You know a confident person when you see one. They are cool and self-assured. Confidence is the belief that you can do what you set out to do. It is a trust in the self and certainty in one's abilities. It may seem like a skill that is arbitrarily handed out to some and not to others, but in truth, anyone can become more confident. In psychology, we use another word for confidence; it is self-efficacy. Whatever you call it, it plays a big role in your success so understanding the components that lead to confidence can transform your life.
A Framework for Building Confidence
Albert Bandura, the psychologist who came up with the concept of self-efficacy also identified four sources of efficacy beliefs or beliefs that lead to confidence. The first if these is mastery experiences, or gaining personal success in some area. For example, if your band plays a show at a local festival or your article gets published, you will have a direct experience of success that will fuel confidence. I always say that the best way to become more confident is by taking action. Even if you fall short of the goal, you know where you need to grow and are better equipped to try again. Conversely, inaction can be debilitating and can lead to that dreaded analysis paralysis, in which you take no action because you get too caught in thoughts of the possible outcomes. Experiencing challenges and subsequent success is the best, and most direct way to build confidence. The process of working through a challenge and achieving a successful outcome will build the belief that you can do it again in the future.
Another way to boost confidence according to Bandura was through vicarious experiences. This means that when people you know are successful at something, you have greater confidence in your ability to achieve success. This source of belief is not quite as strong as direct experience, but it is helpful, as is verbal persuasion. When people you admire and respect tell you that they believe you have the ability to achieve or master an activity, it can be a powerful confidence builder. Finally, Bandura believed that emotional and psychological states have an impact on self-efficacy. Anxiety, stress, and depression can seriously diminish confidence. On the other hand, joy and excitement can increase it. Psychologist James Maddux added to this Bandura's list the idea that visualizing success can also boost confidence.
The Physiology of Confidence
In Amy Cuddy's powerful TED Talk about body language, she talks about how your body language can change your physiology. She notes that confidence can be boosted with certain physical positions. Her research taught her that when people have power or feel powerful, they spread out while those who are shy tend to clench up and make themselves look smaller. This makes sense, but what was more interesting was that her team proved that by mirroring the physical behaviors of power, people actually become more powerful. Essentially, body language can change the levels of hormones in the body. Leaders and other powerful people tend to have high testosterone and low cortisol. Standing and sitting in high power, confident poses can create in the body, the physical conditions of confidence and success. Within two minutes of adopting a power pose, hormones change to match the stance.
Modeling the Behaviors of Confident People
One method that is very helpful for developing a more confident mindset is to mirror the behaviors of confident and successful people. Often, as you compare these behaviors to your own, you will find great ways to become a more assured version of you. I like this method because it allows you to build gradually by adopting the behaviors that make sense and feel authentic. So what do successful people do?
- Practice optimism
- Take meaningful and decisive action
- Embrace challenges and try new things
- Say yes and no with equal comfort
- Own their successes and focus on their strengths
- See failures as opportunities for growth
- Compare themselves to their past selves, instead of to comparing themselves to others
- have a growth-mindset and continue to learn new skills
- Trust themselves and their judgment
- Celebrate the successes of others
- When they don't understand something, they ask for help
Confidence leads to empowerment and prosperity. Without confidence, you may miss important opportunities and fail to ask for what you deserve. To sum it up, there are many ways that you can foster a more confident attitude. First, you can boost confidence by experiencing success, or even through unsuccessful situations that teach you how to succeed in the future and enable you to develop positive self-appraisals. You can also increase self-efficacy through vicarious experience and positive role models. Verbal encouragement or persuasion from someone you respect can drive confident behavior as can cultivating positive emotional states and the proper management of negative emotions. Visualization of the desired outcome can help you establish the confidence that it can be achieved. Another great way is to change your body's chemistry to more confident levels, is by adopting a powerful stance for a few minutes before you have to take action. Modeling the behaviors of confident and successful people can help you increase your confidence. Whichever methods you choose, you will not be sorry. This is one skill that can significantly increase your well-being and success.
Want help building confidence? Formerly on staff at the Tulane University Student Health Center Department of Psychiatry, helping emerging adults uncover the best path to success is my passion, I am a professional psychotherapist, and also specialize in academic, success, and life coaching. I work primarily with college students and young professionals. I would love to put my expertise as a certified success coach to work for you.
Dr. Eileen Wynne