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Confidence is the belief and sense that particular tasks can be carried out to a particular standard. Self-confidence may refer to a specific competency (eg ‘I can catch a ball/drive a car’ etc); a general ability (eg ‘I am good in a crisis’) or a social capacity (eg ‘I am a good listener’). It is healthy to feel confident in some areas and less confident in others, indeed it is unrealistic to be confident about everything all of the time. However, chronic low confidence, ie feeling under-confident about most things most of the time, can be devastating personally, professionally and socially. The effects of low self-confidence can include:

  • Avoidance of situations such as social events, new challenges, etc
  • An accumulation of negative beliefs, perhaps leading to low self-esteem or depressive thinking
  • Withdrawal from engaging/relating with other people
  • Acute embarrassment
  • Distorted self view (eg ‘I am useless at everything’)

Moving out of poor self-confidence

To develop confidence it is important to do more of the things you know you can do well - to build on your strengths - and also accept you own limitations. Confidence tends to work to a spiral pattern – the more you do that boosts your confidence, the more confident you feel (upward spiral) and conversely, the more you do to undermine your confidence, eg a task for which you are under-resourced and therefore likely to fail or underachieve, the less confident you feel (downward spiral).

It is useful to create challenges for yourself (that are achievable) so your confidence steadily builds rather than setting a very high goal then berating yourself for not achieving it (eg ‘I will talk to 1 person in my group today’ rather than ‘I will entertain the whole group for an hour’). It is important when building up confidence to acknowledge yourself by, for example, a positive ‘word to self’, a pat on your own back, when you display confidence and also to view situations where you displayed a lack of confidence as an opportunity from which you can learn rather than as a failure. It may be helpful to observe others whom you consider confident and learn from them, as confidence is a skill that can be learnt, it is not an innate quality. It may be useful to enlist others’ help to develop your confidence - be bold and genuine and ‘own your fears’ eg try telling someone ‘I don’t feel very confident about this..’ and ask for constructive feedback to help you gauge your confidence level. Ensure you are taking good care of yourself to keep a healthy mind, body and spirit and build in some self indulgence on occasion to give your ego a boost.

Getting Support

The University Counselling Service is available for students and staff of the University of Warwick:

For more information:


Self-help references

The following references are available from the University Library either in hard copy, CD or ebooks. Most are readily available to buy either in bookshops or over the internet. There are also a limited number of books in the Learning Grid and the Bio-med Grid.


Develop Your Self Confidence

Glenn Harrold


Boost Your Self-esteem {Creating Success}

John Caunt


Forgiveness/Loving the Inner Child

Louise Hay


365 Steps to Self-confidence : A Complete Programme for Personal Transformation - in Just a Few Minutes a Day {3Rd Ed.},

David Lawrence Preston


Building Self-esteem : How to Replace Self-doubt With Confidence and Well-being

William Stewart


Developing Self-esteem : A Guide for Positive Success {Fifty-Minute Series}

Connie D Palladino


Triumph Over Shyness : Conquering Shyness and Social Anxiety

Murray B Stein, John R Walker


Conquering a sense of inferiority



How to cope with loneliness

Maekins and Gorman


How to increase your self-esteem



Overcoming low self esteem (CBT)

Mel Fennell


Overcoming social anxiety and shyness (CBT)

Gillian Butler


Confidence works: learn to be your own life coach


Sheldon Press

How to accept yourself


Sheldon Press

The assertiveness Handbook

Mary Hartley

Sheldon press

10 days to great self esteem



How to start a conversation and make friends



How to Win Friends and Influence People

Dale Carnegie





The Confidence to be Yourself

Brian Roet


Complete list of other Self Help Information by subject and categories.



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