No one is born brimming with confidence -- the feeling of self-assuredness and belief in your abilities and talents. Confidence is a skill that develops over time and takes practice. The good news is that, as with other skills, it's never too late to build confidence.

How We Develop Confidence

We acquire confidence through social learning -- through our experiences and relationships. There are a number of social components that shape our confidence.

Observing Others

Our earliest lessons tend to be what we observe from others, such as parents or guardians. As children, we see how they manage anxiety, whether they demonstrate a willingness to try new things, and ideas they project about what's safe and what isn't. These early experiences have a huge impact on how we view ourselves, what the world is like, and what we think we can and can't do.

Positive or Negative Reinforcement

As we get older and test the waters with our own experiences, positive and negative reinforcement comes into play. If you grew up receiving support and encouragement to try new things, you're more likely to be open to new experiences. 

The reverse is also true. When you try something new, if the experience is positive, you're more likely to continue seeking new experiences, and that success provides positive reinforcement. If a new experience isn't rewarding or produces undesirable feelings, such as anxiety or fear, that's negative reinforcement, which can hamper confidence.

Our Personality Traits

While confidence is not innate, our existing personality traits also influence its development. A naturally shy person might not experience as many social learning opportunities as someone outgoing, for example. 

Your personality, however, doesn't determine if you'll build confidence. With practice, guidance, emotional support, and time, anyone can learn new skills that positively influence your personality and make it easier to build confidence. That is true whether you're an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between.

Taking Action to Build Confidence

There are two main things you need to have to build confidence:

  1. The willingness to try something unfamiliar

  2. The action that creates the confidence -- when you try something unfamiliar and challenging

It's a simple formula, though one that may seem easier said than done at first. Here are some tips to get you there:

  • Choose to put yourself in a position where you can learn something new and develop new skills like take a class.

  • Keep trying. Accept that you will make mistakes. Apply new skills as needed.

  • Reflect as you go through this process on what happens when you try and make changes.

  • Practice until you can apply new skills effectively.

Again, this can seem intimidating at first, but remember that the goal is to build confidence through your experiences. Remind yourself that it’s okay to lack some skills and for things not to always go perfectly. What’s essential is being willing to try.