How to build up self-confidence

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Kevin Mangelschots

A healthy amount of self-esteem is vital in order to live a happy, fulfilling life. It allows us to reach our goals in the future by being daring enough to undertake challenges in addition to trying out new things.

And while some people are naturally more self-assured than others, there are a number of things we can do to improve our sureness. The loudest person in the room is for sure not always the most confident one.

This is how to build up self-confidence.

How can we improve and build up self-confidence?

Illustration of a barometer with the words “Confidence level.” Written above it.

It is possible to improve and build up self-confidence by becoming more skillful.

The one big thing which we do have under our control is unsurprisingly not a personality trait. As, these characteristics are largely inherent and not very pliable.

Improve our skill

The one big factor about self-confidence that is under our control is how competent we are at the task or skill at hand.

The more competent we are at a skill, the fewer mistakes we will make and the easier the task gets. If we know the job well, then this will improve our confidence for the simple fact that we know that we’re well-trained in the project or ability at hand.

If we consciously try to improve our skill level, then we will start noticing that working hard and diligently pays off. You start to realize you are capable of completing the task without messing up. This in itself will already do wonders to build up self-confidence.

How can we improve our self-esteem?

Self-esteem is harder to improve than self-confidence is. However, that’s not to say that there’s nothing we can do.

We can improve our self-esteem by successfully completing tasks and goals, and by having an encouraging network of people that love and support us.

Still, self-esteem is largely determined by certain personality traits, namely your levels of extroversion and neuroticism.

That’s why you can’t expect someone who’s low in extroversion and a high level of neuroticism to have a large amount of self-esteem. Nature has simply put decided that some people have high and low self-esteem by default.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What does self-confidence mean?

Self-confidence can be defined as the assurance in one’s own personal abilities, power, and personal judgement.

It can be positively, but also negatively influenced by our experiences, and due to accomplishing or not achieving particular activities and goals in the past.

It is the positive belief in one’s own ability to accomplish whatever goal they decide to pursue in the future.

This is an essential thing to develop in life, since insecurity is bad for your health, and making decisions out of fear is a surefire way to lead to disaster.

What does self-esteem mean?

Self-esteem can be defined as one’s subjective evaluation of their own worth.

It includes one’s own beliefs about themselves, and how we perceive ourselves. Thus, it is the positive or negative self evaluation.

This means that self-confidence and self-esteem are closely related, but not the same.

Common synonyms for self-esteem are self-regard, self-assurance, and self-worth.

What are the differences between self-confidence and self-esteem?

Illustration of a man scratching their head while holding a yellow question mark.

While self-confidence and self-esteem are closely related and regularly used as synonyms, they’re not exactly the same.

The largest difference is that one’s self-confidence is the trust in one’s own abilities to achieve certain goals, and self-esteem is the evaluation of one’s own worth.

This means that it’s perfectly possible for an individual to have a very high amount of self-confidence while having a low amount of self-esteem!

Examples of self-confidence and self-esteem

Image of the word “example” being written with a blue marker by someone's hand.

We all know someone either in our social circle or at our job who is highly intelligent, well-educated, rarely makes mistakes, and is hyper productive in general.

But despite all these positive qualities, they are still always doubting herself. “Did I forget something?” “Did I do something wrong?” “Am I even qualified to do this job?” “Can I reach my future goals?”

On the flip side, we probably also know someone who’s below average intelligence, and is not that smart. Why is it that these people often times feel so incredibly confident in their own abilities and have such high self-esteem even when it’s clear to everyone else that they are overestimating their abilities?

Have you ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect? It explains the above situation perfectly.

It’s a form of cognitive bias, wherein people assess their own cognitive abilities as being greater than it is in reality. A fun fact about this effect is that it affects people of average, and particularly below average intelligence. On the contrary, people who lean more towards the intelligent side of the distribution tend to rank their abilities lower than they truly are.

This can be explained by the fact that people who’re not all that smart don’t, or have a lesser, ability to self analyze and self reflect. That’s because they are not as self-aware as the smarter folks.

What are the factors that influence self-esteem and self-confidence?

  • Extroversion

    Image describing the key differences between extroversion and introversion.

    The first factor that influences self-esteem is how extroverted you are.

    Your level of extroversion determines how many positive emotions you experience, and consequently how many negative feelings you undergo as well.

    Extroverted people experience more positive emotions than introverted people do. This means that the more extroverted you are, the more positive emotions you will go through in your life.

  • Neuroticism

    A woman lying in bed curled up suffering from anxiety and fear with the blanket covering her body.

    Your level of neuroticism mainly determines how many negative emotions you experience.

    The more neurotic you are, the more negative emotions you will feel in your life. It also means negative feelings will be felt more intensely.

  • Competence

    Your skill level means how good you are at a given skill.

    Being high in personality trait conscientiousness, which means you value routine and hard work, is often a large indicator for getting good at a task.

    If you are not a very conscientious person, then there are still things you can do to set yourself up for success. Setting good micro-routines will help you to improve your conscientiousness, and to become more disciplined.

Disadvantages of overly high self-esteem and self-confidence

A man with a colored sweater giving the thumbs down.

While there are many advantages of a moderate amount of assurance and esteem, there are some potential disadvantages of high self-esteem and high self-confidence. Especially if they’re too high without a proper reason.

Can lead to mistakes

Having high levels of self-esteem when you’re not good at a given task is not beneficial and will lead to making even bigger mistakes.

If you think you’re better at something than you are in reality, then you will start to make a lot of mistakes. Even worse is that you won’t recognize it due to your excessive amount of self-esteem. Because you will start to think somewhere along the lines of, “I’m the best and most qualified for this job, so how could I possibly make any mistakes?”

Having excessively low levels of confidence is also not ideal. UNLESS you are not good at a given task. If you’re not good at a task, then it’s good to have a low level of self-esteem at that given skill.

Because what’s the use of thinking you’re good at something when you’re really not all that proficient? How can you learn the task if you think you’ve already mastered it?

I think it’s pretty evident that being excessively low in self-esteem when you are good at a given task or skill is not ideal either.

Can lead to bullying

Having too little self-esteem may also lead to being bullied. Because bullies often search for targets that they deem to be weak and vulnerable.

The solution in this case is learning how to stand up for yourself, both verbally and even physically if necessary. And by becoming more proficient at these skills, in order to improve your self-esteem to healthier, more accurate levels.

Which comes first, self-esteem or self-confidence?

Self-esteem and self-confidence don’t always happen together, although they certainly can.

It’s entirely possible to be confident in your own abilities, yet doubt your self-worth due to low self-esteem.

I would say that self-confidence is most likely to come first, and that a high self-esteem mostly comes after realizing you’re competent and skilled.

Nevertheless, there are some people who think extremely highly of themselves, even though they’re not capable at all.
 

Can you have confidence but low self-esteem?

Yes, you can be confident even though you don’t think much of yourself due to low self-esteem.
 
Just because you’re self-confident doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to have high self-esteem. That’s why you need to learn to see the value in your existence.
 

Why is self-esteem more important than confidence?

A sign with the quote, “you are good enough.”

Both self-esteem and confidence are important.

The advantage of high self-esteem is that you’re less likely to employ anger as a defensive mechanism, since you’re less likely to feel threatened and offended. This means you’re better fit to deal with anger than those who doubt themselves.
 

What causes high self-esteem?

High self-esteem typically comes from being extroverted, low in personality trait neuroticism, competent, and because you’re living your life the way you want to so that it lines up with your intrinsic beliefs.
 

What causes poor self-esteem?

A person holding a question mark in front of their face.
 
Poor self-esteem can come from many potential causes such as an unhappy childhood, our loved ones being overly critical, stressful life events, a mental breakdown, and even poor academic performances.
 

Is low self-esteem permanent?

A low self-esteem is partly determined by our personality traits, but can be influenced by our experiences as well. That’s why it doesn’t always have to be permanent.

Living our lives in a manner that aligns with our values can aid a great deal to fix our low sense of self-worth. That’s because we know that we’re carrying out what we believe in, instead of lying to ourselves and others.

Conclusion

An illustration of a person standing in front of clouds reading “believe in yourself".

Your confidence level should ideally be based and adjusted to how good you are at the skill, or task at hand.

If you’re not good at a labor, then it should realistically be on the lower side. Because if you think you’re already outstanding at a task when you’re actually not good at it, then how can you still improve and learn new things with that kind of mentality?

Consequently, if you’re good at the task, it should ideally be higher.

This is why I advocate for a healthy amount of self-esteem. A balanced, accurate amount. Seeing as getting better at the task is about the only way, a person can reliably influence their own level of self-esteem. This is because our personality traits remain largely stable throughout our lives.