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Positive self-affirmations don’t work, so try these confidence boosters instead

Confident Woman


Anna O'Neil - published on 06/06/17

5 strategies that will help you get through the day

Positive self-affirmations are all the rage these days. You know, you wake up feeling kind of overwhelmed, but you look your reflection square in the eye, and repeat something like “I am confident, I am strong, I am smart,” and it turns your mood right around. Pretty simple, right?

One problem. Not only does this trick hardly ever actually help, it frequently manages to make you even more insecure than you were before, especially if you already have low self-esteem. Since, in fact, “telling someone to ‘not think about a blue tree,’ actually focuses their mind on a blue tree,” forcing your brain to focus on your biggest insecurities makes you very likely to accidentally reinforce your idea of your own insufficiency. Whoops.


Read more:
How to break the cycle of negative thinking and be more positive

So for those times when you really do need a quick confidence boost to get you through the day, here’s a handful of things that can actually help.

Power posing

Amy Cuddy’s viral TED Talk explains how “standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident, can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain.” Standing up straight, with your chin up, and hands on your hips, for example, for only two minutes, leads to a significant reduction in your stress hormones, and a corresponding increase in testosterone, which is linked to confidence. Her talk is full of fascinating details about how and why this works.

Dressing well 

According to “The Link Between Clothing Choices and Emotional States” 96 out of 100 women polled “believed that what they wear affects how confident they feel.” It’s hard to conduct a scientific study on this, since everybody’s clothing choices are so different, but it’s not surprising, and it definitely can’t hurt.

A nice big cup of coffee

Too much coffee can make you jittery, but in general, it’s been proven that “caffeine consumption [is] significantly associated with decreased risk of depression.” When sleep-deprived soldiers where given caffeine, they showed an immediate improvement in their anxiety and self-confidence levels. So don’t feel guilty about your coffee habit–it can help in the short term, and the long term as well.

Physical exercise

I promise I’m not telling you to go take a half hour run, but doing some quick exercises, especially regularly, can improve your mood and help relieve stress. Even just getting your heart rate up (think, 10 jumping jacks) might be enough to make a difference.


Although this won’t have same-day results, it’s still worth doing. Writing for 20 minutes a day, for even three days, was found to be enough to show “marked improvement in [people’s] physical and mental well-being.” The researcher who discovered this used the method to recover from a painful divorce, and confirmed his findings with subsequent studies. Deliberately expressing your difficult emotions with words, it seems, can rob them of their destructive power, and improve your confidence.

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