How to Build Self Confidence: 6 Essential and Timeless Tips

by Henrik Edberg

How to Build Self Confidence: 6 Essential and Timeless Tips
Image by
*Zara (license).

“Never bend your head. Always hold it high. Look the world straight in the face.”
Helen Keller

“Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Brian Tracy

“Confidence is courage at ease.”
Daniel Maher

I believe that one of the most common wishes is simply to feel more confident in various situations in life.

But how?

Confident friends may say: “Well, just be confident, man!”. However, to a person that doesn’t feel that confident this piece of advice may not be very helpful. At all.

There are however some time-tested and timeless advice. And in this article I’ll explore some of those tips. You can learn much more about becoming more sure of yourself and building your inner strength and assertiveness in my 12-week Self-Esteem Course.

Now, I hope you will find something useful in this article to help you improve and maintain your own levels of confidence.

1. Take action. Get it done.

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.”
Thomas A. Bennett

“Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”
Thomas Carlyle

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

The most important step in building self confidence is simply to take action. Working on something and getting it done. Sitting at home and thinking about it will just make you feel worse. Simple. But not always easy to do. To make it a bit easier, here are a three of my favourite ways to make it easer to take action:

  • Be present. This will help you snap out of over thinking and just go and do whatever you want to get done. This is probably the best tip I have found so far for taking more action since it puts you in a state where you feel little emotional resistance to the work you’ll do. And it puts you in state where the right actions often just seem to flow out of you in a focused but relaxed way and without much effort. One of the simplest ways to connect with the present moment is just to keep your focus on your breathing for a minute or two.
  • Lighten up. One way to dissuade yourself from taking action is to take whatever you are about to do too seriously. That makes it feel too big, too difficult and too scary. If you on the other hand relax a bit and lighten up you often realize that those problems and negative feelings are just something you are creating in your own mind. With a lighter state of mind your tasks seems lighter and become easier to get started with. Have a look at Lighten Up! for more on this.
  • Really, really want it. Then taking action isn’t something you have to force. Taking action becomes a very natural thing. It’s something you can’t wait to do.

2. Face your fear.

“The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear.”
William Jennings Bryan

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

Look, I could tell you to do affirmations or other exercises for months in front of your mirror. It may have a positive effect. Just like preparing yourself it may help you to take action with more confidence.

But to be frank, if you don’t listen to the quotes above and face your fears you won’t experience any better self confidence on a deeper and more fundamental level. Having experiences where you face your fear is what really builds self confidence. There is no way around it.

However, there are ways to face your fears that do not include that much shaking of the knees. There are ways to make it easier for yourself.

  • Be curious. When you are stuck in fear you are closed up. You tend to create division in your world and mind. You create barriers between you and other things/people. When you shift to being curious your perceptions go SWOOSH! and the world just opens up. Curiosity is filled with anticipation and enthusiasm. It opens you up. And when you are open and enthusiastic then you have more fun things to think about than focusing on your fear. How do you become more curious? One way is to remember how life has become more fun in the past thanks to your curiosity and to remember all the cool things it helped you to discover and experience.
  • Realize that fear is often based on unhelpful interpretation. As humans we like to look for patterns. The problem is just that we often find negative and not so helpful patterns in our lives based on just one or two experiences. Or by misjudging situations. Or through some silly miscommunication. When you get too identified with your thoughts you’ll believe anything they tell you. A more helpful practise may be to not take your thoughts too seriously. A lot of the time they and your memory are pretty inaccurate.

How to Build Self Confidence: 6 Essential and Timeless Tips
Image by
*Zara (license).

3. Understand in what order things happen.

One of my favourite snippets of movie-dialogue is this one from the 1999 film “Three Kings”.

In this scene Major Archie Gates (George Clooney) wants the small team to save a fellow soldier and steal Saddam’s gold just after the first Gulf War has ended.

The young soldier Conrad Vig (Spike Jonze) has his doubts about the plan:

Archie Gates: You’re scared, right?
Conrad Vig: Maybe.
Archie Gates: The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before you do it.
Conrad Vig: That’s a dumbass way to work. It should be the other way around.
Archie Gates: I know. That’s the way it works.

Great movie. Great little piece of dialogue. Even though it may not be what people want to hear.

The thing is, when you do things you don’t just build confidence in your ability to handle different situations. You also experience progressive desensitization. What that means is that situations – like for example public speaking or maybe just showing your latest blogpost to an audience out there – that made you feel all shaky become more and more normal in your life. It is not longer something you psyche yourself up to do. It just becomes normal. Like tying your shoes, hanging out with your friends or taking a shower.

It may seem scary now. But after having done whatever you fear a few to a dozen times or so you may think: “Is that it?”. You almost feel disappointed of how anticlimactic it has become. You may even get a bit angry with yourself and wonder why you avoided doing it for so long.

4. Prepare.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self- confidence is preparation.”
Arthur Ashe

When you know nothing of what you are about to do it’s very easy to get lost in vague, foggy fear and start building big horror scenarios in your mind of what may happen if you give it a try.

Preparing yourself and educating yourself can be a big help here. By for example rehearsing and rewriting your speech over and over you can pretty much learn it by heart. By doing research you can find breathing techniques that can quickly make your calmer and present. Or simple visualization techniques that make you feel more confident and positive as you step out on the stage.

This is obviously more work than not doing anything about the speech at all before you start giving it. But it can make a huge difference in your confidence levels if you take the time to prepare yourself. And of course, the speech and the delivery of it will most likely be a lot better too.

So prepare and you will feel more comfortable and confident. Just don’t make the mistake of getting stuck in the preparation phase and using it as a way to avoid taking action and the possible pain that it may result in.

5. Realize that failure or being wrong will not kill you.

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

“I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn’t fall down.”
Allen H. Neuharth

Again, you have to face your fear. Because it is only then that you discover the thing that billions of people throughout history have discovered before you. Failure won’t kill you. Nor will being wrong. The sky will not fall down. That’s just what people that haven’t faced their fear yet think.

The thing is to reframe failure from being something that makes your legs shake to something useful and important for the growth of your self confidence and your overall growth as a human being. Here are four ways that failure can help you out:

  • You learn. Instead of seeing failure as something horrible you can start to view it more as a learning experience. When standing in the middle of a failure, you can ask yourself questions like: What’s awesome about this situation? What can I learn from this situation?
  • You gain experiences you could not get any other way.  Ideally, you probably want to learn from other people’s mistakes and failures. That’s not always easy to do though. Sometimes you just have to fail on your own to learn a lesson and to gain an experience no one can relate to you in mere words.
  • You become stronger. Every time you fail you become more accustomed to it. You realize more and more that it’s not the end of the world. And, again, you get desensitized. You can handle things that would have been very hard to handle a few years back. Failing can also a have an exhilarating component because even though you failed you at least took a chance. You didn’t just sit on you hands doing nothing. And that took quite a bit of courage and determination.
  • Your chances of succeeding increases. Every time you fail you can learn and increase your inner strength. So every failure can make you more and more likely to succeed.

And remember, the world doesn’t revolve around you. You may like to think so. But it doesn’t. People really don’t care that much about what you do. They have their own life, problems and worries that the world revolves around them to focus on. They don’t think that much about you or are constantly monitoring what you do wrong or when you fail.

Maybe a disappointing thought. But a liberating and relieving one too because now you can let go of that worry that everyone is watching you.

How to Build Self Confidence: 6 Essential and Timeless Tips
Image by
Son of Groucho (license).

6. Get to know who you are and what you want out of life.

“The world has the habit of making room for the man whose words and actions show that he knows where he is going.”
Napoleon Hill

“Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind, you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible.”
Douglas Bader

To build and find more confidence in yourself you have to get to know yourself better. Go exploring. Face some of your fears. Fail over and over and understand that it isn’t really that big of a deal. Grow stronger through such experiences and also become more internally relaxed. Figure out what really excites you by simply trying a whole bunch of stuff out.

When you know more about who you are and what you want out of life – not other people say you want – you will have more confidence in yourself and what you can do.

What other people say or think will have less of an impact than it used to because you know who you are better than they do. And since you have had all these experiences, since you have taken time to really get to know yourself and stretch yourself you will trust your own opinion and ability more than anything outside of you. You become stable and centred in yourself.

This will of course take time. It may be something that never really ends. So you might as well get started now.

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{ 78 comments }

Marc and Angel Hack Life February 20, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Great points. I think the realization that we truly do learn from out mistakes is what builds the most confidence. If I know for certain that my failures bring me one step closer to success, I’ll keep moving forward.

Henrik Edberg February 20, 2009 at 8:16 pm

@ Marc: Thanks! Yeah, using your failures in a constructive way and understanding that they are steps towards your success makes a huge difference.

Jax February 21, 2009 at 12:41 am

Hi

I just found your blog and really enjoyed your post. I am a big fan of inspirational quotes and living life with passion. When you’re looking for inspirational quotes, check out my website.

Speak with you soon,

JAX

Henrik Edberg February 21, 2009 at 12:52 am

@ Jax: Welcome and thanks for your kind words! Yep, inspirational quotes are awesome. Nice site-tip, you seem to have huge collection there.

leo February 21, 2009 at 1:11 am

this is so spot on!

Henrik Edberg February 21, 2009 at 1:13 am

@ Leo: Thank you very much, glad you liked it!

april February 21, 2009 at 2:07 am

I wish I could carry this article with me 24/7 – it’s really helpful.

Henrik Edberg February 21, 2009 at 2:25 am

@ April: Glad you liked it. :) And feel free to cut and paste the article into a Word-document, remove the images and then just print it out.

Yes, But Still... February 21, 2009 at 3:48 am

These are great!

I imagine that the ability to construe a negative situation as more positive is a learnable skill.

‘Practice makes perfect.’

Henrik Edberg February 21, 2009 at 4:05 am

@ Yes, But Still…: Thank you! Yes, from my own experience that is a learnable skill. And it becomes easier and easier to do it in various situations the more you practice. After a while – a handful of months – you may notice that your mind starts to do it almost automatically sometimes.

Gerardo February 21, 2009 at 5:02 am

nice tips

Henrik Edberg February 21, 2009 at 2:13 pm

@ Gerardo: Thanks a bunch!

John February 21, 2009 at 3:09 pm

These are good words: “And since you have had all these experiences, since you have taken time to really get to know yourself and stretch yourself you will trust your own opinion and ability more than anything outside of you. You become stable and centred in yourself”.

This is very well said and thank you for reminding all of us that only we know who we are, and only we can make decisions in our lives. All too often far too many of us weigh the opinions of others too heavily. To listen to advice and the counsel of others is wise, but we must be very careful not to let others dictate our actions. Thanks again for a great reminder, well stated.

Henrik Edberg February 21, 2009 at 4:37 pm

@ John: Thank you! Yes, it is very easy to let the opinions of others weigh too heavily in our lives. Your opinion about your life should always be the most important.

Mike King February 21, 2009 at 4:49 pm

Henrik, this is a great guide. I really like the 6th point of seeing some value in your mistakes and getting over the fear of making them.

The only thing I ever regret, is not allowing myself to make more mistakes, as I’d have progressed much quicker towards what I wanted if I allowed myself to learn from that experience.

Henrik Edberg February 21, 2009 at 4:54 pm

@ Mike: Thank you very much! Glad you liked it. Yeah, very true. And although regrets aren’t that useful, I think that is something pretty much all of us regret from time to time.

Jens Upton February 21, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Hiya

I enjoyed this post and it was a cause for much reflection. Resonant for me was the quote “Confidence is courage at ease” by Daniel Maher. My confidence expands enormously the more I relax. Precise visualisation followed by action works for me too. Someone I know said to me ‘action purifies thought’, I don’t know where he got that from but it’s accurate.
The reminder to do the things you fear but which logically offer no harm, is always gratefully received. I even get a buzz from doing it now.

thanks
Jens

Henrik Edberg February 22, 2009 at 2:53 pm

@ Jens: Good point. I have noticed that too. When I lean back, lighten up and relax I become more stable, centered and feel more confident. And you’re welcome, glad to hear the reminder helps you.

CathD February 22, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Great post. For me, confidence is all about having the ability to switch off your stress response. The stress response narrows our thinking and creativity and, we become “all sail and no rudder.” Whenever we’re growing, it’s natural that we’ll experience fear. And fear triggers the stress response. So if we want to grow, without the negative effects of the stress response, we need to learn to pull ourselves out of the stress response. And your confidence tips are all really useful for this.

One thing would that would boost each of these tips is to add deep breathing – take a few deep breaths before you take action/ challenge your story/ prepare, etc. Deep breathing is the quickest, most effective way to shift yourself from stress response to calm and confident.

Fazil December 21, 2009 at 1:45 pm

dear,

please note that if you really want to achieve something in life then observe how things happen. and you will know how to inculcate confidence in yourself.

thanks

fazil
+92 334 3626246

Honoration February 23, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Great post Henrik! Right on the money.

It made me want to jump off my chair and take action right now :-)

Thank you very much!

selfhelpblogger February 23, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Wow. This is a big one. It all depends on what you want to be confident about. There is so many factors that go into confidence. It is hard to cover all. One thing I would say is to become knowledgeable on the situation you want to be confident about. Learning how to think threw the situation will dispel fear

Brianna February 24, 2009 at 6:01 am

Your posts are high points in my days. Thanks for the reminder that it is okay to lighten up and that failure will not kill you. Those are necessary reminders for this Type A girl. :)

Michael Gaudet February 24, 2009 at 7:10 pm

I could not agree more, Henrik. Confidence is key when it comes to accomplishing your heart’s desire. Though it waxes and wanes, there is no doubt in my mind that confidence springs eternal from the courageous heart. When you say “Go exploring. Face some of your fears. Fail over and over and understand that it isn’t really that big of a deal.” you hit the bull’s-eye!
The outcome of that exploration is not the be all and end all. Rather, the process of taking the progressive steps are where the value lies.
While it is always better to win than to lose, the experience of tackling the learning curve with a positive attitude always yields a rich reward.
CathD said “Deep breathing is the quickest, most effective way to shift yourself from stress response to calm and confident.”
Again, I agree but would add: after you have completed a project (or attempted to) it is useful to ‘take a deep breath’ and dig calmly into the results to decide what worked and what didn’t and then carry on from there. My spin on this is to strive to detach your ego from the process and rise above the outcome.

inferno February 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Wow really good post, it affects through so many things in life. It is a article that I wanted to write myself. One question. I have been facing mine fears more and more in 2009. To a point where when I feel that fear feeling that I want to face it because it makes me feel so good. This is leading to feeling that fear feeling less and less and I am wondering how to discover what mine fears are at this moment. Do you have any tips for that? Of course I don’t want to feel fear but I like the feeling when facing that fear! Great article.

Henrik Edberg February 25, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Thanks for all the positive feedback, guys!

@ CathD: I agree, deep breathing is a great thing to help you shift your emotions into into a more helpful space.

@ Honoration: Awesome! :) Glad you enjoyed the post that much.

@ selfhelpblogger: Yeah, knowing more about the situation will help you out a lot.

@ Brianna: Glad to hear you are enjoying the reminders and find them helpful. And yes, lightening up make a big difference.

@ Michael Gaudet: Yep, the process is most often what’s most important value-wise. And thanks for the tip about reviewing the results, it sounds helpful.

DAnny March 1, 2009 at 4:27 am

this is good stuff
What’s most meaningful to me is the “lighten up” bit.
The whole article is just smartly written man nice job

Saidely March 1, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Howdy

As Always :
very insightful , thanks a lot for the article
I am still continuing my UN completed symphony , final stages after reading this ;)

Best Regards,
Saidely M.
Iraq

Nan March 26, 2009 at 8:14 am

Your post was very helpful for a person like me who’s confidence has nose dived badly in the last few yrs!It made me feel a whole lot better! Thanks!!:-) Could you please also write some tips on ‘How to maintain eye contact with people while talking to them’.Would really appreciate it!

Nan
(India)

wycliffe muya njoroge April 28, 2009 at 9:19 am

i just found as if i have been reborn,it`s wow and amazing advise.

Demond May 16, 2009 at 7:56 am

John, thank you for such an inspiring post. I needed to hear this message because I am about to embark on a project that scares the dickins out of me. But I know I can do it. It’s crazy how the brain works.

If you do the thing that scares us, then confidence comes, not before. Thanks again.

rusty June 7, 2009 at 1:59 am

thanks for the help

rama June 21, 2009 at 5:03 am

Thanks for your post! Yeah, to face one’s fear (that is checking whether that fear is valid or not) and moving out of the box slash your comfort zone would definitely <a href=” http://www.selfmademiracle.com/motivationmodel/how-can-a-person-improve-self-confidence/ improve self confidence .

rama June 21, 2009 at 5:04 am

Thanks for your post! Yeah, to face one’s fear (that is checking whether that fear is valid or not) and moving out of the box slash your comfort zone would definitely improve self-confidence.
http://www.selfmademiracle.com/motivationmodel/how-can-a-person-improve-self-confidence/

anusuya devi August 4, 2009 at 5:03 pm

they are accurate

Aj August 11, 2009 at 12:59 am

I totally needed this in my life. I am struggling a bit right now but I hope it will get better.

Asha August 25, 2009 at 11:11 am

Really good site …….Thanks a lot……….It helped me too ……….

Kartik August 26, 2009 at 11:48 pm

I chanced upon this article and I really liked it.
I’ve been drifting along lately. I don’t seem to have much control over stuff thats happening with me anymore. You article was very inspiring and thoughtful. Thanks a lot. I hope to learn from it and get out of my current situation.

self improvement September 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Awesome article. Just laid so simply, yet so brilliantly. Your 2, 3 and 5 ring so true. You got to face your fear, and do the thing you fear first, before we can get rid of the fear.

Another tip that works me before trying to face my fears is – imagining doing that in my mind first. Working it in my mind, repeatedly, makes it easier to project that confidence in real life, whenever that situation happens for real. I touch upon few more ideas at:

http://www.self-improvement-advice.org/how-to-build-confidence.html

Thanks for your inspiring article.
Pat

Dan September 28, 2009 at 3:04 am

This was instantly added to my Favourites. I’ve noticed an almost immediate shift in my behavoiur in terms of directly confronting my fears for the rewards i will get from that process, rather than avoiding them.

Great Stuff Henrik!

Nicolas October 13, 2009 at 5:49 am

Really helpful, anybody thinking they have a large lack of self confidence should definitely read this article.
I can hardly describe how much this has helped me.

fozeya seid November 6, 2009 at 4:59 pm

dear friends

how are you doing? i am very fine first of all i would like to thank you so much to given me this oppounity to leave my sugestion in this box my name is fozeya seid i am working one of the international NGO here it is in ethiopia i have self confidence and want to build others persons self confidence peoples specially for kids and young communityies i have hard working to change our new community to give a leature to the acdamy and school currently beause our community spcially in africa the main obstacle for our development is self confidence, good freindship,honest, loyal, respectful, don’t lisen our self this all thing makes as allways poor and luck of this all things we are back for other developed countries so this all problems must be solved by this generation and to build pure and good community for our socity that is my aim & my dream also to see the kids to change there own personlity to good quality and also i need to be established this postive thinkers community in the futre thank you for given to me this chance

hope to hear from you favirable response soon
yours truly
fozeya seid ahmed
addis ababa ethiopia
p.o.box 172 code1250
tel +251911532239
e-mail fozeyaa847@gmail.com

miss reserved November 17, 2009 at 6:32 pm

hi, i absolutely loved this article. thanx so much! one question: is being reserved equal to having no confidence? im a very reserved person by nature. it takes time for me to open up to people and let my hair down. does that mean i lack self confidence?

again thanx so much, im saving this up :)

Fazil December 21, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Dear Ms Reserved,

Being reserved with people does not mean that you lack confidence.

some people do not open because it is their nature.

thanks

fazil
+92 334 3626246

Jawad November 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm

How are you hope you will be fine with good health,
And then I am thankful to you for your very positve blog Actually I have some question in my mind and I want to explore my self in front of you. And i really need a guideline from you to build up my confidence.
Actually I am 27 year old graduate and doing job in hotel which is locate in Islamabad (Pakistan). I have a big problem that I cant face big problem and really don’t have decision making power, that why I am very far from other person who are same my age but there spending a successful life, I am a along single person with a limited lifestyle and friends.
I just want to ask that can you give a guideline and tips that how can I create decision making power in my self and how can I build up my confidence in front of other people,
I am really worried about my future because with these problems I am not looking my future more bright.
So please Sarah, help me in this way and bring me out from these problem which I am facing every day.
I am really feeling my self very loneness and sad and even a useless person in this world.
I am writing you this with a great hope and I am sure that you must help me and give me useful tips about it.
I will be thankful to you …

Best wishes & Regards

Jawad
Islamabad
Pakistan.

john January 18, 2010 at 12:28 am

Hi Jawad,

I just read your letter and understood that you have a problem in decision making. Just want to tell you that youre not alone . I admit that me also having problem same with you. and thats why i response to your letter even im not the one that you expecting to reply.

Anyway , what im suggesting to you before you decide for any situations you have to look for different side . In order to get a right or correct decision.

ok…………….

Hashimi December 2, 2009 at 9:02 am

I do not agree that facing your fears will automatically make you have more self-confidence in all situations. For example, I have put countless hours into studying for my college biology, chemistry and physics tests until the point where I feel very confident however, every test I get back I make between a B and C-, never have I made an A despite all my efforts!

Being in college for the past 3.5 years has greatly diminished my self-confidence because I am constantly being told I’m not good enough by my test scores. I used to be a happy girl who was always smiling and exuding self-confidence. Now I’m someone who stays in the shadows and constantly envies other students intellect and good grades. Despite the fact that my grades are constantly lowering my self-confidence, I have never given up and if you ask me that is “staring your fears directly in the face” but my self-confidence has only decreased.

AJ December 27, 2009 at 8:13 am

This happened to me as well. Try a different school or a different course. This helped me to start regaining confidence.

Niki December 29, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Hi!It was an extremely helpful article.thank you so much.I enjoyed it from the very first line “to hold my head high and look the world straight in the face” to the very end!I just hope I remember all these wonderful facts while I don’t have them in front of me!
Hope to hear more
Niki
P.S. Is there anyplace for us to ask our questions?

fati January 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm

thank you so much for this article.

Midhun Jose January 16, 2010 at 3:44 am

very nice article…. simple but very powerful… all these principles are known to everyone. But you have put it concrete……

john January 18, 2010 at 12:15 am

hi!!!!!!!
what a wonderful message that you brought out on this blog. I realized now i need to face my fears in order to build my confidence . So i will start now and wish me goodluck. Rest assured that ill put these all – from my heart and mind.
GOD BLESS AND MORE POWER

ROMIN January 22, 2010 at 10:52 pm

WOW! Very well explain. Thanks a lot. I realized now what to do to improve myself. I am very impress. From now on a reborn “ME” will soar high and always head up above.
More power and God bless…..

Amol March 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I like this tipse

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