How to build confidence

Feeling confident is important not just in your career, but in every part of your life.

Why confidence is important

Graphic of a person raising their arms

Lack of confidence can influence how you feel about your career ambitions. It can make you think certain jobs are out of your reach when really they’re not. It can make you wary of investing your time and energy into new things. Fear of change, and fear of the future, holds us back. If things have gone wrong in the past, you might worry that the same thing will happen when you try again.

When you feel confident, you can push yourself outside your comfort zone. You know you can achieve your goals. You feel certain about your abilities and trust that things will go to plan – or that you can handle it if they don’t.

The important thing to understand is that confidence is something you can learn and build on. If you don’t feel it right now, you have the power to change that

Are you feeling confident?

If the answer is ‘no’, there could be many reasons. You’ve been job hunting for a long time. Or it’s your first time looking for work or going to uni. You might have been made redundant, be changing your job or returning to work after a career break.

When your confidence takes a knock, it’s often hard to see the things you’re good at. At those times it can be a struggle to pick a career, start a course or go after a job.

But everybody has talents. Everyone’s got strengths and skills that make them great at something. Learning to recognise yours will help you feel more confident. 

 

Five ways to start building your confidence

Confidence is something you can work on. These tips can help you make a start.

What could go right?

Fear makes us picture everything which could go wrong in a situation. Instead, try to imagine that you’re happy and relaxed, saying all the right things. You’ll feel more positive.

Tap into positive emotions

Stand up, and remember a time you were full of confidence. Step back into that memory – see it through your own eyes again. Turn up the positive emotions in the memory. Really relive it. When you’re at the peak of that good feeling, then tap your fingers or clench your fist. The next time you need a little boost, tap your fingers or clench your fist again – those feelings will come back.

Body language

Think about your breathing, and the way you sit and stand. Try taking deep, calming breaths and stand up straight with your head up. You’ll look more confident.

Learn or train

Learning about something makes you feel more confident about your abilities. See if there are any courses or volunteering opportunities available to boost your skills – and confidence.

Take small steps

If something feels overwhelming, split it into smaller challenges. Make a list of actions that you need to do. Each one you complete will help you feel more confident.

Spotting your talents

You might feel that you’re not good at much at all. That’s not true.

Everybody has something that they’ve done. For example, learning to swim or ride a bike. Those aren’t easy – we’re not built to have wheels or live in the water. But you learned.

Try making a list of things you do well – your achievements and successes. They might include qualifications or a hobby you’re good at. You might be great at cooking dinner for your family or listening to your friends’ problems. 

Think about your strengths and where you shine. If you’re not sure what your strengths are, try Strengths in your account to find out what you’re best at.

Your list can be a reminder that you do have talents, for the days when you don’t feel that way.

 

Fake it ‘til you make it

Sign reading 'I can't' being cut with scissors so that it reads 'I can'

You can also try ‘doing’ confidence. This means you can act confident and put on a good face, even if you don’t really feel it inside. Think of putting it on in the same way you put on your shoes in the morning. It could be as simple as smiling and saying hello to people in the morning.

When you do this, you’ll start to get a more positive reaction from people as they think of you as a confident, happy person. That then actually makes you start to feel more confident – and you start to feel better. 

Going out of your comfort zone

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Sometimes doing something totally new can help you discover strengths you never knew you had, and build your confidence. 

We asked participants in the Outward Bound scheme how it had helped them improve their confidence.

Confidence and self esteem

Sometimes these two terms are used as if they mean exactly the same thing – but there’s a subtle difference. Having high self-esteem can mean you’re also confident, but you might be confident in some situations and still think very little of yourself.

Self esteem is the way you see yourself and the value you have. Are you worthwhile? Are you a good person? High self esteem means what you believe about yourself is generally positive. If you feel good (or bad) about yourself, it comes across in the way you speak and act.

Confidence is much more connected to the actual things you do and your feelings about your abilities. That’s why confidence comes and goes depending on the situation. You might feel fine when talking to your teacher privately, but hate the thought of making a speech in front of your class. 

As you build confidence, you’ll also be building on real skills. You’ll start to feel good about what you can achieve.