How to become a more confident person



Have you had those experiences in which for one moment you feel super confident that you can achieve almost anything you want, but for the next moment self-doubt rises in your head and you lose the confidence and courage to go for what you want?

It’s not uncommon to have these ups and downs in our confidence levels.  During the past year, I feel I’ve been constantly flexing my confidence muscles as I undertake my own adventure in pursuing a life and career on my own terms.  I have to constantly step out of my comfort zone, test out new things and be ready to accept setbacks. There are countless moments when my self-doubt kicks in – but there are also times when I learn from my mistakes to become more confident, resilient and ready to face up the challenges.

The issue of confidence not only features again and again in my personal life but also in my work with my clients on their life and career transitions. When we are faced with challenges and uncertainties in life, be it a change of career path, or the start-up of a new venture, it is often what we believe about ourselves that makes a difference in how we approach these challenges and what results we can achieve. Our self-belief might be affected by many different factors, but we need to know that self-belief doesn’t have to be fixed — it can be developed.

Stanford Professor, Dr Albert Bandura, was the first psychologist to propose the concept of self-efficacy, defined as “the belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations”. Put simply, Self-efficacy is one’s belief in his ability to achieve a certain goal in a particular situation, and such belief has a key role in how we think, feel, and act.

According to Bandura, our self-efficacy comes from four sources: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. I will go through each of them in more detail below and share with you my take on how you can use the findings from this body of research to improve your confidence in work and life.

1. Take action and complete a difficult task.

The first source of self-efficacy is performance accomplishments, which means if we can master what we do and accomplish our goals in doing it, then our confidence level are raised. The flip side is that, if you’ve got repeated failures, you might argue your confidence will be lowered and therefore not even bother trying. But it doesn’t have to work that way. Although failure can make us feel frustrated, see it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes so that you can do better next time. Every time you fail, you learn something new and “fail with one step forward”. However, if you take no action at all, you will just stand still, and one year later you’d wish you had started today.

How to interpret your failure also affects your confidence. Studies found that students who explain their poor performance as lack of efforts demonstrate higher level of confidence than those who explain it as low ability. Next time you have self-doubts in your situation, adopt a growth mindset by acknowledging that your ability is not fixed, and you can learn new skills and develop it by taking actions and putting in the effort. The more effort you put into it, the better you will be, and the more confident you will become.

2. Find a role model.

People do not rely purely on their experienced mastery as the sole source of self-efficacy. They also gain confidence by observing others performing a similar task or achieving a similar goal successfully. This is what Bandura mean by “vicarious experience” as the second major source of information which individuals use to form self-belief judgment.

If you are making a career change, talk to someone who has made a successful move will give you more confidence than surrounding yourself with people who don’t believe it’s possible. If you are starting up your own business, connect with those who are already successful in the field and learn from them about their experience. You will gain energy and confidence from the success of others, and you will believe it’s possible.

3. Build your A-team

Verbal persuasion is widely used to influence human behaviours as people are often led into believing they can overcome the challenge or achieve the goal at hand. Bandura suggested that people who are socially persuaded that they have what it takes to overcome difficult situations and are provided with the support for effective actions are more likely to mobilise greater effort than those who receive only performance aids.

This highlights the importance of building your A-team – people who believe in you and who can give you the support you need. Find a mentor who can encourage you and advocate for you at the workplace, or a coach who can give you valuable feedback, and hold your vision until you are ready to step into it. When choosing your A-team, make sure they are people who takes your best interest at heart and with whom your values are aligned.

4. Make friend with your inner critic

From my personal experience, verbal persuasion applies not only to external social contacts, but also your internal talk. The inner critic can be your worst critic. Sometimes no matter how strongly other people believe in you, if your inner critic keeps telling you “you can’t do it”, you confidence may well be undermined by your very own voice.

Therefore it helps a lot to make friend with your inner critic. Some people try to silence their inner critics, but that’s a battle they cannot win. Your inner critic is part of you. It develops over time since your childhood and carries a lot of your experience and memory. Acknowledge that it is part of you and that it is probably trying to protect you from feeling hurt or shamed.

Next time when you hear your inner critics is undermining your confidence, try acknowledge it with a smile and say to it with compassion and confidence: “thank you for your reminder, but I know what I want to do now”.

5. Use your body and emotion

The final source of confidence is your physical and emotional state. This may not be obvious, but a large amount of research has shown that consciously or subconsciously you will draw information from your body and emotion to make judgment about your ability to deal with a challenge. Negative emotions, such as anxiety, can weaken your confidence. On the other hand, positive emotions, such as gratitude, love, and joy, allow you to be more resourceful and creative in overcoming challenges, and therefore help you become more confident.

Similarly, we also draw a lot of information from our body and postures which affects our confidence level. In this popular TED talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy shares her research on how “power posing” (e.g., standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident) can affect the cortisol levels in our brain and therefore has a positive impact on our chances for success.

If you want to effectively use your emotion and body to boost confidence, the first step is to be more aware of them. Before you enter an important meeting or go into an interview, check how you feel at that point, and if necessary go to the bathroom and try a two-minute power posing session!

Now I’d like to hear from you. Which one of the tips resonates most with you? What actions have you taken or are you going to take to become more confident in your work and personal life? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section.

If you like this article, please share it with your friends, especially those who need a boost of confidence to be a step closer to what they want!

Until next time,


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