“I just went through a really hard year where I lost my job, had a really bad breakup, and got rejected from a grad school program I really wanted to attend. I feel like I’ve lost all of my self-esteem. How can I restore my confidence and start believing in myself again?”
Not believing in yourself can affect all aspects of your life, including the choices you make, the relationships you form, and the goals you set and achieve.
The good news is that it’s possible to become more confident and believe in yourself more, even if you have a lot of self-doubt right now. Starting small and making changes to both your mindset and routine will help you begin to rebuild your trust, confidence, and belief in yourself.
This article will break down what it means to believe in yourself, the importance of believing in yourself, and 10 steps you can take to trust and believe in yourself more.
- What does it mean to believe in yourself?
- Why is it important to believe in yourself?
- 10 steps to believe in yourself
- Common questions
Believing in yourself means having faith and confidence in yourself and your abilities, even when you aren’t completely certain you can do something. It also means being able to maintain some level of confidence even when you mess up or make mistakes.
Believing in yourself doesn’t mean not having doubts, fears, or insecurities, and it also doesn’t mean feeling totally confident all the time. Instead, it means finding the courage and determination to overcome these doubts and keep moving forward towards your goals.
Beliefs about yourself and your abilities have a lot of power. They determine many of the goals you set, choices you make, and actions you take to improve yourself and your life.
The more you believe in yourself and what you do, the more you will push yourself to strive and accomplish your goals. As you do, you begin to believe it is possible to have the life and future you want for yourself instead of always letting your doubts and fears hold you back.
- Causing you to “settle” for less in life, work, and relationships
- Leading you to set small, safe goals instead of big goals you really want
- Stopping you from meeting new people, trying new things, or going on adventures
- Making you more vulnerable to external opinions, expectations, and validation
- Impaired decision-making, overthinking, and regretting past decisions
- Low self-esteem, higher stress, and more vulnerability to negative emotions
- Lower motivation, drive, and poor follow-through of tasks and projects
- More anxiety, impostor syndrome, self-consciousness, and self-doubt
Below are 10 steps anyone can take to learn how to believe in themselves, restore their confidence, and practice trusting themselves more.
Negative thoughts about yourself, your life, your past, and your future are usually one of the main reasons why people don’t believe in themselves. With practice, it is possible to interrupt and even change these negative thoughts, which can help you feel more confident.
- Expecting the worst-case scenario to occur
Tip: Turn “What if…” thoughts into “Even if…” thoughts
Example: “What if I miss the shot?” → “Even if I miss the shot, I can try again.”
- Zooming in on flaws and personal insecurities
Tip: Reframe flaws or weaknesses as potential resources or strengths.
Example: “I’m too much of a type A person.” → “I’m highly organized and detail-oriented.”
- Rehashing past mistakes, regrets, and failures
Tip: Find the silver lining or lesson in past mistakes, regrets, or failures.
Example: “I should have never taken this job.” → “At least I’ve learned a lot about what I am looking for in my next job.”
- Comparing yourself to others in ways that make you feel less than
Tip: Focus more on similarities instead of differences
Example: “She is so much smarter than me.” → “We have a lot of common interests.”
- Deciding something is impossible or unrealistic before trying
Tip: Keep all the possibilities open and be willing to try
Example: “I could never afford that.” → “What could I do to afford that?”
People who don’t believe in themselves often decide that something they really want to do, learn, or experience is “impossible” or “unattainable” before they even try. You might not even be aware of how much your fears and doubts have been holding you back, so the next step is to figure this out.
Use the following questions to reflect on whether or not you are dreaming big enough, and if not, how to dream bigger:
- What would you do if you could get a 100% guarantee that you would succeed?
- If you had unlimited confidence, what would be different about your life?
- If you only had 1 year to live, what would you change about the way you live your life?
- What has your inner critic talked you out of doing or trying to do recently?
- What decisions have you made based on fear, doubt, or not believing in yourself?
If you expect to encounter your fears, doubts, and insecurities along the way, it becomes much easier to prepare for these and not let them keep you from moving forward. What’s more important than how often you feel scared or insecure is how you respond when you do.
- Don’t ignore, distract, or try to control or change the feeling
Tip: Open up around the emotion and ride the “wave” of it in your body
Example: Notice your fear rising; imagine it as a wave inside your belly rising, cresting,
- Don’t participate in negative or fear-based conversations in your head
Tip: Acknowledge negative thoughts without getting stuck in them
Example: Notice the voice of your inner critic saying you will fail or can’t do something but then refocus your attention to something outside of yourself (e.g., a task or your current location. You could also use one of your 5 senses to ground yourself).
- Don’t give up or collapse in the face of adversity
Tip: Use a self-compassionate, positive inner coach to cheerlead you on
Example: Find a kinder, more encouraging part of yourself and tap into this by thinking things like “I can do this!” or at least, “Let’s give it a try!”
While fear and doubt will try to default to negative visualizations (like worst-case scenarios), it is possible to override these by imagining a positive, successful outcome. This is a secret used by many successful people who have overcome their self-doubts and fears.
Here are some simple ways to start breaking the negative thinking patterns that cause you to trust yourself less:
- Make a vision board and keep it somewhere you will see it often: A quick Google, Instagram, or Pinterest search for vision boards will give you lots of great inspiration on how to create a vision board that represents the things you most want in school, your career, relationships, and life.
- Take time regularly to daydream: Daydreaming about the things you really want in life is another easy way to tap into the powers of visualization and involves letting your mind wander freely in the halls of your imagination. Remember to get vivid and specific with the details of your daydream to get the most from this exercise.
- Journal “as if” you have created the life you want: A final exercise you can do to use visualization is to keep a journal where you write as if you have already achieved the goals you have for yourself. This exercise helps by rewriting some of the self-limiting thoughts and beliefs that have been holding you back.
Some of the best lessons in life come from failures and mistakes. When you view failure or mistakes as something to be avoided at all costs, you are much more likely to give up when things get hard. Changing the way you think about and respond to mistakes will help you develop the persistence needed to overcome obstacles and “fail forward” instead of backward.
- Change the way you think about success and failure by redefining these terms as “persistence” or “giving up.” This way, failure becomes avoidable, and success becomes a learned response that is always within your control.
- Develop your growth mindset (a mindset based on the assumption you can keep learning, growing, and improving, as opposed to a “fixed” mindset that assumes your ability and talents are set in stone) by reflecting on some of your past achievements and listing the specific mistakes you made along the way that helped you succeed. Check out Psychology Today’s guide for more tips.
- Talk more openly about failure and mistakes as this can lessen shame and provide opportunities for support and encouragement.
- Don’t beat yourself up for your mistakes or regrets. Instead, switch to a more productive line of thinking by making a list of important lessons and planning what to do differently next time.
- Don’t let failures stop you from trying again. The greatest successes and innovations have come from persistent people who kept going even after failing many times.
Your belief in yourself grows the more you try new things and face your fears, so don’t wait to get out of your comfort zone. Small, daily acts of courage can help you become braver and more confident in yourself and your capabilities. Since everyone’s fears and insecurities are a little different, it’s important to focus on the activities you’ve avoided because you’ve doubted yourself.
Here are some simple steps to begin the process of getting out of your comfort zone:
- Learn a new skill or hobby by signing up for a class, workshop, or exploring an interest.
- Embrace the discomfort you experience when trying new things as a sign you are becoming stronger and more confident in yourself.
- Start more conversations with people you’ve avoided getting to know because you weren’t sure they’d like you or find you interesting.
- Push yourself to get out more by attending meetups, events, and activities in your community.
- Go on mini-adventures in your city or state by exploring new restaurants, places, or just pretending to be a tourist in your hometown.
Self-compassion is the practice of being kinder to yourself, even during times when you make a mistake, feel insecure, or are stressed or overwhelmed. Research has proven that self-compassion is a key element to health, happiness, and well-being. It can also help people struggling with low self-esteem, self-worth, and self-doubt, making it another great way to believe in yourself more.
- Talk to yourself like a friend, especially when you feel hurt, sad, rejected, or insecure
- Make time for self-care activities that fuel you, energize you, or make you happy
- Respect and take care of your body through exercise, nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle
- Write yourself a compassionate letter and read it back to yourself aloud
- Write down a list of what you most want in life, including small things you want to buy or earn or achieve as well as long-term goals you want to work towards
Negativity can become a bad mental habit that undermines your trust, faith, and confidence in yourself. In order to believe in yourself more, this habit will need to change, and you need to learn to focus more on the good than the bad. Developing a more positive mindset will make it easier for you to believe in yourself, especially when you’re having doubts.
- Keep a journal where you write down three things each day you feel grateful for
- Embrace the best parts of who you are by making a list of your personal strengths
- Find the good in every situation by going in with a positive attitude and outlook
- Look for evidence every day that you are growing, improving, and learning
- Accept compliments with gratitude instead of downplaying or minimizing them
While genuine self-worth comes from within, it also helps to surround yourself with supportive people. Spending more time around people who are genuinely positive and encouraging can give you a confidence boost when you need it most. Opening up to them can also help you build trust and closeness, meaning this can also help you improve your social life.
Learning to believe in yourself is essentially a process of learning to trust yourself. If you struggle with self-doubt, it may be because something has happened to damage your self-trust. Some of the small betrayals that can undermine self-trust include:
- Letting other people make decisions or do things for you
- Accepting bad circumstances instead of trying to change or improve them
- Making excuses for your actions or inactions
- Not setting boundaries in a relationship or letting people disrespect you
- Staying silent when you should have spoken or stood up for yourself
- Being unfair, unkind, or too critical of yourself
- Being truly honest with yourself about what you feel, want, and need
- Following through with the things you’ve committed to doing for yourself
- Working to be more independent and make decisions on your own
- Being clear and consistent in your actions
- Being kinder in the way you talk to yourself and treat yourself
- Doing the right thing and things that matter to you even when others disagree
- Consistently working to grow, learn and improve to become the best version of you
The beliefs you have about yourself form the basis for most of the goals you set, decisions you make, and ways you spend your time and energy. Doubts, fears, and insecurities can all work to undermine your belief in yourself, but changing your mindset and routine can restore your confidence. This process takes time, effort, and consistent practice, so be patient and persistent. Over time, you will begin to see the benefits as you become a more confident, successful, and happy version of yourself.
If you used to believe in yourself but no longer do, consider why, when, and how your self-image changed. Awareness is the first step to change. Often, you can trace your lack of self-worth back to specific past experiences, interactions, or life changes that made you feel less confident.
Negative thoughts, your inner critic, and personal insecurities are some of the main internal barriers to believing in yourself and in what you do. Past regrets can also become blockages that keep you afraid of repeating the same mistakes again.
Believing in yourself when no one else does can be really hard, but when it comes to you, your life, and your future, your opinion is the one that matters most. The more you believe in yourself, the less you will need to rely on validation and feedback from others.
There are tons of great psychology and self-help books on building self-esteem and confidence. Reading them and implementing their advice can accelerate your growth. Guidance from a counselor or life coach can also be helpful.