Bill Abbate

Little compares to the feeling of confidence. You know, those times when you know that you know you can do something. There is nothing else like it.

How confident are you in yourself and your abilities? Could you use more confidence? Where can you gain it, and what keeps you from gaining more?

Let’s explore these questions and look at a simple way to build genuine confidence in your life.

The strength of confidence

Everyone has some degree of confidence in themselves, but we can always use more. Confidence gives you strength and courage in a way nothing else can. Confidence empowers you to go for it, to attempt something others would shy away from. It can take the fear out of failure.

Confidence can take you far in life so long as you remain grounded in reality.

As with any good strength, overusing it can work against you. Refuse to live in the fantasy world of over-confidence, also known as audaciousness, recklessness, and cockiness.

Increasing your confidence is not as difficult as you may think. Growing your confidence in a specific area simply involves getting to know yourself better. And who better to get to know you than you?

Before moving on to how you can increase your confidence, let’s get to know its enemy.

The inner critic

Imagine silencing the one who regularly attempts to sabotage your confidence. Many call this the “inner critic.” Your life would certainly be more enjoyable without it. To begin silencing your inner critic, you must start questioning it.

This critical inner voice comes from inside your mind. It often comes from a part of you that is immature, fearful, and perhaps trying to protect you.

A personal example comes from my fear of public speaking. It began when I was a child. I was in a second-grade play when I tripped and fell on stage. It was bad enough that I was already shy and uncomfortable in front of others.

As I recall the incident, I was embarrassed and felt ashamed because the audience, including my family, laughed at me. That feeling of embarrassment turned into terror.

Could a memory from when I was seven still influence me into my twenties? You bet. I allowed it to have a voice in my life. My inner critic used fear in its attempt to protect me from ever being so embarrassed again.

As I advanced in my career, I was often put on the spot to speak. Eventually, I attended a Dale Carnegie course on public speaking. I also started reading more about the subject to help me overcome my fear. After some time and effort, I gained control of this “critical voice” in my head. The more I spoke in front of groups, the more my confidence increased, and the greater the strides in my career became.

Is this critical voice gone? Nope. It’s still there. Yet I see it differently now. Whenever I get nervous as I prepare to speak to an audience, that seven-year-old part of me still wants to protect me from looking like a fool and failing. But I now have another part of me that tells me I can do it. I have done it and have been successful at it many times since that early experience.

A more mature “voice of confidence” now tells me I will do a great job. I believe it, and it happens.

Even if things don’t go perfectly, I now have a “calming voice” telling me it is okay. I am allowed to make mistakes. Others want me to be successful and not fail. I am encouraged no matter what happens and can even laugh at myself.


What you believe about yourself either empowers you or robs you of your confidence. By better understanding your beliefs, you can take control of them and increase your confidence in almost any area of life.

Beliefs manifest themselves as self-sabotaging, self-limiting doubts and fears at one extreme, and as self-assurance and confidence at the other.

Every person I know who earnestly does the following exercise comes away with a keener self-awareness. They always find one or more areas they can change for the better. In fact, completing this exercise with an open mind will reveal things you had no idea existed.


Think of some things you tell yourself that you do not do well, cannot do, or are not good at.

The objective of the exercise is to make things visible that you may not otherwise see. These are things that control you, and you will move from being subject to them to making them subject to you.

Make a list of as many things as you can. A few ideas can include things around:

  • Relationships
  • Public speaking
  • Selling or other skills
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Math
  • Being accepted
  • Failing at my job
  • Health

Exercise overview

The first question in the following exercise asks what you tell yourself you don’t believe you are good at or something you fear. Everyone experiences these things, so you will likely find several with some self-reflection. If you did the preparation above, you have primed the proverbial pump.

To be clear, we’re not talking about things that might be impossible, such as running a four-minute mile (although some of you may be able to do that!) No, these are things you might be able to do or would like to do, yet you have doubts.

You may even experience it as a voice in your head that says, “I am not good at __________.”

The second question is about noticing and exploring the emotions and feelings in your body. Do not skip this question. Your emotions are crucial and provide information and insight you cannot get otherwise.

The third question is to look at what you tell yourself in your mind as you examine this belief, which you will dispute.

The fourth and final questions will help you choose to move forward with action.

I recommend you repeat this confidence-building exercise for at least three to five things you tell yourself you do not believe you are good at or fear. A great way to do this is in your journal, although you can print the questions to write them out or copy the questions and do them on your computer.

Enhance the process

You can add one additional step to make the results of the following exercise more impactful. Work through your “self-limiting beliefs” with someone you trust, perhaps even a coach. They are not there to try to “fix” you. They only lend their ear, provide encouragement, help you think more deeply, and challenge you.

Involving someone else also makes you more accountable, which is important for helping to get things done. Please understand this exercise is what you believe about yourself, not what someone else says. Disregard outside influences as much as you can. Just write from your heart.


Before starting this exercise, it is best to be relaxed. Let’s practice a relaxation technique to prepare.

Find a nice, comfortable place without distractions and notice any tension in your body. Notice the tightness around your forehead and your eyes. Release it. Lighten your eyes.

Bring to awareness stress elsewhere in your face. Loosen your jaw. Let go of the tension. Notice stress elsewhere, such as in your neck and shoulders. Relax. Release the tension. Continue this down your entire body, noticing stress and releasing it.

Take a few deep breaths, paying attention as you slowly and steadily inhale and exhale. When you feel relaxed, you are ready to begin the exercise.

Confidence Building Exercise

First Question: What is something I don’t believe I’m good at, something I cannot do, or something I fear?


Second Question: How does it make me feel emotionally or in my body and thoughts?


What can I name this critical or limiting voice?

Answer: _________________________

Third Question: What do I believe about this? What am I telling myself?


Dispute the Answer : _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Fourth Question: What can and will I do?


On a scale of 1 to 10, with ten being fully committed to doing this, where am I? ____________

What can I do to move it closer to a 10? _______________


How can I hold myself accountable for doing the work needed to accomplish this?

Answer: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Final Thoughts

Repeat this exercise for as many limiting beliefs and critical voices as possible. You will not regret making an effort to work on this part of your life.

Once completed, you are positioned to change your outcomes and put your life on a completely new trajectory!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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