At some point or other, even the most secure person loses confidence. Having trouble feeling good about yourself generally can have negative long-term repercussions. The good news is that you do not have to feel that way. There are ways to improve your self-esteem. 

How to Build Confidence

Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT has proven incredibly effective at treating confidence issues. CBT centers on the idea that physiological problems are based on unhealthy learned behaviors and thoughts. To treat unhealthy thoughts and behaviors under this therapy method, a person needs to repattern them with the help of a therapist. 

By working with a therapist to identify the thoughts that make you feel less confident, you can then work to repattern them together. The following four steps can help guide you along your journey to increased self-confidence

1. Identify conditions or situations that make you feel less confident. As uncomfortable as it may initially be, the first step to shifting your confidence levels is to become aware of what deflates your self-esteem. Try to notice when and where it flares up. Then, without judgment, just try and take stock of when and where you feel less confident. These situations might involve:

  • Public speaking at work or school
  • Facing challenges or emergencies at work or school 
  • A problematic relationship at home, school, or work or with a close friend
  • A significant change in your life at work or home

‌2. Become mindful of your thoughts. After determining when and where your self-consciousness arises most, cultivate a sense of awareness around it. Try to become an observer of your own mind. Allow yourself to listen, without judgment, to your inner monologue and interpretation of whatever triggers your insecurities.

You may find that your thoughts are good, bad, or neutral. They may be based on facts or they may be irrational and based on emotions or experience. Take stock of them and seriously ask yourself if what you're thinking and believing is true. 

A good test is to ask yourself if you would share your thoughts about yourself with a friend. If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t be engaging these thoughts. 

3. Challenge unhelpful or incorrect thinking. Once you have identified the thoughts that get in your way, ask yourself if they make sense and are consistent with the facts of the situation you're in.

While this may sound easy, understand that it can be quite hard in practice. Long-time views or beliefs are challenging to identify because they've blended into your view of life so much that you may just consider them opinions or facts. 

Some types of thinking to look out for when you are working on building confidence include:

  • All-or-nothing. Watch out for thoughts related to tasks in which you see yourself as either a success or failure. An example could be, “If I do poorly during this presentation, I am a complete failure at life.”
  • Focusing on the negatives. Look out for situations or relationships where you filter out any positive aspects and only focus on the negatives. This could involve thinking to yourself, “My typos on this essay will prove to my teacher that I am not smart enough to be in this class.”
  • Turning positives into negatives. Even when you achieve something great, you tell yourself that you didn’t really earn it or that your achievement doesn’t matter. A real-life application of this could be, “I only got that promotion because I happened to be here the longest out of anyone on the team, not because I actually deserve it.”
  • Immediately assuming the worst. Notice if you jump to the most damaging outcome of any situation, especially if there is little to no evidence to support this. This could manifest as a thought like, “She no longer wants to be associated with me because she hasn’t responded to my texts or calls for 24 hours.”
  • Taking feelings as facts. Just because you feel a certain way doesn't mean it has to be a universal truth. For example, if you feel down one day, that doesn’t mean that you're a failure or will feel that way forever. 
  • Negative self-regard. Notice if you're consistently putting yourself down or making jokes to your detriment. For example, you might find yourself thinking, “I don’t deserve to have a better life.”

4. Change your thoughts. Once you have identified and understood your thoughts, you can then work on shifting them. Some strategies to do this include:

  • Turning negative thoughts into hopeful ones. Whenever you find yourself thinking negatively about the future, try to shift away from that thinking, being kind and encouraging to yourself instead. For example, instead of thinking, “There's no way I'll do well on this exam,” switch your inner monologue to something like, “I can handle this exam even though it will be difficult.”
  • Forgiving yourself. Things don't always go as planned — people make mistakes. But your mistakes aren't a reflection of you as a person. If you make a mistake, be patient with yourself and say, “I've made a mistake, but it doesn’t have to define me.”
  • Deleting “should” and “must” from your vocabulary. Both of these words can put a lot of stress on a person, injecting extreme thoughts into daily mindsets. Taking these words out of your self-talk can give you more realistic expectations for yourself. 
  • Focusing on positivity. Bask in the positive things in your life. Consciously put in the effort to notice them, like thinking about all of the skills that you've developed to deal with challenging situations. 
  • Viewing challenges as learning experiences. If you have any sort of negative experience, ask yourself what you can learn from it. Changing how you view these experiences can have a more positive impact on your life. 
  • Reprogramming negative thoughts. Just because you have a negative thought doesn't mean you have to react negatively to it. Instead, think of it as a call to readjust your thought patterns and live more healthily and positively. 
  • Giving yourself positive reinforcement. When you do something that creates a positive change, acknowledge it. For example, you can say to yourself, “I didn't do as well on my spelling assignment at school, but my teacher did say that my spelling has improved so I did improve in that way.”

Show Sources


American Psychological Association: “What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?”

Mayo Clinic: “Self-esteem: Take steps to feel better about yourself.”

NHS: ”Raising low self-esteem.”

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