What is Self-Confidence – and Why Is It Important?
Self-confidence is understanding that you trust your own judgment and abilities, and that you value yourself and feel worthy, regardless of any imperfections or of what others may believe about you.
Self-efficacy and self-esteem are sometimes used interchangeably with self-confidence, but they are subtly different.
We gain a sense of self-efficacy when we see ourselves (and others like us) mastering skills and achieving goals. This encourages us to believe that, if we learn and work hard in a particular area, we’ll succeed. It’s this type of confidence that leads people to accept difficult challenges and to keep going in the face of setbacks.
Self-esteem is a more general sense that we can cope with what’s going on in our lives, and that we have a right to be happy.
Also, self-esteem comes in part from the feeling that the people around us approve of us. We may or may not be able to control this, and if we experience a lot of criticism or rejection from other people, our self-esteem can easily suffer unless we support it in other ways.
Confidence and Behavior
Take a look at the examples in the table below, which compares confident behavior with behavior that’s associated with low self-confidence. Which thoughts or actions do you recognize in yourself and in the people around you?
|Confident Behavior||Behavior Associated With Low Self-Confidence|
|Doing what you believe to be right, even if others mock or criticize you for it.||Governing your behavior based on what other people think.|
|Being willing to take risks and to go the extra mile to achieve better things.||Staying in your comfort zone, fearing failure, and avoiding risk.|
|Admitting your mistakes, and learning from them.||Working hard to cover up mistakes, and hoping that you can fix the problem before anyone notices.|
|Waiting for others to congratulate you on your accomplishments.||Extolling your own virtues as often as possible to as many people as possible.|
|Accepting compliments graciously. “Thanks, I really worked hard on that prospectus. I’m pleased you recognize my efforts.”||Dismissing compliments offhandedly. “Oh that prospectus was nothing really, anyone could have done it.”|
As these examples show, low self-confidence can be self-destructive, and it may manifest itself as negativity.
Self-confident people are generally more positive – they value themselves and trust their own judgment. But they also acknowledge their failures and mistakes and learn from them.
Why Self-Confidence Matters
Self-confidence is vital in almost every aspect of our lives, yet many people struggle to find it. Sadly, this can be a vicious cycle: people who lack self-confidence are less likely to achieve the success that could give them more confidence.
For example, you might not want to back a project that’s pitched by someone who’s visibly nervous, fumbling, or constantly apologizing. On the other hand, you might be persuaded by someone who speaks clearly, who holds their head high, answers questions with assurance, and readily admits when they don’t know something.
Confident people inspire confidence in others: their audience, their co-workers, their bosses, their customers, and their friends. And gaining the confidence of others is one of the key ways to succeed. In the following sections we’ll see how you can do this.