131.
- Sedikides, C. et al (2007). The Why’s the Limit: Curtailing Self-Enhancement With Explanatory Introspection. Journal of Personality, 75(4), 783–82.