Years ago I played on a volleyball team with a university student who submitted every assignment as late as possible. She lost 20% on every assignment by submitting two weeks late. If she had submitted one day later, she would have received a 0 for the assignment. As she, another academic, and I walked down to UNE Sport, we talked about her pattern, and the other academic started to tell her that the late-submission rule had just changed and students could now submit three weeks late and lose 30%. I covertly elbowed him, and he fell silent.
Why did this student consistently act in a self-defeating way? Low self-confidence.
Low self-confidence leads individuals to delay doing what needs to be done. They anticipate failure, so they delay. Further, if the work they submit is not highly evaluated, students can tell themselves it was because they did it at the last minute. Individuals with low self-confidence don’t just delay — they often avoid tasks entirely, missing opportunities to grow and succeed. Because having low self-confidence can lead to performance anxiety, these individuals sometimes choke under pressure and perform far under their ability.
Individuals vary widely in their level of self-confidence, and we all feel more confident about some of our abilities than others. I have low confidence in my ability as a linguist, so I never try to learn a new language. I have confidence in my ability to play sports, so I have tried all kinds, from sand-boarding (I fell on my head) to softball.
How can individuals boost their self-confidence?
(1) Care less about perfection and what others think and more about making progress.
(2) Try challenging tasks and persist with them. Practice enhances skill.
(3) Acknowledge and celebrate progress. Many individuals with low self-confidence downplay their successes and dramatize their failures.
(4) Keep your thinking positive and realistic. Instead of thinking “I was terrible — I can’t do that,” think “I want to do better than that.”
(5) Associate with others who encourage you and praise your efforts.
(6) Learn how your heroes made it to the top. Einstein had high self-confidence, despite making huge errors like rejecting quantum mechanics. Taylor Swift has high self-confidence despite receiving lots of criticism. You can bet that your heroes keep their confidence high by taking the confidence-boosting actions mentioned above.