Confidence is not a fixed trait that you either have or don’t have—and it’s not about being the best, smartest, or most successful person in the room. It’s a state of mind that can be learned and strengthened, which means it’s not a result of success. It’s the foundation.
According to Alyssa Dver, co-founder of the American Confidence Institute, true confidence lies in the certainty you have about your decisions and your willingness to stand by yourself through thick and thin. The benefits are wide-ranging: Confident people are better able to overcome self-doubt, have a stronger belief in their ability to learn, and experience more positive emotions. Here are four ways to harness your inner strength and kick up your confidence:
1. Act on Your Values
Confidence has a nemesis. It’s shame: the feeling that you’ve let yourself down. The research shows that when you act in a way that is unaligned with your values or beliefs, you feel cognitive dissonance—a sense of conflict that results in shame. The easiest way to combat it, according to Dver? Acting in a way that makes you proud.
When you’re feeling insecure, size up what you’re doing against your values. Do they align? If so, own it! This self-awareness is a sure way to go into situations with the confidence that you’re doing what’s right. For example, if you want to attend your child’s school event but worry about missing work, think about how that decision lines up with your values. Carving out quality time with your family doesn’t mean that you don’t also care about your job, and each will take priority at different times. Your values will help you weigh which decision you’ll feel more proud of in that moment. This simple mindset shift can take you from shaky decision-making to unshakeable confidence.
2. Own Your Weaknesses
Confidence is not about lacking flaws—it’s about owning them. When your weaknesses lurk in the shadows, they become insecurities. However, when you bring them to light, they lose their hold and become opportunities to grow. “Confident people are self-compassionate and embrace weaknesses, knowing that they are worth perfecting,” says Dver.
Embrace and acknowledge your “weaknesses” without attaching them to your identity. For example, if you struggle with public speaking, don’t write it off as a defect or a permanent part of your personality. Instead, brand it in a way that feels genuine and makes it less scary. Try joking about it, or use growth statements such as, “Public speaking is something I’m working on.” Dver says that true confidence is “being real with who you are.”
3. Know Your Worth
Confidence is more than knowing you can do something—it’s the belief that you’re worth doing it. One way to do this: Stay connected to the “why” behind your actions. Remind yourself of the reasons behind what you do and visualize yourself getting there. Dver gives the example of exercise: Knowing you can run a mile, in most cases, isn’t enough to get you off the couch, but knowing you can and that you’re worth the positive results will encourage you to act.
Part of knowing your worth is a willingness to take chances on yourself. Use your “why” to push yourself to see what you can accomplish. Jog that extra five minutes, take ownership of a challenging project at work, or pursue a new hobby—and pat yourself on the back afterwards, regardless of the results.
4. Use Labels
Threats to your confidence often come in the form of insecurity—yours and others. This is especially true at work, which Dver says is often a “survival of the fittest” environment where people try to elevate themselves with tactics such as name-dropping, “smartest-person-in-the room” games (such as correcting or talking over others), and gossip. Creating a confident cognitive space requires labeling: naming these tactics for what they are.
For example, if your coworker is correcting you during a meeting to boost their own standing, internally regroup by labeling what they’re doing. Saying to yourself, “They’re playing a ‘smartest-person-in-the-room’ game because they’re feeling insecure,” can help you feel less emotional and less defensive. “When you label, you bring it to the prefrontal cognitive place,” Dver says. This naturally moves you into a confident, controlled headspace, making you better able to handle the situation with integrity.
When it comes to strengthening your mindset, Dver says, “Where there is a will, there’s a way.” Confidence starts with you—in your potential, your growth, and your progress. You already have strengths; confidence just helps you use them.
Elior Moskowitz is the Content Coordinator at meQuilibrium. A frequent Cup of Calm contributor, she also writes for various major business journals and lifestyle publications. Elior holds a B.A. in Psychology and English, with special training in both positive psychology and mental health counseling.