How I Learnt To Build My Self-Confidence

Uni is a tough time. It brings a lot of freedom, true, yet it also brings a lot of new responsibility, as well as a range of new problems you likely never considered before. Couple that with the host of new people and personalities you’ll run into, particularly if you move to a whole new place, and it’s easy to see how you could get lost. It’s all too possible to see your confidence shattered at university, which also happens to be a time when you’ll need it more than ever. When you’re on your own for the first time, as many students are, you need the courage to present yourself to the world and back yourself up when it counts – but how can you do that when you’re already down?

I started with thinking about what self-confidence really was. Seeing other people around, I fell into the trap of thinking confidence was something loud and arrogant, forcing your personality onto those around you in a bid for attention. There’s a trope that the loudest, harshest people are the most insecure, and I can’t say whether that’s totally true, but I can confirm that arrogance isn’t confidence. Self-esteem is quiet and internal (hence the ‘self’) – by its very nature it isn’t built on external validation. It’s the ability to feel calm in yourself and to maintain a faith in your capacity to face the trials of the day without needing constant reassuring feedback from a world not built to give it out. At university, you’re the sole judge of your work a lot of the time; you’re going to need the resolve self-confidence provides you with to get things done.

Once you know what you’re aiming for, the question becomes how to get there. Of course, like always, there’s no one trick to it because confidence is made up of so many smaller parts. You can help it along, naturally, but expecting results overnight will only lead to disappointment, and in fact such an attitude is linked to my first suggestion – go easy on yourself. Coming to uni with dreams to be the most popular or to achieve the highest grades or a thousand other fantasies is both common and misguided. Uni is a big change, yes, but it’s not a whole new world for you to conquer. The odds of you being the big name on campus are effectively zero because that’s not how life works, and you don’t have to be some brilliant superstar to get a lot out of university. Just take it easy, don’t beat yourself up over not meeting insane and arbitrary targets.  Pursuing the impossible will only harm you and those around you.

Saying that, there’s benefits to stepping out of your comfort zone. Playing it safe and solo through uni is as damaging to yourself as wanting the unreachable, and it does your grades no favours. Be enthusiastic about your studies and your interests, try running creative ideas that you’ve come up with yourself past your friends and tutors – the worst that can happen is that you make a mistake in your logic, which is hardly uncommon at university. I’ve found the biggest threat to self-confidence is a fear of failure, with its attached aversion to risk and independence. Failing is only harmful if you refuse to accept and learn from it. By using your mistakes to fuel your growth, it’s difficult to go wrong.

As always, this is being discussed in abstract, and it’s a challenge to make significant changes in your real life. You wouldn’t be at university, however, if you were the sort of person to be put off by a sizable challenge. If it can aid your confidence and improve your wellbeing, as well as making future tests easier to face, then it’s worth trying. Like I mentioned earlier, results may not come overnight, but they will make themselves known over time. The first time you express one of your own quirky little ideas to somebody and you realise you don’t sound as insane as you think you do – that’s a great feeling.