What does it mean to be confident in yourself? Who comes to mind when you think of a confident person?

Often we think of confident people as sure of themselves and their abilities, ready to face challenges, skilled at tasks, and unfazed by pressure. Confidence is viewed by many as a personality trait that allows us to seek out relationships and successfully meet goals. This all sounds pretty good, doesn't it? However, some people assume that if we are lacking in any category of the above, we are lacking as humans. To this, we can be our own worst critic. This pressure of measuring up to an unrealistic ideal can often do the very thing we are working to prevent - damaging our sense of self-worth.

Origins of Confidence

There is some evidence that some people seem to have a dispositional tendency toward seemingly curious, confident behavior. A good deal of evidence also suggests that otherwise confident children can have their sense of security and competence impacted by over-bearing or conditional parents (e.g., the child receives the message that he/she is only worthwhile for their performance, not for who they are deep down). People may also experience bouts of losing faith in themselves following an important loss or string of poor performances.

Dangers to Confidence

  • Hard to please caregivers
  • Seeking external approval
  • Setting unrealistic goals
  • Equating one's worth with performance
  • Pessimistic attitudes or a self-critical, punitive thinking style
  • Focusing only on areas of weakness, ignoring the bigger picture and areas of strength
  • Fear of making mistakes
  • Reacting to setbacks as insurmountable or catastrophe

Ways to Improve Confidence

  • Put things in perspective - no one is perfect
  • Think positively, which just may be more realistic as well
  • Choose reasonable goals for performance - anything above that is just the cherry on top
  • Praise/compliment yourself frequently
  • Change your inner critic into an inner supporter
  • Begin to trust your own impressions without relying so much on others' opinions
  • Do not dwell on shortcomings - learn from them
  • Approach tasks with an awareness of your strengths and less of a fear of failing
  • Be willing to make mistakes and develop the courage to laugh at yourself
  • Consider counseling to more specifically target self-confidence