Building your self-belief

Building your self-belief

Self-belief is having confidence in your ability to cope with the ups and downs of life. It is about having trust in yourself and being proud of your achievements while retaining a realistic view of your capabilities. Self-belief can be learnt and below are some tips to help you strengthen yours.

1. Follow the five steps to wellbeing

Research concludes that doing these every day will have a positive effect on your confidence and self-belief.


This does not have to mean giving money or material things; giving time to someone or to a worthy cause helps them and will enhance your own wellbeing too.

Be active

Exercise is good for the mind as well as the body because it releases chemicals called endorphins which trigger a positive feeling. Exercise does not have to be organised sport or vigorous activity. A daily walk, particularly at a pace that increases your heart rate, will make you fitter and feel more positive.


Engaging with others is important for our wellbeing. Few people flourish when they are isolated and lonely. If you are tired after work or have not found many social opportunities in your new location yet, you can still connect with friends and family via social media while you build up networks locally.

Keep learning

If you have started a new job, there will probably be lots of things to learn, but to keep your brain alert and functioning well, learning new skills should be a lifelong pursuit, although it does not have to involve formal qualifications.

Take notice

of the environment around you. Be aware of the natural world and the trees, plants, birds and creatures that live in it. Also take notice of the people around you and how you might connect or do a good turn for someone.

2. Know and acknowledge your strengths
  • Start by making a list of your positive qualities, e.g. ‘I persevere’. Beside each item, write something you have done that illustrates this, e.g. ‘I persevere – although I was upset about failing my driving test twice, I did not give up and passed third time’.

  • Next make a list of the challenges you have faced in your life and successfully overcome.

  • Then make a list of your achievements. Do not confine yourself to academic achievements; consider what you have achieved through sport, hobbies, community activities, fundraising, campaigning and other aspects of your life.

  • Look at these lists often and regard them as living documents. Add to them as you overcome new challenges and accrue more achievements. Reminding yourself regularly of your strengths and things that have gone well will strengthen your self-belief. These lists will also be useful for compiling a CV and preparing for interviews.
3. Practise positive thinking
  • Focus on things that have gone well rather than dwelling on what has gone wrong. If you make a mistake, identify what you could have done differently in that situation and learn from it, but don’t endlessly blame yourself. See setbacks as an opportunity for growth rather than a reflection of your abilities and self-worth.

  • Notice and regulate your own self talk. Constantly putting yourself down, pointing out your own faults and things you have done wrong will keep your confidence low and prevent you from building self- belief. Counteract negative thoughts by reminding yourself of something positive about you and your achievements.

  • Practise saying ‘and’ not ‘but’. ‘But’ is the enemy of self-belief. If you add ‘but’ to a sentence about yourself, it is likely a negative will follow

  • Consider this example: ’My manager said the report I wrote was really good but he was probably just being kind because it was my birthday’. Here, the positive response from the manager,which should have boosted the employee’s self-belief, was undermined by their negative interpretation. Using ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ is much more likely to lead to a neutral or positive response such as ‘My manager said the report I wrote was really good and it was nice to hear that, especially on my birthday.’
4. Set yourself manageable goals
  • If you are faced with a task you find daunting, or a goal you want to achieve but doubt that you can, the step ladder technique can be a useful way of building your competence and self-belief.

  • Imagine your ultimate goal is at the top of a ladder. Jumping straight to the top is unlikely and your belief that you can do it is probably small. Instead, plan to reach the top in a gradual way. Set yourself small interim goals and think of each as a rung taking you up the ladder towards the top.

  • Make sure they are ‘smart’ steps, which means:
    1. Specific
    2. Measurable
    3. Achievable and attractive
    4. Realistic and resourced
    5. Time scaled

Practise each step several times before moving up to the next rung of the ladder. By gradually moving towards your goal, your confidence will build and your belief that you can get there will grow.

Acknowledge your successes and do not let negative thoughts dominate and discourage you.

Accept there may be setbacks, but this does not mean all is lost.

5. Other tips
  • Train yourself to look for the good in people and situations.

  • Value yourself and practise self-care.

  • Visualise yourself as you want to be. Imagine watching yourself on a screen, behaving and looking as you want to be seen, for example calm, confident, decisive. What you see is you with self-belief. If you frequently imagine yourself like that, it is probable you will start to be like that. Try it.

  • Commit. Commitment to a task, cause or person requires motivation, resilience and determination – all qualities that help boost self-belief.


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