Self-confidence, an internal state of mind, can describe the attitudes and beliefs people hold regarding their abilities and strengths. People who have high levels of self-confidence may feel sure they will achieve what they set out to do and maintain a steady sense of control over their lives. Self-confident people generally trust in their abilities, their power, and their judgment.
Self-confidence, or a person’s faith in internal abilities, differs from conceit or boastfulness, terms often used to refer to what might be considered excessive self-pride. Self-confidence better describes a belief in one’s ability to do well based on a series of past successes. Those who are self-confident generally continue to believe in themselves and their abilities regardless of the challenge or task before them, and they may be more likely to take risks, try new things, and acquire new skills.
Some use the terms confidence and self-confidence to describe the same concept; however, self-confidence extends beyond confidence. Some people are confident in their ability to write a research paper the night before it’s due, while others are confident in their ability to run a marathon, for example. But simple confidence typically depends on the situation, and it differs from self-confidence in this way. People can be confident in one area or another, but people who are self-confident may believe that with enough knowledge and practice, they will achieve competence in most areas.
Some compare self-confidence to self-esteem, and though there is some overlap between these two concepts, they are also distinct. Self-esteem, which is internal, refers to a person’s feelings about the self. Self-confidence has to do with a person’s interactions with the external world. The degree to which people appreciate and value themselves is measured by self-esteem, and the degree to which people believe in their abilities is measured by self-confidence. Having high self-esteem does not guarantee self-confidence; similarly, a person who is extremely confident might still have low self-esteem.
Self-esteem and self-confidence can be used to improve upon each other. For example, a teacher might value herself as a person but may not believe in her ability to demonstrate her worth in front of a classroom. If she desired to improve her overall self-confidence, she might draw from her self-esteem, using positive affirmations to build faith in her abilities.
Why Is Self-Confidence Important?
Some people experience negative effects from a lack of self-confidence, though others may feel content even though they lack confidence in certain areas. Researchers and other experts point out that it is not actually necessary to be confident about every aspect of life, especially when a person’s self-esteem is well-developed.
However, some individuals who lack self-confidence may struggle with assertiveness, communication skills, or social anxiety. Deficits in these areas can create dissonance in one’s career, relationships, and state of mind. Individuals may feel inferior, have little drive to succeed, lack direction in life, feel useless, or experience feelings of bitterness and resentment toward others. Working to develop greater self-confidence can be beneficial for many, as self-confidence can not only prevent difficulties in these areas but also help to increase mental and emotional well-being.
- Self-esteem and well-being: Self-confidence can inform how people feel about themselves in a cyclical way. In other words, the more self-confident people feel, the more likely they will be to take risks to improve their circumstances. The more risks they take, the greater the likelihood they will find success. The more success they experience, the better they tend to feel about themselves, and so on. This can develop into a self-sustaining cycle that promotes overall satisfaction with one’s life.
- Empowerment: Self-confidence can impact a person’s sense of self-efficacy. The more a person believes in the self, the more empowered that person is likely to feel, especially with regard to trying new things. Self-confidence can also have a snowball effect on a person’s ability to achieve personal goals. Challenges often appear less daunting thanks to past successes, leading many to feel powerful and in control of the future.
- Anxiety reduction: A self-confident attitude can help people feel better able to overcome obstacles. As a result, they may experience less ambiguity when facing new challenges and less fear and anxiety associated with unfamiliar situations. Self-confident people may be more likely to approach new adventures with a positive mindset rather than an anxious or fearful one, expecting to learn something valuable and gain benefit from the experience.
- Less stress, more energy: People who are self-confident may be less likely to experience anxiety and self-doubt about their goals and actions and may accordingly experience less stress. Greater peace of mind can facilitate an energized lifestyle focused on happiness and goal achievement.
- Improved interpersonal relationships: If self-confidence promotes happiness, then it follows that it can improve the quality of a person’s relationships. Because people who experience self-confidence tend to trust in themselves and their abilities, they may feel empowered and be more successful than those who lack self-confidence. These qualities can facilitate relationship success, as self-assurance may increase a person’s ability to focus energy on another’s needs in addition to their own needs. This self-sufficiency can lead to balanced, strong relationships. The degree to which people appreciate and value themselves is measured by self-esteem, and the degree to which people believe in their abilities is measured by self-confidence.
- Success: A typical human goal is achieving success. The more people achieve, the more skilled they may become. When people fail consistently, they may become avoidant and/or feel stifled. Self-confidence can lay a path toward success by providing people with the tools needed to develop faith in their abilities and keep trying.
Strategies for Developing Self-Confidence
Self-confidence is a trait that people can generally learn and develop, and any of the following strategies may help a person increase self-confidence:
- Block negative thoughts: People can train themselves to think differently and to reframe their view of new or anxiety-producing experiences. Some can accomplish this alone, but a counselor or therapist, especially one trained to provide cognitive behavioral therapy, may be able to offer assistance. With determined mental focus, people can often reduce pessimistic thoughts that may prevent them from realizing the full extent of their abilities and/or potential.
- Assertiveness training: When people are assertive, they are often better able to get their needs met. Assertiveness training can not only help improve self-confidence, but it can also help with social anxiety, depression, and anger issues.
- Build self-esteem: When self-esteem increases, self-confidence usually follows suit. Self-esteem building activities, such as making a list of personal strengths and achievements, practicing self-acceptance exercises, or developing concrete plans to address areas of weakness, can all be effective in promoting self-esteem and self-confidence.
- Positive affirmations: Many mental health practitioners consider replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations to be a more effective practice than simply blocking the thoughts. Studies have shown that positive self-talk can improve overall health and well-being, and self-confidence, which represents faith in one’s abilities, may increase as a result of positive self-talk about those abilities.
- Goal-setting and rewards: Incentives can help people achieve any number of goals, and the process of building self-confidence is no different. People can set realistic goals to build self-confidence and use rewards to reinforce the positive meaning behind their accomplishments. For example, as person might choose to dedicate a few hours of time to an activity they enjoy after successfully navigating a challenging situation, for example.
- Counseling and mental health support: Counselors, therapists, and/or life coaches are available to provide support to those who wish to build their self-confidence. Therapy sessions can be a safe space for people to work on their self-confidence goals at their own pace.
Can Self-Confidence Improve Mental Health?
Although research explaining the effects self-confidence might have on mental health is somewhat limited, a study examining the emotional intelligence of college students found a positive correlation between self-confidence and mental health. Positive thinking is known to be beneficial to mental and emotional well-being and is also known to boost self-confidence.
Therapy can be helpful in improving self-confidence. Mental health professionals can support people through the process of learning how to block negative thoughts, processing past trauma that has led to diminished levels of self-confidence, making meaning out of past failures, understanding current barriers to success, and setting self-confidence goals that can be worked toward at a safe and realistic pace. This work may not only boost self-confidence but can improve mental health overall.
- Assertiveness training. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.abct.org/Information/?m=mInformation&fa=fs_ASSERTIVENESS
- Fincke, D. (2011, October 4). Confidence versus self-confidence (and the will to power). Retrieved from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2011/10/confidence-vs-self-confidence
- Florence, J. (2014, November 6). Building confidence and self-esteem. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-florence/building-confidence-and-s_b_6111172.html
- Gruber, K. (2015, July 23). The importance of self-confidence. Retrieved from http://www.livestrong.com/article/138172-the-importance-self-confidence
- Neelima, M. (2013, April 16). A study of self-confidence and mental health in relation to emotional intelligence of college students. Retrieved from http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/handle/10603/8075
- Positive thinking: stop negative self-talk to reduce stress. (2014, March 4). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950
- Roberts, E. (2012, May 2). The difference between self-esteem and self-confidence. Retrieved from http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2012/05/the-difference-between-self-esteem-and-self-confidence
- Self-Confidence. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.uq.edu.au/student-services/counselling/self-confidence
Last Updated: 10-13-2016
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