Answer by Colin Shillingford, Designer, Maker, Wordsmith, on Quora,

Self-confidence is not something most people would say they are born with. Confidence in yourself is something that seems to come from thin air. It also seems to be in short supply, especially when you need it most.

When do we need to be confident about ourselves, in today's society?

When assessing or promoting our own skills & abilities

We need confidence when we are required to do things like drive our cars, interview for new jobs and opportunities, perform our roles as parents and caregivers, and so on. For some people, the most straightforward tasks--such as driving a car to work--may require self-confidence that is greater than the average person would need in the same situation. Not only do we need to know when we are confident enough to do something, but we also need to know when we are overconfident. Being too confident in ourselves can put us in a dangerous position.

When playing sports or engaging in competition with others

Confidence often makes a difference in deciding who will score a game-winning goal (or better yet, who will make the game-winning save). In competitive situations, the individual who believes in their talents or ability the most is giving themselves that extra boost that is likely to produce results. In many cases, it requires an extremely high level of confidence just for someone to decide to enter a competition. Human beings are naturally conditioned to believe that we are 'not good enough' to make the cut. We often wait to be motivated and encouraged by others to pursue excellence. This is what makes being a self-confident person so important.

When defending ourselves against criticism

In the society we live in today, it has never been easier to be criticized. People use social media to criticize each other the moment a conflict arises. Some people will actually criticize others without any valid reason to do so. This makes it very important for someone to build confidence in themselves. On occasion, you may find yourself having to defend against criticism, some of which might be valid. If you can't be assertive, and challenge the opinions of people who are challenging you, it will be extremely difficult for you to get very far in life. Those who can speak confidently on their own behalves will be in the best position to silence their critics.

When speaking in a public setting

Public speaking is an aspect of life that will become more and more important in the future. Being able to speak with confidence is becoming a requirement in many roles in the workforce. If someone intends on making friends, quickly becoming an integral member of a team, or promoting their own business or personal brand, they'd better start practicing how to present themselves in a public setting. Otherwise, people will pick up on your lack of confidence, and make judgments accordingly.

So what is self-confidence, exactly?

Self-confidence is a combination of:

  • Belief in one's ability to do something, or at least give it a try
  • Trust in your level of commitment to take on any or all challenges
  • An assertive way of carrying yourself that both you and others can feel
  • Assurance that you are sufficiently able and ready to carry out a mission

Why do so many people lack self-confidence?

People lack confidence in themselves for a variety of reasons. We are naturally designed to doubt ourselves. Society tells most people who they should be, and what they should do with their lives. Our jobs put a price on us. We learn our value from others.

For example, a child might want to grow up and be an astronaut, but his parents have no interest in aerospace. This might kill the child's dream and prevent him from pursuing it. He may grow up in life feeling that he doesn't deserve to pursue his passions. Many people are discouraged from being in control of their own destinies and are told that they are not good enough. The seeds of doubt are planted in our minds almost as early as the age where we learn how to communicate.

Is self-doubt contagious?

Yes. Doubting yourself can cause others to doubt you as well.

Is self-confidence also contagious?

Absolutely. Confidence may take a significant period of time to develop from scratch, but once it is full-blown it tends to become infectious. As humans, we are hardwired to rally behind others who believe in themselves. Learning how to put your own confidence on display in a palpable way can be a very empowering process. Building confidence sometimes requires momentum. Even 'faking it' seems to have desirable effect on us. Repeating positive affirmations to yourself on a daily basis, or making a list of qualities and strengths you possess and reading it often, can have a dramatic effect on how much you believe in your abilities.

Note: It takes confidence to do something as simple as writing about self-confidence!

There was a time, not long ago, where I didn't have confidence in my writing or communication abilities. It helps when you get feedback from others. Don't be afraid to share who you are, your stories, feelings, opinions, or talents with the world. It might teach you a lot about yourself. Take it from me, try it!

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