In general, self-confidence is related to how much value a person places on themselves and their ability to hold that favorable attitude. Additionally, it includes the capacity to retain such positive beliefs in situations that are challenging, especially situations that include being evaluated by others.

According to researchers Orth, Robins, and Widaman, adults possessing high global self-esteem are more likely to have higher well-being, have better social relations, and experience more job satisfaction than their counterparts. Low self-confidence was found to be correlated with emotional problems, substance abuse, and eating disorders, among other challenges.

Factors Impacting Confidence

You can have low self-confidence for many reasons such as a negative self-perception, expectations from parents and caregivers as a child, peer pressure and/or rejection from friends or loved ones, interpersonal relationship challenges, unresolved trauma, loneliness, internalized shame, and societal and cultural messages.

Self-Confidence in Youth and Adults

A 2017 study showed that only 19 percent of girls in 6th grade say that they feel confident, and that number plummets to 6 percent by the time they hit 10th grade. For boys in 6th grade, 37 percent indicated that they feel confident, but the number still drops to 12 percent by the time they reach 10th grade.

Children and youth are not the only ones who struggle with self-confidence challenges. It is not uncommon for adults to experience low self-confidence or low self-worth, even if they didn’t experience it during their adolescent or teen years. Even as adults, our self-criticism and negative experiences get stored in our memories and neural networks and create narratives by which we see and interact with our world at large. This can directly impact our self-efficacy, self-belief, and self-compassion.

There are assumptions we make that compromise our confidence and restrict our ability to exercise psychological flexibility, curiosity, and mindfulness in our interactions and decision-making.

Assumptions You Make That Compromise Your Confidence

  1. Thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable emotionally or physiologically are to be avoided. It’s quite the contrary. Those are the ones that are worth leaning into and learning more about. It’s a direct indication of what needs to be noticed, attuned to, understood better, and healed. It’s your mind’s and body’s way of letting you know where the focus of attention needs to be to facilitate growth and enhancement.
  2. My thoughts and feelings must have validity. We think because we’re thinking and feeling so intently and intensely that they must be genuine and true. Your thoughts and feelings are often manifestations of your fears, triggers, and experiences, and how you’re socialized and acculturated, among other things. Don’t believe everything you think and feel. Reality test and explore the utility of the thoughts and feelings and whether there’s a need to practice acceptance or to effectively problem solve.
  3. Others are better off than me. Our mind incessantly compares ourselves to others. It does it in an effort to hold us accountable and motivated to change. It usually ends up being counterproductive because it results in us inevitably feeling discouraged and hopeless. Think about it; doesn’t the comparison tend to deflate you, rather than elevate you, because it compares you to others who seem “better” or “better off”?
  4. I should be perfect and infallible. As humans we’re naturally imperfect. The term “human error” intimates that there’s always that capacity, and it’s intrinsic in our humanness. When you berate yourself for being human, you may lose sight of the lessons you can learn, appreciating aspects of accomplishments and flexing your capacity to adjust accordingly.
  5. Everyone should find me likable. Wouldn’t that be nice! You’re selective and don’t find everyone favorable; why should others always think the world of you? As adults, we have the ability to be selective and have preferences. Rejection is the price you may pay for engaging and connecting in your relationships. It’s well worth the risk given the joy that your relationships have the capacity to afford you with.
  6. If something goes wrong, there’s always someone to blame (i.e., whether myself or someone else). We tend to blame and shame to make sense of what happened. When you do this, you miss out on understanding the dynamics that may have played out and having a better understanding of yourself or the other person, and usually walk away feeling guilt, shame, and regret.
  7. I need to prepare myself for the worst-case scenario. When you’re constantly worrying and preemptively jumping to conclusions, you don’t give yourself space for confidence building and forging the belief that you’re resilient and can handle anything that comes your way.
  8. If I don’t (shame/blame) beat myself up enough, I’m going to be complacent and repeat the behavior. Behavior change doesn’t typically get fostered from feeling helpless and defeated, but rather when you’re feeling inspired, self-assured, and confident in your abilities. The more confident you feel, the more likely that you’ll take risks, challenge yourself in the face of adversity, and notice and have gratitude for your accomplishments.
  9. I should always think of others before myself; otherwise, I’m selfish and self-serving. Thinking of yourself is necessary in order to lean into your value of dignity and self-preservation. It’s perfectly OK to set boundaries, make your needs known, and assert your self-worth.
  10. It’s best to avoid conflict. Working through conflict can breed better understanding and a deeper connection in relationships. When working through a conflict, there’s a goal of learning something about yourself, learning something about the other person, and learning something about the relationship that can assist in forging ahead toward the future. Conflicts are seen as relationship builders and opportunities to “strengthen” as opposed to “destroy” your relationships.

Be cognizant and aware of the assumptions you make that can progressively chip away at your confidence. Being mindfully aware of your self-talk and behavior can vastly impact your confidence and self-belief. Increased confidence and seeing yourself as worthy will help you thrive and live life meaningfully and joyfully.

To increase confidence, here is an Affirming Your Self-Confidence Guided Meditation led by me. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for more interviews and guided meditations.

Blog as published in Psychology Today.