The question of how to improve self-confidence is a common one as it can be such a difficult quality to come by in this day and age.
The future appears increasingly uncertain, and it might seem more and more difficult to imagine how your life and your goals will pan out. We are also continuously bombarded with the seemingly ‘perfect’ lives of social media influencers which are easy to compare ourselves to, sometimes making us feel like our skills and abilities are less than theirs. As a result, it can be difficult to believe in ourselves and know that we are strong enough to achieve what we want in life.
Because of these reasons, now more than ever self-confidence is a vital asset which will help you go further. This guide aims to help you understand why self-confidence is so important in expanding your future potential and to give practical advice on how to improve self-confidence.
What is self-confidence?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, self-confidence is “the belief that you can do things well and that other people respect you”. It is a state of mind, an attitude, a way of thinking. It isn’t about being perfect all the time and never making mistakes. A self-confident person believes that they are talented and able, and can achieve their goals if they set their mind to it. For some very lucky people, this may come naturally. For others, it's something which takes a lot of practice. But why should we bother practising to improve self-confidence?
The importance of self-confidence
- By improving your self-confidence, you are improving your resilience. This means your ability to pick yourself back up again after a setback because you are confident enough in yourself and believe that you will get where you are going eventually. You might get a rejection from a job, apprenticeship or university, or you might fail an exam. But if you are confident in yourself you know that you are not defined by small setbacks but by your qualities and your talents.
- Improving self-confidence can make you stand out. If you go into a situation believing that you will do well, you are far more likely to actually do well! In a job interview, it can be the difference between getting the job or narrowly missing the mark.
- You’re more likely to take risks and opportunities outside of your comfort zone. Applying for a job you’d usually be too afraid to apply for, trying a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try but never thought you’d be very good at, or even something like going abroad on a gap year. All of these things can take you further in life, open up new doors, and get you closer to where you want to be.
- Self-confidence is a more important quality for young people than it has ever been. The Covid-19 crisis has done a number on the job market, making it more competitive and difficult to find a job and start building a career. It also means that schools have been out for months, putting extra pressure and uncertainty on students studying for GCSEs and A Levels. Self-confidence is the knowledge and belief that you are strong enough to get through these tough times and achieve your goals despite this massive spanner in the works.
How to improve self-confidence
1. Stop putting yourself down
We often subtly present ourselves negatively in our thoughts and words, without even knowing it!
Take me for example; you will often catch me saying ‘I’m not very good at speaking to new people’. There are a lot of problems with this. First of all, it isn’t true. Recently I had a lovely chat with a friend of a friend for a few minutes, who then proceeded to gush about how much she liked my ‘vibes’. But when speaking to a different friend of a friend, all I could muster was an anecdote about a butter dish and some awkward silence. We all have off days! But this does not mean that I am always and will always be bad at talking to new people.
When we put ourselves down it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I continuously mention how bad I am at talking to new people, even though it isn’t true, in my head it becomes true. This means that in situations when I need to speak to new people, I won’t feel confident and might not come across in the best way. Similarly, if my friends think I’m not great at speaking to new people, they might be less inclined to introduce me to others. This just means that I don’t get any practice speaking to new people, so I can never improve!
Try this: when you’re having a conversation, take note when you put yourself down. Every time you start a sentence with ‘I’m not very good at (blank)’ or ‘I’m so (insert negative thing here)’ or ‘I don’t think I could ever do (blank)’, catch yourself and take a mental note. Maybe even try to turn it around: ‘I’m not very good at (blank), but maybe if I practised I would be!’.
2. Accept compliments
When we get compliments, there is often a fear that we will look stuck-up or full of ourselves if we just say ‘thank you’, or the even bolder ‘I know!’. But when we brush off compliments we are telling ourselves and others that we aren’t very confident in ourselves.
If you take on compliments and remember them, it can become a lot easier to feel confident about your abilities. You could even keep a little compliments diary, where you keep a list of compliments you receive from other people. It might seem a bit weird but can be a really nice way of reinforcing the fact that you are talented and able. In difficult times, it can serve as a reminder that even if you aren’t feeling so confident in yourself, others have confidence for you!
3. Set goals
Self-confident people know that they can achieve what they put their minds to. By setting achievable goals and hitting them every day, week, or month it is easier to feel like we are able to achieve bigger goals. Start small. Checking off tasks as seemingly small as ‘take a shower’, ‘respond to an email’ or ‘cook dinner’ can help you feel more productive because you feel a sense of satisfaction when you check things off, making you more likely to want to keep checking things off.
Hitting these small goals every day can help you feel more productive and able to take steps towards achieving bigger goals on bigger scales, weekly, monthly or even yearly! The more goals you check off, the more self-confident you will feel about achieving goals in the future. For help in getting started, have a look at Monica’s guide on how to motivate yourself.
4. Look after yourself
It is difficult to be your most confident self when you don’t feel good in your own skin. Of course, it's natural for us all to have days where we feel confident in our own bodies and other days where we want to curl up in a blanket and not face anyone. But looking after yourself, eating well, exercising, maintaining good hygiene and taking care of your mental health are important steps towards improving self-confidence.
This can be tough! Especially if you try to become a health God over the course of one week. Again, set goals and start small. Maybe start by drinking 8 cups of water a day or eating your 5 fruits and veggies a day, or exercising three times a week. Check out Jord’s guide to building healthy habits to find out how you can start feeling better and improve your self-confidence as a result.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, preparation is key. You’re much more likely to be confident in yourself and your ability to achieve something if you have prepared for it. Whip out the to-do list and consider the most effective way of preparing. For a job interview, you might set aside time to research the company thoroughly, study the job specification and practise interview questions, while for an exam you might study flashcards and do past papers.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help in this. Asking a close friend or family member for help with flashcards or interview practice, or even just validation can help you feel far more self-confident and ready to take on the world.
Remember that Fledglink is here to help you prepare for your next steps with free workshops and activities to improve your self-confidence in areas from entrepreneurship and building your brand, to being a healthier you.
6. Remember that you are enough
At the end of the day, none of us are perfect and following all of these things all of the time can be tough. Of course, there is always more practising and preparation to be done, but sometimes you need to accept your limits and simply do what you can - and be okay with that.
As long as you are doing the best you can for yourself, you are enough.
Fledglink is here to help
Finding self-confidence is most important when we are taking the next steps in life. Be it a new job, apprenticeship, or qualification, Fledglink is here to help you improve your self-confidence in taking these steps.
Found this article helpful? Watch our workshop now for more practical tips on improving your confidence!