Can adults benefit from confidence building activities?
Imagine this situation: a professional basketball player has missed nine jump shots in a row. He gets the opportunity to make his tenth attempt. Without hesitating or doubting himself, he leaps straight into the air and shoots.
This time, he scores.
The player in question is none other than Michael Jordan.
Jordan was famous for maintaining his self assurance even when his most recent performance on the court should have given him cause to doubt his abilities.
Most people in parallel situations – even the most successful business executives, politicians, academics, or entertainers – are not immune to crippling moments of insecurity when they are objectively confronted with their failure.
Being confident in the face of adversity is not simply a matter of self denial or self delusion.
Deborah H. Gruenfeld, an American social psychologist and Stanford professor, argues that “Overcoming … self doubt starts with honestly assessing one’s abilities and shortcomings, then getting comfortable enough to capitalize on — and correct — them.”
Managing one’s fears, uncertainties and anxieties are thus only a part of the process. So much depends on one’s ability to eventually succeed.
If Jordan had continued to miss on all of his subsequent jump shots in the same game and the following matches – even after making the necessary adjustments and modifications – even he might decide to adopt a new strategy for scoring.
While self confidence is dependent on context, some individuals seem to possess the belief that they can succeed across a wide range of activities.
It is not unthinkable, for example, for a woman to be simultaneously confident in her role as an entrepreneur, mother, wife, public speaker, writer, driver, cook and conversationalist.
Are these people “naturally” or “innately” confident, or has their confidence been acquired over time, experience and circumstance?
11 Confidence Building Activities to Boost Self Esteem Effectively Today
Building and maintaining confidence is a lifelong pursuit. It only becomes more important as you gain responsibility over a larger and more diverse group of people throughout your life.
Here are critical 11 confidence building activities for adults that you can pursue to embark on a virtuous cycle of enhanced security, emotional resilience and improved performance.
“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzu
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1. Practice and Preparation
“People like Frank, who have been in studios for years and years and years developing skills as songwriters—[Zayn’s] been doing that on the performance side. That’s powerful right there. His 10,000 hours or whatever have been invested as a performer. He has the tools physically and mentally to deliver at the drop of the hat.”
Having just left the popular boy band One Direction, Zayn was undoubtedly confident in his abilities as a vocalist (whether in the recording studio or in the presence of thousands of fans).
He was far less confident, however, in his abilities as a songwriter and a solo artist who had to craft and sell his image and narrative. Writing and recording his own songs was a completely new challenge to him.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to building one’s confidence in a new area. Practice really does make perfect.
Even if you are confident in your abilities, more preparation will only improve your confidence and your performance (which will further reinforce your self-assurance).
For example, a study that was published in the Journal of College Student Personnel found that a senior college student’s level of confidence was most closely tied to satisfaction with his or her academic performance over the three previous years.
The key, then, is to believe in your ability to improve at something that you are not initially good at – and to put in the necessary time and effort.
2. Read Self-help Books
Reading the right self-help books can help you to build your self confidence by addressing both specific and general issues.
Some books are aimed to a wide audience, while others address challenges that may be more applicable to a specific group of people.
The worldwide success of American authors like Stephen R. Covey ( The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) and Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People) may give you the impression that the popularity of the self-help genre is a post-WWII phenomenon.
Texts that offer positive advice on self-betterment, however, can be traced all the way back to the pre-industrial era, from the Renaissance, Middle Ages, Early Middle Ages to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.
Some of these ancient self-help texts are still influential, albeit with readers that its authors may have never expected.
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War(5th century BC) is popular with American businessmen. On the other hand, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (161 -180 AD) is a bestseller in contemporary China.
The best self-help books do not simply provide practical information and advice; they provide a therapeutic reading experience that allows you to address your insecurities and anxieties in a productive manner.
Self-help authors are often surprisingly honest and direct about the angst, shame, guilt, and self-destructiveness – emotions that often remain hidden and unacknowledged in everyday life.
They also serve as a concrete reminder of the human ability to transform. These authors were once unsuccessful, self-defeating, and self-doubting. Their books detail how they overcame a wide range of obstacles to become successful.
3. Take Online Courses
Working professionals of the past gained a sense of security from “iron rice bowl” jobs. They worked at the same company for their entire working lives, while looking forward to the generous pension schemes they could enjoy after retirement.
In today’s globalized, highly competitive and disruptive economy, such jobs have become a rarity. Most working professionals today are expected to change jobs and industries several times throughout their careers.
Meanwhile, the accelerated rates of technological progress forces you to keep up with various innovations even while working in the same capacity.
A quotation from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland captures the zeitgeist:
“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”
The nature of knowledge and education is evolving with time.
4. Help Someone Else
“I think I started to grow up when I stopped thinking about myself, and I started thinking about how I can be useful to other people. The amazing thing is, when you help somebody, and you see that positive impact on somebody, that gives you confidence.” – Barack Obama
Sometimes the best way to improve your confidence is to shift your mindset from “being someone” to “doing something”.
Focusing on how you can help other people or contribute to the wider community makes you more aware of your existing abilities (rather than your perceived deficiencies and shortcomings).
The process of making a difference to someone else’s life does not only give you altruistic satisfaction – it also affirms your ability to make an impact on the external world.
Teachers often encourage stronger students to help their struggling counterparts. Both students benefit in the process; the stronger student is prompted to improve his or her communication skills, sociability, and understanding of the subject matter.
Likewise, being a mentor, guide or role model to those around you will help develop your self confidence, your sense of self worth, your soft skills, and the depth of your relevant expertise.
You can also take on a role outside of your work or home life, e.g. through a charity, community centre or non-government organisation (NGO).
5. Maintain A Self-care Regime
With that said, taking care of your self is also crucial to your self esteem and confidence.
Eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep may sound like cliched prescriptions, but your emotional resilience in stressful and challenges situations depends on good physical health.
Your health also depends on good hygiene practices: showering, brushing your teeth, changes your sheets, trimming your nails, etc.
Even if you believe that confidence is “all in your head”, your head is ultimately connected to the rest of your body.
It depends on your heart for blood, on your lungs for oxygen, and your digestive system for nutrition.
Making sure that your physiological needs are met on a daily basis is key to optimal self love and care; physical and mental performance, over a long time.
You don’t have to be overly competitive with regard to your fitness endeavors. Cycling, running, swimming or going to the gym two to three times a week is sufficient.
Taking regular time off to relax, unwind and de-stress is also part and parcel of self-care. Pursuits like walking in the park, yoga, tai chi, and meditation are all effective ways of simultaneously cultivating a healthy body and a sound mind.
6. Improve your Body Language
Your self confidence at any given moment is partly determined by other people’s perceptions of your confidence.
If those around you feel that you are not confident, they are more likely to doubt your knowledge and abilities.
Their distrust, in turn, can negatively affect your faith in your own efficacy. This is why verbal and non-verbal forms of encouragement (e.g. cheers, applause, affirmative facial expressions) can have an impact on public performance.
Even if what you are saying is completely accurate, how you say it can have a significant effect.
The tone and pitch of your voice can affect your audiences’ perception of your confidence levels. Psychologists have observed that approximately 55% of messages are delivered through nonverbal cues such as your body posture and your physical gestures.
You can thus project a more confident image and improve your inner confidence by being more conscious of your body language.
This involves perfecting your handshake, maintaining good eye contact with your audience, being aware of your facial expressions, and managing the amount of personal space between you and the people you are interacting with.
Sit up straight, take long strides and keep your chest high. Avoid crossing your limbs, slouching, fidgeting, rubbing your face or covering your eyes and mouth.
Practice in front of a mirror or a trusted friend who can point out if you have any bad bodily habits that are creating an impression of insecurity or anxiety.
7. Emulate Several Role Models
Your self confidence is often tested when you are placed into a new context or situation.
Getting promoted, for example, comes with additional authority, power, responsibility, a new set of social opportunities – and more scrutiny. You may have to oversee a different group of people and perform unfamiliar roles.
The logical response to the new situation would be to adapt your leadership style, social habits and body language accordingly.
Many people, however, tend to resist doing so as they grow older. Sticking to what is comfortable and familiar is common pattern – even when it does not produce favorable results.
The psychologist Mark Snyder has identified a psychologically distinct group of people he calls “chameleons”: individuals who can flexibly adapt themselves to new situations without experiencing imposter syndrome.
This does not mean that their innermost values are fluid and easily changed. They can, however, modify the way they talk, dress, carry themselves and interact with others according to the demands of the new context.
You might help that “copying” the habits of successful and influential people around you will compromise your authenticity and make you look like a fake. We all, however, have to find a balance between fitting in and standing out.
Even if you have years of experience in your field, it can be productive to look around you and emulate what successful individuals in other areas are doing. Observe how they think, speak and behave – and incorporate it into your sense of self if there is an advantage in doing so.
8. Enhance your Wardrobe
Would you trust your doctor more if he or she was wearing a street jacket instead of the traditional white coat?
Its common to judge someone based on their appearance – especially within a professional setting. We expect lawyers and business executives to be suited, while those working in creative fields can appear more convincing if they have unique and eccentric styles.
Your clothing can also affect your levels of confidence independently of how other people perceive you.
Wearing well-tailored clothes that flatter your figure helps to improve your body image and enhances your self-perceived intelligence, competence and efficacy.
This is why you might want to dress up for a phone interview – your choice of clothing for a particular occasion can affect the way you think, feel and speak.
Dressing well does not necessarily involve luxurious brands and hefty price tags.
Curate a wardrobe that enables you to work towards your goals and choose clothing items that work specifically for your physique.
Don’t settle for clothes that work for the job you currently have – look out for items that match the job you really want.
9. Ask for Assistance and Feedback
Confident people can readily acknowledge that they alone cannot know and do everything.
Confidence is ultimately context-dependent; you will eventually find yourself in a situation where you lack the necessary knowledge and experience.
Admitting your ignorance or dependency on others is an indication that you are confident in your ability to learn – and your ability to evaluate the situation at hand. It is also a test of whether your level of self confidence is relatively independent of other people’s perceptions.
Acknowledging that you need help and asking for it will boost your confidence in the long run as you acquire the skills and expertise you need for other people.
You should also solicit honest feedback from individuals you can trust to gain an accurate appraisal of the quality of your work and performance. Focus on what you can do and what you have done – but don’t lose track of what you also need to do to keep improving.
10. Face your Fears
Jia Jiang became famous as an author and motivational speaker after committing himself to “100 Days of Rejection”.
Each day, he would make a random request from a stranger (e.g. “can I play soccer in your backyard?” or “can I have a burger refill?”) as part of a larger attempt to grapple with his fear of rejection.
Jia’s project was motivated by the crippling Fear of rejection that prevented him from pursuing his childhood dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur:
“It’s because every time I had a new idea, every time I wanted to try something new – even at work. I wanted to make a proposal. I wanted to speak up in front of people in a group. I felt there was this constant battle between the 14-year-old and the 6-year-old. One wanted to conquer the world, make a difference. Another was afraid of rejection. And every time, that 6-year-old won.” -Jia Jang, NPR
Determined to thicken his skin, he left his corporate job and embarked on a journey of transformation to conquer his fears and acquire hard-won wisdom along the way.
By now I’m sure you are determined to overcome your fears. Head over to this article where we shared effective strategies on how you can be courageous and conquer your fears.
You may not be afraid of rejection per se, but we all have fears that can hold us back and prevent us from pursuing our goals, dreams and desires.
Jia’s method of “conditioning” himself to face his fears on a daily, low-stakes basis can be a model for effective ways of overcoming other types of major insecurities and anxieties.
Map out a series of small and manageable challenges with a daily journal that you can take on each day. You will slowly acquire the courage and confidence you need to take on the larger and more existential challenge at hand (instead of delaying that confrontation to a more distant future).
11. Take Control of your Living Space
As with your clothing, the everyday spaces you live in can affect your confidence levels in subtle and powerful ways.
You can empower yourself on a daily basis by maintaining a clean, comfortable and attractive living and working space.
Researchers have also found that the presence of plants in offices can improve your concentration level, productivity, job satisfaction and perceptions of air quality.
Cluttered, disorganized and dirty surroundings, on the other hand, can subconsciously affect your mood and confidence levels.
The right items and decorations can also play a part in reminding you of your past achievements and keeping you aware of your strengths and future potential.
Think of your home and office as an extension of your self-image. By making the appropriate changes to your external environment, you can change your self-perception in the long run.
Did I Miss Anything?
Confidence is ultimately a lifelong work in progress. There is no single solution for building and maintaining it over time.
Please share your suggestions in the comments below. Also if you enjoyed the article please don’t forget to share it with your friends and family.