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Confidence – Why it's important and how we can we increase it.

Confidence is “a feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one's own abilities or qualities” or “a feeling or consciousness of one's powers or of reliance on one's circumstances”.

So why is confidence important?

The answer lies in the fact that our level of confidence has a significant effect on all aspects of our lives from how we see ourselves, what we feel able to do and how we interact with others.

Many things affect our confidence and one of them is how we are treated by other people which will impact my level of confidence. This in turn will cause me to behave in a certain way which will make an impression on how others see me. Finally the way they see me will cause them to act in a certain way which will again affect my level of confidence (see the diagram below – the Confidence Cycle). If we are well treated, we are likely to spiral up in confidence but if negatively dealt with, it is likely that we will spiral down in confidence.

Confidence Cycle

1. How Others Treat Me – clearly the way I am treated by other people whether they be friends, family or strangers, will affect how I see myself. For instance if someone criticises me or makes fun of me, that is highly likely to make me feel bad about myself, whereas if another person says positive things to me that will make me feel good about myself. “Balcony people” tend to pull us up and help us to have a positive self image, whereas “Cellar people” are more likely to drag us down through their actions and comments. Some of these negatives can be direct while others are more subtle and less obvious.

Professor Derald W Sue. in 2010 first used the term micro aggressions to describe this manipulative behaviour -

"The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of colour, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalised, experience in their day-to-day interactions with people.“

Examples of Micro Aggressions

  • Ignoring or paying less attention to a person

  • Not seeking or valuing contributions

  • Showing less empathy or interest

  • Exclusive or less inclusive language

  • Consistently disagreeing or challenging

  • Not being included in discussions

  • Inappropriate humour

  • Avoiding or minimising any contact

  • Eye-rolling

  • Mispronouncing someone's name repeatedly

There are several options when dealing with negative comments and behaviours by others.

1. Firstly you can challenge them, if you believe that they are unwarranted and designed to make you feel bad about yourself. The other option is to ignore it or “let it go over your shoulder into oblivion”. By being around “balcony people” who will support and encourage us, we can ensure that our level of confidence is built up.

2. My Level of Confidence – this is very much how we see ourselves and as well as being dependent on how others treat us, it can also be affected by many other factors including our health, our environment, fatigue, the weather etc. Some of these are out of our control while others we may be able to improve. One approach for instance comes from the NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) school of psychology, which says that using positive self-talk can change not only how you feel mentally ie. our mind, but also helps physiologically ie. our body. The more positive thoughts you can recall the more your confidence grows. A trainer colleague of mine had a great system for dealing with situations that he knew would be challenging such as running a course for an awkward group. He had a file with all the positive feedback he had received over his career and he would take it out and read through it before the course. You could see him looking and feeling more confident with every page.

Michelle Obama in her book The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times quotes her father as saying “No-one can make you feel bad, if you feel good about yourself”

3. How I behave and look to others – if we are feeling nervous and lacking confidence, this can be picked up by people we are with, especially those who know us well. For most of the time this may not be a problem, but there may be situations and people who will take advantage, when they see anxiety or even fear. Ideally this will rarely happen if we have increased our level of confidence at the previous stage. All is, however, not lost if we haven’t. It is still possible to act confidently, even when we don’t feel like it. It is called the “con” of confidence ie. looking as if we are relaxed and confident even though internally we don’t feel like that. Tips to achieve this include dressing in clothes we feel good in, standing with shoulders back and giving direct eye contact, and taking time to slow our breathing and set yourself prior to the interview or meeting etc. A recent article in the Daily Mail talks about the importance of our body language and confidence.

If you suffer from a lack of confidence at work, a new study may encourage you to adjust your posture "The power pose really DOES work! If you suffer from a lack of confidence at work, a new study may encourage you to adjust your posture. Researchers claim that adopting a 'power pose' makes you feel and behave more confidently. The wide-legged, chest-out pose has famously been used by politicians and celebrities including Theresa May, Elon Musk and Beyoncé.”

4.How Other People See Me – hopefully if you have been successful in the previous stages, their perception of you will be positive at best and neutral at worst.

Final thoughts.

Everyone from kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers down have self-doubts, sometimes called impostor syndrome. Below are some examples of how this affects famous celebrities.

“It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts on our abilities, about our power and what power is” Michelle Obama, wife of President Obama
“I have on many occasions thought, ‘I can’t do that because it’s me’. Impostor syndrome is real” Jacinda Ardern, ex-Prime Minister of New Zealand

Sir Billy Connolly still feels he has 'never made it' despite legendary comedy career

The 79-year-old, who suffered abuse at the hands of family members as a child, reveals he has always doubted himself. This is in spite of an impressive, long-standing career in which he won a special recognition gong at the National Television Awards in 2016.

The secret is to accept you will have self-doubts at some times and in certain situations, and the solution is to ensure that you get enough support from “Balcony people” and also remind yourself of how good you really are.

Duncan Mckenzie leads the 3 part Stepping Stones course called:

Building Confidence & Managing Relationships

Course / Workshop Content


This course is ideal for anyone wishing to increase their self- awareness and identify their strengths and areas for development. It will be valuable for those wishing to enhance personal or work relationships.


We will look at the difference between assertive, aggressive, manipulative and passive behaviours and ways of recognising these behaviours in yourself and others. We will look at the importance of confidence and self-esteem, understand how to enhance them and practice techniques to remain assertive. We will also look at the importance of power, different types of power and how we can use it most effectively. We will review the five different conflict styles in the Thomas Kilmann model and examine the tools available to prevent and reduce conflict, including how to use different influencing techniques and the barriers to making personal change


By the end of the three sessions, you will have sufficient self- awareness to make wiser choices about how you manage your behaviour and relationships. You will have the knowledge and skill to decide on the best approaches when interacting with others.

Attending Stepping Stones is completely FREE and open to anyone aged over 18, who lives or works in the Borough of Bracknell Forest. We are an independent charity but work closely with all local services and charities. You don’t need a referral from anyone – it’s entirely up to you to decide.


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