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Published: 13 May 2020

University of Sunderland in London student with self-confidence

Self-confidence is a skill every University of Sunderland in London student should have. Our Health and Wellbeing team has some tips for becoming more confident and facing your fears.

There are lots of different definitions and opinions of what self-confidence is. One of the simplest is from the Oxford Dictionary, “confidence in yourself and your abilities”. 

Confidence can mean different things to different people. You often hear the phrase “there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance”. But believing in yourself and what you can achieve doesn’t have to mean that you’re arrogant. Sometimes finding and keeping your confidence can be difficult. But just because your confidence level is low doesn’t mean you can’t build it back up again.

Low confidence can be caused by a lot of different things. Being unhappy with your appearance, past experiences, poor time-management, lack of knowledge and many more. Often our confidence is low because of how we think others see us. As a society, we care a lot about the opinions of other people and how it affects our self-worth. But it’s not just a lack of confidence that can cause us problems. Having too much can also let us believe we can do anything. While confidence is a good thing, overconfidence can set you up to fail. 

Stop comparing yourself to others

This can sound both obvious and impossible. But research has shown that people who compare themselves to others experience envy. The more envy you have, the worse you end up feeling about yourself. One way of breaking out of this pattern is to realise that everyone is different. We all have different goals and aspirations, strengths and weaknesses. So when you compare yourself to a friend on Facebook and think, ‘well they’re doing better than me’ it’s important to take the time to think of all the things you’ve achieved too. We’re all just trying to do our best, so we only show our best on social media. It is not an accurate picture of someone’s life.

Take care of yourself

When you don’t look after yourself, it can be very hard to feel good about who you are. A healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep and staying active all help make you feel better. It’s true that keeping up with a healthy lifestyle isn’t always easy. But remember you only have one you, so make self-care a priority where you can. Treating yourself with kindness might not be obvious or easy to you, but it’s a vital thing to get into the habit of doing. When you face a setback or failure, try being kind to yourself in that moment. It can help motivate you in the future. One way of doing this to try speaking to yourself the same way you would to a friend. Don’t forget, you might not be perfect, but no one else is either.

Face your fears

When you’re worried or scared of an outcome, it can be far too easy to find excuses not to go for the things you want. On the other hand, trying can be its own natural confidence booster. Even if you don’t succeed, you can still take joy from the fact that you tried. But it’s not easy to challenge your own self-doubt. Try starting small. Don’t go for a big thing that really scares you at first, which could be overwhelming. Your self-belief is powerful. If you go into a task thinking that you’re going to fail, you’re less likely to try as hard as you can to succeed. Spend some time thinking about what strengths you have. Focusing on that, rather than your weaknesses, will boost your confidence. For example, think of a time when something you did went really well and compliment yourself about it. When things don’t go as well, take time to think about what you would’ve done differently. Treat your mistakes as learning experiences rather than failures.

Planning and learning

When you set out to complete a task it’s useful to have a plan. That’s true whether you’re brand new to the task, or you’ve done it a hundred times before. Planning can give you confidence and will help you to find the gaps in your knowledge ahead of time. For example, if you’re giving a presentation and you’re not sure how you should structure it, get all the information prepared first then tackle the actual presentation. We all have people in our lives that seem to be confident and self-assured. Try watching how they approach things and how they behave when they come across a problem. If you’re comfortable, try talking with them about their approach. We all learn from experience, so it might just be that they’ve got more experience than you.

Calm but assertive

Staying calm helps you to keep a clear mind. You’ll have a better idea of what needs to be done when you’re able to relax. Try setting goals that you know you can achieve. That way you can test out some of the skills we’ve talked about. Make a list of the things you want to do. For example, feeling confident enough to complain in a restaurant, or asking a question in class. Think through how you would approach situations like these. Remember, your targets don’t need to be overwhelming or large. Taking small, steady steps at your own pace is the key to success.

More information

Visit Skills You Need and Very Well Mind for more tips and advice on building your self-confidence.