Diane scheduled her first psychiatric appointment because she “was tired of struggling with low self-confidence”.  She reports that she had been missing out on work opportunities and feeling “overlooked” for promotions.  At first, she thought it was because her boss was “friends” with some of her co-workers but as she began to analyze the situation, she realized this had happened in other jobs with different bosses.  It became apparent that something was “missing within myself”.  She felt she was as equally skilled and qualified as her fellow co-workers, but “lacked self-confidence”.  She often clammed up in meetings and dismissed her hard work when complimented by colleagues.  At this point, she felt it “was time to make changes and figure out how to build my confidence before it was too late”.

Why are some people confident, while others are not?  Is it a genetic trait or something learned over time?  Can you fake it?  Confidence is not static.  It is a feeling that is ever changing.  Although some people can appear to be confident all the time, most people have moments when they are not self -assured or trusting that they can do something.  Confidence is a like a muscle, it can improve, the more you use it.  Research indicates that genes may influence 25-50% of your hereditary confidence.  So, there may be a genetic component to it.  However, there is still a chance for someone to have good genes and end up with low self-confidence or vice versa.  For some things, you might be able to fake confidence, but it would be difficult to keep it up if you don’t really believe it.  For instance, it might be hard to be a great guitar player, if you have never touched a guitar.

There are several ways to increase self-confidence.  However, in order to make lasting changes,  you need to follow these next three guidelines.  First, it’s important to define yourself.  In order to boost your confidence, you need to create a verbal definition of who you are.  If this does not match who you want to be, you can go back to the drawing board and define yourself as who you visualize yourself becoming in the future.  For instance, with Diane, she lacked a vision of herself.  When asked to define herself in present tense, she struggled.  However, when asked who she wanted to be, she immediately answered “I see myself as a boss”.  This helped to shape her mindset to start thinking of herself as a boss and what qualities were necessary to become that person.  She started thinking of herself as a boss at work and in her personal life.

Second, its important to try new things and hone new skill sets.  Again, confidence is like a muscle and by learning new skills, one is building strength in the areas of self-assurance and trust.  How many times, have you thought about doing an activity, such as dance or acting, but didn’t do it because you thought you would fail at it?  If you commit to taking a dance or acting class and try it, you may not be great at it, but your confidence will increase because you are trying it. For Diane, this was an essential key in building her confidence.  Outside of work, she had no hobbies or interests.  She had always wanted to take an acting class, but felt she would “be terrible at it” so she never tried it.  After signing up for the class, she immediately felt energized and motivated.  This feeling began to transfer into her work duties.  In meetings, she felt more excited about speaking up and engaging with coworkers.

Finally, the last guideline for improving confidence is getting out of your comfort zone.  Although the thought of acting in front of strangers made Diane uncomfortable, she stretched herself anyway.  The more she did this, the more successful she felt.  “Even if I flubbed a line or felt embarrassed, I kept at it and got better” Diane stated.  This sense of accomplishment far outweighed the discomfort.  She began to be more interactive with her boss and realized she was getting more opportunities at work as a result of her surge in confidence.

In summary, everyone can increase their confidence by putting effort into defining themselves, trying new things, and stepping out of their comfort zone.