Do you envy the person at the party who walks in, glowing with positive self-regard, and who soon finds himself surrounded by fascinated, admiring fellow guests?

Do you wish you were the person who takes a leadership role in the workplace and who is often given roles of greater responsibility by the bosses?

Do you want to become the person who is rarely beset by self-doubt, self-criticism, or insecurities about your abilities?

It’s all possible. You simply need to gain confidence.

People aren’t born with confidence; it’s something that is learned. If you grew up receiving sufficient affirmation, validation, respect, encouragement and meaningful praise, you’ll grow into a confident person.

Dr. Marcia Sirota

If, on the other hand, you were overtly or subtly criticized; if you were undermined, neglected, or told that feeling proud of yourself would give you a swelled head, you’ll most likely grow up with a lack of confidence.

You might even have a harsh “inner critic” that tells you that you’re “not good enough,” or that you “can’t do it.”

The way to overcome these unfortunate consequences of a less-than-ideal childhood is to take responsibility today for developing a solid sense of self.

There are two steps to building self-confidence: establishing belief in yourself and silencing the inner critic.

These two steps are simple, if not easy. First, you must begin to believe in yourself. You need to start recognizing that you ARE smart; you CAN do it; you HAVE great skills and abilities.

The only meaningful way to develop this belief in yourself is to do things, and see that you’re able to succeed.

Of course, it doesn’t work if you set yourself up to fail by taking on challenges that are too much for you at the outset. If you bite off more than you can chew, it will only serve to reinforce your false belief that you’re inadequate and/or incompetent.

So, take on reasonable challenges to begin with. See that you’re able to meet these challenges. Then, take on slightly more difficult challenges, and meet these as well. Your confidence will grow, and you’ll create a positive spiral of doing more, feeling better and better, and being able to do even more.

If you fail at something, don’t listen to the voice in your head that says “See, I told you that you’re no good. You can’t do it!” Instead, view the failure as a learning experience. Examine what went wrong and use what you’ve learned to do better, next time.

Not beating yourself up over your mistakes, and learning from them about how to do better will enable you to develop self-confidence, as well as improved skills. The goal isn’t to achieve perfection; it’s to recognize your genuine abilities and gifts, as well as those areas of weakness that you can still work on.

The second step is to stop allowing the inner critic to convince you that you’re incompetent.

You need to identify all the negative self-talk running through your brain and begin to reject it and contradict it. This works best once you’ve started taking action, because then, when the inner critic tells you that you can’t do it, you can counter with, “Oh yeah? I just did!”

When you hear that voice in your head saying, “Don’t bother trying, you’re just going to fail,” you can see that it’s not the truth but merely the internalization of all the negativity you experienced as a child.

You can become immune to this toxic self-talk by refusing to be taken in by it and by continuing to disprove it through your actions. The more you try things and succeed, the more obvious it is that the voice is lying to you.

So, you might not have been lucky enough to be raised to feel confident in your abilities, but it’s not too late to begin developing confidence, today.

Follow the two simple steps above, and you’ll be on your way to becoming the kind of person that everyone admires, values, wants to be friends with and wants to work with.


Marcia Sirota MD is a psychiatrist, author, speaker, and the founder of the Ruthless Compassion Institute. The mandate of the Institute is to promote success, happiness and well-being through the practice of ruthless compassion.


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