Self-confidence – how you measure your abilities and skills – isn't quite the same thing as self-esteem, which is how you value yourself as a person. But it is something that people often say they would like to have more of.
Whether your self-confidence needs a major boost or just a bit of a top-up, here are some tips to get you started:
Recognise your strengths
Think about how good you feel when someone praises you and shows their appreciation for something you've said or done. Praise is a great confidence booster, but you don't always have to rely on others for it.
Give yourself a big pat on the back by thinking about all the things you do well, especially things you do better than others. Make a list if it helps. Include things such as your skills, qualifications and contacts. Then when you've finished, make a note of your best achievements. Be as objective as you can – if you're struggling, try to see yourself through someone else's eyes. What would they say you do well, or see as your greatest achievements?
And if a project has just gone badly, focus on an element what went well, as well as learning from the experience this provided. You can then focus on how you have grown as an individual and how future projects will be better.
Managing stress is essential if you want to feel confident. If you give into it, you're more likely to experience negative thoughts – which is something you should avoid if you want more self-confidence. Learning to control stress, on the other hand, can make you feel you have control over your life, which itself can be very empowering.
There are lots of things you can do to manage your stress levels more effectively. Taking regular exercise can help, since exercise releases 'relaxing' hormones called endorphins. Being active can also give you a boost by taking your mind off any thoughts that might be chipping away at your self-confidence. So try going for a walk at lunchtime instead of working through with a sandwich. You could also consider taking up a relaxing activity such as yoga or t'ai chi, both of which may help you feel calmer.
Meditation is also recommended as a way of reducing stress. Mindful meditation, which aims to make you more aware of what's happening in the present moment, is recommended by a growing number of experts these days. Try it yourself by reading our article Managing stress with mindfulness.
Do your homework
Many people, even those who normally feel sure of themselves, find their self-confidence flies out of the window whenever they're faced with certain situations – making a speech, for instance, or going for a job interview. Being as fully prepared for the event as possible is the key to overcoming performance nerves. For example, if you're taking an exam, make sure you do your studying and revising in plenty of time. Or if you're going for a job interview, find out as much as you can about the company and the position you're applying for well ahead of the day itself (read Top ten interview tips for more advice).
If you've done your homework and have all the information you need to do well, it can work wonders for your confidence.
People with bags of self-confidence are rarely put off when they confront obstacles or when things don't go according to plan. Instead, they embrace new challenges because they aren't constantly defining themselves by their failures. That way, if they do fail at something, they are much more likely to consider it as a learning experience than feel despondent about it.
Learning to be more resilient at work and at home means you may be able to cope better with most of the things life throws at you – and that in itself can give your self-confidence a huge boost.
For plenty of tips on building your resilience, read our articles 10 ways to boost your work resilience and Guide to coping with change and boosting resilience.
Try something new
You won't do your confidence levels much good if you never try new things. Sticking with what seems safe and familiar is all very well, but developing self-confidence requires taking some risks, if only to learn how not to let things get you down when you don't succeed. Overcoming the fear of failure can be a major confidence builder, but you'll never achieve if you never step out of your comfort zone.
Start by tackling something small – whether it's work-related or a personal challenge. And if things don't work out as you'd expected, remind yourself that you're still one step closer to success.
If all else fails, fake it. Even if you don't feel particularly confident, act as if you are. You may be pleasantly surprised at how positively it can affect people's reactions to you. Make sure your body language is confident: stand tall, relax your shoulders and hold your head up. Remember to keep good eye contact with others and smile – that way, people will see you as someone who's relaxed and feeling sure of yourself.
There's another good reason why you should practise faking confidence. Many experts also believe the more you practise acting as if you have lots of self-confidence, the more it will increase your real confidence levels.
Find out lots more by reading our article How to build your confidence.