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Alcohol and Mental Health

7 Confidence-Building Exercises Backed by Science

July 13, 2023
23 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 13, 2023
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
July 13, 2023
23 min read

All of us could probably use more confidence at some point in our lives (or, let’s be honest, at many points!). The good news is that confidence isn’t merely a personality trait — it's a dynamic skill that can be developed, nurtured, and honed over time. We might even go so far as to say that it’s the cornerstone of success in every aspect of our lives, from personal relationships to professional endeavors.

However, building confidence can often be a challenging task for many. Thankfully, the realms of neuroscience and psychology provide us with a number of effective strategies to boost our self-esteem and confidence.

Why Confidence Is Important

Confidence serves as the backbone of our aspirations and actions. Its importance isn’t just rooted in an abstract idea of feeling good about ourselves but has tangible, multifaceted implications in numerous areas of our lives.

Confidence undeniably affects various life outcomes. The Journal of Organizational Behavior found that self-efficacy (a close cousin of confidence) is linked with workplace performance and job satisfaction (Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998). Furthermore, confidence and self-worth have been correlated with better relationship outcomes, as discussed in Psychological Science (Murray, Holmes, & Collins, 2006).

Let’s explore some of the biggest benefits of boosting our confidence. Enhances decision-making abilities

When faced with dilemmas or crucial decisions, people with confidence are less likely to be crushed by the pressure. Their self-assured nature empowers them to assess situations, weigh the pros and cons, and make decisions with conviction. The absence of self-doubt leads to swift, yet thoughtful decision-making processes, which can be crucial, especially in high-stakes environments.

Boosts resilience and coping skills

Life is replete with its set of challenges and obstacles. Confident people, fortified by their belief in themselves, are better equipped to face these adversities head-on. They see setbacks not as insurmountable failures, but as learning experiences. This resilience helps them bounce back faster and with more vigor.

Elevates performance and efficiency

In the workplace, confidence translates to competence. A self-assured employee is more likely to take initiatives, spearhead projects, and engage in innovative thinking. Their belief in their abilities can inspire teams, leading to enhanced group performance. Moreover, a confident individual’s intrinsic motivation can lead to greater efficiency in task execution.

Improves relationships and social interactions

At the core of many successful relationships is effective communication and understanding. Confident people, unburdened by insecurities, can communicate their thoughts, feelings, and boundaries more clearly. This clarity leads to healthier interactions and the establishment of mutual respect in personal and professional relationships.

Catalyzes personal growth

Growth, both personal and professional, often involves stepping out of one's comfort zone. A confident person is more likely to take risks, pursue new opportunities, and challenge the status quo. They're open to feedback and are constantly seeking ways to improve, attributes that are essential for continuous growth.

Enhances well-being and mental health

The psychological benefits of confidence are profound. A strong sense of self-worth reduces feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, and depression. People with high confidence levels often report better mental health, as they possess the tools to combat negative thoughts and foster a positive self-view.

Influences perception and opportunities

How we see ourselves often shapes how others perceive us. Confident people are perceived as more attractive, not merely in the physical sense but in their demeanor, posture, and how they engage with the world. This positive perception can open doors to opportunities, as people are naturally inclined to associate and collaborate with those who exude confidence.

Encourages accountability

A confident person is more likely to take responsibility for their actions, both good and bad. They don’t shy away from admitting mistakes because their self-worth isn’t tied to perfection but to integrity and growth. This trait makes them trustworthy partners in ventures and projects.

Reduces fear of the unknown

One of the primary barriers people face when venturing into new terrains, be it a new job, a move to a different city, or even starting a new hobby, is the fear of the unknown. Confidence equips us with a mindset that emphasizes adaptability and learning, thus diminishing this inherent fear.

Fosters genuine self-expression

In a world that frequently pressures individuals to conform, confidence allows one to embrace and express their authentic selves. It encourages people to showcase their unique perspectives, talents, and quirks, enriching the human experience.

7 Science-Backed Confidence-Building Exercises To Try

Now let’s explore how we can boost our own self-confidence. Here are seven confidence-building exercises backed by scientific research to help in your everyday life!

1. Positive Self-Affirmation

Spiritual wellness is the compass that guides us on our journey of self-Positive self-affirmation is a psychological exercise that involves consciously and consistently repeating positive statements about oneself. This practice is rooted in the self-affirmation theory, which suggests that people can maintain their self-integrity by telling themselves what they believe in positive ways. Research has shown that self-affirmation can help us deal with threats to their self-esteem, thereby increasing our confidence. Regularly practicing self-affirmation can help you overcome self-doubt and cultivate a positive self-image.

Here are some examples of positive affirmations:

  • Professional: If we face imposter syndrome at work, we might repeat, "I am skilled, I am competent, and I bring unique value to my team."
  • Personal growth: To work on our personal development, we might say, "Every challenge I face is an opportunity for growth."
  • Physical health: If we’re on a fitness journey, we might affirm, "I am strong, and every step I take brings me closer to my goals."
  • Mental health: If we’re struggling with anxiety, we may find solace in the words, "I am in control of my thoughts, and I choose positivity and calm."
  • Social relationships: If we’re feeling isolated, we can remind ourselves, "I am deserving of love and connection."

Research emphasizes the tangible benefits of self-affirmation. For instance, students exposed to self-affirming exercises before exams often exhibit better performance, seemingly because these affirmations alleviate the weight of performance anxiety. Similarly, individuals with low self-esteem who regularly engage in self-affirmative practices tend to show a notable enhancement in their confidence over time.

2. Visualization

Visualization is a potent tool used by athletes, performers, and successful individuals worldwide. It involves creating a vivid mental image of a desired outcome or goal. Neuroscientific research has shown that the brain cannot distinguish between a real and an imagined event, which means visualizing success can help you achieve it. By visualizing yourself in a confident state, you can train your brain to be more confident in reality. This technique can be particularly effective when preparing for specific events, such as a job interview or a public speaking engagement.

Here’s an example of a visualization exercise to prepare for a successful public speaking event.

  • Find a quiet space: Choose a serene environment, devoid of disturbances. Sit or lie down in a relaxed posture and gently close your eyes.
  • Breathe deeply: Start by taking deep and rhythmic breaths. Inhale deeply for a count of four, hold for a moment, and then exhale for a count of four. Continue this until a sense of calm permeates your being.
  • Set the scene: Imagine yourself entering a venue — maybe a hall or an auditorium. The room is gradually filling with people, all of whom have come to hear you speak. You can feel the excitement and anticipation in the air.
  • Take the stage: Visualize yourself confidently walking up to the podium or center stage. The audience's attention shifts to you, their faces filled with interest and curiosity.
  • Start your speech: In your visualization, initiate your speech with a strong, clear voice. As you progress, the audience nods, signaling their engagement and understanding. Their faces reflect admiration and respect for your knowledge and eloquence.
  • Imagine engagement: Envision a few instances where you pose questions or share anecdotes, eliciting smiles, nods, and even laughter from the audience. This dynamic interaction enhances your confidence and energizes your delivery.
  • Conclude: Picture yourself wrapping up your speech with a memorable closing statement, which resonates deeply with everyone in the room. As you finish, the applause begins — softly at first, then growing louder and more enthusiastic.
  • Imagine post-speech interaction: Imagine attendees coming up to you, expressing their gratitude, sharing their thoughts, or seeking further insights. You respond with grace and confidence, feeling deeply satisfied with your performance.
  • Return to the present: Gently bring your consciousness back to the current moment through a few more cycles of deep breathing. Slowly open your eyes.
  • Reflect: Allow the feelings of accomplishment and self-assuredness to wash over you. Preserve these sensations, and tap into them as you prepare for the actual speaking event.

Repeatedly practicing this visualization can cement a positive framework in your mind. As you mentally rehearse your success in the public speaking arena, you not only combat any underlying anxieties but also fortify your innate capability to deliver with impact and poise. This process thereby transforms potential fear into anticipated triumph!

3. Power Poses

Body language plays a significant role in how we perceive ourselves. Psychologist Amy Cuddy's research on power poses shows that standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don't feel confident, can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, making us feel more confident.

So, strike a power pose for a couple of minutes each day to boost your confidence. This could be as simple as standing tall with your hands on your hips, or stretching your arms wide in a “victory” pose. Stand in front of a mirror as you practice these and feel your confidence soar. It’s amazing how simple shifts in the way we carry ourselves can make us feel!

4. Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches you to focus your mind on your experiences in the present moment. This technique has been shown to help reduce negative thought patterns, improve focus, and promote relaxation, thereby boosting confidence. By regularly practicing mindfulness, you can become more aware of your thoughts and feelings without becoming entangled in them, which can foster a more confident mindset.

To practice mindfulness meditation, sit comfortably with a straight back. Focus on the breath, observing it as it enters and exits the nostrils or moves the chest or abdomen. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath. Over time, we can become mindfully aware of thoughts, emotions, and sensations without judgment.

If you’re new to this practice, it can help to try a guided version. We have several on our app to choose from!

5. Self-Compassion Exercises

Self-compassion involves being kind to oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being self-critical. It's about recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and experiences setbacks. Research has shown that self-compassion can enhance emotional resilience and stability, leading to increased confidence. Here are a few other self-compassion exercises you can try.

Self-Compassion Break

This can provide immediate relief and comfort in stressful situations or moments of self-doubt.

  • Step 1: Acknowledge your suffering by silently saying to yourself, "This is a moment of suffering" or "This hurts."
  • Step 2: Remind yourself that suffering is a part of the shared human experience: "Others feel this way too," or "I'm not alone in this."
  • Step 3: Offer kindness to yourself, as you would to a close friend. Place your hand over your heart and say, "May I be kind to myself," or "May I give myself the compassion I need."

Comforting Letter

This can address negative feelings or regrets with understanding and kindness. To practice:

  • Find a quiet space and take a few deep breaths.
  • Think about a situation that caused pain, regret, or self-criticism.
  • Now, write a letter to yourself from the perspective of a compassionate and understanding friend. This friend recognizes your imperfections but sees the broader context and the bigger picture. They offer support, understanding, and love.
  • Once written, set the letter aside. Return to it and read it aloud to yourself whenever you need a boost of self-compassion.

Loving-Kindness Meditation for Yourself

This practice will allow you to cultivate appreciation and compassion towards yourself. To practice:

  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  • Take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
  • Silently repeat the following phrases, or any that resonate with you:
    • "May I be safe."
    • "May I be happy."
    • "May I be healthy."
    • "May I live with ease."
  • As you say each phrase, try to generate the feeling the words evoke. It might take time initially, but with practice, it will become more natural.
  • Continue this meditation for 10-15 minutes, or as long as you find it comforting.

By integrating these self-compassion exercises into regular practice, you can foster a gentler relationship with yourself, making it easier to navigate the inevitable ups and downs of life. With time and consistency, this compassionate approach can significantly bolster confidence and overall well-being.

6. Mastery Experiences

Mastery experiences involve undertaking and accomplishing challenging tasks. Albert Bandura, a renowned psychologist, proposed that mastery experiences are the most influential source of self-efficacy, a belief in one's ability to succeed. By setting and achieving small, realistic goals, you can gradually build your confidence. This can involve learning a new skill, overcoming a fear, or achieving a personal milestone.

For example, if we’re afraid of public speaking, we might start with speaking in small groups and then slowly progress to larger audiences. Each successful speaking engagement, no matter the size, contributes to our sense of mastery and boosts confidence.

7. Gratitude Journaling

Gratitude journaling involves writing down things for which you are grateful. This practice shifts your focus from negative aspects to positive ones, promoting a more optimistic outlook on life. Gratitude positively impacts self-esteem, a key component of confidence. By regularly reflecting on and documenting what you're grateful for, you can cultivate a more positive mindset and boost your confidence.

Pick a time each day to write down what you’re grateful for. This could be first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or right before bed. Keep it up consistently and notice the change it has on your mindset and overall outlook. It’s a powerful tool!

Avoiding Common Challenges and Staying Motivated

Trying out these confidence-building exercises, while promising, often presents its set of challenges. For one, positive self-affirmation might seem insincere initially. The gap between one's current self-perception and the affirming statements can feel vast. Moreover, during visualization, distractions or intruding negative thoughts might disrupt the envisioned scenario, rendering the exercise less effective.

To navigate these hurdles:

  • Start small: Instead of broad affirmations, start with smaller, believable statements about your strengths. As you grow comfortable, gradually transition into more expansive affirmations.
  • Consistency is key: Even if these exercises feel awkward initially, persistence matters. The more frequently you practice, the more natural and ingrained they become.
  • Designate a routine: Assign specific times for these exercises, like during morning routines or before bedtime. This structured approach can aid in reducing procrastination.
  • Celebrate small wins: Each time you feel a surge in confidence or notice a positive shift in perception, acknowledge it. Recognizing progress can significantly bolster motivation.

Remember, the path to increased confidence is incremental. Each challenge faced is but a stepping stone, refining your approach and pushing you closer to a more confident self.

The Takeaways

Confidence is not a fixed attribute; it's like a muscle that grows with regular exercise. By incorporating these scientifically-backed exercises into your daily routine, you can build and maintain your confidence. Remember, the journey to self-confidence is a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient with yourself, celebrate small victories, and keep pushing forward. Confidence is within your reach, and these exercises can help you achieve it!

Summary FAQs

1. Why is confidence important?

Confidence helps us feel more resilient, boosts our ability to cope with stress, and allows us to better connect with others.

2. What is an example of a self-affirmation?

One powerful affirmation is “I am confident and capable of achieving anything I set my mind to.

3. According to the science, why is visualization so effective?

Neuroscientific research has shown that the brain can’t distinguish between a real and an imagined event.

4. What are examples of power poses?

They could be as simple as standing tall with your hands on your hips, or stretching your arms wide in a “victory” pose.

5. How does mindfulness meditation help build confidence?

This technique has been shown to help reduce negative thought patterns, improve focus, and promote relaxation, thereby boosting confidence.

6. What are some self-compassion exercises I can try?

You can engage in a self-compassion break, write yourself a compassionate letter, or practice a loving-kindness meditation.

7. What is the premise behind mastery experiences?

By setting and achieving small, realistic goals, you can gradually build your confidence.

8. When is the best time to write in my gratitude journal?

Any time that works for you! The key is to be consistent with this habit each day to experience optimal results for your confidence-building efforts.

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