How to trust yourself and make confident decisions

a woman raising both hands to trust yourself
“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

Writer Charles Bukowski believed that if you constantly doubt yourself, chances are that you’re more intelligent than your more outwardly self-assured colleagues. For the more insecure amongst us, you could take that as a compliment.

Unfortunately, intelligence alone doesn’t always get you where you want to be in life. Take the world of work, for example - how many times have you seen someone incompetent but confident get promoted ahead of someone quieter and more skilled?

It doesn’t always seem fair, but the good news is that you can learn to enhance your trust in yourself, which can then have an outwardly positive effect on how others see you. Learning to be more confident and acting more like a leader starts with building strength within, which can be done through both serious self-reflection and simple daily habits.

It’s not just the workplace that self-belief plays a part. Many decisions we have to make go through the internal gatekeeper within us. If you trust yourself, you can act decisively without hesitation. If you don’t, it’ll be harder to finalize your commitment - and even if you do, you’ll be chewing over it for some time to come: “Did I really do the right thing?

It’s pretty rare to make an important decision without questioning or doubting your own judgment at least a little. You might be afraid of making the wrong choice in a society that doesn’t easily tolerate missteps. But have you ever considered how low self-esteem and anxiety in the face of making choices might negatively affect your relationships, personal development, and overall well-being?

Learning how to trust yourself can help you overcome these, achieve your goals and become better at what you do. Many leaders are intelligent people who trust their gut and stick to their guns even when things get tough, exerting a great amount of influence as a result. One thing’s for sure: these traits are learnable. If they can do it, you can too.

Trusting yourself means having confidence in your own identity and decisions, which is something you can form over time. So here are some of the best ways you can begin to build trust in yourself - whether that’s within the workplace, your personal life, or other pursuits.

Table of contents
Nine methods to help you trust yourself more
Go forth and have faith in yourself

Nine methods to help you trust yourself more

1) Be as authentic as you can

If you’re constantly doubting yourself, chances are that you care too much about what other people think. You might have learned to project an ideal version of yourself to others, but deep down, you’re afraid to show your true colors. This lack of self-confidence in your true self can make you come across as inauthentic, and even untrustworthy - if you don’t trust yourself, can others really trust you?

The more we know someone, the easier it becomes to trust them completely. The same applies to the relationship with yourself. If you truly want to trust yourself, you first need to know what you’re all about. What makes you tick? What are you exceptionally good at? Let your authentic self shine through by being as honest with yourself as you can.

Don’t hang on to what you think is expected of you. Let go of the qualities and characteristics that others have imposed on you, and each decision will feel more authentic than the last.  

Don’t let your insecurities get in the way of progress. If you really have to doubt something, then doubt your doubts. Your voice matters and needs to be heard, so speak up and say what you really want to say. You’ll be better off for it.

2 ) Listen to your inner voice

One way to really know what you think of yourself is to pay close attention to your inner voice. If your inner dialogue consists mostly of self-criticism and generally evokes negative emotions, it’s time to stop and really listen. 

The next time you’re experiencing negative self-talk, take a pause to examine where it’s really coming from. Think about:

  • The nature of the voice: Who’s passing judgment in your head? Do you hear yourself, or is it actually the voice of a parent, partner or boss? Although it might sound silly, this process will help you realize that this voice isn’t entirely your own and doesn’t have to be internalized. 
  • When the voice speaks the loudest: Do you spend a lot of time overthinking and going over the things you say? Do you spend a lot of time thinking about conversations where you could have said more but sold yourself short?

Stay in touch with this voice and take note of the thoughts that pop to mind. Trace the source of the voice (whom it belongs to) and write down the exact moment it appeared. For every negative character trait, find and write a positive one next to it. Reframing criticisms as neutral observations is a key part of positive psychology and can greatly improve your overall wellbeing. 

3 ) Go easy on yourself

Once you’ve identified your inner voice, you have to learn when it’s appropriate to ignore it. 

The criticisms you face from your inner voice aren’t indicative of your self-worth. 

No-one’s perfect. If you let the perfectionist in you take control, you’ll never feel like you’re enough; you’ll always find flaws in yourself, your decisions, and your judgments. 

Learning to trust yourself is largely about practicing self-love and owning both your gifts and mistakes. The unconditional love that a mother has for her child, or the unconditional brotherly love between siblings? They’re not much different from the unconditional self-love needed to trust yourself. 

Listen to your inner voice, but don’t let self-criticism rule your emotions. Remember that you’re worthy of love and that it all begins with you. The better you treat yourself, the easier it will be to build self-confidence and self-trust.

4 ) Stop second-guessing yourself

A common character trait that many leaders share (and a decisive factor when measuring your internal frame of reference) is assertiveness. Great leaders make decisions and stick to their guns, even—and especially—when those decisions seem misguided or controversial. There’s a lot of science behind the benefits of trusting your intuition and gut feelings.

Second-guessing yourself isn’t always a bad thing, but when doubt becomes obsessive, it’s often a sign of insecurity and low self-esteem. If that’s the case, why do people lack assertiveness? According to clinical psychologist Jennifer Guttman:

“People second-guess themselves because they think there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers or ways of doing things. Since they believe there is the perfect answer to a problem, they get caught in a conundrum of questioning their decisions and wondering if they chose the ‘right’ course.”

We don’t live in a black and white world. The truth is that most of the time, there is more than one solution to a problem. If you’ve weighed the options and made your decision, chances are that it was a good one. More often than not, your intuition and knowledge alone are enough to get the job done.

At the end of the day, it’s more about owning your decisions and less about the actual decisions themselves. No one can predict the future, and you don’t need a crystal ball to guide you. Yes, with the benefit of hindsight, some choices might seem worse than others. But every choice made with conviction is a choice that brings you closer to your authentic self. That in itself is truly powerful.

5 ) Think big but achieve small

We all have big goals that guide our decisions and help us stay focused and motivated throughout this journey we call life. Dreams give us purpose and help us persevere when the skies turn gray. So, is it bad to dream big? Definitely not - but here’s the catch. 

If you’re an overachiever who tries too hard and sets unrealistic goals, chances are you’re always racing against time and expectations. When things don’t go your way, you can easily begin to internalize failure. That project you managed to complete in time but ended up not meeting your initial expectations? It’s a total failure in your head, even if it’s much better than what was asked of you. And if that was a failure, its creator (you) must be a failure as well. Do you see how self-destructive this way of thinking can be?

This perceived “failure” will eventually take its toll on your confidence and ability to trust yourself and your abilities. Defeatism won’t do you any good. If you had set a kinder, more achievable goal to begin with, you wouldn’t have felt the same way. 

Life can be extremely unpredictable at times. Instead of setting big goals and seeing failures everywhere, set smaller milestone goals and enjoy the small accomplishments you add up on the way to a larger success. Each achievement helps you build up trust in your abilities to hit your targets, and soon enough, that self-belief will become innate to your daily existence. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that’s okay!

6 ) Stick to what you’re good at

If you really want to trust yourself, admitting that you can’t be exceptional at everything you do is crucial. 

We’re not all built the same way—big deal! Not everyone’s a great cook or an expressive writer. Some of us thrive in stressful and competitive environments, while others work best under minimal pressure. Some feel more productive when collaborating with colleagues, while others perform best when given plenty of time to work alone. If there are 8 billion people on this planet, then there are 8 billion different approaches to getting things done—and that’s something to celebrate.

While doing all kinds of things well will certainly boost your confidence, it’s often better to stick to what you do best. When you take on tasks you know you can complete successfully, you leave your insecurities behind and put your mind at ease. You’re much more likely to excel at something when you adopt a positive outlook from the get-go. 

This doesn’t mean not challenging yourself. It means focusing your skills on domains that suit your skillset best. For example, if you’re an introvert who hates public speaking, you could try putting yourself up for more speaking opportunities to improve through practice. But is the return you get on this endeavor really worth the stress you’ll put yourself through? Or could you focus that potential on improving in a domain where you’re already competent, and really begin to excel?

Time and time again, the power of positive thinking has proved that success has little to do with tangible goals and everything to do with our state of mind. Facing whatever life throws at you with a smile on your face can actually reduce stress and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

So stick to what you’re good at, trust in your abilities, and do it your way. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever experiment with new tasks and activities. It just means that you should do more of the things you feel you can improve at and less of the things that are significantly out of your comfort zone. 

7 ) Cherish the quiet moments

Living busy, fast-paced lives means we don’t always have as much alone time as we might like. If you’re struggling with self-trust, constant exposure to crowded environments and loud rooms can quickly drive you crazy.

When there are too many people around, you might feel like you could say something silly or do something wrong at any moment. That’s a lot of unnecessary stress that your body and mind have to endure for extended periods of time, and it can feel even more intense in business settings.

If you want to build confidence and become more comfortable with your opinions, dedicating more time to yourself will help. Through silence and stillness, you can start an honest discussion with the real you. Meditation is associated with multiple health benefits and can also help you learn more about the real self that hides behind obsessive fears and unrealistic expectations.

As you dive deeper into uncharted territory, you’ll slowly begin to feel more comfortable in your own skin. If you’re dedicated and consistent with your practice, this confidence will eventually make it into other parts of your life as well.

8 ) Stop putting it off ‘til a later date

As Margie Warrell puts it: “The fastest way to build confidence is to act exactly as you would if you had it.” We could offer hundreds of confidence-building tips and advice, and yet many readers would still not feel ready to change their ways.

If you truly want to trust yourself, then you need to stop limiting yourself. You have to step out of your comfort zone, and you have to do it now. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next time you have an important business meeting. Now. Waiting for confidence to come naturally is like expecting your crush to accidentally ask you out on a dull Monday morning—it’s never going to happen. If you really want to make a change, you need to begin building self-trust and self-confidence before you feel ready.

There are so many brilliant ideas in you, but most of them will never see the light of day if you don’t bring the wall down today. That interesting project that’s been on your mind for weeks, but you never gathered the strength to tell anyone about? Now would be the perfect time to email your team leader and share your thoughts.

It’s a big step, but it’s rare that you have anything to lose. When all goes well—and it usually does—you can kick it up a notch and bring the topic to your next team meeting. Start small, and move on to bigger challenges one step at a time.

Once you make a habit of gently pushing yourself, things will just fall into place. You’ll one day look behind you and see molehills instead of mountains. It’ll feel amazing, and you’ll have something to show for your persistence and dedication to self-trust.

9 ) Build your Internal Frame of Reference

In the Fingerprint 4 Success trait framework, one of the most important markers for having trust in yourself is Internal Frame of Reference. Scoring highly on this trait means you’ve got a high level of trust in yourself, and you’re comfortable making decisions based on your own intuition and judgement. 

The trait correlates with leadership positions and those who are happy leading projects and teams. It’s likely that with this trait you won’t find yourself waiting for popular consensus before making decisions. 

While it takes time to develop a personality trait, you can implement practical actions immediately that’ll shape your strength in decision-making: make sure you’re clear on your project goals, define the likely outcomes (both positive and negative) and prepare for them, and note down your successes to refer to when you’re having a bad day.

Go forth and have faith in yourself

So how much do you really trust yourself? Do you have a hard time voicing and supporting your opinion when asked? Do you tend to avoid making important decisions under pressure? 

On journeys of self-discovery like these, it’s important to remember that nothing is set in stone when it comes to personalities and behaviors. Life is an ongoing story of self-reinvention, and small changes to our habits and thoughts can have compound effects over time. You might be a little anxious in the face of responsibility now, but every time you act decisively and face the consequences - good or bad - you get a little bit stronger, a little bit more confident.

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