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How to be more confident.

Confidence, and more specifically self-confidence is a topic that continues to be present for the majority of my clients and when I am talking about my work, it is in the top five things I am asked to expand on. So, this week I am taking the opportunity to compose 5 tips to being more confident: how you can train yourself to be more confident and build confidence for the future.

Let’s start by getting on the same page… what is confidence?

Confidence is “… the feeling or belief that you can trust, believe in, and be sure about the abilities or good qualities of someone or something… Self -confidence means feeling secure of yourself and your abilities… having trust in oneself.” [1]

I’ve spoken about the attractiveness of this quality before, we all seem to strive for it and many of us often have the belief that we lack it, and therefore lack some attribute of success. Confidence doesn’t need to be loud and, in your face, it doesn’t require you to become someone that you are not, and it is not an attribute reserved for the extroverts. There are times when we all have those doubts and anxieties, regardless of our personality type, our level in an organisation or experience in life; and there are specific, tangible, and definite practices that we can adopt to help us maximise our self-confidence.

Tip 1: Help yourself physically

Recognising that mindset change and behavioural change can, for some, feel very abstract, let’s start in the physical world. There are tangible changes that we can make to help us with our confidence. Yes really!

Get the right amount of sleep:

It seems that sleep in the panacea for almost all things. And as with all things it is possible to have too little, but also too much. A study found that sleeping fewer than 6 hours per night was related to lower optimism and self-esteem, when compared to individuals sleeping 7-8 hours. Sleeping for above 9 hours similarly was related to low optimism and self-esteem. [2] Self-esteem and optimism are hardwired into confidence – remember that self confidence is a product of our self-trust. (See blog Confidence. Have you got it; do you want it? ) And there is an element of common sense here; when we are well rested, we are more alert, more motivated, and more productive; a much more fertile ground for feeling better about ourselves than if we are tired, irritable and, if you are anything like me, emotional.

Eat well:

Oh, I know, it’s so annoying, but also so true. It’s twofold, there is the pure science bit of what a balanced diet can do for you generally and there is the mindset part. Eat well, feel better about ourselves, feel better about ourselves and we walk a little taller. If body confidence plays into the mix for you, then food (and exercise coming up) are going to be key players in how you can influence your self-confidence. It’s the stuff we already know, but possibly don’t do - our intake of sugar, alcohol and caffeine are the ones to watch, and we need to be stuffing in more of the good stuff that gives us serotonin such as lean protein (especially chicken and turkey), nuts, some carbohydrates (hallelujah!), eggs, fish oats etc… [3]

Exercise and body posture:

Exercise for me consists almost exclusively of running – and I use that term incredibly loosely… it’s more of a slow amble. I started it a few years back because I needed rest bite from the doom mind chatter, which was part of my anxiety and depression. Any form of exercise helps with this, and it’s an added bonus that it helps with the wobbly bits. Why exercise helps with confidence, aside from the looking better – feeling better part, is all in the chemicals. The endorphins offer an immediate boost; but make exercise regular and research shows [4] the long-term effects can be equally beneficial, not only for anxiety, depression and other low mood issues, but also in reducing stress, another key topic blocking your path to confidence.

You know I love citing Amy Cuddy when I talk about confidence… the full TED talk is well worth a watch. To summarise, Amy Cuddy a Social Psychologist walks us through her study that demonstrated “standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don't feel confident -- can boost feelings of confidence and might have an impact on our chances for success”. I’ve used it myself and still do… you may one day come across me in a corner or in the loo, doing my superman whilst humming the theme music to Ski Sunday (my go to psych me up music). I’ve let go of the ridiculousness of it, it works. Don’t believe me? Try it!

Confidence comes from discipline and training. Robert Kiyosaki

Tip 2: Find your Tribe:

Who you surround yourself has a direct impact on your confidence. We all know that person who is just damn hard work to be around. I refer to these people are Dementors (as in Harry Potter), sucking the joy out of every situation, there is also the more widely adopted energy vampires. “An energy vampire is somebody who literally zaps your energy dry,” [5]

What we absorb from others, whether consciously or not, impacts how we think, feel, and then subsequently act. If our immediate tribe are perpetual naysayers and doom mongers, it becomes so easy to adopt this narrative and embody somebody else’s fear based beliefs. Let’s say you fancy taking a class in something new – dancing – and your friends poo poo the idea immediately as a ridiculous waste of time, something you cannot succeed at. What impact would that have on you?

Choose to surround yourself instead with people who lift you up – who back you and your endeavours. Find your cheerleaders and be a cheerleader yourself, for others. Having people support you and also you witnessing others stepping into something new and unknown has a profound effect on how we see ourselves and our place in the world.

Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence. Vince Lombardi

Tip 3: Self-talk and self-compassion:

We can be so horrid to ourselves! Have you ever tuned into the internal dialogue you have with yourself, especially in those moments when we feel confidence is evading us? I have been practicing awareness of this, in me, for a number of years, and I remain appalled at what I still sometimes find myself saying to me.

Positive self-talk is one of the most effective ways to garner self confidence and yet it remains one of the hardest to cultivate. Our inner critics are at play again here, in particular our Judge – the mafia boss of all critics. “It is the one that beats you up repeatedly over mistakes or shortcomings, warns you obsessively about future risks, wakes you up in the middle of the night worrying, gets you fixated on what is wrong with others or your life…” [6]

At the risk of repeating myself, I stand firm to my belief that we cannot rid ourselves of our inner critics, but we can turn down their volume and being aware of how we speak to ourselves and practicing changing this, is an incredibly effective method. I thoroughly recommend the book Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson as an accessible way to understand inner critics and how to well, tame them!

There is significant research [7] that backs up the assertion that positive self-talk is impactful, and it helps us counteract the fact that we are hardwired to remember negative experiences over positive ones – an inbuilt safety mechanism, that in the modern world is less helpful.

Starting to change the narrative is as simple as replacing the “I cant’s … I’m useless… I’m a failure … I can’t do anything right”, with “I can try… I can do better next time… I’m learning something new… it may take me time to get this right.” It can feel silly, and it’s ripe hunting ground for your inner critics... they will tell you what a moron you are for trying this. I always assert that when they really kick off, it’s because you are on to something that puts them in jeopardy. So, tell them to ‘do one’ for a while, while you practice.

Self-compassion I can sum up in one word. Kindness. Be kind to yourself. If you wouldn’t think or say it of a friend, don’t do it to yourself. Allow your grip on perfectionism to loosen and give yourself permission to experiment and to play and crucially to mess things up, get things wrong and to fail. Allow yourself to go and play in the mud.

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. Lifehack

Tip 4: Know your mental blocks:

Mental blocks as a term feels to me a bit ‘blocky’ … I prefer the term mindset, because then I can more easily relate to the fact, yes fact, that I can choose my mindset. And choosing something feels less problematic than hiving to climb over a something that is in my path.

An instructive first step is to understand where you are now, this honesty and acceptance is a crucial element of then moving forward. So, what is your mindset now? What is the block around confidence? What specifically are you not confident in? When and where in your life are you, or have you been confident? What was happening here that was different?

To overcome fear is the quickest way to gain your self-confidence. Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

How can we challenge our current confidence mindset? My favourite: thought or fact? Is this a thought, a story, a narrative that you have, or is it factual? There is no hiding with this one! Do you find yourself saying “ooh I can’t do that…”? Let’s not beat ourselves up here, we’ve conditioned ourselves and have been conditioned to this oft being our default, when faced with a new challenge. But when immediately faced with the question – thought or fact? The most likely answer will be “thought”… because we haven’t actually tried to know what’s possible.

As such, getting practiced at asking yourself this question, and asking it of your tribe, will start the process of embedding a new mindset, one perhaps of curiosity, exploration, or experimentation. And asking it of your friends moves you more into the championing role, you are signalling to them that you don’t buy into their story and that you believe there could be more – a very empowering message to receive.

Tip 5: Get into action:

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy. Dale Carnegie

If we never try, we can never know. This is a scary one. Up to this point it’s been relatively safe, not easy, but what has been at stake has perhaps been palatable. Action – actually doing something – which will be seen by others can feel an incredibly vulnerable place to venture. And yet it is necessary if we are to grow this skill called confidence. We need the facts, we need the evidence, we need the practice.

My tip here is to hold onto your authentic self. I learnt a valuable lesson from a client on this – we were working on how to handle an upcoming difficult conversation with confidence, and I just didn’t feel we were cracking it. So I asked “what would it be like to start this conversation saying – “I’m nervous about this…”?” we cracked it with that – the client got to be themselves, no faking it till you make it, just showing up and being honest. Using the natural skills where you have strength, as opposed to grappling trying to gap fill in areas you don't. That’s confidence. It doesn’t mean it won’t be scary, or that you will suddenly feel comfortable, but it does mean that you are doing it anyway. It remains a standout moment in coaching for me.

In summary:

There is no silver bullet to feeling more confident. It comes down to realigning your beliefs to ones that are evidence based and more supportive of how you want to show up as a person. It relies on practicing new ways of thinking and acting – and keep practicing them.

Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong. Peter T Mcintyre.

If you are interested in how I can work with you around confidence, self-limiting beliefs and more, you can speak to me directly, you can book a free initial one hour session with me here

You can learn more about me on YouTube

And I am on Instagram and Facebook @start2thrive where I post nuggets I hope are of help 😊


[1] OED

[4] The Exercise Effect Kristen Weir Dec 201, The American Psychological Association

[5] ,” Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist on the University of California-Los Angeles Psychiatric Clinical Faculty

[6] Positive Intelligence Shirzad Charmine

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