It’s no secret that self-confidence is very important to achieving success in any area of life. The thing about self-confidence is that it’s very sensitive to our personal experience and is inherently unstable, which means that low self-confidence tends to get lower and high self-confidence tends to improve. In other words, your self-confidence experiences a “snowball effect.”

How the “Negative Snowball” Works

1. If you start out with low self-confidence, you’re less likely to take on challenges or try new things.
2. On the rare occasion that you try to accomplish something your low self-confidence can sabotage your efforts, and you’re much less likely to succeed.
3. Your lack of success reinforces your low self-confidence.
4. Then, it’s back to step 1, and the cycle repeats, limiting your ability to live a better life.

How the “Positive Snowball” Works

1. If you have self-confidence, you’re more likely to try new things.
2. When you attempt something with confidence in your abilities, you’re very likely to succeed.
3. As a result, your success increases your self-confidence.
4. Return to step 1, and repeat until you reach your full potential!

Wearing a Groove into Your Brain

At the risk of oversimplifying a phenomenally complex process, what’s happening in your brain is that these snowball cycles “wear a groove” through the vast array of neurons and synapses. Neurologically, you are physically carving a path of least resistance through your brain. With enough reinforcement you develop a reflex to certain kinds of stimuli.

For example, if a smoker tries to quit smoking and fails—and he allows a negative snowball cycle to take place—he’ll lose confidence in his ability to quit, and he’ll eventually develop a negative reflex to the idea of quitting. Once that happens, if anyone suggests that he quit or someone offers a new way to try to quit, his brain will automatically reject the possibility. In his brain the mere suggestion of quitting will trigger an impulse that will follow that well-worn path of least resistance, the path that equates “trying to quit” with “failure.”

This works the other way, too. A positive snowball cycle will wear a groove that creates a positive reflex. We’ve all known people who exhibit this—they’re the ones who are eager to try anything and seem to succeed at everything. On the rare occasion that they fail they are undeterred. The positive reflexes they’ve created in their brains allow them to learn from their mistakes and equate failure with “I’ll do even better next time!”

How Does the Low Self-Confidence Cycle Start?

Unfortunately, virtually everyone has been programmed from childhood with negatives that make him believe that he can’t do things that he’s innately capable of doing. A lot of it is self-imposed programming. If we fail to do something perfectly the first time we try, it’s only human nature to begin to believe that we can’t do it.

Fortunately, when some people are told that they can’t do something, they refuse to accept that programming and go on to prove that they indeed can. For example,

* Beethoven’s teacher said that he was hopeless as a composer.
* Thomas Edison’s teachers said that he was too stupid to learn anything.
* Leo Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace, was told that he couldn’t learn.
* Albert Einstein didn’t speak until he was four and didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher called him mentally slow.

Each and every one of us has given up on at least one thing because we lacked the confidence to try! The world has undoubtedly been robbed of the great contributions of countless gifted people because of such negativity.

The good news is that a negative self-confidence cycle is completely reversible! You can learn how to eliminate existing negative thought reflexes and replace them with positive thought reflexes. There are several effective techniques for building self-confidence. Among them, positive affirmations are possibly the most powerful and easiest to use.

Using Positive Affirmations to Build Self-Confidence

Positive affirmations are carefully worded positive statements that are designed to establish new thinking patterns in your mind. Using affirmations is a very effective way to build self-confidence. It seems simple, and initially, it can actually be a little uncomfortable, but remember that what you’re trying to do is to wear a new groove into your brain. You’re trying to create a new path of least resistance and establish a positive reflex in your mind.

The way to use affirmations is to repeat the statements to yourself (out loud or silently). When you repeat an affirmation, feel it, believe it, and know it! Put some positive emotion into it. Emotion-backed programming is the most powerful and long lasting. Allow yourself to experience feelings of joy, satisfaction, power, and self-confidence as you recite each affirmation. Make each one a true part of your reality.

Use your favorite affirmations routinely throughout the day, and really feel them. You will eventually make a quantum leap. You will suddenly be far beyond the doubts that accompany wishing, hoping, daydreaming, and even believing. You will enter the zone of knowing.

When you enter the zone of knowing, supreme self-confidence is automatically there. All doubt is gone. You know you can do it. When you enter the zone of knowing, your self-confidence is unshakable, and your untapped potential is released. You feel invincible!

Another great way to use affirmations is to say them while looking in a mirror. Say them with feeling, and soon, you’ll become aware of how powerful your eyes are. We send messages with our eyes that show how we think of ourselves and how self-confident we are, and that influences how others respond to us. The more our eyes bespeak self-confidence and self-esteem, the more other people are likely to hold us in high esteem. As you practice your affirmations in the mirror, you’ll see this in your own eyes, and soon, others will feel the confidence that you project.

Start Today

You can use many other powerful techniques to improve your self-confidence and build your self-esteem, but this will get you started in the right direction. Remember that repetition and positive emotions are critical to changing the way you think.

Employ whatever resources you need to commit to improving your self-confidence. Whether it’s an audio program or help from your friends, family, or therapist, your self-confidence is too important to allow it to wither away. Be confident that you can improve your confidence, and it will change your life.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Bob and Jeff Griswold are the Founder and President, respectively, of Effective Learning Systems, Inc., the leading creator of audio CDs and tapes for personal development and self-improvement. With over 100 titles available their programs are among the best-selling self-improvement audio programs in national bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Borders. Bob’s book, How to Attract Money, has been printed in seven languages, and he’s personally taught over 50,000 people techniques for relaxation, memory, stress management, goal achievement, and self-esteem through seminars for corporations, government agencies, and the general public. You can find Effective Learning Systems online at or by phone at (800) 966–5683.