A Therapist’s Guide to Confidence

A smiling woman wears a crown of flowers

Confidence is elusive for many people. There are many factors that can undermine confidence, but most of them are related to your past experiences in the world — first as a child and then as an adult — and how these experiences have led you to think of yourself.

There are many successful, intelligent people who think that they are “losers,” believing they’ll be discovered as inadequate by those around them. If this describes you, you may be wondering how to release these negative thought patterns and grow more confident.

How to Increase Your Confidence

If you’re looking for constructive ideas on how to make lasting changes to your confidence, here are few ways to do so…

Look at things objectively

The first step to increasing your confidence is to take an objective look at your strengths and weaknesses. Often, you can utilize objective measures for this.

For instance, if you’re anxious about your job performance and feel like you’re always disappointing your team or company, take a hard look at your performance evaluations over the years. Many times, people with low confidence underestimate their actual achievement levels. Looking at objective data can help you understand what you actually need to work on, versus where you’re already doing well.

For some people, it can be reassuring to look at past successes. Continuing with the example above, they arrive at a more rational thought process, thinking “Well, I have always done well on presentations in the past, never gotten much negative feedback at all, so there’s no reason to this that this upcoming presentation will be any different.”

Assess your current relationships

Next, you need to look closely at who you surround yourself with. If there are many toxic people in your life, you may need to think deeply about how they are impacting your self-esteem and general emotional health.

For example, if a woman who feels terrible about her body image sees her mother multiple times a week, and her mother always comments about her weight, this relationship could be sabotaging her chances of increasing her body confidence.

In this case, there are multiple approaches that she could take, including openly and assertively setting boundaries with her mom about which topics, like her weight, are off the table. Another approach might be limiting contact to once a week and seeing if there is any corresponding change in her self-esteem levels.

Address your past

Also, it is essential to look back into your early life and think deeply about what messages you received about your capabilities when growing up. Often, people with low confidence have grown up in households where they were implicitly or explicitly told that they were incompetent.

For instance, a boy could have been told by his dad that he was “book smart but not street smart.” Even if this was not said with bad intentions, it likely shaped how this boy thought about throughout his childhood, and later as an adult. He may feel that he can’t do more practical things, and should stick to the realm of academic achievement.

Figuring out what’s at the root of his lack of self-confidence in this area can be transformative, and allow him to finally try things that are outside of his comfort zone.

Therapy as a Solution for Confidence Issues

Therapy can be extremely useful in helping you discover the origin of your confidence issues. A skilled therapist can also work with you on creating small, incremental goals that help you to slowly build your confidence and your experience of mastery in the world.

Don’t let low self-confidence undermine your life. The best gift you can give yourself is the ability to understand yourself clearly, through introspection and therapeutic work. This can lead to self-awareness of what you’re already good at, and openness to tackle areas of your life that may need some work.

Published by

Dr. Samantha Rodman

Clinical Psychologist