Building confidence: 5 tips your mother should have told you

Have you ever wished the ground would open up and suck you in? You are not alone; you just need to believe in yourself. Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, gives you five tips to help build your confidence and grow personally and professionally.

By Lisa Newburger, LISW-S

“Can the ground open up beneath me and just suck me in?” Serena prayed. She was assisting the dentist in putting a crown on and was making a few mistakes. The irritated dentist started growling at her and barking orders. Growling? In the workplace? How ridiculous is that? This behavior caused Serena to make more mistakes. Embarrassed and stressed, she didn’t know what to do and the tears streamed down her face making her sniffle. She couldn’t wipe her nose as her gloves were on. Desperate, she rubbed her nose on her sleeve and prayed the nightmare would end quickly.

Have you ever been in that situation? You were doing the best you could and still it just wasn’t good enough? Trust me; been there done that. You aren’t alone. It really is hard to feel good about yourself when you don’t believe in yourself. You CAN do this job. You have been trained. More importantly, you really care about your patients and are doing the best you can ... you just need a little shot of confidence.

How do you build up your confidence? Most people will tell you that you need to be more confident. Oh, that really helps, right? What is it, a secret society or something where people refuse to give you the secret handshake? So HOW do you become confident? Start off with the negative thoughts running through your head. Who needs a mother to make you feel guilty? Are you telling yourself, “I am an idiot. I can’t do anything right.”? What do these messages do for you? Do they make you feel good about yourself? If so, we have a BIG problem. My guess is these messages are damaging your confidence — not only putting you down, but grinding your confidence into the carpeting with the heel of your Dansko clogs. What are you going to do?

First, STOP with the put-downs. Have you ever heard of cognitive restructuring? This approach makes you change the negative self-talk (that goes on your head) into something positive or at the very least ... neutral. For example, instead of saying, “I am an idiot,” change it to “No, I am not. We all make mistakes. How could I possibly have known what he wanted? I can’t read his mind.” Basically, when you change these negative messages, you change how you feel about yourself. This is crucial. Bottom line ... give yourself a break.

Second, lose the “poor me” attitude. Being a victim will get you nowhere. People will be supportive of you as you vent. But face it ... they don’t really want to hear it. It gets old after awhile. They want you to get over it and get back to work or at least to be able to gossip about something more interesting.

Third, grow up. Realize that when something unpleasant happens, this is how we grow. It isn’t comfortable. Trust me, many a time I have been so angry that tears streamed down my face. The humility of a situation is devastating. But at my age, I can look back and say I learned from each of those experiences. Good and bad. It forced me to “grow up.” If you stay comfortable, then there is no personal growth. I know; you think I have no idea what I am talking about, but in 20 years you will see how wise this really is.

Fourth, take action. You made some mistakes. Or maybe you didn’t do anything wrong, but circumstances caused some problems. Deal with it. If you don’t know what the dentist wants, sit down with him or her when you are calm and find out what you can do to fix the problem. Ask for feedback. Learn from your mistakes or make sure that your boss knows the circumstances around the situation. This is also how you protect yourself.

Finally, believe in yourself. This is the tough one. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? Why should your patients, dentist, or coworkers? Ouch, that one stings! My point is this: You are smart and talented. You need to tell yourself these things. Have you heard of positive affirmations? Come up with five things about yourself that are good. They can be over the top, but these are for you. Write them down and tape them to your mirror at home. Read them out loud daily with conviction when you wake up in the morning and at night. Even if you don’t believe in it, say them. Are you brainwashing yourself? Absolutely. But, this is what you need to do. You will find that you start to believe them after a while.

To reiterate:

  1. Stop with the put-downs.
  2. Lose the “poor me” attitude.
  3. Grow up.
  4. Take action.
  5. Believe in yourself.


If you are never uncomfortable, you will not grow as a person or as a professional. Take an unpleasant experience and choose to learn from it. As you go through life’s challenges, you will develop confidence if you are brave and want to learn from it. Don’t waste your time venting to your colleagues. Take action and you will actually be able to feel how your confidence grows in the next challenging situation. Just remember, you aren’t alone. We are all in the same boat.

Author bio
Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, is a “recovering” social worker who provides humorous approaches to looking at uncomfortable topics. She is a professional speaker, trainer, author, product developer, and TMJ Queen.

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