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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.


Useful resources

At the University of Warwick

For students and staff of the University of Warwick  

Other Resources    
Available from the University Library:    

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

MIND publication


How to cope with loneliness

MIND publication

Maekins and Gorman

How to increase your self-esteem

MIND publication


Overcoming low self esteem (CBT)

Mel Fennell

Overcoming social anxiety and shyness (CBT)

Gillian Butler

Confidence works: learn to be your own life coach


How to accept yourself


The assertiveness Handbook

Mary Hartley

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

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