According to Dr. Ivan Joseph, TED presenter and confidence expert, self confidence is the belief in your ability to accomplish any task no matter the odds, difficulty, or adversity.

Some people have had this trait in spades all their lives, and the rest of us watch along with a mixture of resentment and admiration as they steam-roll their way through seemingly effortless accomplishments. But the way Dr. Ivan tells it, self confidence can be learned no matter your starting point.

All it takes is repetition and positive self-talk.

Repeat your way to self confidence

“We can’t be self confident unless the skill or task we’re doing is not new to us,” Dr. Ivan says. “We want to have so much experience that what we’re doing becomes second nature,”—like typing, or riding a bike.

Let’s say you want to land a prestigious job but you’re short on self confidence. Well…how many interviews have you conducted since college? Or, if you’re vying for a promotion, how versed are you in presenting your achievements and the value you bring to your company? Whether you’re pitching to yourself or a group of friends in a mock meeting, that experience is crucial.

Building self-confidence in these milieus and many more is like practicing for a speech, Dr. Joseph says.

“You do it over and over and over in the mirror. Then you do it in front of family and friends, and at bigger and bigger venues until you’re at Carnegie hall in front of 5,000 people and you’re not even breaking a sweat. What do you have to worry about? You’ve done it a thousand times.”

The best way to build self-confidence, then, is to persist. But how many of us bail after the first fail, let alone the 999th? Dr. Ivan Joseph prescribes positive self-talk.

Talk yourself into self confidence

“There’s already enough people telling us that we can’t do it, or that we’re not good enough—(or how hard we’re likely to fall, as the case may be). Why should we tell ourselves that?”

We’re definitely our own greatest critics. But Ivan is pointing out that we can be our own greatest supports—our biggest champions—if we manage our inner dialogue.

“We all need to have quiet moments in our bedroom and while brushing our teeth where we tell ourselves our defining affirmations,” Joseph says. “You don’t have to be the most successful person in the world, though—you can simply be the kindest, most generous, energetic, patient, confident and successful person you can be.”

He’s alluding to the fact that we need daily rituals that reinforce our positive self-talk. Joseph’s personal routine might involve the sputtering of affirmations and mantras between toothbrush-clenched jaws, but yours should be anytime you can consistently remember.

Have a morning workout routine? Start incorporating affirmations of how capable and courageous you are as you do repetitions of squats or pull-ups. Coffee drinker? Make that ten-minute ritual of prepping and sipping an extended affirmation session, focusing not on what you aren’t, but on what you will become.

“ What was Muhammad Ali’s affirmation?” Dr. Joseph asks. “I am the greatest! Who else is going to tell you that?”

Affirmations might sound like pure fiction, depending on where you’re at. But no matter whether they’re true or not, affirmations train your mind to focus on positivity instead of negativity—which is what unlocks affirmative action and persistence in your goals.

Brag sheet

One exercise to improve your self-talk is to write a brag sheet—a list of moments that you’re proud of, that showcase the fruits of your effort, and that describe you at the top of your game. Keep this around for when you hit the doldrums. Read it over and over if you have to, “to whether the storm,’ as Dr. Joseph puts it.

“There was a time when my confidence was really low,” he says. “When I took my current job, I didn’t know if I could do it. I had to bring out my self-confidence letter:

Ivan, congratulations on getting your PhD before 40. Congratulations on winning a national championship. Good job on raising three good kids and marrying the right woman.”

For many people it helps to see positive affirmations in print because it’s one step closer to reality. And when those affirmations are based on actual experiences where you excelled—where you behaved confidently, where you persisted—it will be more visceral and valuable to you.

So take thirty minutes and write out your most bodacious brag sheet. Keep it handy, and remind yourself to use it when you’re down. You can cement the habit by starting off each morning of the next two weeks reciting your own brag sheet.


As much as we’d like to ascribe it to fate or genetics, self confidence truly is a learnable skill. So if you’re one of the 39% of millennials who considers “fear of failure” a particular career handicap, take Dr. Ivan Joseph’s advice and start learning self-confidence. You can practice by indefatigably repeating your biggest challenges—whether those are interviewing or writing skills. And you’ll cement this trait by adopting a positive self-talk routine. Just make sure to include that brag sheet.

If you’re really in need of a permanent confidence boost, well, that’s my specialty! Check out my coaching services and see how they can benefit you today. 

Originally published at


  • Daniel Dowling

    Performance Coach, Writer for Greatist,, Mindbodygreen, and FastCompany.

    Dan Dowling, here. I was the poster child for lost millennials - couldn’t keep a job…addicted to relationships…constantly checking social media and email. But when I got hungry enough for success as a writer, I gave up my distracted lifestyle and adopted one daily goal that changed my life forever: Do. Your. Best. Today, five years later, I’m a productivity coach who’s published on the world’s biggest sites (including Entrepreneur, Fast Company and Mindbodygreen), and I’m transforming lives through the best-effort, zero-distraction lifestyle that worked so well for me. Come and and learn how to always give your best at Millennial Success!