How can you feel better about yourself?
If your self-confidence is low, it can be difficult to know where to start. Are you even worth it? (spoiler alert: you are!).
One of the best ways to build your self-confidence is to evaluate your thoughts and practice a few exercises.
In this guide, we’re sharing 15 exercises for self-confidence and how to build it.
Self-Confidence Low? Try Self Compassion Instead
If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because your self-confidence is low.
Those who’ve always had low self-esteem, may find the idea of confidence cheesy and weird. If you can relate, try to focus on self-compassion. A lot of research shows that self-compassion is more valuable than self-esteem. What’s the difference?
Let’s say something bad happened because of a mistake you made. Self-esteem asks us to rely on your value for yourself. It expects that you see yourself as a positive person. In contrast, self-compassion asks you to see yourself as a human. Like everyone else, you make mistakes and should forgive yourself for them.
Self-esteem is often rooted in competition: How do you stack up against others? Do you hold a glowing image of yourself at all times, even through struggle?
Self-compassion guides us to focus on our common humanity. Sure, you’ve made a mistake, but who hasn’t? Instead of seeing yourself as great, you can see a balanced version of yourself: You can be a wonderful person but still make mistakes or do the wrong thing.
In this way, self-compassion often feels more realistic.
Why Does Self-Confidence and How to Build It Matter?
When your self-confidence is low, it doesn’t feel good. Having a balanced view of ourselves is healthy, makes us feel better and helps us thrive. But there’s many other reasons why self-confidence and how to build it are critical. Self-confidence and how to build is important because low esteem can affect us:
- If we feel inferior to others, we tend to withdraw from social situations. It becomes more comfortable to be a “hermit.” While trying new things or meeting new people can help us, we lack the confidence to believe they will.
- When your self-confidence is low, you may naturally back away from healthy relationships. If you don’t think you’re good enough, you might shy away from the people who love you most. Or you may assume that people think the worst about you. This can cause problems in close relationships
- Work Performance. Not believing in ourselves means we’re less likely to go for good opportunities. We may settle in our work life or refuse to ask for raises or promotions. We might allow ourselves to be walked over because we’re afraid of standing up to bosses or co-workers.
- Avoid Life Challenges. Although difficult, challenges are usually what allows us to grow and carry us to a better spot in life. Unfortunately, when self-confidence is low, we might not believe we can overcome the challenge. This causes us to stay in the same situations instead of growing or moving past problems.
- Mental Health Challenges. Over time, if you don’t focus on your self-esteem and how to build it, it can take a toll. When it starts to affect your relationships, work life and other important areas, we might develop other problems. Negative thinking about yourself can lead to anxiety and depression. We might become anxious that people don’t like us or that we’re saying the wrong things. We might become depressed if we withdraw from others and suffer from loneliness.
- Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms. Mental health issues caused by low self-esteem can lead us to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms. This may include relying on alcohol or other drugs to feel better.
15 Exercises for Self-confidence: How to Build
When you’re wondering about self-confidence and how to build it, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you use tools, exercises, or other resources? Below are x tools for self-confidence and how to build it.
#1 Write Down Negative Beliefs
Try to become more aware about the negative beliefs you have about yourself. Examples might include:
“I’m too stupid”
“Nobody likes me”
When you recognize a negative thought, write it down on paper or in a notes app on your phone. After you’ve collected a few, start to challenge them. What evidence do you have against your negative belief? Write it down.
For example, you might think “nobody likes me,” but is that actually true? Are there counterpoints? Maybe your father calls you weekly, your co-workers ask about life and you get text messages from your friends. Realize these points are evidence that your negative belief is untrue.
#2 Take Relationship Inventory
How we feel about ourselves can be influenced by other people. It’s not people’s job to make you feel good, but it’s their job not to make you feel worse.
If you’re taking a look at your self-confidence and how to build it, look at the people around you. Are they supporting you in the way you want to receive support? Sometimes, it doesn’t matter people’s “intentions” if they’re hurting us anyway.
Whether emotional abuse, direct insults or small digs, the things people say can drag us down. It’s hard to improve your confidence if the people around you aren’t supportive. Take an honest inventory of who’s around you. Ask yourself if they’re supportive. If not, consider ways to draw boundaries, see them less frequently or cut off the relationship altogether.
#3 Meet Supportive People
If you take relationship inventory and realize you don’t have many supportive people in your circle, set out to meet them.
This can be a catch 22 since having low confidence can make it difficult to meet people. However, you’ll need to trust that when you find “your” people, they’ll contribute in a positive way to make you feel better.
Look for people who appreciate you and support you in the ways you want.
#4 What Would You Say To a Friend?
Whenever you have negative self-talk, ask yourself what a good friend would say about you in that situation.
For example, let’s say you feel like a loser because you’re broke and having trouble finding a new job. A good friend wouldn’t call you a loser. They’d give you grace and compassion for the difficult situation you’re going through. Try to do the same for yourself.
Learn more about this self-compassion exercise
#5 Learn Boundaries
Boundaries are a practical way we exercise self-love. When someone does something inappropriate, we let them know that it’s not okay. In this, we’re practicing self-respect. We’re affirming to ourselves that we’re worth good treatment.
#6 Say How You Feel
Along with boundaries, saying how you actually feel can improve our confidence.
When we have low confidence, we may tend to go along with what others say. Since we don’t think our opinion matters to others, or that we’re not worth it, we hide parts of ourselves. We might say “yes” when we mean “no.” We might say we like pineapple on pizza when we actually hate it. We might say a movie was horrible when we thought it was a good watch.
It’s hard to say how we feel sometimes, especially when we know it’s not what people want us to say. Still, we must be ourselves and say the truth. Each time we do this, we affirm to ourselves that we’re worthy of having and sharing our own thoughts and feelings.
Many people think exercise helps improve self-confidence because it leads to weight loss, making you feel better. While that may be true for some, exercise improves self-esteem for other reasons. Even if you’re in great shape, exercising can make you feel better about yourself.
One study concluded that exercise should be prompted to individuals with low self-esteem. Another study showed that those who exercised experienced a significant increase in their self-esteem, happiness and quality of life.
You don’t need to head to the gym though. Start with a walk in the park or a beginner workout video on YouTube.
#8 Write Down Positive Things People Say
Think about all the good things people have said about you. Maybe it’s a compliment from a friend or a comment from a boss. Write them down in an ongoing list. Add to it whenever someone says something good.
Whenever you’re experiencing low self-confidence, refer to your list as a mini pep talk.
#9 List Things You’re Good At
Make a list of all the things you’re good at—no matter how big or small. It could be cooking the best chicken dinner, crafting, being a good listener or contributing through your job.
#10 List Your Accomplishments
Along with listing the things you’re good at, write down all your accomplishments. List everything from tiny to huge accomplishments. Make the list as long as you can. Reflect on it when you’re about to do something new and challenging. Remind yourself that you’ve done many hard things before, so you can do it again.
#11 Acts of Kindness
When you’re feeling bad about yourself, do an act of kindness. That could be paying for the coffee for the person behind you in a drive-through. It could be giving someone a compliment or leaving a gift card for a stranger to find. If you have more time to commit, try volunteering weekly. Doing something positive for someone else reminds you that you contribute to the world. Science agrees too. Research shows that acts of kindness can boost self-esteem.
#12 Set a Goal to Do Something New
If you’re looking at your self-esteem, self-confidence and ways to build it, set a goal. When we have low confidence, we tend to avoid doing new things because we think we’re not good enough, we’ll fail or embarrass ourselves. Unfortunately, this can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Avoiding thing because of low confidence can make us feel even less confident.
When we try new things, we begin to reverse the cycle. We start to gain evidence that we can do challenging things. This makes us feel more prepared, helping us try even more new things, sending the spiral upwards.
Set a specific goal for yourself to do something you find challenging or “scary.” That may be:
- Applying for 5 new jobs
- Going to an exercise class
- Attending a support group online
- Asking a cashier how their day is
- Attending a social event
#13 Meditation for Self-Compassion
It might seem weird to think that meditation can help self-confidence, how to build it and how to maintain it. However, over time, meditation can help us improve our mindfulness. This makes us more aware of our thoughts. When we’re in the pattern of recognizing negative thoughts, we can challenge them to improve our confidence.
#14 Use Affirmations
Affirmations work for some people and not others. There’s plenty of research to suggest that repeating positive statements can improve your mindset.
The trick is to use affirmations that are believable to you. If your affirmation seems unrealistic or too cheesy, it could backfire and make you feel worse.
Therapy is a good way to learn how to build self-esteem. A therapist can look at your specific thoughts to recommend the best tools for self-confidence and how to build it. Therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help.
If self-confidence has caused mental health problems like anxiety or depression, seeking professional help may be necessary. Choose a therapist who you’re comfortable with. If you’re on a budget, look for professionals who work on a sliding scale.
If you can’t afford therapy, ask your doctor about free or low-cost resources in your area. Health community centers may also provide services. Some people also find help from self-help workbooks.
Summary: Tips to Boost Self-Confidence
When you’re taking a look at your self-esteem and how to build it, try a few exercises to see what works. These tips to boost self-confidence can help you feel better about yourself. Along the way, try to pay attention to your negative thoughts. When you recognize them, challenge them. If your self-confidence is low and it leads to mental health concerns, consider seeing a counselor or working through a self-help book.