Building Up Self Confidence


Recently I have been helping to prepare some of my students for university interviews. One thing stood out – the importance of confidence. It seems many young people lack a measured confidence in their own abilities and this is one of the biggest things holding them back.

What is Confidence?

Confidence is belief in your self. It means you think of your strong attributes and not your weaknesses – real or imaginary. Confidence is not an arrogant self exertion. It is not the confidence of a Julius Ceasar – “I came, I saw, I conquered” It is a confidence which allows your real self to come forward. Confidence is compatible with modesty and humility. If we really have self confidence we will not feel obliged to try and convince others. When people exert their ego and tell us of their own achievement and greatness, it is often because they actually lack self-confidence. Therefore, they are fishing for complements to boost their fragile ego and self-confidence.

How Can we Build up Our Confidence?


Some students are so lacking in confidence they want to avoid even the mock interviews. This is the worst thing to do. If we spend our time worrying about potential outcomes our confidence evaporates as we imagine unpleasant scenarios. There is a lot to be said for remaining active and practising what we lack confidence in. When we actually do something, we realise that many of our fears are ungrounded and therefore we can effectively build up our confidence. If we never practise, we will always struggle with confidence. If we lack confidence in speaking with people the best thing is to try and find situations where we can get plenty of practise.

  • In short to build up confidence – Less thinking more doing!

Learning To Deal With Criticism

On various occasions we will be criticised. But, this should not be the end of our world. The criticism does not apply to our self, but a certain action or aspect of our being. In this sense we should look upon the criticism as just an opportunity to improve and learn. If the criticism has an unpleasant tone, we should pay no attention to that. It is important to keep a balanced attitude, don’t just focus on the criticism of others, remember also the encouragement of others.

Don’t Compare

It is funny how many potential interviewees imagine that everyone else must be the perfect candidate who is able to seamlessly switch between explaining the economics of the credit crunch to discussing the implications of Kantian ethics on issues of euthanasia. The point is by comparing ourselves to others, we are liable to lose our self confidence because it is easy to generate feelings of inadequacy.

Don’t Judge Others

The way to self-confidence is not by denegrating other people. People who spend a lot of time criticising others, often lack self-confidence and they subconsiously try to make themselves feel better by putting others down. We should not look upon others as competitors, but, just focus on our own life. Having good will to others will help. Those who judge harshly others, usually end up judging themselves, and it is this relentless self criticism that can knock our confidence.

Don’t Set Unreasonably high Expectations

Another reason for lack of confidence is people set themselves goals of near perfection. Because they struggle to reach this lofty goals they think of how they have fallen short and missed the target. Rather than measuring how much we have fallen short of perfection, we should concentrate on the progress we have made. One example, is when asking a question, students will sometimes say nothing because they are struggling to find the ‘right’ / ‘perfect’ answer. Therefore, rather than get something wrong, they will say nothing. Unfortunately, this is wrong. The interviewers often ask ‘difficult’ question where there is no obvious right answer. They are looking for students who have the confidence to explore ideas and perhaps get half way there.

See also:

Bonus Extra

These are the kind of questions, I am asking in mock interviews. Would You Have the confidence to answer these questions?

  • If the penalty for parking on double yellow lines was capital punishment, no one would do it, therefore it is a good law. Discuss
  • Which French Person do you admire most?
  • What is your worst quality?
  • Is it Vanity to think we can change the world?
  • What is the difference between courage and recklessness?

3 thoughts on “Building Up Self Confidence”

  1. Great post,

    I would like to add personal responsibility and gratefulness as well. When you take responsibility you can’t get blamed from others. When you are grateful it’s also hard to lose confidence.

Comments are closed.