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Six Ways to Improve Your Self-Confidence

You may know that a lack of self-confidence can have a negative impact on the rest of your life — but what is self-confidence? And how do you cultivate it? Here are a few tips for understanding and improving your self-confidence, and the impact it has on your mental health.

The following is adapted from the June 3, 2019 New York Times article “Practical Ways to Improve Your Confidence (and Why You Should),” by Eric Ravenscraft.

Know the difference between self-efficacy, self-confidence, and self-esteem.

Although the three are certainly linked, there are notable differences in these concepts as laid out by Dr. Albert Bandura, a pioneer in social learning and self-efficacy theory.

  • Self-efficacy is a belief in your ability to accomplish specific tasks. According to Dr. Bandura, people with high levels of self-efficacy (“high assurance in their capabilities”) viewed difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered, rather than threats to be avoided. this, he stated, fosters intrinsic interest and deep engrossment in activities. 
  • Self-confidence, on the other hand, is more broadly your view of your likelihood to accomplish a goal, especially with regard to how you present it to others. In other words, being self-confident has more to do with your overall view of self rather than your odds of completing a task.
  • Self-esteem is a belief in your overall worth — persons with high-self esteem may identify with statements such as “I am a good person;” “I am worthy of love;” “I deserve respect from myself and others.” 

Be “hyper honest” with yourself.

Charlie Houpert, author of Charisma on Command, suggests being more open about elements of your life and sharing your interests with others. “If someone asks what you do for fun or for a living,” he says, “and you find yourself biting your tongue or hiding something, evaluate that…either stop doing that thing or, more likely, accept that part of yourself and own it.”

Get exercise.

It is widely known that exercise may improve your mood and, alongside other forms of treatment, benefit your mental health in the long term. The APA also suggests that exercise, in addition to its physical benefits, may help improve your self-confidence, particularly if you make it a habit. You don’t even need to sign up for your next local marathon — researchers from Yale and Oxford have discovered that just thirty to sixty minutes of mild exercise three to five times a week will suffice to improve your mental health and your confidence.

Get out of your comfort zone.

While trying new things and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations may seem daunting, you needn’t throw yourself in the deep end right away. It is suggested that you regularly expand your comfort zone with small actions.

Change your look.

Did you know that wearing a white lab coat can make you feel more like a doctor? While the coat alone is no substitute for years of training, a study at Northwestern University found that, when people dressed like a doctor, their behavior became more aligned with how they expected a doctor to behave. Consider dressing like a person you admire — or, dress the way the confident you would dress. 

Your posture also plays a significant role in your self-confidence. While some people find success with “power poses,” there is more concrete data on the effects of more everyday posture changes. Researchers at the Ohio State University suggested that sitting up straight in your chair can make you feel more confident in your abilities.

Record your accomplishments.

You might be familiar with impostor syndrome, or the idea that your achievements are somehow invalid due to your status, your experience, or — more likely — a belief that you will be exposed as a fraud. By writing down your accomplishments and reflecting on your successes (rather than your faults and mistakes), you may improve your self-confidence. 

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