5 Types of Therapeutic Exercises to Build Your Confidence

Exercises to Build Up Your Confidence
Table of Contents

Confidence gives you the strength to be your true self, no matter your circumstances. Confident people enjoy more self-awareness, resiliency, and motivation [1]. You may benefit from these confidence-building exercises if you have more doubt in yourself than trust.

Confidence-building physical exercises

Your body and posture can have a direct impact on your confidence level. Several studies have found that upright and open body posture not only makes you appear more confident but also gives you more confidence in yourself [2,3].

Keep good posture

Sitting upright while accomplishing a task makes you more confident in your decisions. You can implement this exercise immediately by considering your posture as you work or study. Is your back upright and straight, or are you hunching? If you catch yourself slumping, remind yourself to pull back your shoulders and keep them aligned with your hips.

Strike a power pose

Power poses are another way to increase your confidence through your movements. Since the concept was introduced in 2010, there has been debate if certain body positions can positively influence emotions and self-perception.

However, a comprehensive meta-analysis found that constrictive or closed body positions can reduce self-confidence [4]. In contrast, practicing exaggerated power poses (where your body language is open and expansive) can help you feel more confident.

Hunched positions
Hunched positions like this can undermine your confidence and make you second-guess yourself.

Harvard professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy has studied power poses and their effects for over ten years. In her research, Cuddy discusses how standing in a power pose for as little as two minutes can lead to a noticeable increase in your confidence [5].

Do a yoga pose

Research has also shown that some yoga poses are just as effective as Power Poses for building confidence and self-esteem [6]. For example, standing poses like the Raised Arms Pose or Mountain Pose encourage your body to expand. As with power poses, researchers found that holding these poses for at least two minutes increases confident thoughts like “I feel powerful” or “I feel in control.”

Take two minutes out of your day to try one of Cuddy’s Power Poses or a standing yoga pose and see how you feel!

Confidence-building writing exercises

Putting words to paper is also a powerful way to increase your confidence. Writing prompts are a common approach in many therapeutic practices, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Solutions-focused Brief Therapy [7]. If you like to express yourself through writing, consider one of these confidence-building exercises.

Try the Triple Column Technique

In his CBT-based book Feeling Good, Dr. David Burns explains how emotional outcomes like low confidence and poor self-esteem are the result of cognitive distortions [8]. Cognitive distortions are negative thinking patterns that can make you negatively interpret the world. 

For example, the distortion of “all-or-nothing thinking” can trick you into thinking that you or others are either all bad or all good. These types of thinking patterns can blind you from seeing your strengths and abilities, thus lowering your confidence. According to CBT principles, you can combat cognitive distortions by challenging them with reason and logic.

Burns created the Triple Column Technique to simplify the distortion challenging process into three steps.

Step 1: Identify the situation or event that makes you feel insecure.

Example: Applying for a higher-level position within your company.

Step 2: Write down the negative thoughts that arise when you think of the situation/event.

Example: “I don’t have the skills to do the job.” “I can’t compete with my colleagues who want the same position.”

Step 3: Identify any cognitive distortions present in your negative thinking.

Burns provides a list of examples in his Triple Column Technique worksheet.

Example: If your experience matches the requirements of the higher position, the thought “I don’t have the skills to do the job” may be an example of disqualifying the positive. This means that you ignore evidence that contradicts your negative thought.

The second thought, “I can’t compete with the other colleagues who want the same position,” is an example of jumping to conclusions. You don’t know who else is applying and how you will measure against them, so you do not have the evidence to come to a logical conclusion.

Step 4: Develop a rational response

Example: When you think negative thoughts, remind yourself that it is a cognitive distortion. You need factual evidence to assess your chances of getting the promotion. You can make an action plan to gather more evidence, such as asking for a performance review or talking to the hiring manager.

Having a plan is associated with higher levels of confidence [9]. The Burns Triple Column Technique helps you challenge your negative thinking and create a workable action plan.

Start a self-esteem journal

Study after study has shown the mental health benefits of a journaling routine. Following a structured therapeutic journaling technique is one of the most effective ways to address a problem like low confidence [10].

A self-esteem journal contains guided prompts and exercises that promote the attitudes that underlie self-confidence, such as self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-awareness. You can find pre-made journals, use printouts, or answer prompts in a blank notebook.

Here are a few exercises and question prompts that you can try out for yourself.

Sentence completion exercises: Fill in the blanks with your response

  • I am most proud of myself when…
  • My most unique ability is…
  • The last time I show myself self-compassion was…

Question prompts

  • What do you like most about yourself?
  • What do you get complimented on the most?
  • What are you thankful for in your life?
  • Imagine yourself in 5, 10, or 15 years. In what ways do you hope to grow?

Survivor stories

This exercise asks you to think back to two or three challenges that you overcame. Write about the experience in a story format, explaining the events, the actions you took, and your feelings at the time. This writing exercise improves your self-esteem by reminding you of your strengths. In turn, you can feel more confident in your ability to navigate any upcoming challenges. 

Confidence-building thinking exercises

Some confidence-wrecking thought patterns are hardwired into the brain [11]. Known as automatic negative thoughts (ANTs), these irrational beliefs pop up unconsciously and can affect your behavior and emotions [12].

You can counter ANTs by consciously adjusting your thought patterns with the following confidence-building thinking exercises.

Repeat affirmations

These are positive phrases that can counter and replace ANTs. Repeating affirmations can stimulate brain regions associated with future planning and self-evaluation [13].

For some people, repeating or listening to empowering phrases like “I make a good first impression” can reduce anxiety [14]. Still, you may find positive affirmations too unbelievable. Neutral affirmations like “I can reduce my stress by breathing” are equally helpful.

You can find examples of positive affirmations and learn about the most effective ways to use them in our article: How Positive Affirmations Improve Mental Health (7 Examples).

Not all affirmations are created equal. General positive affirmations are uplifting, but specific affirmations are much more powerful. Adapting a common affirmation to fit your situation makes the statement more relatable.

Also, the best affirmations acknowledge the difficulty of your situation. With this in mind, the phrase “I am confident” would be modified to “I am working on my confidence and improving every day.”

Practice metacognition

More confident people are better at metacognition, which is the ability to reflect on their thoughts [15]. You can improve your metacognition by monitoring and labeling your thinking patterns. When a thought enters your consciousness, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What am I feeling/doing in my mind right now?
  • Is this line of thinking helpful or rational?
  • Can I reflect on this thought at a later time?

Here’s an example of what metacognition may look like:

Automatic Thought: I cannot compete with the people around me.

Metacognition QuestionPossible Responses
What am I feeling/doing in my mind right now?I am having an automatic negative thought.
I am experiencing a cognitive distortion.
Is this line of thinking helpful or rational?Automatic thoughts are not rational.
I do not have enough evidence for this thought to be helpful.
This thought makes me feel insecure, so it is not helpful to me.
Can I reflect on this thought at a later time?I can reflect on this thought later today when I write in my journal. I will let this thought go until that time.

Thank your negative thoughts

Negative thoughts are the brain’s rudimentary way of protecting you [16]. However, most problems are solved through logic and planning. So, irrational, emotionally driven thoughts shouldn’t drive your behavior.

Defusion is a cognitive tool that helps you separate your behaviors and emotions from your thoughts [17]. Rather than taking a negative thought at face value, you can thank the thought for bringing the message to your awareness. You can use a sarcastic or humorous tone to help you take your thoughts less seriously.

Acceptance and Commitment therapist Dr. Russ Harris gives examples of how to practice defusion in this helpful video:

Thanking Your Mind: Taking the Power Out of Difficult Thoughts

Confidence-building social exercises

If you are dealing with low confidence, you may worry about how other people view you. This can lower the quality of your relationships and even prevent you from making friends [18]. However, if you put yourself in social situations, you may actually feel better about yourself [19].

These low-risk social exercises can help you build the confidence you need to connect with others.

Join a club or class

Look for a local group focused on your interests or hobbies. Chances are you’ll be around people who have at least one thing in common with you. This will make it easier to start a conversation. Classes also give you the opportunity to be around people without the pressure to socialize.

Practice basic social skills

If you’ve been avoiding social situations, prolonged isolation can make your social skills a bit rusty [20]. Renew your confidence by selecting two or three social skills to test in public. Here are a few easy-to-implement ideas:

  • Smile and look people in the eye when you talk to them
  • After meeting someone new, say their name a few times during the conversation
  • Keep your body language open, relaxed, and receptive
  • Practice active listening (If you’re not sure what that looks like, watch this video from Harvard Business Review:

The Art of Active Listening

Offer to help

Volunteering is a great way to interact with others. Not only does it feel good to give back, but it can increase your confidence and self-esteem [21]. You can find local volunteer opportunities online. You can also look for ways to help your neighbors through community-specific apps or social media accounts.

Confidence-building mindset exercises

Your mindset impacts how you navigate the world. While your experiences shape your mindset, you can always adjust your beliefs. If you adopt a growth mindset, you can raise your self-confidence [22].

Confidence comes from not always being right, but not fearing to be wrong.
~ Peter T. McIntyre

Embrace your failures

Fear of failure is one of the most common traits in people with low self-esteem and self-confidence [23]. Since learning new things requires trial and error, avoiding failure can prevent you from reaching your potential.

You can increase your confidence by reframing failures as learning opportunities. Reflecting is a valuable way to reap lessons from setbacks. The 3-2-1 reflection exercise is an easy way to reflect on your efforts.

3-2-1 Reflection

Three things you learned from the failure, mistake, or rejectionTwo questions or ideas you want to investigate furtherOne thing you enjoyed the most about your experience

Another way to reframe failure is to anticipate and celebrate mistakes as milestones toward progress. For example, the average jobseeker hears up to 80 “no’s before securing an interview [24].

In situations like this, the more rejections you get, the closer you are to achieving your goal. Thanks to this mindset, failure becomes a normal part of the process rather than something to avoid.

Shift your locus of control

High confidence is also linked with an internal locus of control [25]. This means that you believe in your own ability to shape your future and overcome obstacles.

If you have an external locus of control, you may believe that outside circumstances control the outcomes in your life. This mindset can undermine your confidence. You can develop an internal locus of control with the following exercises:

Mind your language

Taking accountability is an important part of maintaining an internal locus of control. Phrases like “I have no control” or “It wasn’t my fault” can perpetuate feelings of helplessness and low confidence.

Avoid using statements that diffuse responsibility. Instead, use language that reminds yourself and others that you have responsibility over your actions and outcomes.

Diffusive languageResponsible language
It’s not my fault.I am responsible for my own actions.
I have no control.I can look for areas I have control over and focus on these things.
Things never work out for me.I can’t always control outcomes, but I can choose to put forward my best efforts.

Identify areas under your control

Even people with a strong internal locus of control recognize that some circumstances are out of their hands. Knowing what you can control and can’t allows you to use your energy and efforts more confidently and productively.

You can follow this simple Circle of Control exercise video produced by the British Red Cross:

How to manage your worries | Circles of Control


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Alisha Verly Jensen
Alisha Verly Jensen
I am a freelance wellness writer passionate about positive psychology and gentle productivity. I enjoy studying personal development and sharing what I’ve learned to help others create a balanced and fulfilling life. When I am not writing, I am tending to my garden.