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8 Secrets To Developing Confidence (So Self-Doubt Never Sabotages You Again)

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“What you think of yourself is much more important than what people think of you.” ~Seneca

I can still remember it like it happened yesterday.

There I was. Ten years old. It was my first day back at school.

I walked past the enormous church that marked the entrance of the school compound. I passed under this huge tree as it towered over me. I was in a crowd of other screaming school kids. They laughed and cackled loudly.

Me?

I just felt overwhelmed.

See, I was always an anxious kid. Scared. Worried that I hadn’t done my homework properly. Terrified I’d be punished. That was the world I lived in.

For many years, my fears tainted my vision like prison bars that impose a life sentence on inmates who have long forgotten the bars even exist.

As I reached adolescence, my fears manifested as a series of failures. My unshakeable belief in my ineptitude stopped me from truly trying to succeed. Unwittingly, I was conforming to a self-fulfilling prophecy I’d set for myself.

Many years later, I married an amazing woman who truly believed in me—often when I didn’t believe in myself. Her confidence in my abilities forced me to re-examine my limiting beliefs.

She’d repeatedly tell me that I could achieve my goals, provided I put in the effort.

Eventually, I did.

That was over ten years ago. Today, I’m a confident man who stands tall and is comfortable in his own skin.

You can develop this confidence too.

Here are the eight secrets to confidence I learned along the way.

1. Let the dancer become the dance.

Do you ever feel disconnected from what you’re doing because of that little voice telling you you’re not good enough?

Does your mental chatter derail your sincere efforts? If so, you’re not alone. We all experience this from time to time.

The solution?

Make a decision to lose yourself completely in your work. Get so absorbed in it that you enter a state of flow. Let the dancer become the dance.

When the dancer becomes the dance, there is no dancer, and therefore no one to suffer from lack of confidence.

There’s just the dance. The flow.

2. Choose an emotional state of success.

Building self-efficacy is a great way to develop confidence.

Reflect on your past successes. They don’t have to be related to what you’re trying to achieve right now. They just have to be your successes.

The point here is to reconnect with those feelings and emotions. They’ll set you up for success in your current endeavor.

When I face self-doubt as a writer, I quietly reflect on the feeling of success I experienced when my mentor (Jon Morrow) sent me an email saying he was proud of me.

I often go back to that email to reconnect with the feeling of success it evokes. Seeing this evidence of my abilities as a writer drives away the self-doubt every single time.

3. Empower yourself with visualizations.

Visualizing yourself succeeding is another powerful approach.

Have you watched an elite athlete just before a hundred-meter sprint? She looks intensely at the finish line and visualizes herself sprinting down the track faster than anybody else in the field.

In fact, she’s visualized herself winning the race hundreds and thousands of times to prepare. That’s how she prepares to give her very best over those hundred meters.

Repeatedly visualizing success can actually rewire your brain. It creates positive neural pathways that restore the natural confidence you had as a child.

Not only does this stop you from thinking negative thoughts, but it actually replaces negative thinking with (confidence boosting) positive images.

4. Use your past failures to vanquish self-doubt.

A large amount of self-doubt arises from our past failures. Each time we fail at something, we develop self-limiting beliefs, which get embedded in our psyche and our thinking.

Fortunately, we can use these past failures—think the trail of breadcrumbs in the story Hansel and Gretel—to lead us back to these self-limiting beliefs. And once they’re out in the open, we can then challenge them.

Imagine this: You have this belief that you’re no good at athletics. Maybe the seeds were sown when you did poorly in track and field in high school. And since then you’ve always made a halfhearted effort at athletics because you thought, “Why bother? I’m no good at athletics anyway.”

See the (self-defeating) belief here? That (one) poor performance early in life created a belief that you’re not good at athletics. And that belief led to a halfhearted approach, which in turn stopped you from getting good at athletics.

See the vicious cycle?

Challenge that belief that you’re no good at athletics, and you stop making a halfhearted effort. And that’s how you get good and break out of the cycle.

Here’s the thing: The past is not a predictor of your future performance, if you make a conscious effort to improve.

So, examine your past failures and use them to challenge your self-limiting beliefs.

It’ll do wonders for your confidence!

5. Edit those sentences in your head.

Do you think in sentences? Most of us do.

Imagine this. You’re about to give a talk to a roomful of people.

If you lacked confidence, the sentences in your head would sound something like this: “Ummm…. Hopefully this talk will be okay. I think I’ll be fine. But what if I crash and burn? No I’ll be okay. Geez I hope I’ll be okay.”

Do you see the vacillation in that self-talk? One second you’re thinking you’ll be okay and the next second you’re terrified that you’ll crash and burn.

The good news?

All you need to do is edit the sentences in your head.

The sentences you want to hear in your head sound something like this: “This talk is going to go well. Sure, it won’t be perfect. Nothing ever is. But I’m going to absolutely enjoy this and I’ll successfully get my message across.”

Notice the words absolutely and successfully?

See the tone in those sentences? There’s no vacillation.

It’s almost as if you made a decision to be successful. And that’s reflected in your self-talk.

Of course, this isn’t going to happen overnight. Like anything, it takes conscious effort and consistent practice.

Is it worth the effort?

You bet.

6. Train your body to manipulate your mind.

Think of the times when you felt a bit low. Most likely, you were slouching, your breath was shallow, and you were staring at the ground.

Guess what?

You can use your body language to build your confidence. You get your body to fake it till your mind makes it. The body informs the mind about how to feel, as much as the mind influences the body.

Start with your posture. Stand tall.

Breathe deeply.

Speak purposefully and slowly.

And then watch the magic happen.

Don’t believe me? Try it.

7. Cultivate a positive opinion of yourself and learn to value it over others’.

We all look to authority figures for approval during our developmental years. In fact, this feedback is essential for our social development.

But as you grow older and gather life experiences, you must scale this back.

Now, I’m not suggesting other people’s opinions don’t matter, they do—up to a point.

You’ve got to recognize that we all have unfounded prejudices based on our individual life experiences—this includes those authority figures.

It’s one thing to learn from constructive criticism and use it to better yourself.

But, to get overwhelmed by others’ opinions of you? That’s an unskillful approach.

There is no expert on you.

Instead, work on cultivating a positive opinion of yourself.

Here’s a great way to start. Next time you feel undermined by someone’s opinion of you, make a conscious choice not to get overwhelmed. Take on what’s constructive and discard the rest.

Now here’s the important part.

Ready?

Bring your attention back to your own opinion of yourself. Understand that your opinion of yourself matters as much as anyone else’s because you know yourself better than anyone.

There’s no reason to be overwhelmed by others’ opinions of you.

8. Use external stimuli to leverage your way to confidence.

What’s your favorite song that truly gets you going?

Several athletes listen to music just before a race to put themselves into a certain state (of confidence) just before a race so they can perform at their best. They get in the zone.

Another great way to get in the zone is to use external stimuli. Hold a trophy or a certificate of achievement that you may have won in the past.

Physically connecting with a tangible memento of past successes is a great way to send a concrete message of success to your mind.

You’ve got this.

It’s never easy to get started on a new path. But once you develop the habit of confidence, you’ll never look back.

See, we all have our own vulnerable inner child that feels overwhelmed like I did on my first day of school.

But over time, I learned to embrace that inner child, acknowledge his fears, and then make a conscious choice not to get overwhelmed. Much like a father reassures his son.

And I can honestly say I’ve never felt stronger.

You, too, can acknowledge your inner child’s fears and comfort him or her with love and acceptance.

And before long, you’ll be the confident person you were always meant to be. Self-doubt will never darken your (mental) doorway again.

About Ash Roy

Ash Roy teaches busy people how to work smart and live better by eliminating stress and increasing productivity. Download your free copy of 10 Time-saving Tools That Will Make You a Productivity Ninja.

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  • Chloe

    This is inspiring, it’s easy to get trapped in the vicious circle of ups and downs of anxiety. Building up self confidence and breaking free from my long held past beliefs and doubts are very hard. But enough of this whining talk, I’ll give these a go! thanks!

  • Thanks Ash. Self confidence is key to us achieving our dreams. All too often for what ever reason many of us struggle with low self worth. I too suffered and still sometimes from a lack of self confidence but I am learning to freak free from the cycle of low self confidence.

  • Ash

    Hi Rose,

    I believe everyone suffers from low self-confidence from time to time. But only those with self-awareness respond to the feelings of low self-confidence in a skilful manner.

    Congratulations on your decision to break free of the cycle of low self confidence. Ultimately it’s up to us as adults to make choices and clearly you’ve made the right one.

    I wish you all the best in achieving your dreams.

  • Ash

    Hi Chloe,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I completely agree with you stop it is very easy to get trapped in anxiety. And building up confidence/ breaking free from long-held beliefs is very difficult.

    I think you’ve made a very important point and frankly I don’t see it is whining. Awareness of how difficult the task Of overcoming long-held limiting beliefs will give you a sense of perspective and an appreciation for how much persistence this endeavour will require.

    Like everyone else, I too struggle with limiting beliefs from time to time – though admittedly those episodes are fewer and further between after years of mindful practice aimed at overcoming them.

    I believe that developing self-confidence is a process that goes on till our last breath. A process I intend to keep going back to.

    It’s fantastic to know that you are going to embrace these 8 strategies. I look forward to hearing the results after you give these a go.

    Please do stop by again to share your thoughts. It’s great to hear from you.

    🙂

  • ktaylor

    Helping and giving to others is the best self confidence boost ever!

  • Ash

    Completely agreed! That truly is a confidence boost.

    I do think the intention behind the helping and giving matters though. There have been times when I’ve given with a lot of expectation and attachment, and it almost always ended up leaving me feeling depleted. I had this need for some kind of reciprocation and sometimes even that reciprocation didn’t fill the void.

    On the other hand, when I’ve given from a space of abundance and with the genuine (and sole) desire to improve my fellow person’s circumstances, I’ve walked away feeling enriched.

  • Great post Ash, with some very practical ideas. I like number 6 – I’m always amazed at how changing my body language, posture or facial expression can create a corresponding change inside.

  • Tajci Cameron

    Great post Ash!
    The steps you listed are great. I love how you give us very practical tools to build this path that absolutely loads to living the life we were created for. Thank you!!! Much much gratitude!

  • Ash

    Hi Tajci,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m delighted that you found the post to be so useful and practical. That is exactly what I wanted the post to deliver – practical and useful advice.

    Your kind words have inspired me more than you will ever know. I’m off to write my next post!

    🙂

  • Ash

    Hi Ellen

    Thank you so much Ellen. Number 6 is also one of my favourites. It’s actually quite surprising how effective changing your body language can be, isn’t it?

    I find exercising works in a similar way. It’s a great way to use my body to stabilise the mind.

    Thank you so much for stopping by. I appreciate your words. They always inspire me to write more 🙂

  • Martin GB Edwards

    Thank you Ash for a very inspiring post. I know how hard it can be to convince yourself that you really can achieve your goals. It is usually much harder to convince yourself than the people around you. We do tend to focus on the apparently concrete events and fears of the past and present rather than putting faith in the future. Anything we can do to help ourselves to give solidity to future success is extreamly valuable. You have given us some great tools to do that!

  • Anne

    Thanks Ash, great post! I love all the tips. #5 and #6 really help a lot. Now I have to work on visualizations a lot more than I do. Oh, and I hope to receive a similar email from Jon one day! 🙂

  • Ash

    Hi Anne,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m really glad you loved all the tips.

    I too find number 6 surprisingly effective. It’s amazing how much the body can influence the mind. Just changing your posture can be very powerful. I’ve been focusing on my posture during meditation sessions as I tend to slouch sometimes.

    I have to confess that I forget to use visualisation techniques more often than I remember them. But over time I found a mindful approach helps me to remember to visualise myself succeeding at tasks before attempting them. Particularly the very challenging ones.

    I too hope you receive a similar email from Jon one day. It’s very inspiring to be acknowledged by a great writer.

  • Ash

    Hi Martin,

    Thank you for your kind words about my post. I think you make a very good point about it being a lot harder to convince yourself about being able to achieve difficult goals as compared to convincing others. In fact, I find I tend to convince other people around me in an attempt to convince myself.

    I think having faith in the future requires a certain amount of self-belief which either comes from past successes, or a stoic ability to learn from your mistakes (rather than let them haunt you).

    I’m absolutely delighted to know that you found my post included valuable tools that give solidity to future successes. Comments like your keep me motivated to continue writing. Knowing that my work makes a positive difference is an incredible reward.

    Thank you.

    🙂

  • Catalina

    This was a really great piece. Thanks for sharing this. I can relate to this post completely. Especially this morning, it was exactly what I needed. I feel lucky to have read this! Thank you Ash! 🙂

  • Zarayna Pradyer

    Thank you, Ash. Always good to be encouraged to be confident. I’ve noticed that positive attributes, such as confidence, seem to be contagious. Maybe those of us who are a little too modest for our own good can be reminded that any self improvement we might manage, automatically helps others. Look forward to more of your posts, Ash. Thank you again.

  • Ash

    Hi Zaranya,

    Beautifully put. I completely agree with you. Confidence and Self-improvement are in fact quite infectious. And yes I agree that it’s very important to improve yourself to help others. And as you say often just improving yourself is enough.

    “Be the change you want to see in the world” is a great quote. I know that a lot of people attribute that quote to Gandhi but I recently read an article in the times of india saying he never actually said that.

    Regardless, it’s a fantastic idea and a great quote.

    🙂

  • Ash

    Hi Catalina,

    Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I’m really happy to know that you found the post useful. I know you feel lucky to have read the post but I feel even luckier to know that you read it and that it was useful to you 🙂

    I really appreciate your comment. This is exactly what inspires me to keep writing. Thank you.

  • EJF2004

    My 10 year old son has been struggling tremendously with his confidence this year. We have tried so many things to try and build his confidence. He is shy, introverted, and has experienced bullying in school. I wish he could see what we see- an extremely intelligent, hard working, compassionate, goal oriented boy. I am going to bookmark your article and use this as a guide in the future. Thank you for this contribution!

  • Thank you, Ash. This is a challenging topic to write about and you have shared 8 excellent tips. One of the things observed about these “secrets” is that they all address the “inner game” or “mindset” which is the source. But it also brought up the thought of how so much time in this world is spent relating with another person. Many people lose confidence in themselves for the reasons of allowing someone else to define their own value, which can be painful and untruthfull. It’s imperative to share here that a “secret” to developing confidence is to share your dreams/goals/visions with a dear and trusted friend who will do their very best to support you 110% along the way.

  • Ash

    Hello LifeChangingStories,

    I’m delighted that you found these 8 tips to be excellent. Yes the inner game is where it all begins …. And ends I believe.

    I agree that it’s important to share your dreams and goals with someone who supports you 100% along the way. But before doing that it’s essential that we are 110% supportive of ourselves. In my experience, I found that having a very supportive wife was not enough when I didn’t believe in myself.

    Ultimately, my capacity to accept her full support was directly proportionate to my ability to believe in myself.

  • Ash

    Dear EJF2004,

    I’m sorry to hear that your son experience bullying at school. Often the extremely intelligent children tend to be victims of their own active imaginations. They tend to be very perceptive and therefore are able to create very frightening mental scenarios for themselves …. Which erodes their self belief and confidence.

    Have you considered getting your son started on martial arts? It can be a fantastic source of confidence and is a very spiritual activity. It also builds self discipline and helps a young boy confront and overcome his biggest fears around bullying.

    I’m so honored that you’re going to bookmark this article and use it as a guide in future. Please feel free to email me on ash@worksmartlivebetter.com with any questions that you may have … I’d be delighted to assist in any way I can.

  • Michael Swain

    i agree in totality with this piece but i also believe that the wind is always blowing in the direction of progress and for the matter we cannot continue to be prisonners of the past, bury your past and move on.

  • Maria Choco Suarez

    This came just in time. Thank you so much. I go all teary eyed. (In a good way)

  • Sara

    What a fantastic piece!! I have struggled with self confidence since middle school too. These are great attitudes and action steps to get where you want to be.