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Confidence – it can be hard to feel like you’re boosting confidence, especially when you struggle with self-acceptance But research shows that increasing confidence is actually a trainable skill.  A lack of confidence can show up in many different forms; being worried about what other people will think of you, fear of rejection when putting yourself out there,  feeling like you don’t have the skills, education, or training to for a task or role, or fear of it not going a certain way and what that could mean about you.  It’s normal to experience all of these feelings, but part of mental toughness means you are able to recognize and allow them, investigate the what or the why, and then use mindfulness and some mental tools to overcome it.

There are several elements of self-confidence and a potent one is self-acceptance   One of the biggest landmines detracting from self-confidence is comparing yourself to others.  I’ve been there- I feel great about what I did… until I’ve seen what others have done.  The first step is realizing that you’re comparing. The self-awareness around your thoughts and then asking what insight you can gain from it is very powerful. If you find that comparing yourself to others is draining your confidence, check out this post I wrote on how to stop comparing yourself to others.

As a side note, if you’re looking to improve your mental toughness and boost confidence, check out my Mindset Academy. You’ll find 22 lessons based on many years of research, real-life experience and real-world takeaways.  Ok, back to it.

Let’s Define Self-Acceptance

(via APA dictionary of Psychology)

n. a relatively objective sense or recognition of one’s abilities and achievements, together with acknowledgment and acceptance of one’s —–limitations. It is often viewed as a major component of mental health.


Many people worry that if they accept themselves then they are being complacent.  You can still accept yourself and have the desire to improve. You can accept your current limitations but have a growth mindset that you can improve on those limitations. Limits are not fixed and many of us have experienced reaching past what we thought we were capable of during challenges.  If you accept yourself as unconditionally as you can, then you don’t rely on the opinions of others to validate you. Of course, we are all human beings and all of us want to have approval and belong, so it’s about changing your relationship with seeking validation.

Since most of my readers are athletes, we’ll use bike racing as a prime example and metaphor. A lot of times, race nerves are related to worrying about what other people will think.  Do you worry that people will think you aren’t any good or you aren’t worthy if you don’t perform a certain way?  That’s an example of looking to them for acceptance.  Many people (myself included at times) feel like they are not enough unless they achieve something that someone else deems worthy or impressive.  The reality is that most of the time, no one remembers or cares about your result. Or, you could win a race and still tear down your accomplishment because a certain person wasn’t there or because it wasn’t a higher-profile event. If you can start realizing that you are a good human who is an ever work-in-progress before the gun goes off, you’ll feel less worried about the end result and care less about what people think.

It’s about the process of the person you become on the way to the finish line, not the result of the finish line compared to others.

It is much easier said than done.

Self-acceptance also applies to the image of how much money or success someone has by brand names, houses, cars, etc aka keeping up with the Joneses.  If you accept yourself, you don’t need to outwardly prove that you are successful.

Boosting Confidence and Overcoming Failure

Lack of confidence also comes from fear of failure.  Have you ever thought, “I don’t feel confident enough to try that because I don’t know how!”  The best way is to just get started and know that you’ll grow and get smarter and more experienced in that area. The real fear in that statement is “I don’t know how and I’m afraid I’ll look stupid in front of someone.”  And that includes worrying about your internal expectations or looking stupid in front of yourself. If you fail and then start beating yourself up, you may need to practice more self-compassion.  Self-compassion and accepting oneself are very closely linked.

Go to Dr. Kristen Neff’s Guided Self-Compassion Meditation and Exercises.

Another amazing side effect of being less judgemental and more accepting of yourself is that you’ll end up being more accepting of others.  Ever notice that your harshest criticisms about other people tend to be similar to your own issues and things you don’t like about yourself?

How are Self-Acceptance and Self-Esteem Different?

One caveat- self-esteem and self-acceptance are slightly different.  Self-acceptance is unconditional where self-esteem can vary based on how successful you think you are.  Accepting yourself is the foundation where self-esteem is built and it may not even have a positive or negative connotation to it.  Self-esteem tends to hold that positive or negative self-regard, but acceptance is unconditional, whether something went well or did not go well.  It’s being proud of who you are no matter what.

Self-acceptance is also about separating your achievements (or your failures) from who you are as a person. 

I wish I could give you an answer that would magically fix everything, but the truth is that accepting yourself is life’s work. It’s something we all have to work on forever.   I can give you some tools to help you accept yourself…and you just might find that the more you accept yourself, the more confidence you’ll have!

I’ve worked with top-level athletes and also had my own personal struggles with confidence and self-acceptance.   If you want to go deeper with actionable practices, I’ve created an online, self-paced mental toughness course.  Check it out!

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