How to be confident again: 10 tips to get your confidence back if it's shattered

Learning how to be confident again can be tricky if you've been having a difficult time. Here, experts reveal the step-by-step moves to make

Illustration of woman watering a large sunflower with a can, representing self-care and how to be confident again
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Unfortunately, knockbacks happen to everyone at some point in life. Whether it's being dismissed from a job, a relationship ending, or losing a friend, experiencing any type of knockback can have an impact on your self-esteem and image. If it's serious enough, you may have to learn how to build confidence again from the ground up. 

It's a difficult task - but an essential one. Confidence helps us get through life and push ourselves forward to achieve what we want and need to do. Without it, there's every chance we'll hold ourselves back and lose out on opportunities for bigger and better things than what knocked us back in the first place. 

There's even research to prove it. A wide-reaching review from Maastricht University in the Netherlands looked at the impact of high and low confidence and self-esteem on participants of studies over the last 30 years. Overall, they found that self-esteem was the most dominant and powerful predictor of happiness and high self-esteem, in combination with having close relationships, had a direct protective effect against the development of depression symptoms. 

All of this suggests we're seriously underestimating the importance of having a solid foundation of confidence. Fortunately, it's entirely possible to learn how to be more confident in life if you feel you've lost some belief in yourself. Here, we speak to three certified experts (some who have been in the exact same position you might be) to reveal all you need to know about building back confidence. 

How to be confident again 

1. Give yourself a break

If you're looking to learn how to be confident again, chances are you've spent plenty of time thinking over and over again about what went wrong. That's totally normal, says Jeni Simas, a certified relationship and intimacy coach. "Understand that you are going to experience self-blame, doubt, wondering what could have been different, how you could change things, what you would do to get them back."

But it's now important to give yourself a break from these self-critical thoughts. "I want you to let those feelings and questions come, but when you have one where you blame yourself, I want you to attach a thought about how this ending can also be a beginning," she suggests.

This is something called thought work. "Your thoughts create your emotions and your emotions create your reality so when one thought keeps spinning in your head, I want you to have that thought, then think something that is neutral or positive," she says. "You are slowly but surely going to build new neural pathways and give yourself a chance to think a different thought." 

2. Don't compare yourself to others

Comparison isn't our friend at the best of times but it can really be the thief of joy when our confidence is at an all-time low. 

If possible, try to avoid comparing your current situation to that of friends, family members, and people on social media. While we often look to others to validate our feelings or for reassurance, it may only serve to make you feel worse, unfortunately. A study by Macquarie University of Australia even says so, with researchers finding a strong link between those who focused on "upward" comparisons (i.e. comparing yourself to someone you deem to be doing "better" than you), negative comparisons on social media, and depression and low self-esteem.

Remember, everyone struggles with low confidence at some point in their life and everyone has different ways of dealing with it. And, of course, what most people share on social media is the highlight of their life - rather than the truth. 

Woman playing with hair while scrolling through social media on her phone

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3. Positive self-talk

Fake it 'til you make it, the saying goes, and you'll definitely need to do this to learn how to be confident again. One way to do this is positive self-talk, says health and wellbeing practitioner Nicci Roscoe. "The more you surround yourself with positive self-talk the more confident and happier you will feel," she says. 

"I know it sounds super new-agey and cheesy, but it works," agrees Simas. "We are not taught to have high self-esteem. We are taught to make ourselves small. We are instructed to not take up room. This conditioning starts at a very young age and some of us (myself included) don’t find out til our late 30s/early 40s how long we have denied ourselves the right to feel like we are plenty and that is a good thing." 

To find confidence again, you almost have to become your own cheerleader. "Telling yourself you are unworthy and wrong and that things are your fault is a great way to lose self-confidence, so why not try telling yourself you are absolutely worthy and right, and that blaming yourself when things go wrong gets you nowhere," says Simas. 

To start developing a positive self-talk attitude, take a look at these tips:

  • Breathe: "Every time a negative thought comes into your mind, tell yourself 'Stop!' Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose and feel your shoulders rise, then slowly breathe out through your mouth as you feel your shoulders lower," says Roscoe. 
  • Count backward from ten: "Count out loud," she suggests, "Or if you're with other people, count back in your head." 
  • Think of a happy memory that makes you smile
  • Tell yourself ‘I feel confident, positive, and strong’: "Write these confidence boosters on a piece of paper and stick it on your fridge door or by your bed in a photo frame, so you see it first thing in the morning and last thing at night," she says. "Take a photo of the words, put it on your phone screensaver, and look at your positive affirmation throughout the day." 
  • Keep adding to the list: "Write down other positive words that resonate with you and keep adding them to your little bottle of confidence boosters. Make the positive words larger, photocopy and laminate them," says Roscoe. 

4. Avoid looking for validation elsewhere

"Validation of your worth from an outside source is flimsy at best," warns Simas, who went through a painful breakup with her ex-husband before becoming an intimacy coach. "If I hadn't given up so much of myself and my identity in my marriage, perhaps it wouldn’t have hit as hard when that identity was no longer available." 

In the process of learning how to be confident again, it may be tempting to look to others for validation. After all, it feels good to have reassurance from an outside source - especially if that's also been pulled away from you recently. 

"I highly suggest avoiding getting involved with a new person and instead, date yourself. I know that sounds ridiculous but honestly, you had the magic in you to draw that person to you initially. Take the time to rediscover that magic," says Simas, pointing out the need to learn how to stop being codependent if you tend to rely on relationships for personal validation. 

The path to rediscovering this could include listening to the music you love, reading the books that make you feel comfortable and happy, cooking meals yourself, or going out for the foods you love. "Treat yourself to a day trip, take a hike on a familiar and loved path. Remember how delightful it is to be you," she says. 

5. Expand your social circle

Looking outside of your immediate social circle could be the way forward if you've experienced a knockback from a toxic relationship or friendship. Removing that person from your life may mean you've also lost other friends, family, or people in your life, and that in itself can be a personal setback. 

"Look at support groups," says Simas. "There are so many happening online now. You don’t even have to use your real name or turn your camera on when you get on them at first. Just find your people. Camaraderie and knowing that someone has had similar experiences and thoughts and come out the other side of it better and more confident is an amazing gift of reassurance." 

If you're lacking confidence socially, branching out and finding a new group of friends is a great thing to do. Start by finding a new hobby that appeals to you - whether it's a local yoga class, book club, or walking group - and keep your presence consistent. Knowing how to make friends as an adult can be difficult but over time, you're bound to meet a group you like. 

6. Set yourself a challenge

Sure, the idea of doing something totally new may be a daunting one if you've had a knockback recently, but setting yourself up for a challenge that you know you can complete with a little extra motivation and effort.

If you're a keen hiker, for instance, your challenge could be something as simple as finding a new route to test your abilities. Alternatively, it could be a step towards creating more of the future you want for yourself - like reaching out to a friend for a catch up, joining a gym, or finding a new hobby. 

Knowing that you've ticked something off your do-list and made a positive step in the right direction may be just what you need to get back on track. 

Woman pushing bike through grassy field, holding helmet, in the sunshine

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7. Exercise

Being active and developing a regular workout routine is one of the best tips for body confidence, both physically and mentally. Not only does gaining new skills and improving existing ones give you more confidence in yourself and your personal abilities, there are so many health benefits linked to exercise. Consistency for just a couple of weeks also promises positive changes to how you see yourself, your self-esteem, and general wellbeing, according to research by Dongguk University

Roscoe agrees. "Planning a regular exercise routine three to four times a week will give you the feel-good factor by releasing chemicals in your body called endorphins," she explains. "From walks in the park, dance, or conditioning classes to yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and meditation, there are many options for you to choose from."

The best way to find an activity for you is to think about what you already enjoy - that way you're more likely to stick to it. Gyms and workout classes have their benefits but if you'd find those spaces too overwhelming, consider doing something outside instead - like walking meditation or yoga for beginners. Otherwise, the best workout apps have a whole range of workouts you could try doing at home.

But it's not only the endorphins that could benefit you in learning how to be confident again. "Exercising regularly will give you the confidence boost you need to start focusing on your needs again," the instructor says. This will be especially important for those who've been knocked back by the end of a relationship, or friendship, or those recovering from burnout.

8. Focus on having hope

Hope can be a difficult thing to find if your confidence has really been knocked back but Rosoe says that knowing the future is full of possibilities is one of the best ways to learn how to be confident again. 

"Hope gives you the confidence to start focusing on what you can achieve. If you’ve left a relationship, lost your job, or have been unwell, having hope and self-belief can give you the confidence boost you need to get up, get out and enjoy life again," she says. 

Start by focusing on the future and the positives to be gained in the weeks and months to come, she says. Then manage where your attention is: avoid watching the news, interacting with people who have a negative mindset, and casting negative expectations before something has happened. 

It's a process that Roscoe herself found to be beneficial a couple of years ago. "After my miscarriage, I didn’t believe it was possible to have another baby or feel happy and confident again. When my doctor gave me hope, I started to feel there may be a possibility everything will be OK, and I will have a baby. Hope was what kept me going and gave me the confidence to believe again and focus on making it happen." 

9. Establish boundaries

Lacking confidence does not mean you need to settle for an unacceptable situation, warns Simas. "Do not allow someone to make you feel unworthy, do not paint red flags green just for the sake of being around someone. Do not settle for someone out of fear of being alone, reveal in your alone-ness." 

When learning how to be confident again, it's essential to have control over your own narrative. An important part of this is establishing boundaries and learning how to establish deal-breakers in a relationship. "You have all the control over your narrative now. Feel the strength in that. You decide who you want to be and who would complement that person," she says. 

Woman talking to therapist in office

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10. Don't be afraid to ask for help

"Improving confidence has to do with identifying the course of confidence being lost, removing yourself from the situation, or altering the balance of power and the dynamic if it is ongoing," explains Dr Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital, Weill-Cornell School of Medicine. 

If you really struggling with low confidence, all the confidence affirmations in the world could struggle to make a difference. It's important to seek professional help if you're struggling with low self-esteem and lacking confidence, and you feel it's impacting your mental health. 

"Therapy is an important way to examine self-deprecating thoughts, re-evaluate them, and change them," she says. "It can help you understand where these thoughts came from, to be more aware you have these thoughts hurting your confidence, to rewrite thoughts you have about low self-esteem, and to find your strengths."

Why am I losing confidence? 

Here we've discussed a loss of confidence relating to relationship breakdowns, job loss, or friendship problems but a knockback to your confidence can come from anywhere. "Top amongst them is any sort of abusive relationship, from parenting, friendship or romantic relationship," says Dr Saltz. "This could range from bullying and harassment in earlier life or it could be emotional abuse in a marriage. But people lose confidence for a variety of reasons."

Another common one, for example, is perfectionism. "The need to have everything perfect can, over time, cause one to feel failed, incompetent, less-than," says the professor. "This can play out in work, relationships, skills, personal appearance, and so on." 

Some mental health issues can also knock your confidence. "Anxiety disorders or depression can decrease confidence," she says. "Discrimination of any sort (racial, gender, religious, sexual orientation) can erode confidence, as can constant messaging of being less than others, micro-aggressions, and being kept out. Being harmed and repeated trauma will also certainly damage personal confidence over time."

Signs of low confidence 

  • Lack of eye contact: This is a huge indicator that your confidence is low, says Roscoe. "When someone doesn't look you in the eye, they can feel inferior to who they're speaking to. A good exercise to practice is to look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud, 'I believe in myself', 'I feel confident', or 'I can do this'." You could even try writing body confidence quotes down and putting them on the mirror, to give yourself a mantra to follow.
  • Always apologizing for something you haven't done: This is another common one, the experts agree. "Instead, start telling yourself 'It's not my fault' and stop apologizing," the life coach suggests.
  • Having constant doubt: If you're always questioning yourself and have doubts in your abilities, even things you've done a million times before, it could be a sign that you need to learn how to be confident again.
  • Not wanting to walk into a room by yourself: "This is a sign that your confidence is low," says Roscoe. "It can trigger different emotions of insecurity and it can prevent you from socializing. Try to switch to the positive by changing things such as 'no one will want to talk to me here' to 'I’m looking forward to meeting new people and chatting with them'."
Grace Walsh
Health Channel Editor

Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. She is also a qualified fitness instructor. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. 

A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more.