What Is Confidence?

Confidence means feeling sure of yourself and your abilities — not in an arrogant way, but in a realistic, secure way. Confidence isn’t about feeling superior to others. It’s a quiet inner knowledge that you’re capable.

Confident people:

  • feel secure rather than insecure
  • know they can rely on their skills and strengths to handle whatever comes up
  • feel ready for everyday challenges like tests, performances, and competitions
  • think “I can” instead of “I can’t”

Why Confidence Matters

Confidence helps us feel ready for life’s experiences. When we’re confident, we’re more likely to move forward with people and opportunities — not back away from them. And if things don’t work out at first, confidence helps us try again.

It’s the opposite when confidence is low. People who are low on confidence might be less likely to try new things or reach out to new people. If they fail at something the first time, they might be less likely to try again. A lack of confidence can hold people back from reaching their full potential.

Believing in Yourself

Has someone told you that you’re smart? Funny? Kind? Artistic? A good student? A good writer? A good athlete?

When people praise us or recognize our skills and capabilities, it can boost our confidence — as long as we believe these good things, too. If you’ve ever doubted the good things people say about you, that’s the opposite of self-confidence.

To feel truly confident, you need to really believe you are capable. The best way to get that belief is through using your skills and talents — by learning and practicing.

Confidence helps us move forward to discover and develop our capabilities. When we see what we’re capable of and take pride in our achievements, confidence gets even stronger.

How to Be More Confident

Everyone can work to gain more confidence. Here are a few tips to try:

  • Build a confident mindset. When your inner voice says “I can’t,” retrain it to say “I can.” Or you could also say, “I know I can learn (or do) this if I put my mind to it.”
  • Compare yourself kindly. It’s natural to compare ourselves with other people. It’s a way to understand ourselves and develop the qualities we admire. But if comparisons often leave you feeling bad about yourself, it’s a sign to work on your confidence and self-esteem.
  • Shake off self-doubt. When we doubt our abilities, we feel inferior, unworthy, or unprepared. That can make us avoid people and situations we might enjoy and grow from.
  • Take a safe risk. Sign up for a school committee, volunteer to help with a project or bake sale, or try out for a team or talent show. Raise your hand in class more often. Talk to that cute kid in your science class.
  • Challenge yourself to do something that’s just beyond your normal comfort zone. Pick something you’d like to do if only you had more confidence. Give yourself a little push and do it. Now that you’ve done that, pick something else to try — and keep repeating this same process. Confidence grows with every step forward.
  • Know your talents and help them shine. We’re taught to work hard to improve our weaknesses. Sometimes that’s important, like bringing up a bad grade. But don’t let working on a weakness prevent you from getting even better at the things you’re good at.
  • Do your homework. Study. Do assignments. Prepare for class, tests, and quizzes. Why? If you’ve been keeping on top of class work all along, you’ll feel more confident in tests and finals. The best defense against test anxiety and school stress is to keep up and do the work steadily.
  • Dare to be the real you. Let others see you for who you are — mistakes, insecurities, and all. Insecurities are easier to move past when we don’t feel like we have to hide them. Embrace your quirks instead of trying to be like someone else or acting in a way that’s not true to you.

    It takes courage and confidence to be real. But the more real we are, the more self-confident we become. Confidence builds self-esteem.

Keep At It

Confidence levels go up and down for all of us, even the most confident-seeming people.

If something shakes your confidence, show yourself some understanding. Don’t criticize yourself. Learn from what happened, think what you could have done differently, and remember it for next time. Talk about what happened with someone who cares. Then remind yourself of your strengths and the things you’ve achieved. Get back in the game!

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2015