We often put in question our abilites and apptitudes to achieve certain goals. Just as important as motivation, self confidence build us as persons and help us achieving goals.
But gaining self confidence can be hard for some people. You may be really good at motivating yourself, but if you have no confidence over what you are capable of, you'll definitely end up way below your limits.
In this post you'll be able to read and learn about self confidence, what it is and why it's important. We'll finish the post with practical applications and a quick list with tips to help you gain self confidence and go back on track.
As we usually do, let's define what self confidence stands for:
1. Realistic belief or expectations of achieving success
2. Attitude about your skills and abilities
Both definitions are valid, but they give different perspectives. The first ones gives an insight into the psychological aspects, while the second one is more about actions and reality of slef-confidence.
As it happens with motivation, the degree of your self confidence will determine to what extent you are able to achieve your goals. Let's use an analogy to explain this:
Imagine you are in a car, and you need some fuel to start the engine. You go to the gas station and fill up the tank. Back in the car, you have now 3h on the road to get back home, but you forgot the GPS. But you are not done yet. You have sense of orientation, memory, and you are able to get home without the use of GPS. After three hours you are safe home and ready to go and get some rest after the long day.
What's the fuel? Motivation.
What are the apptitudes and tools that enable you to get home even without a GPS? Self confidence.
You had to find yourself a way to get home, and you believed on yourself. Even agains the highest adversities, self confidence is what enables us to reach goals and put our apptitudes into play.
Sources of self confidence
Now you may wonder: and where does this it come from?
There are many sources stated (source). This is constrained and determined by each subject, the lifestyle and the environment in where they are built in. But for the sake of simplicity, these are the five general sources:
- Personal experiences: memory and past experiences determine your willingness to do/not do certain things.
- The experience of others: if he can do it, why wouldn't you able to do it as well?
- Social comparison: competition and comparative results to believe in your apptitudes.
- Social persuasion: the art of convincing others and boost self-confidence on the others
- Emotional arousal: how you manage your emotions
By looking at the different sources we can conclude that 1) our self confidence is not fully formed by ourselves and 2) our environment and experiences are the main factors affecting self confidence
TYPES OF SELF CONFIDENCE
There is a huge variety of classifications based on where you look at. This controversy made it hard to find how self confidence could be classified. But after looking and looking at different sources, I came up with my own classification:
“Experience-based” self confidence
This is based on your past experience. The well-known "if I've done it once, I can do it twice" plays an important role here.
Our past experiences are telling us what we are capable of. If yesterday I was able to wake up at 5am and get to work, why wouldn't I do it today? These smalls reflexions and changes lead to your goal at a faster rate.
“Unwarranted” Self confidence
Sometimes self confidence is overpowered. And that can be dangerous if you don't know how to manage. People of this kind tend to believe they are the best at what they do and there's noone better than them.
“Blind” Self confidence
When you are commited to a goal to a very high extent, you go blind towards it. Motivation is so high that you assume you have the required apptitudes and knowledge to achieve what you are aiming for. And that is totally alright. If not have them at the start, apptitudes will built by themselves as they are needed.
“Social-commited” Self confidence
Then social environment can affect our self-confidence, both boosting or flattening it. As I read once the highly recommended "The motivational hacker" (get it here), social commitment is essential to build self confidence and motivation.
Sometimes you need people to tell you and confirm what your apptitudes are. This way you'll be way more sure of what you can achieve.
SCIENCE BEHIND SELF CONFIDENCE
Self confidence refers to the actions and thoughts that lead to the shaping of our personality. And these actions have somehow an effect of our brain. Our brain is formed by neurons connected between them by synapses (study).
When we perform and thoughts positively boosting our self-confidence, areas called "Value Areas" in our brain are up-regulated (source). These areas include the prefrontal cortex and ventral stratium (study). When these areas are activated, peptide and hormone production takes place in order to feel more confident, happy, and feel a higher reward and pleasure.
Neuroscience relating self confidence and biochemical changes in the brain is very scarce, and swe'll definitely have to wait a couple more years to see the first insights on how self-confidence is built within our brain structure.
SELF CONFIDENCE AND SPORTS
Before getting into the practical applications, we must cover what's is our field of interest. How does self confidence affect our physical performance?
As they cite in Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 1988, Vol. 16, 423-457:
Self confidence (SC) is one of the most cited factors thought to affect athletic performance. SC is said to play a critical role in athletes' success; in contrast, lack of SC seems to be closely associated with athletic failure.
Self confidence is for sure a factor to consider, and may make the difference between failure and success. Higher self confidence is associated with more willpower, decision to take action and a more active behaviour to achieve success (study).
Opposite to what happens with the neural mechanisms underlying self confidence, we have quite a lot of evidence backing up self confidence and sports performance. In sumary, boosting self confidence is a recommended strategy to enhance sports performance and improve your marks. And to show this, here there are some evidence:
- In a meta-analysis studying 45 studies, they found a strong correlation between self confidence and sports performance (meta-analysis)
- A psychological skills training 3 d/week improved self confidence and sports performance on volleyball players (study)
- Psychological aspects and self confidence were related with improved performance in Dutch gymnasts (study)
- It facilitated performance on 14 interviewed world-class athletes (study)
HOW TO GAIN SELF CONFIDENCE
Now that we have gone through the main aspects of self confidence it's time to get on hands. Do you need more self confidence?
Try this small and easy ways to boost your self-confidence. I have tried most of them, and I cannot say I'm a master, but it has definitely improved over time.
- Positive affirmations and self-talking
- Look at previous achievements
- Laugh at yourself
- Write down your goals and requirements
- Train your discipline and willpower
- Go from small to big changes
- Accept who you are
- Make an internal analysis
- Try and failure
- Strengthen your weaknesses
While doing a challenging task, positive self-talking may help us achieving that task to a higher degree. On these situations, our body tends to give up in consequence of too much unnecessary effort. And we need to tell our body to stop thinking about giving up to start thinking about finishing the task.
In this study made with badminton athletes, they clearly saw that positive self-talking had postive effect not only in self-confidence, but also enhancing motivation and performance (study)
Look back at previous achievements
You need to keep your 'achievements library' open. It's the best way to remain yourself what you are capable of. And self-confidence is about that. It' about knowing what you are capable of doing (or not doing).
There will be some tasks too challenging for you at the moment. But try to relate and apply the skills gained in the past when trying to achieve previous goals. Remind yourself your capabilities and boost your self confidence.
Laugh at yourself
Everyone makes mistakes, including you and me (yes, you also make mistakes). And we can respond to mistakes in two ways:
- Exagerating the situation and giving up.
- Laughing, accepting what you did wrong and try it again.
I'm pretty sure you would rather be in group 2), right? Not only helps you achieving goals faster, but self confidence is highly boosted. It trains your willpower and discipline as well, two attitudes highly correlated.
Write down your goals
As the Stoics (practicants of Stoicism) believe, writing down goals and actions is a good strategy to keep up with our 'day a day' to grow over time. And it happens the same with self confidence. Writing down your goals and requirements to achieve it help knowing what you need in order to reach that goal.
This is a cheap and very effective way to gain self confidence. Simply take a notebook and set 5-10min everyday (at the same time if possible) to write the following:
- Your goal(s) for the day or medium/long term
- 1-3 requirements in order to achieve it (them)
- 1-3 actions that you'll carry out to improve your skills on each requirement(s)
- What skills you gained over the past day and how that could help you achieving your goal(s)
It's certainly cheap and effective. Get a notebook (these are some cheap recommended ones) and start writing your "Stoic Journal"
Train your discipline and willpower
Self confidence is about mastering different aspects of your life. If you know you are good at someting you'll be recognized for that. And that will for sure boost your self-confidence
The best way to master something is through discipline and willpower. Do it everyday, wihout failing and you'll see results sooner or later. It doesn't matter the mistakes you do at the beginning. It's about learning and acquiring apptitudes over time.
James clear says in his blog (see here) that approx. 50 days are needed to build a habit. Waking up at 5am may be hard the first month and a half, but it's during that time when you start buildng all your discipline. If you fail over that period of time, it's more likely that you'll end up giving up, and in consequence self confidence and discipline will fall.
Start with small changes
Everyone needs a transition when trying to achieve ambitious goals. When building self confidence the story is the same. This is about mastering your consciousness, and that can't be done overnight.
Don't pretend to be fully confident of yourself from day to day. That takes time, and the process it what will build and empower your self-confidence. Start with small changes (e.g writing down in a notebook what you have achieved during the day), and from there grow slowly increasing the extent of commitment and discipline.
Starting with small changes will make you realize all the improvement made during the process. And that enhances self confidence. Look at where you started and look at where you are...
Accept who you are
As we said earlier, self confidence is about knowing yourself and your capabilities. If you are faking who you are to satisfy the others, you will never get to know yourself.
It's okay to show yourself to the world as you are. Everyone is different, with their strong and weak points. And everyone fits in our community. But if you don't show the rest who you are, the'll have a wrong picture of you.
If you don't accept who you are, you'll end up living the life of the others, not yours. Do you need self confidence?
Don't be afraid of talking about your interests, your adventures and your thougts. Accept yourself as you are.
Make an internal analysis
Related with what we just talked, you need to know your deepest you. And what's the best way of doing it? Personal analysis.
Analyze yourself objectively may be tough, but you need to do it once in a while. Stop for a minute, slow down, take a deep breath and answer these questions:
- Were have I been the last months?
- Do I like my life?
- What are three things I'd never get rid of in my life
- What are three things I could throw away from my life right know
- Where am I aiming in life?
- Is my current situation getting me close to that?
This quick 'check-out' is just an example of helpful questions to analyze 1) your current situation and 2) your path towards your goals.
If you know where you are, who you are and where you are aiming, your self confidence will raise to the next level.
Try and Failure
As it happens in many aspects of our lifes, try and fail is the 'go to' strategy. And it works perfectly.
Sometimes we don't know the best strategy, and we have to go all empirical to get there. In this case it happens the same.
There are many variables you can manipulate to affect the degree of confidence. Yor outfit, people around you, mental preparation,... and there's an optimal combination of these to maximize your self confidence.
How can you get there? Totally try and fail. Try something, does it work? Yes, keep it. No, change and move on to the next strategy.
Strengthen your weaknesses
When you are building self confidence you want to be an 'all-in-one' person. Be useful and able to handle all types of situations. For this, will use an analogy with cars:
"We have three cars, a sports car, an electric city car and a 4x4 small truck. If we go to the city, the sports car won't be able to run at full speed. If we go to the trails, neither the electric nor the sports car will be good at handling the paths and bumps. But the 4x4 small truck will be able to adapt to both scenarios"
In this analogy, you want to be the small truck. But you may have been born being a sports car... Time to work on your weaknesses. Focus on what you are missing to be who you want to be and stick it at the top of your priority list.
By doing this you'll end up boosting your weaknesses and being able to feel comfortable on a wider range of situations. Is there anything more useful than feeling comfortable to feel confident?
Self confidence can be defined as the 'art of knowing yourself and your capabilities'. Although the scientific mechanisms underlying this behaviour are not well understood, we still have sufficient empirical data to support and maximize self confidence.
In this post we have gone through some of the easiest and most efficient ways to gain self confidence. I hope you can apply them to your life and help you being more confident on your daily basis.
Before we finish, I want you to take home this quote (made by me). I think it represents well the importance of this concept in our lifes:
You determine your succes. You determine your failure. How confident you are will establish the barriers beteween these two.