Confidence is a feeling of certainty in yourself and your abilities. A conviction that you possess the necessary skills to face life's obstacles and surmount them without compromising your psychological integrity. In the most grounded way, it is the feeling of "knowing" that you can achieve a given task because your past experience and current skills are congruent with the situation's demands. It is also a form of self-love and trust. Through confidence, you support yourself and charge head-on against the pressures of adversity, trusting that you can carry yourself through the coming storm. It is a feeling of security and comfort that the knowledge you have about yourself is based on uninflated reality. In life, it seems as if many are born with natural innate confidence expressed with such ease and efficiency. On the other hand, many of us feel that confidence is fleeting and lies just outside our grasp. We spend extensive amounts of time trying to push ourselves out of our comfort zones but feel as if it is impossible to leave it. Hence, we remain unconfident in our abilities and accept the notion that things will be this way indefinitely.
Lacking confidence in your life sows the seed of doubt, resentment, and insecurity that will only grow unless the root problems are addressed (Branden, 2021). Luckily, decades of research on confidence and the science behind it have demonstrated that it is not an innate, fixed characteristic but rather an ability and state of being that can be cultivated over time (Markway & Ampel, 2013; Silva et al., 2022). This means that the primary issue for people who have difficulty attaining confidence is the lack of direction and guidance, which can be found through science-backed methods. Indeed, a genuine and long-lasting state of confidence can be achieved, and studies in the field of social psychology and neuroscience have begun to unearth promising findings demonstrating how being your most confident self will enhance many aspects of your life (Ott, Masset & Kepecs, 2019; Robertson, 2021).
How Confidence Can Affect Your Life: Promoting Neural Health and Wellbeing
You may be surprised to hear that confidence affects your being at a molecular level. Essentially, it enacts drug-like actions in the brain, which are significantly associated with focus, motivation, mental drive, and wellbeing, among many other elements (Ott, Masset & Kepecs, 2019). Conversely, a lack of confidence has the opposite effect and drives pathological processes such as low self-esteem, which is associated with conditions such as anxiety, stress, and loneliness (Sowislo & Orth, 2013).
Prominent studies conducted in the field of psychology outline the many factors in which confidence affects your brain and, therefore, many fundamental domains in your life (Berridge & Kringelbach, 2011; Ott, Masset & Kepecs, 2019). The findings demonstrate that the feeling of confidence possesses strong anti-depressive properties which decrease levels of depression and anxiety by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. Instinctively, the human brain acts as a prediction machine, wherein it constantly anticipates when threats or problems will arise in order to ensure survival (Pereira & Moita, 2016). The downside to this process is that the constant anticipation of threat and danger can produce pathological levels of anxiety and depression within the individual. Confidence essentially switches your brain's predictive machinery to anticipate success instead of danger, and when the brain anticipates success, you will be rewarded with dopamine-driven happiness and motivation (Robertson, 2021).
How Confidence Can Affect Your Life: Overcoming Fear and Achieving Success
Fear is a fundamental roadblock to achieving all forms of success, whether in social, professional, or even spiritual domains. Fear is the dark presence that lays outside the walls of your comfort zone, creating a daunting feeling every time you attempt to leave it and explore unfamiliar terrain. Research shows that cultivating confidence in your life may be the key ingredient in overcoming this roadblock (Markway & Ampel, 2013). Evidently, fear itself will not be removed, but the propensity to be affected and involuntarily influenced by it will (Harris, 2011). A host of studies support this notion, and the process of cultivating the confidence to face fear is a principal tenet in mainline psychotherapies such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Roberts & Roberts, 2009; Harris, 2011). Within these contexts cultivating self-belief and confidence are fundamental building blocks to breaking out of pathological cycles and navigating new and highly unfamiliar environments (Harris, 2011).
When we relate this to successful endeavors, it is clear that the feeling of fear is significantly associated with stagnant behavioral patterns, whereas confidence reverses these behaviors. Considered to be the father of science in the domain of self-confidence, psychologist Albert Bandura (1997) demonstrates that the level to which one possesses self-confidence will significantly influence their ability to succeed in specific situations or accomplish a given task. He termed this process self-efficacy and the mastery of experience, which refers to one's capability to exercise control over their functioning and the experiences they will undergo throughout life (Bandura, 2000). Moreover, extensive research on this concept found that one's sense of confidence and self-efficacy acts as the foundation for developing motivation, personal accomplishment, and psychological wellbeing (Johri & Misra, 2014).
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the benefits of cultivating confidence are boundless where it would take multiple books to fully encapsulate its effects on the individual. Moreover, you do not need scientific evidence to inform your opinion on confidence as you may have already felt its unbreakable drive in the past, or even while you are reading this article. However, if we take the implications of integrating confidence seriously, we are now aware of the extensive scientific evidence present in support of its benefits on our brain and psychological wellbeing. Not only does confidence enact therapeutic effects on a molecular level (e.g., Ott, Masset & Kepecs, 2018), but it has the capability of mitigating the devastating effects of fear and stagnation (Harris, 2011). More importantly, these benefits are genuine and equally tangible. Considering the wealth of knowledge on this topic, clear steps have already been paved through evidence-backed research, all it takes is one decision to move forward to claim what you deserve.
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Bandura, A. (1997). The exercise of control.
Bandura, A. (2000). Self-efficacy: The foundation of agency. Control of human behavior, mental processes, and consciousness: Essays in honor of the 60th birthday of August Flammer, 16.
Branden, N. (2021). The power of self-esteem. Health Communications, Inc..
Ott, T., Masset, P., & Kepecs, A. (2018, January). The neurobiology of confidence: From beliefs to neurons. In Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology (Vol. 83, pp. 9-16). Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Johri, R., & Misra, R. K. (2014). Self-Efficacy, Work Passion and Wellbeing: A Theoretical Framework. IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 8(4).
Harris, R. (2011). The confidence gap: A guide to overcoming fear and self-doubt. Shambhala Publications.
Markway, B., & Ampel, C. (2013). The Self-Confidence workbook. A Guide to overcoming self-doubt and improving self-Esteem. ISBN: B07HQ5SSZ1
Pereira, A. G., & Moita, M. A. (2016). Is there anybody out there? Neural circuits of threat detection in vertebrates. Current opinion in neurobiology, 41, 179-187.
Robertson, I. (2021). How Confidence Works: The new science of self-belief. Random House.
Roberts, M. S., & Roberts, T. (2009). The mindfulness workbook: A beginner's guide to overcoming fear and embracing compassion. New Harbinger Publications.
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Sowislo, J. F., & Orth, U. (2013). Does low self-esteem predict depression and anxiety? A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological bulletin, 139(1), 213.