Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

What is confidence and how can you get more of it when you speak English and when you are out in the world?

We have been defining confidence in the wrong way.

What does confidence actually mean and how can you build it?

We have been reading a lot about Evolutionary Psychology.

There is a lot to learn in this field because so much of what we do has been hard-wired into us through years of evolution.

We have to know the actions and behaviors that our ancestors had and took hundreds of years ago to understand ourselves today.

In the past on this show we have said that confidence is about nonverbal communication. and we have also talked about the “fake it til you make it” theory which means that if you pretend to be confident you will become more confident eventually.

However, we think these techniques don’t really give you much confidence.

They are only icing on the cake.

They are not the foundation.

If you already have confidence then it helps to show it through your body language but it will not give you confidence if you haven’t developed skills.

Geoffrey Miller from the University of New Mexico talked about the definition of confidence.

Here it is:

“Confidence is the realistic expectation you have about being successful at something given a) your competence at it and b) the risk involved in doing it.”

What does this mean for us?

It means practice makes perfect (or almost perfect).

Confidence is not built by wishful thinking, visualization, or motivational quotes.

If you already have confidence then those will help you perform better but if you don’t have the foundation of skills then you won’t succeed.


You don’t need to be “over-confident’ by taking crazy risks.

Should you speak English immediately as a beginner or right when you learn a new word or term as an intermediate or advanced speaker? Maybe not!

Instead you can build confidence by taking small, gradual actions toward practicing on a daily basis.

This is great news because it means that we can actually build confidence.

It’s under our control if we are intentional about it.


How can you build confidence:

  • Set small, daily goals: “Today I will make eye contact and start three conversations in English at work”


Anyone can have confidence if you choose one domain of your life and focus on skill building.

Is it your English conversation skills? Your IELTS or TOEFL Exam?

Then you need to write down your specific goals and execute on them.

Come back to us after a few weeks or a month and let us know how your confidence-building experiments went.

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