Do you believe in yourself? You should!
According to research, believing in yourself leads to higher success, improved mental health, and better relationships! Learn how to shift your mindset and embrace a new stage in your life—one that is filled with possibilities.
What Does it Mean to Believe in Yourself?
Believing in yourself is different than confidence. While confidence is a skill that can be learned and bolstered by communication skills, believing in yourself goes much deeper. Ultimately, confidence is an outward expression of an inner state. The inner state? Believing in yourself. When you believe in yourself, it transforms both how you interact with others and what you expect from life.
Harness the Power of Believing in Yourself
Lack of self-belief is demoralizing; it steals your capacity for fulfilling relationships and acts as a barrier to success. You can change that by shifting how you see yourself.
Take the Lead
You have skills, strengths, and many things people love about you. But maybe, you’ve been taking the back seat for far too long.
It’s time to take the lead.
Being a supporting character in your own life might make you feel safe.
Perhaps, it’s the role your family pushed you into, and now it’s the only role where you receive acceptance and affirmation.
Whatever the reason, and regardless of what others expect from you, are you ready to start believing in yourself?
How do we take the lead? Start with what you are passionate about. This can be small or big. Think of a few of your strengths or what you love to do. Can you share or teach these?
- Teach a few friends how to make your favorite recipes
- Start a book club with your favorite genre of books
- Post movie reviews on your social media
- Lead with kindness. Do one of our unique kindness activities.
- Teach a free class at your local YMCA
- Volunteer with a group you are passionate about
These ideas will help you begin to believe in yourself and share your strengths with others.
Action Step: Draw a picture or imagine yourself taking the lead in your own story.
- What does that look like?
- Are you doing something surprising?
- Pursuing an unexpected dream?
- Expressing a dormant part of your personality?
Taking the lead in your story is an act of self-respect. Did you know that around 60% of people wished for more self-respect?
Important Note: It might feel uncomfortable when you begin to believe in yourself. Both for you and the people around you. If other people act annoyed or hurt, withdrawing might not be good! It’s common for people to be surprised when there is a change in your role identity.
For example, if your coworkers are used to you picking up the slack or your family expects you to be the mediator when conflicts arise, these are your role identities. Others’ expectations will often shape your role identity, and it can take time for others to adjust to changes. We recommend talking with a therapist or coach to get support as you redefine your role identity.
Shift to a Growth Mindset
If you find yourself excited after watching motivational videos but unable to apply those principles in your life, a fixed mindset could be part of what’s holding you back.
Having a growth mindset changes everything.
A growth mindset is when you believe intelligence and success aren’t given to an elite few but are within your reach. It also transforms how you view failure, seeing it as a temporary state and something that can help you grow. Ultimately, a growth mindset is about viewing the world as an overcomer. Obstacles are there to be overcome.
According to a survey of 600,000 students from 78 countries, “students with a strong growth mindset scored significantly higher on all subjects…compared with students who believed their intelligence was fixed”.
It’s empowering to know you have control over your mind! You decide what goes in, and you can shape your thoughts over time. As you do that, you’ll begin to believe in the future and yourself in ways you didn’t think were possible.
A growth mindset enables you to expect success instead of failure.
Pro Tip: In your journey to believing in yourself, let go of your perception of failure. A fixed mindset focuses on and even fixates on failure.
On the other hand, a growth mindset understands failures and mistakes are an opportunity for growth and self-mastery. If it feels like you have one failure after another and never seem to measure up, it can feel impossible to believe in yourself.
But know this—you are not a failure.
Action Step (5 Minutes):
Think about your last mistake or the last time you felt like a failure. Ask yourself:
- Was the whole thing a failure? Or was there one part that wasn’t a success?
- What did I do right in that situation?
- What can I learn from the mistake?
- Was it an actual failure, or did I fail to meet my expectations?
- Were my expectations for this realistic?
- Could I have accomplished more by asking for help?
Action Step (15 Minutes):
Journal your answers to the above questions, and then answer these questions:
- How can I look at this experience as an opportunity instead of something where I feel shame, anger, frustration, or sadness?
- What do I need when I feel like a failure? (e.g., affirmation, reassurance, exoneration, etc.)
Action Step (10 Seconds): When you feel like a failure, speak the truth instead of dwelling on those feelings. Even if you don’t believe these affirmations, start verbalizing them to change your self-concept.
- I forgive myself for not meeting my expectations.
- I did my best, and I don’t have to criticize myself for not being able to do more.
- I am not a failure.
- Even though I made a mistake, I am not a mistake.
- It’s OK that I made a mistake. This is an opportunity for growth.
- It’s OK that I made a mistake. It doesn’t make me stupid.
- I have accomplished so much!
- I take responsibility for my actions but will not hold on to feelings of worthlessness.
- I am capable and intelligent.
- This moment will pass. It doesn’t define me.
- I didn’t accomplish what I had hoped, but I still accomplished a lot.
Build Confidence for a Healthier Self-Concept
Building confidence in your life creates a framework for a healthy self-concept, which is the foundation for believing in yourself. In turn, this improves well-being.
Vanessa Van Edwards shares 11 scientific strategies to build confidence; these are some of the key takeaways:
- Strengthen your communication skills. Feeling confident is hard when you don’t know what to do in social situations.
- Practice confident body language. How you communicate is a big part of how others perceive you.
- Learn how to be assertive. Being assertive takes practice, but it will give you the confidence to speak up.
- Overcome imposter syndrome. It seems like most of us struggle with this sometimes! Reject negative self-talk and distorted perceptions.
- Cut down on social media. Social media is a heavily curated view of life that often leads to making comparisons. If you feel envious or inadequate after scrolling social media, do yourself a favor and spend your time on something more beneficial for your mental health (e.g., journal, listen to a podcast, paint, run, etc.)
- Observe and model someone you admire. Confidence doesn’t require extroversion! Look for someone you admire, and look to them as a model to help grow your confidence.
Pro Tip: When you’re learning skills and working on personal growth, it helps to choose one or two activities at a time, so you don’t get overwhelmed. Bookmark or print this article to refer to later so you can work through the different action steps as they resonate with you.
- Practice walking into a room with confidence. Have a destination in mind to reduce hesitation (e.g., your friend, the host, a specific bookshelf, the copy machine, etc.). Keep your head up, and your body relaxed.
- Practice speaking. If you end sentences by trailing off or always sounding like you’re asking a question, practice finishing sentences with a period. When you’re getting ready for work in the morning, start with simple sentences like, “Thank you” and, “No thanks, I brought my lunch.” Then move on to longer sentences like, “According to the data, we are seeing an upward trend.” Think about things you would realistically say at work, and practice saying them confidently.
- Practice asking for what you want. If you find yourself giving in to the requests of others or ordering the same thing your friend ordered, you don’t believe in yourself. Next time you go out to eat, order something you want. If you melt under pressure, check the menu at home so you can make your decision in advance.
- Ask the person you admire to be your mentor. You can learn a lot by observing them from a distance, but imagine what you could learn if you gathered your courage and reached out to them. Good mentors improve your self-worth by calling out the best in you. Everyone should have a mentor, and it’s up to you to ask them to take that role in your life.
Find Out What People Think
One thing that holds you back from believing in yourself is the feeling that no one else believes in you. They must be judging you.
When you trip over your words in class, you replay them over and over, utterly embarrassed that everyone thinks you’re an idiot.
When your toddler spills their juice on your shirt, you believe everyone thinks you’re a slob.
When you go out with friends, you wonder if they will notice your absence, and you shrink into the background, saying less and less.
You don’t believe in yourself because you’ve decided no one else believes in you.
You probably have a good reason for this! Broken friendships, bad relationships, and leftover scars from your school days all feel like proof that there is something inherently wrong with you.
Here’s the good news—you don’t have to fear or assume what others think about you anymore!
Pro Tip: Instead of assuming others are looking down on you, find out how they feel.
Action Steps (Longer Version):
- Download our worksheet (below) to use for these action steps.
- Write down 3 words that describe how you think others view you.
- Next, write down the 3 words you would use to describe yourself.
- Finally, ask at least 3-5 people to describe you using 3 positive words.
- Journal what surprised you and how it felt seeing what people think about you. You can also look for connections between the words (e.g., maybe 2 of your coworkers described you as kind or compassionate, and a friend described you as thoughtful. Even though these words are all different, they are interconnected. This shows others view you as someone who feels deeply for others.)
- Enlist the help of a close friend or coach. If you aren’t sure how to process what others think about you, ask someone else to help walk you through the more profound message behind all these descriptor words.
Action Steps (Short Version): Ask 3 trusted people to describe you using 3 positive words. Ask yourself whether this corresponds to what you believe about yourself. Is it time to change your perspective?
The ultimate goal of asking others to describe you is to replace your misperceptions with the truth. Instead of creating scenarios in your head of what people think about you, asking them outright can help you see more clearly what others think.
With these words, you can begin to reshape your perceptions and step into your true identity, one that is worth believing in.
Focus on Your 5 People and Ignore Everyone Else
Should you know what everyone thinks of you? No! Brené Brown recommends keeping a list of 3 to 5 essential people you care about and that care about you. Those are the people you value and whose opinions you listen to. Everyone else? You can listen to them too, but only up to a point. If their words tear you down, don’t absorb that.
Believing in yourself requires disregarding what toxic people think. Suppose you feel like certain family members constantly underestimate you–set up boundaries. If frenemies are dismissive–get them out of your life. If coworkers disrespect you, it’s time to bring clarity and believe in yourself.
This isn’t easy! It’s normal and natural to want others to like and even admire you. But when other people are holding you back or pushing you down, it takes self-respect and resilience to believe they are wrong.
Pro Tip: Start paying attention to your triggers. Are you triggered by your uncle who makes cutting remarks because he doesn’t think you’ve accomplished enough? Or maybe you’re triggered by the coworker who makes you feel unqualified. Identifying your triggers prepares you to self-regulate instead of immediately questioning your self-worth.
- Plan ways to self-regulate when you’re triggered. Use positive self-talk as one of your self-regulating tools.
If a coworker criticizes you, say, “Their assessment doesn’t change my worth as a person.”
If a family member cuts you down, say to yourself, “I am valuable. I don’t accept their critical words.”
If a friend undermines you, say to yourself, “I feel hurt, but I choose not to withdraw.”
- Have a response prepared for belittling, demeaning, or dismissive comments.
People often criticize because they have low self-worth and may even enjoy seeing your hurt reaction. Instead of reacting, don’t even engage with what they’ve said. Respond to their statement with something vague and even dispassionately dismissive. We like: “That’s an interesting perspective.” Then, change the subject. Here are some examples.
- “That’s an interesting perspective. This is great weather we’ve been having. Do you have any plans for the weekend?”
- “That’s an interesting perspective. Great shirt you’re wearing. That color really suits you.”
- “That’s an interesting perspective. Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you….”
Note: If someone is regularly verbally abusive, you may need to set a boundary and tell them their words are hurtful and not acceptable.
Other ways to respond to rude people:
- “Thank you for sharing your thoughts on that, but I disagree.”
- “Why do you feel that way?”
- “I appreciate constructive feedback, but that was a harsh assessment. Would you like to rephrase your feedback?”
- “Thank you for sharing your thoughts on that, but I will make my own decision.”
- “This is the life I’ve chosen, and even though it doesn’t look like the life you wanted for me, I’m thrilled.”
- “I know you are concerned about me, and I appreciate your care about my future. I hope you can still be supportive even when you disagree with my choices.”
3. Let go of your need for approval.
If you absorb criticism and judgment from others, you’ll never believe in yourself. First, you need to know their criticism isn’t actually about you. Criticism is often projection, so when your boss, partner, or a parent regularly criticizes, it’s probably because they are deeply unhappy with themselves.
Ask yourself why you seek approval and validation from others, and begin replacing your self-criticism with self-compassion. I am running a few minutes late; my previous meeting is running over.
When you don’t take criticism to heart, it is freeing and boosts your ability to believe in yourself. You have permission to stop listening to negative thoughts from yourself and others!
How to Believe In Yourself Again
Things that undermine believing in yourself:
- Loss of a job
- Loss of a loved one
- Friendship breakup
- Loss of skill or physical ability
- Loss of health
- An abusive relationship
- Trauma and other adverse experiences
- Bullying (experienced as a child or as an adult)
Difficult situations can erode confidence, leaving you uncertain about making decisions, doubt that good things can happen, and make you feel like a failure.
You aren’t a failure.
Good things can happen.
You are capable of making decisions.
But be patient with yourself. It takes time to recover from these experiences, and you’ll need outside support from loved ones or mental health professionals.
Look for ways to build your confidence and restore belief in yourself.
- Go out to eat on your own.
- Say “no” without feeling compelled to explain.
- If health has taken away your strength, learn a new skill that is less physically demanding.
- If losing a relationship caused you to lose friends, volunteer or enroll in a workshop to help you make new friends.
- Order something different when you go out to eat instead of what you routinely order.
- If you lost your job, take the opportunity to explore other career options.
- Create a new routine to replace your disrupted routine.
How To Believe in Yourself FAQ
The first step to believing in yourself when nobody else does is questioning whether this is true. All-or-nothing thinking may shape your perception to think that absolutely nobody believes in you. Consider whether you’ve had a friend, coworker, teacher, or family member who has supported you. You may be surprised to find other people have a more favorable and supportive view of you than you think.
If you want to believe in yourself at work, focus on your core strengths, and look at what you’ve accomplished. You may need extra support, so ask your boss how you can leverage your skills at work, and look for an encouraging coworker. If someone in the office (a coworker or manager) makes you feel inferior, work on placing boundaries and limiting your interaction with them. If the work situation doesn’t improve, consider looking for a job that is a better fit for your skills.
Believing in yourself is essential because it opens your eyes to the potential in front of you. It allows you to see possibilities and experience the satisfaction of accomplishment. When you don’t believe in yourself, you often struggle with feeling like a failure and can’t seem to measure up to the expectations of yourself and others. This has a profound impact on mental health.
When you believe in yourself, everything looks different. Dreams become possible, and you spend less time feeling like a failure and more time accomplishing what makes you happy. When you believe in yourself, you feel more confident and enjoy learning new things.
Learn more about being the hero of your own story as Vanessa Van Edwards interviews Donald Miller, author of Hero on a Mission.