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How to Gain Confidence – Case Studies of What Works

Are you looking for tips for how to gain confidence?

Recently I had the inspiration to interview people who I know and admire (including mentors, professional contacts and people in my personal network) who are self confident and who demonstrate confidence in taking action, taking risks, facing fears and doing things in life that are meaningful, important and joyful for them.

I wanted to LEARN…

  • HOW did they resolve any self doubt, self esteem issues or self confidence issues?
  • WHAT helped them to build their confidence?

These case studies come from an even mix of extroverts and introverts, men and women, spanning a 50 year age range, including different countries, upbringings, experiences, life challenges and careers.

9 Common Themes for Building Confidence

9 common themes emerged from the conversations I had with these kind people who shared their experiences with me. I've summarized these below for easy reference:

  1. Self acceptance
  2. Mindset, attitude and self talk
  3. Other people's positive feedback (praise, support, feedback)
  4. Loving what you do
  5. A healthy perspective on risk, fear and failure
  6. Drawing strength from previous life challenges
  7. Faith
  8. Taking small steps
  9. Regularly connecting with your inner self

This purpose of this article is to share the notes (below) from my conversations with these people (informal short interviews), so you can get a peek into the reality of people who have overcome self doubt and second guessing, and are able to stand in this world with the confidence to be who they really are and do what they really want with their precious lives. We can all learn a lot from each other if we take the time to have conversations that matter!

Lessons from Conversations with Confident People

Person #1

How much has self-acceptance got to do with your confidence?

It’s a big part of it. When I didn’t accept parts of myself, I could fake confidence but never truly felt that deep confidence. Once I accepted all of myself, I felt more compassion for myself, and naturally that made me feel more at ease around other people. I think I stopped worrying that other people would “find out” that I had faults, weaknesses or “bad” parts, because I had already made friends with those parts of myself and wasn’t afraid of admitting my humanity. So I no longer feared other people seeing me fully.

What has made a difference to being able to accept yourself (how did you do it) in order to feel confident?

Realizing you have to live with yourself 24 x 7 and life is a LONG journey, I got tired of feeling at odds with myself, it’s like having a mini battle inside your own mind. So I integrated positive thinking and positive self talk. That generates more self acceptance and confidence naturally.

What are the top things that made a difference to help you build confidence and FEEL good generally in day to day life, as well as what gave you the confidence to DO new things that were important to you?

  • Positive self talk has been really important. I realized that everyone is busy finding their own way in this world, and you can’t rely on other people to boost your own sense of self. If you don’t champion yourself, you might be taking a big risk sitting around waiting for other people to do it for you. I also got sick and tired of hearing doubting, fearful thoughts in my mind, so I focused a lot on setting my mindset around empowerment and confidence.
  • Accepting myself fully, knowing that it’s okay to have faults and weaknesses, that it’s okay to not know everything and that we all have permission to make mistakes. These things don’t make us less of a person, they simply make us human, and I realized anyone who hides these things about themselves seems to either have a bravado to hide it, or seems to have withdrawn out of fear of these aspects of self. I realized if I embrace the messiness of being human and aren’t afraid to acknowledge it to myself and others, then I have nothing to fear or hide and it makes me feel so much more free and confident.
  • Mentors/friends/family who believed in me and tell me what I’m capable of, that reinforces what I read and how I train my mind. So I no longer tolerate being around people who are judgmental or negative, and as much as possible only spend my time with people who are like minded.
  • Fitness/Exercise as it boosts my mood. Plus knowing that I am doing things to be well and strong in my physical body helps me to feel good about myself.
  • Facing my fears and doing things I’m afraid of and conquering those has boosted my confidence. Through taking action and doing new things I got more comfortable with risk, uncertainty and realized I’m way more capable than I used to give myself credit for.
  • Leaning on my faith – that a loving divine intelligence created me the way I am for a reason. I prefer to trust in that Higher Power (which created all the miracles I see around me every day) as opposed to trusting in my own small mind noise, doubt, fear or judgment!

What areas of your life have improved because of these confidence boosters?

  • Health (less stress, less fear).
  • Career/work (more enjoyable, still doing the same things but doing it with more fun and less angst). Taking on bigger projects and endeavors as believing in myself more.
  • Lifestyle vastly improved due to being willing to make changes and take on new paths at various points in life.

Person #2

How much has self-acceptance got to do with your confidence?

Self acceptance is massive. It’s everything when it comes to being confident. When you are at peace with yourself and love who you are, you naturally become confident. You don’t care as much if you fail at something, knowing that even if you do fail, you’ll still love yourself anyway.

What has made a difference to being able to accept yourself (how did you do it) in order to feel confident?

Being resilient gives you self acceptance.

Let the bad stuff in your life be a chapter in your book and then let it go.

I think about the loss, grief and life challenges I’ve had and I know life will never be that bad again, so you take what life dishes you out and deal with it, and move on. Life difficulties come with life lessons in them, take the lessons, and there’s nothing to be frightened of. This resilience has helped me to be more self accepting and accepting of life, and therefore more confident to face what life brings.

We have choices in life, particularly in those tough times, to roll over and let it take you down or get up and keep going.

It’s important to acknowledge and accept that life is not a dress rehearsal, we have one shot at it, and when you realize that you can get excited about what you want to do.

What are the top things that made a difference to help you build and feel self confidence generally in day to day life?

  • Achieving results and surrounding myself with things I love, and I know that I am able to have those things because I’ve achieved what I wanted to do to get them, so that’s satisfying. Achieving results in itself gives me confidence, and then seeing the flow on benefits of those results brings joy. Whether it’s growing a small tree in the garden that took years to grow and nurture and get fruit from it, through to being able to buy nice material things.
  • People who I trust say to me “you’re amazing at XYZ” and so that lifts my confidence. I take a moment to acknowledge what others see in me that I don’t see for myself, that helps me to feel confident.

People sometimes say “I want your confidence”, but I think what they’re really saying, “I was wish I was brave”. That courage they want circles back to the fact we have one shot at life.

Don’t forget how far you’ve come, all steps can be seen as wins.

It sounds cliché but life is a journey, we have to choose courage, wake up to the reality that we all die one day, get on with it and make the best of it, including the worst times.

Write down what you really want to do and what you’re so passionate about. Then ask yourself, why are you NOT doing that? We can so easily get sucked into what society says we should do and what success should look like. I’ve noticed that confident people, when considering doing something new, say “How CAN I do that and when?”. On the flip side, people who appear to lack confidence, say “How could I?”

Surround yourself with people who remind you that you’re capable, and who ask you good questions.

Ask yourself WHAT IS CONFIDENCE TO YOU? Is your confidence just being comfortable in who you are? It’s not about being confident to others or behaving a certain way that you think matches other people who are confident. Confidence can be quietly showing up and being okay with yourself even in situations where you don’t know anyone or anything.

What gave you the confidence to DO new things that were important to you?

Feel the fear and do it anyway. I like to ask, “what could possibly go wrong?” I got taught early in my career, “If someone says no to you, life isn’t over, failing doesn’t mean the ground will open and swallow you up”. After you’ve done something once, it builds confidence, failure is growth, and then you get used to taking action. Be okay about failing, even though no one wants to, it’s about understanding it’s okay to make mistakes.

What areas of your life have improved because of the way you’ve supported yourself to be confident?

Confidence gives me freedom, freedom to know if I got stuck I could get myself out, if I had to get a job I could, and if I needed something I could figure it out, if I had to be alone I could. I am confident that I’m resourceful and capable. I believe in myself.

Person #3

How much has self-acceptance go to do with your confidence? How do you boost that self acceptance?

It doesn’t matter who I’m with, I’m as a good as the next person, no one is better or worse than me, it doesn’t matter if they are more educated or smarter, we are always equal.

My career was a difficult job, it’s not a given to be able to succeed doing that work. You have to believe in yourself as no one else will, so self-belief is key.

I would think about what worst scenarios could be and that helps to keep things in perspective.

Also, to maintain self acceptance, stay away from negative people! You don’t have to be around confident people as such, but just not toxic people.

What are the top things that made a difference to help you build and feel self confidence generally in day to day life? What gave you the confidence to DO new things that were important to you? 

I took chances and big risks that could have gone badly, but they didn’t, and those things gave me more confidence, so I built up confidence through actions over the years.

Growing up I learned that working hard at things and not giving up is what gets you there, so I had confidence in that philosophy.

When I was doing something new, I was confident because I never went in head over heels, I always start small and take small steps, experiment and take small risks, then if it looks okay then I keep going. So you don’t have to dive head first in.

It’s important to LOVE what you’re doing, that joy gives you confidence. I always loved what I did and I believe that gave me confidence.

What areas of your life have improved because of these confidence boosters?

I have peace. A great sense of peace from this way of living and my confidence, I don’t dwell on things, I just get on with it and love what I’m doing.

Person #4

What are the top things that made a difference to help you build confidence and FEEL good generally in day to day life, as well as what gave you the confidence to DO new things that were important to you?

My confidence was boosted from noticing repeated signs/messages from life that supported the feeling of what I wanted to do. That makes me feel like I’m not alone and helps me trust and have confidence in my idea.

My confidence has also been boosted due to other people having had faith in me and having seen in me the person who would be able to do more and bigger things. They have told me that, so that helped me to see myself differently and feel more confident.

When it comes to confidence to do new things, I noticed I would get inspirations in my mind for big things that are possible for me in my life, but then I’d hear a self doubt thought that it’s too big or too hard for me. Then another inspiration comes into my mind that’s an idea of a small little step I could take. So it’s like my intuition or creative inspiration shows me something simpler to do to get started where I don’t have to worry about the enormity of the bigger picture.

What areas of your life have improved because of these confidence boosters?

All of this helped me following my calling/passion. Because of following my calling and now doing the work and creative endeavors I love, I’m happier and so all other areas of my life have improved because I’m now living more as my true self.

Person #5

How much has self-acceptance got to do with your confidence?

Everything. Realizing that you are allowed to have weaknesses and faults, and everyone does, and that its important to accept yourself anyway. That helps to like yourself more, accept yourself and feel confidence.

What are the top things that made a difference to help you build and feel self confidence generally in day to day life?

Gratitude is so important. Every day I’m giving thanks for all the blessings in my life, even small things. That makes me feel good and realize that no matter what happens in life or what I do or don’t do, I have those basic things in my life to be grateful for. Those things are good and reliable.

Also, surrounding myself with positivity, good people and positive messages is so helpful.

What gave you the confidence to DO new things that were important to you?

I’ve been able to do new things in my life with confidence because of knowing that tough times make you stronger. When you’ve gone through challenges you realize you get wiser, stronger, smarter and that you can face anything, so it’s less scary to take on new things or changes. Doing new things and realizing you’re okay, makes you think “what’s the worst that can happen?”.

Mindset and attitude is important too, to have the right outlook.

And surrounding myself with people who believe in me and have a positive can do attitude too, is really important.

What areas of your life have improved because of these confidence boosters?

Everything. Relationships. Happiness. Wellbeing.

Person #6

How much has self-acceptance go to do with your confidence?

Everything.

What has made a difference to accepting yourself (how did you do it) in order to feel confident?

  • Focusing on the things I’m good at and using those as a way to leverage me into other things that I haven’t done and aren’t good at, to give me more confidence.
  • Not talking negatively to myself, boosting myself up with positive self talk, being my own best supporter.

What are the top things that made a difference to help you build and feel self confidence generally in day to day life?

  • Exercise and fitness regularly helps me to feel great about myself and that supports my confidence.
  • Focusing on mastering my mindset has been really helpful, to notice unhelpful beliefs, thoughts and self talk and being able to change those.
  • Developing my skills in different areas of my life to gain proficiency, putting in the effort over time, that gives you confidence when you get better and better at something – whether it’s how to cook, playing sports, or skills in my job. Putting in that effort and getting better each step of the way provides a sense of confidence and satisfaction.

What gave you the confidence to DO new things that were important to you, like goals, projects or life changes?

Knowing that the risk of trying something new is small and there’s no real downside to trying even If you fail, as you always learn something new, so nothing to lose, particularly if you’re smart about how you go about making changes, with small steps.

What areas of your life have improved because of these confidence boosters?

All areas of my life are better due to more confidence!

Person #7

How much has self-acceptance got to do with your confidence?

A lot! Self acceptance has definitely come with age too. As I grow older, I’ve accepted that we are all unique and individual people. And with age you can become more confident in your point of difference compared to other people, and see it as a strength, not judging your differences.

With age you grow, evolve and you go through CHALLENGES, and those things make you stronger.

Even though you lack confidence when in the middle of those challenges, later they end up FEEDING your confidence.

In the middle of life challenges when you’re not accepting of yourself or not confident, feeling unsure of yourself, questioning yourself, it’s okay, because when you come through other side you’re standing stronger.

What has made a difference to being able to accept yourself (how did you do it) in order to feel confident?

Taking lessons from the challenges I’ve faced in life.

Also my relationships with my children. I get positive feedback from my kids (and others adults too) which has really helped me to accept myself. My kids are the first people to accept me and tell me that they accept and love me. They see me that way, and I didn’t see myself that way, so it adjusted my self perception.

Plus I see OTHER people in life who are owning their individuality, watching them be confident in their uniqueness, and that empowers me to see I can accept myself as different from others and embrace that.

Spending time around people who are similar to you, as you realize there’s a group of people the same as you. Who I spend time with is key, it lifts my vibration and that helps me to accept that different part of me!

What are the top things that made a difference to help you build and feel self confidence generally in day to day life?

Reading self help books has really helped me to feel more confident. It led to me practicing mindfulness and practices of self love. I follow positive messages on social media, so I read them and absorb them, exposing myself to positive statements that helps to keep my mindset in line.

I also use self-love activities that have cultivated peace and calm such as yoga, being in nature, beach walks, deep breathing and hot baths – all this has helped cultivate self acceptance and self confidence too! 

What gave you the confidence to DO new things that were important to you such as new goals, projects or taking risks?

The reason I have confidence to take action on my goals and projects is because I believe in what I’m doing. I don’t do things in my life or follow paths unless I am really passionate about it, and it gives me joy. From that love and intuition about the thing I’m embarking on, that boosts my confidence.

What areas of your life have improved because of these confidence boosters?

I’m more confident as a parent now, self confidence has helped me be a better person with my kids. As a parent I had previously felt judged by others, society, other parents, and so I had to be more confident in myself, and that helped my parenting role.

I choose to be confident so I can be strong for my kids when they need me, sticking up for my kids and I grew in that role and ability through cultivating my own self confidence.

Person #8

How much do you think self-acceptance has to do with your confidence?

I actually feel that my confidence comes from my self-acceptance. The more I have accepted myself the more confident I feel. Therefore the more confident I am the more I accept myself! They support one another so yes, I feel they are interrelated.

What has helped you to be accepting of yourself (in order to support your sense of confidence)?

I am committed to my personal, spiritual and professional development and growth. I realize that it is a journey and I have become more and more accepting of myself as I grow and change and evolve. I am more accepting and compassionate of all parts of me. The more I do this, the less judgmental and impatient I am with myself. This supports my sense of confidence and the belief in myself.

What are the main things that have made a difference for you in building, maintaining and feeling self confident in everyday life?

Cultivating and balancing my inner and outer worlds has made a significant difference in maintaining and building on my confidence. On the inner the more I connect with the truth of who I am, my spiritual essence, Divinity and heart, the more at peace and ease and connected I am with ME. This centered place is one of confidence, acceptance, power, peace and love. This is more and more a priority for me in life. As a result my outer world including my work, expression, relationships and contribution are rooted in my confidence and the deeper knowing of who I am. I trust and allow this and it fuels my confidence and my energy.

With regards to important life goals, risks, projects, big changes… what gave you the confidence to DO such new things?

Feel the fear and do it anyway! I often felt insecure, a lack of confidence, and afraid as I embarked on new relationships, jobs, opportunities, etc. Yet since I value growth and learning and I am a bit of a rebel, not afraid to take risks, I often leapt into the unknown and grew as a result of this.

By doing the very thing that scared me I developed the confidence and belief in myself over time.

I would rather create my life and take the risk of things not working out ( at times they did not and I made mistakes).

However I am more empowered and know and believe in myself more than ever because I took those chances.

I have felt called at some level to my greatness and listened to that calling, in spite of the times I felt invisible. It takes courage and also the right support in your life. It is worth it and I have discovered that I am worth it.

What specific areas of your life do you think are significantly improved because of your ability to proactively boost/feed your confidence?

With self-acceptance, self-love and the commitment to being confident, I have attracted healthier relationships, balanced in love and give and take.

My work and impact as a speaker, coach, facilitator and sometimes writer is enhanced over time as I deepen the wisdom and practices (spiritual, physical, mental and emotional) that strengthen my courage, confidence and trust in myself.

Confidence like courage is a muscle. You have to use it, practice, implement it in order for it to get stronger. The more I own my power and courage, the more my confidence supports my greater purpose on the planet to help others evolve and grow

I have come a long way. I had self-doubt, low self-esteem, felt invisible and did not feel I mattered for most of my young life. I wanted to heal and grow, to feel happy, fulfilled, make a difference. My patience and commitment to my self-love, healing and discovering my higher purpose over my life has made a huge difference in who I am today. One day a time. Knowing and feeling you are worthy and deserving may take time. You are one of a kind in this world. Embrace that truth, love your uniqueness and know it will work out over time with the right support and love from yourself and the right people in your life. Good luck! Take the leap for YOU!

Person #9

How much has self-acceptance got to do with your confidence?

I don’t personally consider myself a very confident person, though people think the things I do are courageous.

Partly I do things confidently in my life because I’ve not felt very self accepting and so I feel like I need to grow more as a person to help me be more self loving, self accepting and confident. So I take action and do new things to further cultivate that in myself. The more things I’ve done, the more confident I am that I can do new things.

I’m uncomfortable being too comfortable, so I feel like I need to push boundaries to grow. When I do courageous things or new projects, I’m seeking to improve myself and learn something and challenge myself.

DOING things has helped me to build confidence, but actually I didn’t feel confidence during the actually doing, usually I felt like imposter syndrome with a voice inside saying “I’m not a person who does XYZ” but then after I do it, I realize I am that person who does new things! Then I feel more confidence. As I acknowledge I CAN and DID do something, I become more confident. I am capable of being outside my comfort zone of what I think I can do and still succeed.

I don’t feel confident in the exact moment I’m doing something though, but I can confidently say I would do any of those things again no problem. Fear of the unknown is something that I can deal with. Uncertainty and unsureness can get better of you but I use it to push me and grow.

I think what allows me to confidently do things even though I don’t consider myself a confident person, is that I hate being bored! I don’t want to be stuck and small, so that drives me, and it fires me up to do new things, and I love that you learn so much about yourself and world when making changes, trying new things and new activities, so I would prefer that than staying stuck.

I also find myself more confidently doing new things when I don’t know what is coming, the unknown is better for me than seeing everything I would need to know or do at the outset, seeing how hard it might be! It’s easier to just dive in and get started, and learn as I go.

What’s your viewpoint on failure?

With the projects I’ve done, I have no regrets in my life at all because everything I do gets me to where I am now and helps me to grow. Trying something and it not succeeding is NOT failure, it’s “you can suck and still be awesome for doing it and having fun doing it”.

If something doesn’t work out, you still learn, for example you might realize “its not your thing” or you have more to learn/practice. I’m not attached to outcomes, it’s more about the journey for me and experiencing life.

What has made a difference to being able to accept yourself (how did you do it) in order to feel confident?

I was single for a long time, so I learned to be comfortable being by myself, living alone, and actually consciously only surrounding myself with really good people. I chose to have people around me who knew I was capable and who know I would be okay no matter what, and would just encourage me to get on with it.

What are the day to day things that made a difference to help you build and feel self confidence generally?

  • I walk to work every day, 1 hour by myself having “me time”, so I can reflect, think about things, feel connected to myself, listen to things I’m interested in on podcasts, and it definitely calibrates me for the day.
  • Trying new things all the time, learning new skills and hobbies, that is so important.
  • Doing things that get me out of my mind and into my body, so tactile hands activities – arts, crafts, garden, so I can be more in the present moment, connected to me, zoned out of the thinking.

What gave you the confidence to DO new things that were important to you like new goals, taking risks or making life changes?

Feeling like I’ve hit my comfort zone is a sign to me to move and change something, and I do that confidently because I prefer that to being stuck or too comfortable.

What areas of your life have improved because of these confidence boosters?

Confidence has helped me at work. I’ve been given opportunities probably because I have the “fake it til I make it” attitude. It has a snowball effect, in that you try something new, you feel good, it then becomes a positive cycle. 

How to Gain Confidence - Case Studies of What Works

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