Confidence is a belief in one’s ability to succeed. It is positioned in between a trait or an ability. Much research has been conducted on confidence over the years. The majority of this research accentuates the importance of confidence in life which leads to studying the techniques to build and improve confidence.
Additionally, Locke et al. have found that the stronger people’s self-confidence is, the higher the goals are and their committedness towards them. This shows that self-confidence could also indicate one’s willingness to act. In this sense, self-confidence is considered one of the most influential motivators and regulators of behavior in people’s everyday lives as it helps strengthen one’s resilience in facing adversity to succeed in life.
However, people often do not include developing confidence together with their competence. A peer-reviewed meta-analysis found an overlap of only 9% between how good people think they are and how good they actually are. This phenomenon could reduce one’s self-awareness and performance, which may result in the creation of a narcissistic culture. Therefore, the need to keep confidence in check must be highlighted and should be practiced with the following strategies.
Test your core beliefs
Core beliefs are the most basic assumptions about one’s identity. It determines the degree to which people see themselves as safe, competent, powerful, and autonomous. These beliefs become the foundation or rules of how one governs one’s behavior. Core beliefs and the associated rules are fundamental to one’s personality, hence to self-confidence, as a personality trait.
The role of core beliefs is also emphasized in the definition of self-confidence. While positive beliefs lead to becoming a confident person, too much positivity could become toxic which results in overconfidence. Meanwhile, negative beliefs could result in underconfidence. To change these two extremes, McKay, M., et al. mention a seven-step process in their workbook, Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, to help test an individual’s core beliefs:
- Identify your core beliefs by asking situational “What if” questions and exploring what that situation can mean for you.
- Once the core belief is identified, assess its negative impact by thinking about how this can affect your work, mood, and relationships.
- From there, identify rules based on your core belief by exploring its veracity through questions like “What do I actually do to cope with my belief? What do I avoid? How do I think I’m supposed to act? What are my perceived limits?”
- Generate catastrophic predictions for each rule in case you break them. Think of scenarios that can possibly happen if you do not follow your rule.
- After that, start with a rule that has the least consequence and test it based on the following five selection criteria: easy to set up the situation, allows a direct test of the underlying core belief, has a clear prediction of your behavior rather than suggestive feelings, has an immediate outcome, and has a relatively low amount of risk associated to it.
- Test your rule in a real-life situation and keep a record of how you handle the situation based on the new behavior and the outcome it brings. Keep doing this until you are able to test out all the rules.
- Once you’ve done all these, you should be able to develop a new core belief. With this new belief, go back to step three and repeat the process. Write the new rule as affirmations by using “I” language in the present tense rather than commands or restrictions.
The whole process can go on for as long as it needs to be until you are comfortable with the new core belief and its rules. The important thing to consider here is to continuously keep a log of everything as it may act as support for new rules in the future. This will also help guide you as you fortify and balance your self-confidence.
Control your worries
Confidence is closely related to a sense of worry. Worry represents a natural process of mental problem-solving on the uncertainty that invokes a feeling of anxiousness. It can motivate people to put extra effort into work or personal tasks, making them feel more confident as they face their problems. However, worry is more known for its negative impacts, such as cognitive bias, which may lead to either underconfidence or overconfidence.
Worry is also a cyclical pattern involving thoughts, body, and behavior. For example, the thought of being rejected during a job interview can chain into other negative thoughts, resulting in anxiety. Subsequently, physical symptoms associated with the fight-or-flight response begin to manifest such as heart palpitations and muscle tension. People may adopt a self-serving behavior to avoid this uncomfortable feeling by shifting the blame to others for making it harder to land a job.
Based on this pattern, it is recommended to control worry by approaching it in three levels. First, to deal with physical stress, you can practice relaxation exercises regularly. Relaxation provides breaks in the cycle of the fight-or-flight response. One of the techniques is progressive muscle relaxation which involves alternating tension and relaxation in a group of major muscles.
Second, practice risk assessment to know which risks to avoid and be prepared for instead of worrying to help your thinking process. There are two main aspects to risk assessment: probability estimation and outcomes prediction. You need to estimate the probability of a worst-case scenario from the feared event coming to pass, with 0% for no likelihood to 100% for absolute inevitability. Then, predict the outcome you most fear while trying to figure out the possible coping strategies that would help ease the worry.
Finally, these five steps can help in mitigating worry behaviors:
- Record your worry behavior
- Pick the easiest one to stop and predict the consequences of stopping it
- Stop the chosen behavior or replace it with a new behavior
- Assess your anxiety before and after
- Repeat steps 2-4 with the next-easiest behavior
Being confident surely helps one overcome adversity. However, having too much or too little confidence without being accompanied with proper competence could have negative impacts. Therefore, verify your core beliefs and control your worries to have the right amount of confidence. As Charles Darwin said, “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”