What is confidence?

Confidence is both a state of being and the steps we take to connect and participate in the world. We want to be in an “ I am” and  “I can” state rather than ‘I have to and I don’t think I can’,  or ‘I can’t’ states. 

Confidence is primarily the relationship we have with ourselves, it’s not simply a mind set believing in one’s capacity and power, it’s from within. I describe feeling confident as a sense of being quietly comfortable with who we are and the capacity to stay connected to ourself, which creates a sense of security within ourself, a kind of knowing and ease. Healthy self esteem has at its core a self acceptance, which develops into a feeling of confidence. When we feel confident we have trust in ourselves; who we are.

Somatically when we work with embodying confidence, we may pull up, lengthening our spine and maybe holding up our head a little along the vertical line of dignity. We tend to open our chest, softening our defences, not bracing against what’s to come. We anchor into the hips, spreading the feet with our legs slightly apart – a strong, grounded posture. Often hands on the hips or open arms, open palms help strengthen this sense of confidence, a kind of ‘here I am’. We are willing to take up space, be open and our body is relaxed. We are willing to relate; express ourselves and be seen. 

It may be helpful to distinguish between the feeling of confidence and our behaviour as a projection or expression of confidence. When we do things to express the things we want, this expands our confidence in our capacity. Of course we may feel more confident when “I did that!” but confidence is not established just through achievement or meeting challenge. Confidence isn’t a narrow focus around what we can do and is not defined by we do but it is about agency and our capacity to be adaptive, to accompany our self-doubt and move through our fears. I think confidence starts with presence, then courage and capacity for expression. The good news is that we can build confidence.

 Qualities of being that stem from feeling confident:

  • A sense of ease in the context or environment that you’re in
  • A willingness to receive attention, be seen and heard
  • A willingness or openness to engage with others
  • A sense of certainty in how you express yourself and what you speak about
  • A belief in the value of what you say
  • A relationship with “I don’t know” that draws us towards, with curiosity 

What we may think confidence looks like:

Do you hold an idea of what confidence looks like, which you measure yourself against?

We may have associations with how confident people behave or ‘present themselves’ such as being assured, outspoken, ballsy, projecting  a sense of status, power, composure and pride. It may be a sense of not seeming to worry about what other people think. It may be around seeming to be skilled at doing things that we may find challenging, such as public speaking or of intelligence where people seem to know what to say in situations. So confidence may be linked to competency but it doesn’t need to be big or clever. 

What may affect feeling confident?:

The interesting thing about confidence is that confident people often seem to make other people feel ‘less than’; in other words unconfident. So when we go to into an environment of seemingly confident people, for example a party or a board room, we may already anticipate feeling unconfident because we feel unsafe. A gentle form of self inflicted intimidation which creates a ‘who am I” feeling. We may identify the ‘high note’ in the room and work our way down to shrinking.

Some of us who experience lack of confidence have stories about ourselves which creates self doubt, particularly around the arena of social/cultural/power. The “in” is essentially the confidence that comes from belonging and so safety. When we enter these spaces on the back foot on a self-discounting trip of ‘not belonging’, internal criticism kicks in to say you aren’t good enough, don’t know enough, aren’t skilled enough, aren’t an expert, don’t deserve to be here. Voices from the past might tell us “you can’t do it”. We have played this all out in our minds. So we then may feel we are going to have to blag it, wing it, cover it . This is a pressure where we feel we can’t just be ourselves as we believe we won’t be accepted.

Ways in which we may lose confidence:

  • Comparing ourselves to others
  • Focusing on other’s judgements
  • Power status and other cultural signals 
  • Feeling we need to prove ourselves 
  • Holding onto beliefs formed from negative experiences
  • A sense of self consciousness, 
  • Needing to feel in control
  • Being attached to ideas of success and failure 
  • Being afraid of making mistakes and so looking stupid 
  • Feeling we don’t belong
  • A relationship with “I don’t know” that pulls us back into thinking that we need knowledge
  • Parts of ourselves pulling away from scenarios if they seem scary
  • The self talk or story we tell ourselves being undermining

How do we build confidence?

Confidence is about how we see ourselves. Self trust is being able to turn towards our self with positive regard.  We want firstly to establish a felt sense of being ok with who we are before we start testing into “I can do this” thinking. For some, we don’t feel good inside so we start there. Action or agency comes from an expression of our internal being; what needs and wants to be in the outside world. For some, this transition is what holds us back: an impasse or hesitancy between here is me feeling me and there is me ‘doing me’ in the world and seen to be ‘me doing me’. 

Ease, groundedness, openness  and a sense of knowing all come firstly from a state of being, not just from creating a mindset. So we strengthen our capacity to stay centred. We cultivate a foundation for steadyness which means we drop down into self connection, feeling our feet rooted on the ground to embody a feeling of confidence. This is where we are able to remain calmly connected to ourselves and less disrupted by reactivity around what we perceive around us. We explore the ways in which we make ourselves unconfident (as above) which means cultivating a more enabling mind set.

Then we can focus on the parts of us that can embolden us to take the steps we want for ourselves, we can set intentions for ourselves, commit to what matters to us and our willingness to invest in what we want. We start to move up into standing upright in the world of showing up and notice where we might feel shaky. Then we connect with our agency to express ourselves. We then develop a capacity to take up space and expand outwards. We are constantly expanding in our capacity to meet and be with things we might find a little anxiety provoking.

We develop flexibility to return to confidence (come back to ourselves) by resourcing ourselves against wobble and reassuring those parts of us that for example carry self doubt or feel intimidated by others. 

So to build confidence we develop our capacity through:

  • Being connected with ourself
  • A sense of groundedness in how we are embodied 
  • Being able to regulate the nervous system 
  • Developing resources that support resilience, including our mind set
  • Turning towards the anxious parts of us with compassion

Other people and the context we are in may do much to either bolster or diminish us. Having others acknowledge us, reflect us back to ourselves and being with people and in environments where we feel safe helps build our confidence and resilience. Confidence can be cultivated through finding enjoyment and ease to gently stretch us. Like everything it involves small steps over time to establish and conscious practice. Maintaining a relaxed, centred state means we are less prone to becoming wobbly and losing ourselves when we meet the world. 

You got this. 


If the topic and themes in this article resonate with you and you’d like to explore confidence further, please go ahead and book a free exploratory phone call with me and I’d be happy to talk with you. ( Consultation Call button at the bottom of this page).