Is confidence a skill that can be learnt?

15 min read

“Buck up! Be confident! Stay uptight! Yes, you can do it! Don’t cry!”

These are phrases we often hear while growing up, and all of them intend for us to be confident and comfortable with who we are. Unfortunately, in reality, they send a message of disapproval about who we are, and that there is something that we need to change about ourselves.

It is worth asking if we genuinely end up becoming confident or comfortable in our way of ‘being’ by listening to these comments. Confidence is rooted in our self-worth (how worthy do we feel that we deserve good things in life, which may include love, power, affection, care, connections, money and more); and self-esteem (how competent do we feel to get those things come real or alive in our lives).

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Why is confidence an important skill?

Confidence gives you more assurance in the experience of life. Having confidence helps you move towards potential and opportunities. When things are not quite as expected, we have faith in ourselves. This does not happen when our confidence is low.

Confidence plays a huge role in the way we perform on our job, and also in how we establish and maintain meaningful connections with people in our personal and social lives. The moment we feel confident in our own skin is when we feel we deserve something better and therefore strive to achieve things in life that we consider worthwhile.

Self-confidence can help us achieve success in virtually everything we do, however many people struggle with confidence which in turn results in lower self esteem and this can become a vicious cycle. Those who have lower levels of self-confidence have a reduced chance of succeeding as they are less likely to stand up for themselves, less able to speak up when they have new ideas and less likely to take on new opportunities for fear of failure. On the other hand, those with higher levels of self-esteem are more able to speak with confidence and make themselves heard, are less fearful of making decisions and mistakes or worrying about what others think, and as a result, are more likely to take on new opportunities and succeed. Your faith and belief in yourself radiate the faith others have in you. Therefore, being self-confident is a significant skill.

Is confidence a skill or a personality trait you’re born with?

Confidence is seen as one’s way of being. Now, whether we call it a quality or a skill that can be learnt is contextual. Some people are labelled as born confident. It is likely that the comments they heard growing up made them believe in themselves. We need people around us who believe in us first, in order for us to then believe in ourselves.

There is no pill that you can take to become confident. Building confidence is a slow and gradual process, where you learn to see yourself as confident. It demands hard work and is possible with support.

6 ways to build self-confidence in your daily life

  1. Avoid comparing yourself to others and identify your unique strengths

Each one of us is unique in our own way. No two people can uphold the same strength in similar situations. Identify what strength you bring in various situations. There must be something unique about you that you haven’t yet explored. There is NO benchmark to the strength that you possess, that we can compare with others. Fish in water respond very differently as opposed to other animals in the jungle. Knowing your unique strengths and weaknesses can help you assess what brings out the best in you in various situations and help you gain confidence.

  1. Set SMART goals

Watching yourself meet your goals can help you develop confidence. However, it can also work the other way around. Therefore, how we set our goals is the key. Unrealistic goals can spiral you down to feeling doubtful about your abilities. Aim for setting achievable goals. To feel self confident, make sure you set SMART goals, that is, S=specific, M=measurable, A=attainable, R=realistic, and T=timebound.

  1. Practice reframing your unhelpful thoughts

“I am so dumb! I don’t think I can do this!”

Sometimes, it’s our inner voice that brings us down. These negative thoughts may feel like heavy baggage, contributing to low self-esteem. With the help of your therapist or counsellor, you can navigate or initiate the process of reframing unhelpful thoughts, and substituting them with helpful ones. You can also try Wysa, an AI-powered mental app which contains self-help tools based on cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to help you reframe your thoughts. These unhelpful thoughts may be deeply rooted and therefore demand time and consistency to change.

  1. Process your fears

We all have fear associated with something or the other in our lives. Other people may find these fears irrational, however, they are real and valid as an experience even if they may sound ‘irrational’ to others.

Fears also trigger low self-confidence. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking and of being embarrassed in public, or being perceived as ‘funny’, it is capable of making you feel under-confident to speak in front of people. In order to process your fears, take small steps that seem less threatening. For example: in this case, you can start by speaking in front of a small group of two or three people you trust. Celebrate these small efforts that you take in order to come closer to your fears. In the process, you might notice your confidence levels shifting.

  1. Count the significant people in your life

There are significant people in your life who value you or love you in the way you are. Reminding yourself that they value and love you for who you are because you matter and are worthy. In situations where you feel you lack confidence, try seeing yourself from the eyes of your significant others. This may help you realise that you are enough, and can instantly change the way you feel and think about yourself.

  1. Focus on the process rather than the outcome

Often when we think of a task, event, deliverable, or anything which demands us to perform or work, we inevitably associate our worth, confidence and competence with the end result. If the outcome is favourable, our confidence levels are likely to go up. If the outcome is not favourable or bad, we tend to doubt our ability to perform the next time. It is a vicious circle—the higher the confidence levels, the better the outcomes; and vice-versa. What gets missed in this are small milestones during the process that contributed to our reaching closer to the outcome. Focusing on the process instead of the outcome can make a difference in acknowledging yourself as competent and worthy enough. Try to at least notice which of your strengths contributed to executing the task. This has the potential to help you build confidence.

5 tips to tackle low confidence at work

A man looking at his laptop with an expression of excitement

  1. Accept and ask for constructive feedback

Feedback often sounds more like criticism than helpful feedback. It can either make or break confidence levels. One of the best ways to provide feedback is in a sandwich form. Start with a connection—something that is good about the person, or a skill that you connect with. Then, fill the sandwich with a disconnect—mentioning things that could be improved, or you disconnected with. Finally, close the feedback with another connection. Make sure that you receive the feedback as a gift, and the person giving the feedback should give it from their highest self, free from biases. If you are an employer, you can boost your employees’ confidence by giving them concrete feedback about their strengths.

Remember, as much as it is your responsibility to work towards feeling confident about yourself, it is also the responsibility of the people around you to not belittle you, but rather believe in you.

  1. Create space to make mistakes

Allow yourself to make low-stake mistakes. Failure can leave you with opportunities to reflect on what went well, and how it could be improved the next time. In addition, it can allow you to go easy on yourself. Remember that no one is perfect, and focusing only on perfection can have a negative effect on your confidence levels.

  1. Ask for help

Asking for help is a sign of strength rather than weakness. At any point, if you feel doubtful about your abilities or feel confused—just ask for support. This support could be in the form of asking for clear expectations regarding your job role or maybe for mentoring. Having clarity on what you can offer and where you need support is a stepping stone towards feeling more self confident.

  1. Celebrate your achievements

Small wins often go unnoticed, especially when you are struggling with confidence. There are always little steps that help you to achieve the larger outcome. Define the milestones that will help you achieve your larger goal, and pat yourself on the back when you see those milestones being achieved. It is essential that you recognise the efforts that you have put towards achieving your larger defined goal. Just the act of recognising the small wins in your job can potentially increase your confidence levels.

  1. Try guided visualisation techniques

Visualisation is a process of forming imagery in your mind. Research shows that it is a powerful tool to convince your mind and heart to believe something. For example, imagining moving certain parts of your body almost trains the muscles as much as the actual movement.

Wysa contains several guided visualisation exercises to help you in building self-confidence. You could try its meditations and audio exercises to help you cultivate inner strength and become your most confident self.

Photo by Emmy E

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio 

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