What does it take to build a confidence habit?

One of the most common obstacles we create for ourselves is the idea that confidence is a personality trait. Or a quality that we either possess or we don’t. In fact, it’s a habit. Confident people aren’t born confident - it’s something that is built up over time, which means anyone can do it.

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We all arrive at the confidence starting line with different advantages and challenges (a strong inner critic = a challenge; being taught to see failure as a natural part of life = an advantage). But, from that point onward, the rest is up to us. That can feel both intimidating and empowering. And, as with anything that has that kind of intensity to it, it’s often best to break it down into manageable chunks. 


What is confidence?

I feel like there is a big difference between the people we look at and describe as ‘confident’ and the reality of what confidence feels like. Many of the celebrities we see on red carpets ‘oozing confidence’ (as the tabloids might put it) may actually be eaten up inside with insecurity and putting on a very convincing act that lasts only as long as the cameras keep flashing. The loudest person in the room - or the one who is convinced that they are right about everything - is another example of what we might perceive to be ‘confidence’ but which, for that person, can feel a lot like a desperate need to be seen and validated by others. 

I think confidence is a state of calm clear-headedness where you feel able to handle anything that’s happening to you because of the faith you have in yourself. The word ‘confidence’ comes from the Latin ‘fidere,’ which means ‘to trust.’ So, this is much more about the trust you have in yourself than it is about what you show to others.


What does it take to build a confidence habit?

It will be a different process for everyone. I have helped many of my resilience coaching clients go through this and no two journeys have been the same. However, there are some actions that tend to help all of us develop more confidence.

Work out what you really want from life

All of us feel more self-assured when we know where we’re going and what we want to do next. So, you can lay strong foundations for yourself by getting clear on what you want - and what you don’t.

Take a good hard look at your life and be honest about the parts that you’re not happy with - you could even rate each area, such as career satisfaction, friendships, health and wellbeing etc. out of 10 to see which needs the most attention. One simple exercise to get more clarity on this is to sit and meditate for 10 minutes and just keep asking yourself “what do I want?” You might be surprised by what comes up.

Get clear on who you are

If you know who you are, what you believe in and what’s important to you then you are much less likely to be blown off track by life’s challenges. This all starts with understanding your values - the things that are the most important to you in life. Look at the parts of your life that honour those values and the ways in which you abandon them.

Anger is often a sign of an area of life where you’re not living in accordance with your values - when did you last get really annoyed, and what about? Which of your values was being disrespected at the time? This is the place from which we can start creating the solid foundations for confidence, including setting healthy boundaries, overriding blocks like imposter syndrome and undoing social conditioning around asking for what you want (and being open to getting it).

Start listening to your inner narratives

The person who is likely to have undermined your confidence the most over the years is… you. The inner critic is often first established as a survival mechanism, to keep you from repeating a past negative experience. However, it can go on to become the only voice that many of us hear, a negative, self-defeating narrative of “I can’t,” “I’m not good enough,” “It’s not possible for me” etc. Confidence is dangerous to the inner critic because it gives us the momentum to try new things, get outside our comfort zones and take risks - all actions that could result in the hurt that the inner critic is always working to avoid.

Start tuning into the narratives in your head so you can see how much this is affecting you - write down all the negative things you say to yourself for a week. Look for themes within those thoughts that could point to a core belief you’ve adopted. For example, “No one likes me,” “I always say the wrong thing,” “I’m a poor partner,” “I’m not attractive,” “I’m difficult,” could all point to a core belief like “I am not worthy of love.” Once you’re aware of these core beliefs you can start to change them, with some work under your own steam, with a therapist, or a coach like me.

Do

Confidence happens in the doing of things - that’s how we build it up. We rarely ever feel confident before doing something challenging and, while you can tackle negative narratives and develop a loving and supportive mindset, you can’t think yourself confident. There are two important messages in this: the first is that if you don’t feel confident before doing something it doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn't, do it - it’s not a sign to give up. And the second is that the more you ‘do,’ the more confidence you’ll build.

Start with small steps - if you want to feel more physically confident, for example, then look at small changes you can make to your mobility, new ways to move your body, tackling any social conditioning around your appearance etc. If it’s confidence in speaking up then start by expressing yourself to people you trust before trying it in small groups and work up from there.

Show up for yourself consistently

Just as you can do the most damage to your own confidence, you can also be the source of the richest growth too. This starts by being consistently there for yourself in a way that perhaps others in your life haven’t been - or you haven’t in the past. That looks like doing what you plan to do, showing up for the things you know you need to be calm/happy/safe, tackling self-sabotaging and self-destructive habits and putting the time and effort you would lavish on other relationships into the one with yourself. This is how you build up that all important trust, which is the foundation of confidence.

It never happens overnight…

Nothing does, right? How frustrating is that? Building confidence is something that requires daily attention to detail, whether that’s rerouting the negative narratives that are undermining you or taking small steps outside of your comfort zone every day. There is no easy or overnight fix when it comes to confidence - but it’s something that all of us are capable of.

Resilience coaching is particularly well suited to helping anyone develop a confidence habit. Working on resilience - the ability to adapt, bounce back, be flexible and also go on to thrive in your life - is directly connected to how confident you feel.

Contact Alex to arrange a free 10-minute intro call to chat about the challenges you have with confidence.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London, N1
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Written by Alex Pett
London, N1

Alex is an ICF trained and NLP certified coach focused on helping people to deepen their resources to adapt and bounce back - and go on to thrive. She helps clients build confidence and self-belief, recover from burnout, develop self-assurance, intuitive connection and move beyond limiting beliefs. Clients achieve tangible change in 6-9 sessions.

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