Self Confidence

May 02, 2022

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People tend to shy away from the topic of self-confidence. They are concerned it is too akin to arrogance or they don’t really see any difference between self-confidence and regular confidence. But self-confidence is more complex than simply having confidence and it is not judgmental like arrogance. I’m sure I won’t surprise you when I say that true self-confidence is deeper because it is rooted in your thoughts.

Anything rooted in our thoughts has a ripple effect in our lives and therefore necessitates more attention. However, being internally based, it can be difficult to pinpoint where regular confidence (based on past success), and self-doubt about future success collide. After all, you can have success and be praised but that does not necessarily create self-confidence. But it is in that very place in our thoughts that self-confidence resides and from which we can draw it out.

“Self-confidence is the belief that you are already in possession of the qualities that you have to have to do or achieve whatever it is that you want. It doesn’t mean that you have to have the knowledge yet… But you believe in your fundamental ability to get there.”  – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn 

  • What self-confidence is not 
  • Mistaken Belief #1
    • Why external accomplishments don’t work
  • Mistaken Belief #2
    • Why borrowed thoughts don’t work
  • Questions for self-examination
    • Train your brain
    • Be willing to feel
  • Two exercises to build self-confidence

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

Connect with Sara Dill, MD, The Doctor’s Coach

Is there a topic you’d like me to talk about on a future podcast? Email me or reach out on social media. All my contact details are below. I’d love to hear from you!


I’m Dr. Sara Dill, and this is the Stress-Less Physician Podcast, episode number 12. Welcome to the Stress-Less Physician podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Sara Dill, MD. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career and personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey, everyone, welcome back to the podcast. I am so happy to be here. It is a sunny, and yet windy day here in Santa Barbara. And one thing I’ve learned in doing this podcast now for 12 episodes is that I have to make sure my wind chimes are sort of disengaged, because otherwise, I have a very loud one right outside this window and my podcast editor would probably not be able to edit it out. So, lessons learned from podcasting; try to create a quiet environment as much as possible.

So today, I wanted to talk to you all about self-confidence. I think this is such an important subject. And it’s one that just continues to have a ripple effect. The more I work on it, both for myself and with my clients. So, I wanted to talk about what is self-confidence and why it matters. It might seem sort of self-explanatory, but I think it’s always good to really think about it.

So, one of the first things I want to do is just to separate a little bit, maybe self- confidence from confidence. I think they’re mostly similar, but perhaps they have a slightly different flavor. I’m more of a lumper together than a splitter, in general. But sometimes I think it can be interesting to tease things apart as well. So, I think many of us can evaluate ourselves pretty well, when it comes to confidence.

I would say that confidence is based more on something external, based on evidence from the past. So, it’s more about confidence in our ability to do something based on having done it already. So, if I asked you, what is something you’re confident about? Are you confident that you can go grocery shopping? Or that you can shop online? Or maybe how confident are you in managing you’re more bread and butter type of patients. You’ll probably feel pretty confident. And you can look at your past for your experience, for your success there, for your knowledge, and for your ability to know that you can do something.

So, I would say that sort of general confidence based on something outside of you, out there, based on your belief system that has a lot of evidence from your past that you can point to. But self-confidence in the way I want to talk about it to you is more internally based. So, it includes that kind of confidence. But it’s based on your opinion of yourself, and your ability to believe in yourself without necessarily needing any external evidence, or any history of having done the thing that you might be about to do, or that you’re trying to do. When we’re doubting ourselves and question ourselves, when we’re in self-doubt, rather than self-confidence, we typically rely mostly on what we have confidence in, which is something that we’ve already created in our past, but that isn’t necessarily applicable to then creating something new.

When we’re self-confident, we’re often more willing to try new things and go after the bigger dreams in our lives. That’s why I think it’s so important. So, the question is, is how exactly can we define self-confidence. And, of course, I went online into the dictionary, which I love. And I really appreciate this definition of self-confidence, which is: “A feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.” So, a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment. So, you’ll notice it doesn’t mean that you’ve done it before. Doesn’t require that you have evidence of it. It’s a feeling of trust.

So, I want to ask you a question right now, just before we start, where are you, if you were to grade yourself on your own self-confidence? How much confidence do you have in yourself, let’s say on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is really mostly self-doubt, you don’t have confidence in yourself, y,ou don’t trust your abilities, qualities and judgment, and 10 is total trust in your own abilities, qualities and judgment? Where do you fall on that? And you could notice, if I asked you, you might feel more self-confident in some areas of your life than in others? You could notice, are you more self-confident in work or relationships, in friendships, in making money, in seeing patients, right? You can really tweak some of the areas.

And I like this because it’s good to notice that self-confidence isn’t necessarily a blanket quality that you have across all areas. And sometimes it’s good to eavesdrop on what you think about your abilities, your qualities, and your judgment in one area of your life that gives you a sense of self confidence. And can you borrow those from yourself in these other areas where maybe you don’t have as much self-confidence? I just want to start by saying it’s normal and natural that most of us don’t necessarily just wake up feeling self-confident, our brain does not create a feeling of self-confidence naturally. It does the opposite, typically.

As we’ve talked about, our sort of default setting in our brain is producing feelings of worry or doubt, or self-doubt, fear and anxiety, right? It’s looking for problems, it’s looking for what’s wrong, not only in the external world, but internally and with us. So, you have to work against your natural programming often, to create more of a sense of self confidence. So that’s just normal. There’s nothing wrong with you.

A lot of my clients also get confused when we start to work on this, on how self-confidence is different than arrogance. We don’t want to be arrogant. We just want to be self-confident, where is that boundary. And the way I would define arrogance is when you believe that you are better than other people. It’s typically based on comparing oneself to others, to try to build up one’s own opinion of oneself, usually by criticizing other people or tearing them down or pointing out their flaws.

Arrogance is usually based on a fear of not being good enough or lacking true self-confidence. So, it’s almost like overcompensating. I think it’s actually the opposite of true self-confidence, which isn’t reliant on judging or comparing ourselves to others. I think self-confidence actually requires us to maybe know or acknowledge that each one of us is equally amazing, equally worthy, equally valuable and capable, just as we are. We might have a different skill set, but we know that we can go out there and achieve what we want to achieve. So why don’t we have more self-confidence? Again, our brain doesn’t create a feeling of self-confidence naturally. We have to sort of go against our programming: sad, but true. It’s good to know nothing wrong with us.

So how can we start to increase our self-confidence? What most of us have tried, and you can check in with your own experience here, and what doesn’t work is to try to feel more self-confident by creating more external accomplishments. And also, maybe getting more external validation. So, this goes back to the episode I did on impostor syndrome as well, which is the idea that we can’t have enough external events, external accomplishments, external praise, external anything to compensate for an internal dialogue about ourselves.

So, let’s look at these strategies and see why they don’t work to increase our self confidence levels permanently. So, starting off with the external accomplishments, not creating long-lasting self-confidence. And again, if you’ve listened to me before, you know that external circumstances, external accomplishments, don’t create our feelings. There’s a thought in there or thoughts in there about our external accomplishments that are going to generate a feeling of self-confidence. So external circumstances can’t create our feelings; our thoughts create our feelings. So, you can try to build up your external accomplishments, but if your inner thoughts are about not being good enough, not knowing how to do something well enough, worried about failing or not achieving something, you can’t sort of action your way to that feeling. You’ve really got to believe in your ability to succeed before you can accomplish something truly amazing.

So, before you were able to go to medical school, you had to believe in your ability to apply and maybe get in. Maybe you didn’t believe 100%, that it was going to be a sure thing. But you at least believed that you could try and that maybe you could do it. You’ve got to have some confidence in your ability to succeed, before you can start to take effective action. So, you have to develop the confidence first. Self-confidence is the belief, not just that you’ve already done something, but that you have the capability or the ability of doing something in the future. Self-confidence is the belief that you already have what you need to be successful, or that you know how to go find out what you need, that you can learn what you need.

So, whatever it is, self-confidence is the belief that you are already in possession of the qualities that you have to have to do or achieve whatever it is that you want. It doesn’t mean that you have to have the knowledge yet or not 100% doesn’t mean that you don’t improve your skills or get more experience. That’s why we go to school. That’s why we get degrees. That’s why we continue our education. But you believe in your fundamental ability to get there, that you have the capacity and the capability to do it. That’s what produces self-confidence. And that has to come from your thoughts about you and your abilities.

The second mistaken belief is that sometimes what we’ll do is try to look for external validation from other people to shore up our self-confidence, right? We might check in with a friend or a loved one and ask like, what do you think? Do you think I can do it? Am I good enough to apply? Whatever that is? Basically, what we’re doing is we’re asking to borrow their thoughts about ourselves. And sometimes it can help, but usually, just temporarily, if that.

And one thing I think about, have you ever—you probably have—have you ever immediately argued with someone who’s complimenting you about something about why they’re wrong about you? They might tell you, you’re beautiful, and then you argue with them that you aren’t, revealing that maybe you don’t have a lot of self-confidence about your appearance. Maybe they’re complimenting you on an accomplishment, or an achievement, or on your grades or on whatever. And then you sort of downplay it, you sort of blow it off or brush it off, or make it about luck, or whatever it is.

So, you can notice that if you haven’t changed your underlying thoughts about yourself, the new ones that someone else is offering you, won’t really stick. And that’s again, why self-confidence is this internal process. It’s an internal job. Like impostor syndrome, you can’t achieve your way into self-confidence. You can’t action your way out of self-doubt. So, here’s another question for you to think about. If you knew you were already good enough in all the areas: smart enough, good looking enough, accomplished enough, if you knew you were 100% lovable, and generally, just good enough, would you feel more self-confident? Can you think that now? I’m good enough. I’m good. I’m able to do things. I have the ability. What comes up for you?

So again, just because our brain doesn’t create a feeling of self-confidence naturally, the good news is, you can train your brain, you can choose your thoughts, to produce more feelings of self-confidence. And the way we do this—we talked about this before—is by choosing the huts that create the feeling of confidence in yourself. Beliefs in our own ability, create confidence in ourselves. So, this is 100% achievable, it’s 100%. doable.

So, let’s go back to that definition from the dictionary of self-confidence being a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities and judgment. I also think self-confidence comes from the willingness to feel whatever you feel. Like, let’s think about some of the worst-case scenarios where you might not feel confident. Maybe you’re worried about making a mistake. You’re worried about missing something. You’re worried about failing, you’re worried about doing something wrong. You’re worried about getting rejected. These are all thoughts that create feelings that we don’t like to feel.

Are you willing to feel fear, to feel disappointment, to feel failure, to feel shame, guilt, rejection? Are you willing to feel it all? Because the worst thing that can happen is we try to do something and we fail at it. And then we feel a feeling like one of those: shame, guilt, failure, embarrassment, humiliation, whatever it is.

So, confidence and self-confidence is not only going to come from a belief in our abilities, but I think it truly is going to come from a belief in our ability to feel whatever we feel as we go about our lives, as we go about trying new things, as we go about learning and growing, and going after our dreams. Confidence is going to come from that space of believing and trusting that you can do whatever it is you truly want to do, even if you aren’t 100% sure of it yet. And that even if you make a mistake, even if you fall short, even if you don’t quite get there, that in some fundamental way, it’s okay. That you’re okay. I’m okay. Maybe this is what life is about. So, I would say that it’s not that feeling fear or uncertainty, prevents us from feeling self-confident, it’s the willingness to feel those, to acknowledge that we’re creating those with our thoughts. And that we’re willing to move ahead anyway, that we consider the possibility that we can trust in our own abilities, our own judgment, and our own qualities.

So, here’s an exercise for you to do. So, for anyone listening who wants to practice being more confident and self-confident in your job, or in your life, in your relationships, maybe in setting bigger goals, or going after your goals. These are some questions you can ask yourself. So, the first question is: why am I not feeling confident now? Okay, so why am I not feeling confident now? The answer here is going to be a thought or thoughts, probably multiple thoughts.

The second question is: what am I feeling instead? So, what am I feeling instead of self-confident? And why am I choosing to think in a way that’s creating this feeling? So again, the second question is: what am I feeling instead of being self-confident? And why am I choosing to think in a way that’s creating this feeling?

And lastly, what I want you to do is ask yourself, what do you want your opinion of yourself to be? Like, really think about it. What do you want to think about yourself? What do you want your opinion and your thoughts about your own capabilities and your abilities to be, so you can generate more self-confidence to then create more of the results you want?

Those are the thoughts to get really clear about. Those are the thoughts to write down. What do you want your opinion of yourself to be? Practice those thoughts. I want you to find evidence for them. I want you to post them places to remind yourself. It’s a practice. Finding evidence, wiggling those old thoughts loose, blowing up those old beliefs about you and your abilities. Noticing when you’re in self-doubt, and then intentionally shifting into some beliefs that are believable, that create a sense of self confidence. So you’ve got to practice, you’ve got to post them, feel free to email me with questions, or wherever you’re getting stuck.

And then the last thing I want to offer is an exercise for anyone who is pretty deep into self-doubt, or really feel like you lack self-confidence, that it’s just not a habit that you’re used to practicing, that it’s not something that you have a lot of familiarity with. And that is to spend some time listing out in writing and acknowledging your achievements. So, I want you just to basically write down a whole list of things that you have achieved and accomplished so far, in your life. And I know I already said that external circumstances do not create a lasting feeling of self-confidence and I think that’s true. But if you are practiced, in creating the feeling of self-doubt, and if you’re low in self-confidence currently, I want you to just try writing down all of your achievements. Try to get to like 50. Try to get to 100. Start way back in grade school. You can start in kindergarten. You can start in first grade. What this will do is you’ll start to feel more confident. You’re going to start to feel more like a total badass about you in the process of looking at this list, or at least that’s my hope for you. The accomplishments themselves won’t give you self-confidence, but thinking about them and writing them down and reflecting on them will, because as you do that, you’re going to have new thoughts about yourself like, “Wow, I’ve done a lot. Wow, I’ve really accomplished a lot. Wow, look at that. So far, I’m actually pretty capable.”

All right, everyone. I hope you do these exercises. I think these are such good questions to ask yourself. And I really just will share that I want you to start to know how amazing you are. And that you really can create this feeling of self-confidence, that you can have a sense of trust in your own abilities, your own qualities and judgment, without already having to know exactly how to do all the things. Self-confidence comes first, and that generates our ability to take action, to learn to grow and to go after our dreams. All right, everyone, so good to talk to you. Please, as always, feel free to reach out send me an email and let me know what you’re thinking or struggling with.

If you are a busy practicing physician ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life, sign up for a consult call with me at That’s It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

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