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The Key to Building Self-Confidence

Written by
Liya P

It is common knowledge, or common assumption anyway, that confident people are happier, more successful and better loved. So whenever someone is not doing their best or is undermining their own achievements, it is oh so tempting to say “Just be more confident!” But what does that mean? If you don’t believe in yourself as much as you probably should, can you simply snap your fingers and suddenly equip yourself with that illusive self-confidence? Since you are reading this article, you are probably well aware that it isn’t that easy. Still, understanding confidence will help you achieve a much more grounded perspective and hopefully convince you that high self-esteem is not something you receive, but rather something you need to build for yourself.

What is Confidence?

Basically, self-confidence is the ability to realistically assess your own abilities and strengths, while placing a stronger emphasis on what makes you great, rather than the areas where you might not be perfect. Self-confidence is all about a firm, inner belief that you are worth the love and attention of others, as well as your own, and that you are competent enough to achieve everything you would like. Confident people understand that even if they have not achieved a goal yet, they are able to do so, while people who lack self-confidence may often sabotage themselves because they don’t believe in their own abilities, even when all the resources are readily present. It is very important to remember though that people with low self-esteem are not weaker or less capable than the confident ones. Building upon and improving your self-esteem is completely possible, though it does take effort.

Is Cocky the Same as Confident?

This may come as a shock, but extremely high levels of self-confidence can be just as negative as low self-esteem. Picture confidence like a ball you’ve thrown to the sky – at the beginning, as it leaves your hand, the ball is relatively close to the ground, then, in the middle of its journey, your ball will reach the highest point and finally – it will fall back to the ground. Similarly, very low or very high levels of confidence are equally unsuccessful strategies. While low self-esteem often leads to wasting one’s potential, as well as feelings of misery and loneliness, overconfidence can have other negative repercussions. A study published in the book Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases demonstrates the negative effects of an inconsistence between what people think they know and what they actually know (1). In such cases, overconfidence often leads to misjudgment and therefore serious mistakes such as medical errors and car crashes. If you give it a minute right now, you would probably be able to come up with your own examples of instances when overconfidence, or cockiness, led to unfortunate events. The important thing to remember here is that while self-confidence is important, it should still be an adequate assessment of one’s abilities.

Can Confidence Make a Real Difference when Dating?

If there is one thing you absolutely need to know about confidence, it is this – people tend to perform based on their own self-perceptions. This may sound mind-boggling, but in reality, you are as good as you believe you are! This is not some impractical mantra you should repeat to yourself to feel better – it is the scientifically proven truth. One of the many studies that have proven this point, has been published in the book Maximum Brainpower: Challenging the Brain for Health and Wisdom (2). A group of soldiers, who had been training for a year, were given one final exam – they had to run 25 miles through the desert, a distance they had all successfully completed before. However, the soldiers were divided into a few groups and given different information. While some were aware of the real distance they were to run, others were told they’d run a bit less and a third group was led to believe that they’d run a lot more. The curious results demonstrate the important of self-belief – the soldiers who knew the real distance, or were given a smaller estimate, finished first. On the other hand, those who thought they’d have to run a lot more, gave up after merely 6 miles – a distance they completed every day! So how can that be applied outside of army life? Well, when you believe in your abilities to complete a task, you will likely do a great job at it. And the opposite – when you don’t believe in yourself you will likely fail even at things you can do well.

It is only natural that self-confidence is an essential part of love and attraction as well. Confident people appear to be more attractive because they experience an overall higher level of happiness. When you are confident and happy, your body is also full of the so-called joy hormones – endorphins. Those influence your radiance, energy level, positivity and openness to others. Self-confidence also changes your posture and body language, making you seem more inviting and appealing to others. A popular study, published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, tested out this theory (3). Two groups of men, rated with approximately the same level of attractiveness, were compared. While the first group was asked to use a type of cologne for several days, the second group was not. After a while, both groups were photographed and the images were shown to women, who then rated the men who had used the cologne as much more attractive. Obviously, the women could not differentiate between the body odors of the two groups just by looking at photos, so what happened? The results didn’t have anything to do with the cologne itself but rather with the way in which men’s perception of themselves changed. As the group’s self-confidence increased, so did their attractiveness.

Some Exercises to Build Your Self-Confidence

As you already know, your self-esteem depends on nobody but yourself! Building your confidence may not be easy, since you have formed your self-beliefs over the course of many years, but if you are motivated to do it you will succeed! All you have to do is apply the following confidence-building exercises:

– Positive Self-Talk: As you get up in the morning, smile in the mirror and praise everything that you like about your personality and appearance. Elicit even the tiniest details and repeat throughout the day. This may seem a bit silly at first, but it can do wonders for your confidence! A study, published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise compared two groups of tennis players – one that had engaged in positive self-talk and one that had not (4). After a while, the first group showed a significant improvement in performance and decrease in anxiety.

– Exercise: As you already know, happiness and confidence are closely related to the body synthesis of endorphins (the joy hormones). Endorphins are released during physical exercise and so working out can build your confidence both by improving your body image and your happiness levels.

– Enjoy Every Win: It is common among Olympic athletes to train in a way that builds confidence – they celebrate every success, no matter how small, so that they can accumulate the necessary self-esteem to win the gold. You can apply this to your own life – find the small wins and enjoy them!

– Respect Your Self-Image: A study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology demonstrates what you may already know – people’s self-perceptions are influence by their own clothing (5). Dressing in a way that makes you feel happy and confident, will make a difference!

So have you figured out the key to building confidence? You are it! Higher self-esteem can positively influence all aspects of your life, but only after you have made the conscious decision of working towards that goal.

May you have greater dating success!


(1) Judgment Under Uncertainty : Heuristics and Biases. Kahneman, D., Slovic, P., Tversky, A. Cambridge University Press, Apr. 30, 1982.

(2) Maximum Brainpower: Challenging the Brain for Health and Wisdom. Breznitz, S., Hemingway, C. June 26, 2012.

(3) Manipulation of body odour alters men’s self-confidence and judgements of their visual attractiveness by women. Roberts, C., Lyndon, A., Roberts, J., Havlicek, J., Wright RL. Int J Cosmet Sci. Feb, 2009.

(4) Mechanisms underlying the self-talk–performance relationship: The effects of motivational self-talk on self-confidence and anxiety. Hatzigeorgiadis, A., Zourbanos, N., Mpoumpaki, S., Theodorakis, Y. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Volume 10, Issue 1, January 2009

(5) “The Clothing Makes the Self” Via Knowledge Activation. Hannover, B., Kühnen, U. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31 Jul, 2006.


Liya Panayotova
Counseling Psychologist
Psychology Writer



Author: Liya P

University St. Kliment Ohridski
 Master's Degree, Clinical, Counseling and Applied Psychology

2013 – 2015
 University St. Kliment Ohridski
Bachelor of Science (BS), Psychology

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