Confidence: Do you have it?


True story. Years ago, a guy was so extremely shy and confidence-starved, when his brother used to drag him to high school parties, he would pretend to be passed out drunk on the couch so he could avoid having to make mortifying small talk with anyone. The one person, a mild mannered girl, who caught on to his ruse, later became his wife.

Confidence is the driving force behind daily decisions. Confidence ranges from giving a presentation, asking a crush out on a date, interviewing for the new big job and other decisions. In some cases, people will be shy and almost never speak up or go beyond the bare minimum to get by.

Some people seem to be able to rise to the occasion and handle stressful situations with ease. Others seem to exude confidence in any action they do. How do people learn to avoid discouragement and remain confident throughout the day? The answer can be found in the individual and not so much in their surroundings.

The source of all doubt

There is no magical spell of confidence or pill, which will make confidence easy to obtain. The truth is no one needs anything along those lines. Confidence and doubt both come from within the individual more than the environment.  Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D., writes about three ways in which the individual holds low levels of confidence:

  • Selective memory
  • Selective attention
  • Selective interpretation

Phelps describes selective memory as people who cannot recall positive moments in their past. People will avoid pulling up memories, which show them being successful. Selective attention involves the individual downplaying an achievement to others. No matter what the case may be, “People who are insecure often only notice situations or feedback that confirms their lack of value,” Phelps explains. Selective interpretation is when someone will, “believe that [he or she isn’t] truly capable or worthy of love, it’s easy to interpret everything in that light.”

The source of an individual’s doubt will usually be found in the one’s hands. People hold onto their doubt and have low self-esteem due to how they view their self-worth. By finding the sources of doubt which lower confidence, people can begin to work on breaking free. Phelps sums up this concept, “Greater awareness of how you feed your insecurity may not make it go away, but it will loosen its grip on you.”

A practical step in building self confidence

Sonia Kang, Ph.D., conducted a study posted in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin journal. It covers the topic of self-affirmation boosting self-confidence. In three different scenarios, participants are placed into two categories of low-power or high-power. Through the scenarios, the participants are tested to see how they perform under higher rates of pressure.

In the study, Kang was able to find people in the low-power setting, writing down positive affirmations helped them to perform better. Before going into a negotiation participants wrote down positive negotiation tools they had. Participants who wrote down a weak negotiation tool, preformed worse in the negotiation. Writing down the positive affirmations and other skills one has, can help to calm the nerves and increase confidence.

Other tools

The practice of finding confidence and getting rid of self-doubt is easier said than done. Luckily, there are sources and tools available to help discover inner strength and find self-confidence.

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., writes about confidence, “Feeling good about the self comes from doing something to feel good about.” Walker tackles the issue that people of all ages and genders struggle with confidence. She gives useful advice and covers how boys can struggle with confidence in similar ways that girls do.

Other tips and advice for self-confidence include:

  • Finding a creative outlet which gets you out of the house
  • Learning from perceived failures and finding success
  • Having a clear set of values

The transition from adolescence into adulthood is an important developmental stage for confidence. Yet, self-confidence depends entirely on the individual and not just past experiences. The key to self-confidence and self-doubt are in the individual’s hands, ready to open and close whichever door is chosen. Self-confidence will not be built up in a day, but will be built up over time. Start out small to lead to something incredible.

White River Academy is a therapeutic school for troubled boys ranging from ages 12 to 17 and provides aid for boys struggling with issues at school, and interpersonal problems. Not only providing treatment and care for the youth, the academy also continues a strong education program and instills good character values. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

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