Confidence is the one quality nearly all of us strive for, but it’s also one of the hardest to attain. In fact, self-doubt plagues most of us, whether it concerns our appearance, intelligence, humor, or our likability in general. And as easy as it might sound to “be confident,” it’s not as simple as telling yourself to do so.
“Confidence is not a result, but a muscle that you have to work at building up,” says Amy Kosh, a life coach based in Asheville, North Carolina, and an author at An Unstoppable Life.
What do we really mean when we say we want to boost our confidence level? Most people describe a desire to feel surer of themselves. They want to able to meet whatever situations arise with calm assurance and grace, as well as a feeling of being tapped into their own strengths. Feeling confident is about knowing your strengths and abilities, and knowing how to bring those to the table. It’s about feeling connected to your own core values and capacities in order to be creative in the face of major and minor adversities. In many ways, it can allow us to feel totally unstoppable in life — and who doesn’t want to feel that?
But increasing your confidence level is a skill, and all skills take time and practice to master. So, without further ado, here are 12 great ways to start boosting your confidence each day.
1. Start your day with affirmations
Mindfulness practices have been around for centuries, most often in spiritual ceremonies. But in recent years, they’ve made their way into research on brain effectiveness, stress reduction, and increased physical health.
“Affirmation-type meditations can help increase confidence because they pull you toward what you’re wanting to create in life,” says Elsie Storm, M.A., transformational life coach and spiritual psychologist.
To get started, set aside a few minutes first thing in the morning (yes, you can even do this in bed!). Sit or lay quietly and focus on your natural breathing, allowing your thoughts and emotions to come and go without judgment. If you notice that you’ve been sidetracked into a thought or emotion, gently nudge your attention back to your breath.
“The goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment, and [by] allowing your mind to focus on the present moment,” Kosh says.
2. Find your center
As you enter situations throughout your day where you feel anxious or less confident, take a moment to check in with your body. Note the position and stance you’re naturally taking. Then, exhale and rebalance yourself on your feet so you feel fully centered.
“We tend to lean forward when we feel anxious or less confident. So, most people in these situations will notice their weight moving backward as they slowly breathe and recenter themselves,” Kosh says. “Re-centering and exhaling work to create a somatic experience that our brain reads as being more confident.”
As you go about your day, try this re-centering practice at random times. Perhaps every time you walk past a certain window or doorway? The more you practice, the more it will become natural. And you’ll feel more comfortable sourcing it when you really need it.
3. Celebrate your wins and losses
How often do you celebrate yourself or give yourself a pat on the back for doing a good job? If your answer is “not enough,” you’re probably more familiar with the language, “I should have done better.”
“Talking down to yourself negatively about how you didn’t do something well enough, even when you’ve accomplished a goal, only deteriorates your self-confidence and self-trust,” Storm says. To start increasing your confidence, be deliberate about celebrating your wins. Acknowledge yourself for completing something that felt scary or hard, and don’t be afraid to share your wins with your partner, friend, or colleague. Start celebrating your wins with the world, and they’ll start celebrating back with you. It’s a simple way of giving yourself a confidence boost.
4. Fine-tune your use of language
When we take out the hesitations in our speech — the fillers like “um,” “uh,” and “like” — we start sounding more confident and in control of our ideas, thoughts, and actions. “The next time you’re talking to a friend or co-worker, try recording a sample of your speech using the free Voice Memo app on most smartphones,” Kosh suggests. “Notice how often you experience a verbal hesitation or habitually say the words ‘um’ or ‘uh,’ and practice removing them from your daily speech.”
Fair warning: It may take a few days before you begin catching yourself, but it’s worth the effort! As you get to the end of the week, notice what’s changed in your speech, and pay attention to how you’re feeling and the kinds of responses you’re now getting from others around you.
5. Keep a gratitude journal
Writing can be a great way to channel your thoughts, wants, wishes, and goals into something substantial that you can reflect on in the days, months, and years to come. “Boosting your confidence through some short writing exercises is a quick and easy way to boost your daily happiness level,” Kosh says. “It also serves to increase your self-confidence as you become more aware of your own accomplishments.”
This is great to do at the end of each day. Especially before your head hits the pillow. Sit down and center yourself for a moment before you start writing. Review your day and write down a short sentence for each thought. It can be something as simple as describing the weather, or that you rocked a project at work. Then, for each item, write down one short reason why that happened. Perhaps you noticed the sunshine and sky that morning, or you had done all the prep work to handle the project. “The reason doesn’t matter as much as seeing that there was something that helped you create that success in your day,” Kosh says.
6. Ask yourself empowering questions
Oftentimes our confidence level falters because we’re asking ourselves questions that hold our focus on why we can’t do something. For example, if we ask ourselves, “Why can’t I figure this out?” or “Why am I not good enough to make this happen?” our brain is only able to look at all the negative reasons. However, when we ask more empowering questions, we help change the focus and meaning of our situation. It helps us create new opportunities where none can be seen.
“Take the old, disempowering questions, and instead ask, ‘What’s one way I can find a creative solution to this problem?’ or ‘What’s one thing I can do to get closer to my goal?’” Storm suggests. “When you do this, your brain starts looking for all of the opportunities for how you can solve your problem, instead of focusing on why it isn’t working.” By asking yourself more empowering questions, you’re also generating empowering meanings, which creates greater confidence.
7. Set clear and concise goals
Setting clear goals encourages you to keep your eyes on the prize. It also lets you tune in to the steps that will make the outcome reachable and productive. “In this practice, you’re using a business technique that’s proven itself in many Fortune 500 and internationally successful companies,” Kosh says. “The approach is called Kaizen, and it means to create big change by implementing little steps, while keeping in mind the larger goal or outcome.”
As you move through each of the smaller building block stages in this Japanese business philosophy, you gain a sense of accomplishment and confidence that moves you toward your larger goal or outcome. Our advice? Start out with smaller daily tasks. Practice breaking each one into single action steps, being as literal as possible with your list. Write out the main goal, then write a list of the five to 10 actions steps (in order) that you need to make to achieve that goal. The more specific you are, the better you’re able to take each action step as needed. This will provide you with a greater sense of accomplishment with each completed step.
8. Maintain good posture and body positioning
We’ve all heard that you should stand straight up, with your shoulders, back, and head held high. The reason for this is not only for others to perceive you as confident. It’s also so you feel more confident in your own body. As you’re going about your day, take notice what position your body is in. For example, are you leaning forward or hunching your shoulders? Are you tilted off to one side, or are you somewhat turned away from the person or situation at hand? Get more in tune with what your body language is saying to those around you.
“The point of the practice is to become more efficient at noticing what’s happening in your own body moment-to-moment without any judging going on,” Kosh says. “As you work on this, you’ll become more aware of subtle changes, and that will help you with the next practices.”
9. Acknowledge your accomplishments
When you pay attention to what’s working in your life and start admiring your accomplishments, you set the stage for continued success. This also allows you to see what you did to create these accomplishments. When you remember past successes, you can more easily create future ones.
“As you complete a project, take a few minutes to mindfully pay attention to what it took to get it done, and what you were able to bring to the task,” Kosh says. “At the end of each day and week, take a few moments to sit and reflect on what went well, and what you did to make your day and week really successful and fun.” You may be surprised by how much your confidence peaks as time goes on.
10. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Trying something new can be a little scary. The reason? As adults, we always want to avoid looking bad. We’ve learned how to do a lot of things through trial and error, and we take pride in the skills we’ve mastered. But while not knowing how to do something might feel incredibly uncomfortable, it also feels good to learn and master new skills. And you can have fun in the process!
“Taking a class is a great way to try out something new — from cooking and art, to dancing or learning a new language,” suggests Vivian Sierra, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in Saint Louis, Missouri. “Or join a club or organization, which will give you a lot of support in learning that new skill and taking on a new role. It’s always good to take baby steps and learn as you go, but don’t be afraid to jump in when help is needed.”
11. Volunteer to help others
Helping others is a great way to help yourself. “When you help others, you have the experience of being useful and making a positive difference in the world,” Dr. Sierra says.
You can find all kinds of ways to help in your local community or at larger levels, from serving food in soup kitchens, to working with young, eager-to-learn children. You may even be surprised at how much your help is needed and valued. Check out ads in your local paper or search online for volunteer opportunities.
12. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings
We all have voices within us that tell us we’re not good enough, not smart enough, or not pretty enough. They toss us into a loop of self-doubt that we start to believe over time, wreaking havoc on our self-confidence. Start listening closely to those thoughts and sayings that come into your head, and, if you can, write them down. Count how many times a week (or day) you hear those phrases, and begin to shut your mind off to them. When they enter your thoughts, do your best to ignore them.
“Practicing awareness of your critical voice leads directly to an increased feeling of competency and effective action,” Kosh says. “The more you notice your critical voice stepping into the picture, the less power it has to take over and stop you.”
[Editor’s note: This story was originally published February 2017.]