David Strittmatter

8 signs of true self-confidence

Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life – Golda Meir


  • Self-confidence is defined as having trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment
  • If you’re truly confident, you can openly talk about your weaknesses
  • Having strong self-esteem implies having a strong internal source of confidence

Practical advice:

  • Write down all weaknesses and differentiate between those to change and those to accept
  • Talk regularly about your weaknesses
  • Learn to take micro-risks

Dear friend,

When I was still in school, 7th/8th/9th grade, I looked up to some guys. I wanted to be like them: Fearless, funny, quick-witted, likable, … or to frame it more buzzwordy: self-confident.

Back then, I didn’t really know what I was seeking since I didn’t even understand what self-confidence is. I just wanted to be like these guys. So, I tried out several things, read books, watched videos, and asked people for advice.

Even though my starting point was deep low and it took me a great amount of time to witness some progress, I succeeded: Strangers, friends, colleagues – various people have complimented me and my degree of self-confidence. Some of them even said to me that they wanted to be like me and asked for advice.

If you asked me today whether this development was right, I’d say that being seemed as likable, funny, and fearless – external validation – is the wrong motive. I’m very grateful that I started to work on my personality at that time, but true self-confidence shouldn’t be built on external opinions but on strong self-esteem. Fortunately, I understood this important lesson in the process early enough.

In today’s article, I’ll write about true confidence: What are signs of true confidence? What’s the difference between internal and external self-confidence? And what can you do to attain higher self-confidence, too?

Signs of true self-confidence

The societal image of confidence is blurry. Often, confident behavior is presented as impudent, inconsiderate, and aggressive. “A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures.” This imagery, though, confuses people and pushes them into developing unfavorable, anti-social behaviors (i.e. overconfidence).

Self-confidence is defined as having trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment. It’s an attitude about your skills and abilities. It means you accept and love yourself and have a sense of control in your life. You know your strengths and weakness well.

You might have already heard this vague definition multiple times. Thus, I want to give you a few concrete examples of how self-confidence really looks like:

If you’re truly confident, you…

  • can openly talk about your weaknesses
  • avoid bragging (The desire to be constantly in the spotlight and asking for attention by loudly boasting about various things are usually a defense mechanism for people who are not really satisfied with their internal image and who lack stability)
  • don’t rely on outside compliments for a confidence boost
  • can accept a compliment (A confident individual will accept a compliment, recognize it, but will not let it impact their internal picture of themselves too much)
  • can accept and manage criticism
  • don’t crack under social pressure (Knowledge of own values and accountability to adhere to these moral standards)
  • aren’t afraid of other people’s success
  • aren’t afraid to argue and be wrong (The risk of being wrong in front of other people and seeming stupid or silly is massive. Only with true confidence, you can accept the fact that you can’t always be right and can’t win every argument. It also helps you realize that there is no humiliation in being wrong)

Internal vs external sources of confidence

When we talk about self-confidence, we use to think of actual behaviors: Self-confident people act in a self-confident manner. In contrast, self-esteem is more about what’s going on inside a person.

Having strong self-esteem implies having a strong internal source of confidence. You know who you are, your worth, and that you need no compliments. In case you highly value the person you nakedly are, to be self-confident, you need to translate these inner beliefs into the outer world, i.e. act accordingly. If you fail to do that, despite high self-esteem, you’ll appear little self-confident to others.

On the other hand, your self-confidence can also be built on external validation: You earn a lot of money, drive those expensive cars, have those designer clothes, look like a supermodel, regularly receive compliments for all these achievements, … Because you know that “you made it”, you behave like a self-confident person – regardless of your self-esteem.

External acknowledgment, however, is elusive. If you lack self-esteem and built your personality on external validation, your self-confidence is fragile and you will feel confident only in situations in which you feel superior to others.

Attain higher self-confidence

Having high or low self-confidence is rarely related to your actual abilities, and mostly based on your perceptions. Perceptions are the way your think about yourself, and these thoughts can be flawed.

As I wrote in the last paragraph, external acknowledgment is the wrong source to nurture your personality. Rather, you should focus on building strong self-esteem – internal source of confidence – and translate it into your actions. There’re three things that greatly helped me do that:

  1. I wrote down all my weaknesses and differentiated between those I can and want to change (e.g. getting in shape) and those I cannot or don’t want to change and thus accepted (e.g. my tiny teeth). The most important part then is to write down your goals to change the things you want and work towards them and to start falling in love with the person you’re.
  2. Talk regularly about your weaknesses, don’t be shy. People love sharing and opening when they feel understood and heard. You can contribute to a great conversation when you show your weaknesses and vulnerability. For instance, when people talk about that starting a sport is a big hurdle, I share that my first runs were embarrassingly slow when I started running regularly (they really were!). Or when my friends talk about their struggles in their relationship, I tell them how disastrous my empathy is.
  3. Regularly take micro-risks. Micro-risks are situations with the probability of a minor negative outcome. For example, you try to make someone a gift, talk to a person you don’t know, object to an opinion someone raised in your group, share something personal making you vulnerable, etc. Micro-risks allow you to get used to inconvenient situations and increase your faith in your skills and abilities. Simultaneously, micro-risks are easier to handle. In case of failure, you’ll still feel disappointed or hurt; however, the negative outcome will be significantly less impactful.

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