How to Build More Confidence

Confidence is an inside job. There are situations and people that can affirm you, boost you up, and make you feel confident, but people and situations come and go, and the steady stream of confidence you’re used to getting may not always be there for you. Ultimately, you have to rely on yourself to build up your own confidence.

Confidence comes from within yourself. It comes from knowing yourself and developing your “inner voice,” that knowing or intuition within you that knows what’s best for you, not what others think is best for you. That voice generates a lot of output, from decisions for yourself, feelings you have on certain subjects, or wishes or dreams that you want to fulfill. A lot of people haven’t developed this “inner navigation system,” but could, and just go along and do and think what others think, because they’ve always relied on others for their own answers. They don’t challenge the status quo by developing their own voice in the world.

Developing your own voice means relaxing your dependency on others to do and think what you do, be they you spouse, your parents, your friends, media, society, religion, etc. It means knowing what you want for yourself, and pushing through all the rest of the messages that get in the way. It usually starts with our family of origin – with our parents. Breaking free of those messages, be they unconscious or not, you start to learn to develop your own inner voice.

Sometimes guilt or shame get in the way of developing that inner voice, usually because there is a “should” or expectation that we’ve adhered to all along that says to do things in a certain way for others, without ever questioning it.

If we don’t ever develop that inner voice within ourselves, we run the risk of never really having lived to our own standard. We run the risk of living in fear or regret that life never turned out the way we planned, because we were living in the shadows of what others want for us, and not for ourselves. We don’t challenge the status quo, and just live within the comfort of it.

I think confidence gets mixed up with self-assuredness or narcissism for that matter. I think when you’re confident, it doesn’t need to necessarily show to others. People will just organically see it, if it’s there. If you’re putting your “self-confidence” out there in too strong a way, maybe you’re not that confident to begin with.

Maybe you need constant attention, reassurance or validation that you are “confident,” which isn’t really confidence at all, is it? I don’t particularly think “confidence” when I see people who are more posturing in the world trying to get others to recognize their “confidence.” I think it’s disingenuous, and I see them as insecure people trying to look secure.

One of the ways to build confidence, is, ironically, to really get in touch with and know about your lack of confidence. Study it, make it habit to go to those places and really be in touch with the experience of lack of confidence. There may be situations in your life that continue to haunt you and pull you down into low self-confidence, that need to be addressed and worked through, and that’s the true path to real confidence.

Taking risks is a good “behaviorally” based, or action based, way to build up your confidence. Eradicate your irrational fears, and put “yourself in the fire,” so to speak. I know I can get caught up in thinking things to death, without actually challenging myself on something, and if the risk is low enough where it’s conquerable, try it. Jump in and challenge yourself, and see what happens.

Here are some examples:

  • Have that difficult conversation with someone that’s been sitting idle
  • Give a public talk in order to improve your confidence and presence with other people
  • Try a new skill out, something that you’ve been wanting to do, but have shied away from
  • Meet someone new, and see what “comes up.” Maybe awkwardness, social anxiety, feeling shy, boredom, etc. Just assess, and repeat. Keep building your tolerance to what is lacking in confidence in you

Feeling good about yourself is a key component to self-confidence. If you don’t like yourself, it’s going to be hard to support yourself, let alone have others support you. You have to know and like yourself, or others won’t have a chance to do the same. Confidence flows from liking yourself, and not attacking or constantly criticizing yourself.

If you don’t like yourself, you may have a “self-critic,” or an inner voice intent to cripple you with criticism, judgment and limitations. It’s imperative that you identify this and understand how this critic keeps you down and your self-confidence caged. If the self-critic becomes the predominant voice within you, self-confidence has no room to grow. The critic needs to be tamed in order for the self-confidence to fully flow.

People are attracted to confident people because confident people trust and know themselves. In this day and age, confidence – true confidence – is in limited supply, because too many of us lack the insight into ourselves and the self-worth or self-loving that generates confidence. Self-confidence comes from self-awareness, which leads to insight, trust and inner knowing.

What You Can Do To Build Confidence:

  • Ask yourself: am I truly confident as a person, as opposed to being confident doing certain things?
  • Ask yourself: how am I not confident, and how would I like to be more confident?
  • Ask yourself: do I fake confidence with others?
  • Ask yourself: am I more reliant on others than I am on myself? In which ways?
  • Start identifying and dealing with your self-critic: get professional counseling to do so, if need be
  • Identify what’s “false confidence” and what’s “true confidence” for yourself
  • Sift through the messages about being a man in our culture, and see how your version of self-confidence might be different; look into whether some of the messages are false, even though everyone accepts them on face value
  • Ask yourself: what types of messages did I receive growing up that contributed to my confidence levels – either negatively or positively?
  • Talk with your significant other or a friend about your confidence levels, especially not feeling confident. Open up a dialogue with them about this, as to keep the conversation going. Take a risk
  • Take a risk and take action: challenge yourself in a situation you’re uncomfortable with to gain confidence. Try a new skill out, speak with someone new, or put yourself in a new environment to expand your “confidence boundaries.”

Confidence can be built up, but takes work and time. It’s a character trait that is flexible, and can be developed. Be patient. Work on the things that you can work on, and get help where you need help. Make sure you know when it organically flows from you, and not in a feigned attempt to be more confident. And remember: confidence is an inside job.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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