Remember Remy? The little rat turned gourmet cook from the movie Ratatouille? Despite his circumstances, Remy didn’t let anything stop him from following his seemingly impossible dream of becoming a great chef. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have the kind of self-confidence embodied in that little character? The good news is that self-confidence can be developed over time. But to build it you have to practice it. Once you understand how to foster it, you can boost your career and other aspects of your life. To truly construct a foundation of self-confidence, it takes a lot more than just “dressing for success” or “faking it til you make it.” You need to dig deeper and take positive, deliberate steps. By investing in these five strategies, you’ll be able to not only build unshakable self-confidence but also sustain it over time.
1. Conquer your inner critic
You know that little voice in your head saying things like,” I’m not qualified for that job, what’s the point of interviewing for it,” or “I keep getting passed over for a promotion, there must be something wrong with me.” Those nagging thoughts telling you that you’re not good enough come from your inner critic (or critical inner voice). Dr. Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., author of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, suggests following this 4-step process to conquer your inner critic:
- Try to identify what your critical inner voice is telling you. Acknowledge that this thought process is separate from your real point of view.
- Write these thoughts down in the second person (as “you” statements). For example, a thought like “I can’t get anything right. I’ll never be successful” should be written as “You can’t get anything right. You’ll never be successful.” This will help you see these ideas as an outside point of view and not as true statements.
- Respond to your inner critic by writing down a more realistic and compassionate evaluation of yourself. Write these responses in the first person (as “I” statements). In response to a thought like, “You’re such an idiot,” you could write, “I may struggle at times, but I am smart and competent in many ways.”
- Remember not to act on the directives of your inner critic. Take actions that represent your own point of view, whom you want to be, and what you aim to achieve.
2. Reflect on accomplishments
Remembering events in which you felt proud or recognized can help strengthen self-confidence. These types of thoughts can also act as natural counters to the inner critic. Think about your life and list the ten best things you’ve achieved. Maybe you speak five languages, graduated first in your high school class, or climbed The Nose route on Yosemite’s El Capitan in record time. They don’t necessarily need to be major events—perhaps a time you were acknowledged for helping a friend or overcoming a fear. Put this list somewhere where you can see it often. Then spend a few minutes daily reflecting on the success you’ve already had. Allow these memories to make you feel good and remind you who you really are. As the best-selling author and motivational speaker Denis Waitley asserts, “To establish true self-confidence, we must concentrate on our successes and forget about the failures and the negatives in our lives.”
“To establish true self-confidence, we must concentrate on our successes and forget about the failures and the negatives in our lives.”
3. Maintain good posture
According to research conducted at Ohio State University, sitting up straight isn’t just good for your posture. It also gives you more confidence in your thoughts. Researchers found that people who sat up straight were more likely to believe ideas they wrote down concerning whether they were qualified for a job. In contrast, those who were slumped over their desks were less likely to accept these feelings about their own qualifications. Another more recent study looked at how posture influenced students’ feelings about their performance. The study tested the effects of students’ posture during simple math exercises. Students who were anxious about math maintained that slouching made them feel less capable of calculation. Hunching down inhibited their thinking while sitting up straight gave them more confidence. So, by maintaining good posture, you not only appear more confident, you are more confident.
4. Develop an equality mentality
People with low self-confidence tend to view others as better or more deserving than themselves. Instead of carrying this perception, view yourself as being equal to everyone. While it can be challenging to feel equal when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to the latest influencer on Instagram, it can be done. Recognize that those Instagram photos aren’t based in reality. They are a perfectly curated, over-filtered version of someone’s life. Make a mental shift to an equality mentality, and you will quickly see an improvement in your self-confidence. After all, as Marilyn Monroe pointed out, “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”
5. Try things that make you uncomfortable
Stepping outside your comfort zone is a great way to build self-confidence. According to Charlie Houpert, the author of Charisma on Command, “Confidence is ultimately about being comfortable in a wide variety of situations that would make most people feel uncomfortable. So, if you stretch your comfort zone every day, very quickly, you’ll have a large comfort zone and be able to feel more comfortable even when outside of it.” This can involve subtle changes like striking up a conversation with someone at a cocktail party or trying a new sport. The most important thing is to take small, daily steps.
Becoming more self-confident is readily achievable if you have focus and determination. As author Barrie Davenport, author of Confidence Hacks, says, “Low self-confidence isn’t a life sentence. Self-confidence can be learned, practiced, and mastered—just like any other skill. Once you master it, everything in your life will change for the better.”
If you’ve been feeling stuck and aren’t sure it’s time to make a career shift, download Caroline Castrillon’s free guide: 5 Signs It’s Time to Make a Bold Career Change!