The quest for confidence may feel futile—especially if it’s something you’ve been working on for years. But learning how to be confident can be done; though it often isn’t as easy as reading a self-help book. Confidence tips can help you reach the level of self-assuredness that you’ve been searching for, but first, you have to understand exactly what confidence is, and most importantly, that becoming confident is not a selfish or inherently negative trait to embrace.
Meet the Experts: Banu Kellner, a leadership psychologist, executive coach, and author of The SuperHumanist Manifesto, Blair Steel, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, and LaNail R. Plummer, Ed.D., L.P.C., a licensed therapist and CEO of Onyx Therapy Group.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. “Confidence enhances overall mental well-being, facilitates more authentic relationships, and promotes personal and professional growth,” says Banu Kellner, a leadership psychologist, executive coach, and author of The SuperHumanist Manifesto. Blair Steel, Psy.D., a licensed clinical psychologist adds that established confidence welcomes “a greater satisfaction with life.”
It may sound too good to be true, but everyone really does have the power to hone confidence and use it to transform their lives for the better. Keep reading to learn how.
What is confidence?
The American Psychological Association defines self-confidence as “a belief that one is capable of successfully meeting the demands of a task.” Kellner adds—and this is important—that it’s usually developed over time. “It’s a deep-rooted sense of feeling worthy and an intrinsic sense of okayness with who we are,” she explains. “Real confidence emanates from acceptance of ourselves—imperfections, mistakes, and all.” That’s very different from arrogance or cockiness, she emphasizes, which are often mistaken as confidence but are actually “the outcomes of an inflated sense of self, spurred by fragile self-esteem and an activated defense mechanism,” she explains.
Similar to happiness or sadness, confidence is an emotion that can come and go, adds LaNail R. Plummer, Ed.D, L.P.C., a licensed therapist and CEO of Onyx Therapy Group. However, it’s different from those feelings in that it’s also an emotional state, meaning it’s less fleeting and can be “amplified, stretched out, or even grown to be more consistent,” Plummer adds.
Still, no matter how confident someone may seem, everyone has low days. “In the best circumstances, confidence can continue to be present and in challenging circumstances, it will ebb and flow,” Plummer explains.
How to be more confident
Some of these tips may sound cheesy or overly simple, but they really do work if you let them. Read on for expert tips for confidence.
Believe in yourself
It’s difficult to become more confident if you simply don’t believe it’s possible. At that point, you’re cutting yourself off before your journey begins. “Generally, one gains confidence by believing that growth is possible,” says Plummer. Doing so is simply an active choice within yourself, but daily affirmations or self-love meditations may also help—there’s something powerful about saying what you feel out loud.
Be willing to take risks and try new things
In addition to hyping yourself up, to gain confidence, you may have to enter uncharted territory—physically and emotionally. Staying open to the possibility of positive change and being willing to practice is key, says Kellner.
Give yourself some grace
On this new journey of self-confidence, there may be times you feel out of your comfort zone. Don’t let those moments set you back—instead, reassure yourself like a loving friend or family member would, Kellner says, and understand that mistakes are human in nature. Changing the tone of your inner dialogue to a more positive one can, on its own, make huge changes in your self-worth.
Embrace your imperfections
Kellner says a “pivotal” step in gaining confidence is to accept and own your imperfections—because guess what? Everyone has them, and they aren’t going anywhere. So learning to live with them—and even loving them—is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Learn to set boundaries
In other words, be OK with saying, “No,” without fear of consequences. “Boundary setting is essential to having confidence socially,” says Dr. Steel. “Understanding your preferences, desires, and deal breakers when it comes to physical and emotional boundaries can help you feel safe and secure.”
Reward your accomplishments, no matter how small
It may sound silly, but there’s a reason positive reinforcement like gold stars and treats work in children and pets. Plummer says it works in adults, too—and you can practice it with yourself, whether it’s a pat on the back when you try something new, or a trip to your favorite coffee shop after you crush a job interview.
Celebrate others’ accomplishments
The key is to do so “without envy,” says Kellner. A confident person isn’t threatened by the success of other people.
Show up authentically
People who lack confidence may hide their true feelings or hold themselves back, especially in social settings. Part of building confidence is lifting that wall and practicing authenticity and genuineness, always, says Kellner.
How to be more confident at work
To be frank, Kellner says gaining security at work comes with the ability to focus on the work itself rather than how it defines you. “An overemphasis on personal evaluation can potentially undercut confidence,” she says. In other words, concentrate on the task at hand and its value. “It’s not about inflating your ego,” she adds. “It’s about understanding the significance of your work.”
Steel adds that it’s also a good idea to set short-term, attainable goals to build momentum in the workplace.
How to be more confident socially
“Social confidence is about embracing who we are, unapologetically,” says Kellner. “Engaging genuinely and owning our narratives, rather than seeking validation, can be transformative.”
How to be more confident as a woman
“Confidence issues are more pronounced in women, largely due to gender socialization and cultural messages around gender roles,” explains Kellner. “Some women believe that mimicking male behavior is the solution to this confidence gap. However, true confidence isn’t about emulation, but acceptance. Women radiate unparalleled strength when they wholly embrace their identity, recognizing and celebrating the unique strengths and superpowers that come with being a woman.”
Kayla Blanton is a freelance writer who reports on all things health and nutrition for Men’s Health, Women’s Health, and Prevention. Her hobbies include perpetual coffee sipping and pretending to be a Chopped contestant while cooking.