Confidence is like your very own superpower. It helps you face your fears, stand up for yourself and get the most out of school. But where does this superpower come from? How can you build your confidence and why is it important?
Fostering confidence in yourself, your abilities and your interests can directly help you get the most out of school.
To help answer these questions, we got to chat to Henrietta-Lily Moore, a high school drama teacher, who has a lot of wisdom to offer when it comes to cultivating confidence. The television host, model and actress turned teacher is well aware of the importance of confidence and she was able to share that with us!
Let’s get right into it!
What is confidence and why is it important?
Like we said, confidence is like your hidden superpower. It’s within everyone, although for some of us, it can be a little deeper and harder to find but… it’s in there!
And once you find that confidence and work on building it, your superpower will come in pretty handy (especially when it comes to school). We just have to search for it, work on it and utilise it.
Essentially, confidence is the belief and faith you have in yourself. If you’re a confident person, you’re sure of yourself, you can give things a go and you’re not constantly worried about embarrassing yourself — and even if you do feel embarrassed, you can work through it.
To get us started thinking about confidence and what it means to each of us, there are two main points to consider:
#1: Confidence means something different for everyone (and that’s okay!)
There is no right way to feel confident. You don’t have to be an outgoing person who’s great at public speaking and academically skilled to consider yourself ‘confident’. That’s the beauty of it! You can build confidence from anywhere at any time and there’s no best area to feel confident in.
You could feel confident in your handwriting skills or your funny personality or you could feel confident about how much you care for your friends and your pets! The list goes on. There is no criteria for confidence. But once you can find something about yourself that you’re confident in, you can remember that and transfer it to life in general!
If you feel confident in the fact that you’re a good friend, then you can utilise that next time you’re in a nerve wracking situation with people you don’t know at school or maybe in another year group. You know that you’re a good friend, so remind yourself of that and go try and make some new friends!
That’s just one specific example. If you’re confident in even one thing about yourself then that’s an amazing place to start. Confidence looks different on everyone.
#2: You’re always developing your confidence
It’s always good to remind yourself that where you’re at right now in your confidence journey, is not where you’ll stay! Importantly, confidence is a journey! Everyone’s constantly building their confidence (even if sometimes it feels like nothing’s changing).
Luckily, confidence is something that everyone can improve on. Your level of confidence is not permanent, even if it feels like it is. So, keep that in mind as you continue reading. It’s a skill that you can work on and learn.
And with that being said, we’ll hand it over to Henrietta who gave us the lowdown on 5 different ways that you can build your confidence for school. Once you’re finished, you’ll be well on your way to understanding the importance of confidence and how you can apply it to your own school-life and beyond!
Tip #1: Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right (AKA fake it ‘til you make it)
This one is interesting because a lot of the time our confidence is a direct result of how we talk to ourselves. Our inner monologue and self talk can have a drastic impact on our behaviours and confidence levels.
“No one thinks something’s embarrassing until you think it’s embarrassing. It’s a strange thing. If you walk into a room thinking you’re fabulous, everyone will think the same thing,” Henrietta explained.
In this way, confidence can be seen as a decision. It’s not an easy decision but if you pretend that you’re confident, then eventually you’ll believe it yourself.
That might mean answering questions in class and challenging those negative thoughts until it becomes natural. Or maybe it’ll involve you telling yourself that you have a great study schedule so that you can take small steps to make it a reality.
Henrietta elaborated on this. She explained that it’s all about trying things even though they’re challenging because failure is essential to becoming better and building confidence.
“The person that succeeded is just the person that failed more times than you. You should know that rejection and pain and pushing through those hardships is a part of life. I think this generation has been taught not to fail but you’re never going to get anywhere unless you get up and give things a go.”
What Other People Think of You
So, it’s all about challenging those inner thoughts and trying to take back control of those feelings.
Henrietta explained that a lot of the time your confidence will connect with how you think others see you. So, in that sense, it has a lot to do with external influences that have made you believe particular things.
Henrietta said, “I’ve always been someone who’s had a lot of confidence. My father was someone who always said that I was really smart so I always felt really smart. I think for some kids, maybe a teacher’s told them off when they were young or they’ve got it into their head that they’re stupid and then they believe that lie.”
Perhaps you were bullied in school when you were younger, during a time when it was easy to see those insults as fact and before you know it, you’ll be agreeing with them. The main take away from this point is that you’re in control. It may not feel like it, but it’s all about how you feel about yourself.
So, start telling yourself how great you are! Try new things, work through humiliation and slowly but surely you’ll be able to build more confidence in yourself.
Tip #2: Stop comparing yourself to others (You’re unique!)
Another great tip that Henrietta shared was all about the negative impact of comparison and how important it is to limit this behaviour. Just like most of the tips on this list, it can feel impossible to start with — especially if you’re someone with low self confidence — but it’s something you can actively work on and try to avoid.
“Comparison is the thief of joy and even as adults people compare themselves without realising that they are unique. Especially in drama and acting people get insecure. They’ll say, ‘I’m not that loud person,’ but the thing is there’s a place for everyone,” Henrietta said.
It can be easy to look at someone’s highlight reel, especially on social media (which we’ll discuss next), and think that they’re better than you. When in reality, these people will probably all have their own individual struggles.
“I always tell kids that everyone is unique and so who you are is your biggest skill and I think a lot of the time we spend our whole lives trying to be someone else, so be who you are — whatever that is. Cultivate more of who you are,” Henrietta added.
It’s a big mindset shift to suddenly not feel the need to compare yourself with people who you perceive as better than you. So, this is definitely not something that will happen overnight.
There are much better places to channel the energy that you’re using on other people. You could be trying out new hobbies or practicing skills that you are confident in! Or you could spend some more time studying so that you’re confident for the next school lesson.
Tip #3: Try to stay off social media
As we said, social media is probably the easiest place to compare yourself to others. But social media is also notoriously a place for the very best photographs.
No one is going to post a picture of themselves where they aren’t displayed as overly confident. Taking some time off social media and forcing yourself to break that comparison cycle may be a great place to start.
You can give this a go in smaller steps if that helps. Maybe you could try and go without it during the day or make an effort to not check your phone as soon as you wake up.
If you can wake up with enough time to read some of a good book or journal your feelings then you’ll have a better chance at naturally setting your intentions for a day without being influenced by the perfect lives of the people you follow on Instagram. That way, you’re not going cold turkey with the whole no phone thing. You could even set a time limit for how long you want to stay on the apps.
Tip #4: Find out who you are and what you enjoy
A lot of these points come back to the same issue. You’re identifying with other people and not with who you really are!
Of course you’re not going to be confident if your ideal version of yourself is a completely different person! Again, this is not a mindset that can be changed easily — it’ll involve actively working against it and really trying to pinpoint some of your own traits that you like.
“Focus on what you’re interested in. If you’re comparing yourself to others all the time and you’re going down that path, have a real reflection of ‘okay, what do I like? And what am I interested in?’ and try and cultivate those hobbies,” Henrietta explained.
It may be a good place to start by thinking about the activities or feelings that bring you the most joy. Perhaps you enjoy talking to lots of people during lunchtime at school, maybe you like borrowing a good book from the school library or maybe you love playing soccer!
Give it a really good think. What do you find the most joy in? If you could spend your time doing absolutely anything, what would it be? Try and think of these without external influences.
It doesn’t matter if your friends like that activity or not. Figure out who you are and what you like. Once you figure that out, you can work on those enjoyable skills and build confidence in one activity at a time.
Henrietta added, “Spend time doing those things because if you’re sitting at home, feeling depressed or anxious and you’re comparing yourself to images of other people. You could be spending that time in a soccer club or in an art class. Start actually doing the things that you’re interested in because if you’re creating or in the now, it’ll be harder to have those negative thoughts.”
Tip #5: Remember that confidence is a skill — it can be learned
We touched on this before but Henrietta confirmed our theory. You are not born with a particular state of confidence and you’re not always going to have the same amount of confidence as you do right now.
It’s all to do with what you’re consuming — whether that’s television that tells you being in the library isn’t cool or social media posts that you’re comparing yourself to.
As we said, your level of confidence often depends on what other people have told you in the past. Maybe a teacher has told you that you’re not good at focusing or maybe a peer has told you that you’re not funny. We take those things to heart and they can often be detrimental to our self confidence. Either way, we can work through those feelings. It is possible!
“This is an inherent human issue so it’s something that’s part of life. I would say that confidence is a skill most of the time. So, it’s so important to find confidence and knowing who you are, I’d say, is how you cultivate confidence. You have to kind of somehow let go and be able to embarrass yourself and push through that barrier.”
The most straightforward path to building confidence is to give things a go! Inevitably, this will result in some embarrassment but if you keep exposing yourself to new things, the embarrassment will morph into happiness that you tried something new.
Also, if something is humiliating, then it’s most likely that you find it far more humiliating than others do. Other people may even be wishing that they had the confidence that you had to try it!
Now that you’ve read up on some ways to build your confidence for school, we’re going to lay out a scenario. Particularly at school, it can be easy to feel a lack of confidence in your knowledge to a point where it’s difficult to raise your hand to ask questions. We asked Henrietta how we could combat this:
“As a teacher, we always say that there are no stupid questions. Normally if you’re asking that question, there are tonnes of other people in that room that want to ask that question too but aren’t brave enough to put up their hand. Normally if you’re asking that question, there’s a reason that it should be asked and of course the teachers always love it when questions are asked and it’s seen as a very positive thing to do.”
So, ask those questions! Of course it’s easier said than done but in order to build confidence in your academic knowledge you’ll need to get used to asking questions and answering them too!
Henrietta also explained that often it depends on the situation as to when people feel confident:
“When I was at school, I asked a lot of questions. I was a scholarship kid and I was very academic but interestingly, when I became a model and I wasn’t sure of myself, I didn’t ask as many questions because I thought they’d be stupid.”
So, it’s all about having enough confidence in yourself to not care about the situation or the people that may judge you. You can do this by taking it step by step. Try new things and get yourself out there!
Okay fine. You won’t be graded on this but it would be a really cool activity to try.
Henrietta explained, “Start telling your own narrative! I would start talking to yourself in a really positive way. Write a list of 10 affirmations and read them but ones that you can actually believe like, ‘I’m a good person, I’m good at maths, I’m a good friend’ things that you can come back to that you know. Start building on this to give yourself a sense of who you are.”
Give that a go! Start with 1 thing that you like about yourself and expand. They can be really broad or really specific.
Perhaps you like the way you listen to your friends or maybe you’re great at belting out a good song in the shower! Maybe you’re reliable, good at keeping secrets or great at doing yoga. Whatever it is, write it down! Add to it, come back to it and truly start remembering those things.
So, there you go! As long as you find out who you are and what you like, begin cultivating your own strengths, stay on the lookout for more hobbies to improve your self worth and take some time off of social media — you’ll be unstoppable! You got this!
Gemma Billington is a Content Writer at Art of Smart and an undergraduate student at the University of Technology Sydney. While studying Journalism and Social and Political Sciences, Gemma enjoys spending her time at the gym or reading about Britain’s medieval monarchy – ideally not at the same time. She currently creates and administers social media posts for Central News and writes for the student publication, The Comma. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to study a Masters of Medieval History and is very excited about the prospect!