The Ultimate Guide to Confidence

Learn ways to build your self-confidence both personally and professionally.

Written by: Kristen Baker


Lessons on leadership from HubSpot founder Dharmesh Shah.

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“To establish true self-confidence, we must concentrate on our successes and forget about the failures and the negatives in our lives.” — Denis Waitley

I know what you’re thinking … easier said than done, right?

Nobody is born with high or low self-confidence. Confidence is a feeling that people develop and work on over time. For most people, confidence is something that comes and goes.

Think about it in terms of a cycle: When someone is at the top of the cycle, they are focused on their successes and accomplishments, meaning they might feel confident and strong. But when they are at the bottom of their cycle, they are focused on their failures and may feel low self-confidence or even defeat.

If you can identify with the feeling I’m referring to at the bottom of the confidence cycle, know you’re not alone. Everyone struggles with self-confidence every now and then. The key is realizing that confidence is like a muscle — the more you work on it, the easier it will become for you to use and maintain.

This article will teach you why everyone should work on their self-confidence, and it’ll provide you with ways to build your self-confidence.

But first — what is self-confidence?

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What Is Self-Confidence?

Self-confidence is the feeling you have when you strut into a job interview knowing you’re going to impress the hiring manager. A person feels confident when they believe they can successfully do something by applying their judgement, knowledge, and prior experiences.

How Does Self Confidence Impact Your Life?

Think about a time when you felt extremely confident in your ability to do something.

Did you feel an adrenaline rush? Did you feel strong and powerful? Did you feel as though you could conquer the world?

Self-confidence does a lot of things for us. It boosts our self-esteem, diminishes stress, and often pushes us to act. But most importantly, it makes us feel good about ourselves.

Let’s dive into a few more ways self-confidence impacts our lives:

Your happiness and self-esteem will increase

Self-esteem is closely related to confidence but has a slightly different definition — it is a person’s evaluation of their self-worth and value.

There is a direct correlation between confidence and self-esteem. When you believe in yourself — your talents, capabilities, worth, and potential — both your self-esteem and confidence increase.

When your self-esteem increases, you believe you are worthy of the life you dream of and the success you desire. Not only will you become more confident, but you will more easily accept your failures, give yourself the credit you deserve, accept new challenges, and become happier.

In fact, self-esteem always exists with happiness — and there are studies to prove it. In almost every instance, people who feel good about themselves are significantly happier than those who lack self-worth. When self-confidence increases, your self-esteem and happiness do the same.

Think about it in terms of the following chart. Most people would feel high self-esteem, sure about their abilities, and good about standing up for their beliefs when behaving confidently — as listed in the left column. They are doing what makes them happy. The opposite is true about the right column.

confident behavior chart

Source: MindTools

Your stress and anxiety will decrease

Did your math teacher ever randomly call on the students who weren’t the strongest mathematicians to complete a problem in front of the entire class? Mine did.

Could you sense the stress and anxiety fuming from those students (yes … I was one of them) as they reluctantly walked to the front of the classroom?

My palms were sweaty and my right hand would shake while writing on the chalkboard — the pressure was on!

When a person in a situation like this doubts their abilities, they are down at the bottom of that confidence cycle I mentioned earlier. Due to increased stress and anxiety, they start to believe they don’t have the knowledge or experience to complete a task (or in this situation, complete a math problem correctly), even if that isn’t truly the case.

The feeling of low confidence and not being good or smart enough often manifests as stress or anxiety. And in extreme cases, it can even turn your body’s fight or flight mode on, which isn’t ideal unless you’re being chased by a hungry lion (or are experiencing another life or death situation).


Stress and anxiety on a regular basis can be detrimental to your self-confidence. These feelings cause excess release of cortisol and norepinephrine in the brain — making our bodies feel out of control and overwhelmed.

Unless you are actually trying to avoid becoming the lion’s lunch, there’s no reason to feel these feelings. And you certainly don’t want them just because your math teacher called you up to the board to complete a problem. Stress and anxiety can cloud your judgment and prevent you from thinking logically.

When stress and anxiety fade away, the excess release of cortisol and norepinephrine in the brain come to a halt. You are able to believe and trust in your abilities again, think logically, and feel as though you are ready to tackle new challenges that come your way — you’ll jump back to the top of that confidence cycle.

You’ll feel more motivated to act

If someone is confident in their ability to successfully do something, they’re more likely to volunteer to complete a task than someone who is less confident.

For example, imagine your manager coming to your team and saying, “Is anyone able to help me design a logo?” Chances are, the person with the background in design, or the most knowledge in the field, would volunteer their expertise … versus another person without any experience whatsoever.

This is called the power of certainty. When you’re more certain of — and confident in — your knowledge and abilities, you’re more likely to act.

If you’re confident in your abilities, not only will you feel more motivated to act, but the people around you will also want to trust you more … which takes us to our next section:  

People will trust you

If you’re the one with the design background, do speak up about that logo and successfully follow through with a fantastic result. You’re not only going to feel a boost in your self-confidence (“Yay! I did this, and I did this well”), but your manager and team will also trust you more. They’ll think of you next time they have a design project.

When you are confident in your abilities, people are more likely to trust you, listen to you, and follow you.

For example, imagine you’re working on a group project, and you need to elect a leader. One person in the group says, “I know I can lead us to success, and I already have a few ideas I’d like to share with you on how to accomplish this.” Another person in the group says, “I  don’t really like leadership roles, but I guess I could try if you all really want me to.”

The first person seems a lot more convincing, right? They also sound significantly more confident in their abilities to complete the job ... and succeed.

When you are confident, more people are likely to follow your lead.

You have a greater potential for success

There are several studies that show a strong positive correlation between high levels of self-confidence and success. That’s not to say that people who struggle with confidence won’t be successful. However, research shows that people with higher levels of self-confidence achieve greater success in multiple areas of life.

There are a couple reasons for this:

  1. People who are confident have self-efficacy — a belief that they have the innate ability to achieve their goals, overcome challenges, and succeed
  2. When someone believes in their abilities, they are more likely to try until they succeed. They then have the experience that creates self-efficacy — it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now that you understand the benefits of having self-confidence, you may be asking yourself how you can work on your own self-confidence.

How to Build Self-Confidence

As I said earlier, self-confidence is like a muscle — you need to work it in order to improve. This means anyone can become more confident. Try these exercises to work on your self-confidence:

Get to Know Yourself

Knowing yourself means you understand your strengths and weaknesses. That also means you know exactly which areas of your life you are confident in and which areas you need to work on.

It’s clear why you would feel confident about your strengths. If you are good at something, you are much more likely to share your knowledge or act on that strength rather than a weakness or vulnerability of yours.

Take advantage of these strengths and use them to exercise your confidence. If you know how to do something, be the first person to raise your hand and demonstrate your skill or teach others. If you are confident in research you did, share your expertise. This will make you feel good and boost your confidence.

Then, work on some of your weaknesses. A confident person is not only aware of their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, but they embrace and use them as motivation.

Whether it’s studying a little harder, practicing more, asking for help, or spending a few extra minutes re-reading something, you can always push yourself out of your comfort zone to improve — and become more confident — in areas in which you typically lack confidence.

For example, if you’re someone who freezes up and gets anxiety while speaking publicly, sign up for a class or two. Practice in front of your family and friends. Then, when you have to give that speech, not only will you impress the audience, but you will impress yourself. This will help you develop the self-confidence you’re striving for an area in which you typically struggle.  

Be Prepared

When you are prepared to do something, you’re more confident in your ability to accomplish a task successfully.  

One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” — Arthur Ashe

Preparation is a simple way to boost confidence. Think about it in terms your co-worker presenting at a big conference. This presentation is a reflection of your fellow employee’s work and knowledge, and it also requires them to speak alone in front of 50+ people — managers, directors, and other people of great influence included — for 30+ minutes. Sweating yet?

Your co-worker can prepare to the point that they are able to walk into that conference on presentation day excited to get started. By avoiding procrastination, knowing the information like the back of their hand, preparing for questions — or even technical difficulties — and working on their public speaking skills prior to the due date, they will feel confident and ready to give their presentation.

Think About Your Appearance

People can tell a lot about you and your level of confidence by the way you physically present yourself. That includes your overall dress and body language.

Imagine you’re conducting a job interview, and you have two equally qualified candidates. The first candidate is slouched over the entire interview, not making eye contact, and looks slightly disheveled. The second candidate gives you a firm handshake, is sitting up straight, looks you directly in the eyes, and is wearing a nice suit. Who would you choose for the job?

The second candidate seems significantly more confident, prepared, and impressive — and you can probably gather all of that about a person without even talking to them.

It’s proven that people feel greater self-confidence and esteem when they feel good about their appearance. So use appearance to your advantage — not only will you radiate confidence for the people around you to notice, but you will also use your appearance and body language to make yourself feel more confident in any type of situation.

Stay Positive

Positivity is a key component to building self-confidence. It’s what keeps you from beating yourself up after a setback or mistake.

By not accepting failure and staying positive, you’ll actually help yourself become a more confident person.


Here’s an example: If you’re trying to learn a new software at work, and you’re continually making mistakes, sure, you might be frustrated, but I’d bet you’re also learning a lot throughout the process.

Once you’re finally able to iron out these issues and understand how to use the new software, you have proven to yourself that you can get through a challenging time. This should not only get you excited and make you feel confident about this specific situation, but it should also make you feel confident in your abilities to tackle another difficult project.

It’s not always the stuff that comes naturally to you that makes you super confident. Instead, it’s usually the stuff you have to work really hard to get through.

Resources to Help You Build Confidence

Whether it’s a book, podcast, or TED Talk, there are a number of resources to help you build self-confidence.

Pick Up a Book

There are hundreds of books on building self-confidence and how to use it  to your advantage. Here are few options::

You Are a Badass

This humorous bestseller is a self-help book that contains a guide on how to create a life you love. It’s filled with inspiring stories, advice, and applicable ways to incorporate aspects of the guide in your life.

This book will help you build confidence in everything you do, love yourself, and achieve your biggest goals.

The Confidence Code

Research, gender, behavior, and cognition are all discussed in The Confidence Code. The book — which is targeted at women — talks about the reasons why men are typically more confident in the workplace and gives female readers advice on how to close this gap.

This is a great option for any woman who wants to learn how to develop more confidence at work and achieve their dream careers, whether or not they’re in a male-driven field.

Daring Greatly

This New York Times #1 bestseller dives into the ways that vulnerability can help measure courage.

This book — written by Brené Brown — teaches individuals how to use their vulnerabilities and challenges to their advantage. According to society and culture, vulnerabilities are weaknesses. But according to Brown, they are a way to build courage and confidence.

Listen to a Podcast

Maybe you need some audio inspiration before your next confidence challenge? Here are a few podcasts that will help you build your self-confidence:

Earn Your Happy

This podcast gives you insight and advice on ways to work through your fears, boost self-esteem, and build your confidence in both your personal and professional lives. It’s great for those who need the occasional reminder to stay positive and take life a little less seriously.

Daily Meditation Podcast

Meditation pushes individuals to look inward, reflect, and determine what changes they can make to improve their lives.

With daily meditations on confidence, self-esteem, anxiety, confidence, and stress reduction, this podcast will help you work towards the healthy and happy lifestyle you’re looking to achieve.

Your Motivational High 5

All you need is five minutes to enjoy this podcast.

This podcast will take you through five minutes of meditation and help you develop good mental health practices. This podcast is quick, effective, and forces listeners to take a short break during the day to focus on their happiness, well-being, confidence, and strength.


Self-confidence is not always easy to achieve or maintain, but it’s something that everyone deserves to experience. There are many reasons why confidence is essential in our personal and professional lives, but most importantly, it plays an integral role in our happiness.

Try boosting your own confidence and self-esteem in some areas of your life that need a bit of attention or work. Give a few of the steps mentioned above a try and learn what works for you.

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Topics: Confidence

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