Confidence is largely a product of our experiences and the interpretations of those experiences. When we try something new, and the experience goes well, it reinforces the idea that trying new things is worthwhile and rewarding. So, we're more likely to feel confident about our next endeavor. The opposite, however, also is true. 


Negative Experiences Evoke a Stress Reaction

Negative experiences can build a notion that trying new things is scary and can even be disastrous. We hesitate and avoid emotionally challenging or uncertain situations as a form of self-protection. Understanding how and why that happens can help you overcome barriers to building confidence. 

When situations turn out badly --  or even if we perceive a situation to be negative -- the experience evokes a stress reaction. You may deal with sensations, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and urges that are difficult to manage. And you may feel as if what happened showcased your lack of skills, knowledge, and experience. 


Stress Affects You Both Physically and Mentally

The effects of stress are both physical and mental. In a stressful situation, your body feels the need to warn you. Your muscles may tense. Your breathing rate may increase. Stress can even trigger stomach issues, such as nausea, stomachache, or digestive problems. 

This is normal, but it's exhausting for us. Meanwhile, you may also be grappling with elevated anxiety, shame, frustration, sadness, insecurity, vulnerability, and confusion. It's no wonder the experience reinforces an unwillingness to put yourself out there again. 


Lack of Confidence Is a Natural Result

The resulting unwillingness to take further chances, or an elevated response when you attempt, is a protective defense. It's your brain warning you to avoid a situation it perceives as dangerous, and it can be a pretty compelling feeling. But this reaction is also a hindrance that gets in the way of having new experiences that could help bolster your confidence. 


What to Do With This Information

Becoming aware of what's going on in your mind and body when faced with a challenging situation can help you recognize that it's just that -- a reaction, and not necessarily a productive one. When you feel the physical and mental symptoms of the stress response, you can remind yourself, "This is my body's way of responding to stress, excitement, or nervousness. When I get through this, I won't feel this way anymore. The more I do this, the less I will feel this way." Putting a name to these feelings can help you understand them and move forward 

Confidence is a skill like any other. It takes some practice to master, and you have to keep flexing those muscles to maintain it. Knowing how to push back when your brain is telling you to retreat is key to taking charge.