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Ask HN: Low self confidence and self esteem. How to improve?
253 points by codesternews on May 20, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 163 comments
I am good at coding but while talking or doing some thing new I lack confidence.

So many times when I had to meet someone or talk to someone, I feel worthless and underconfident. I could not able to talk to them properly and hesitate.

For eg: I lack confidence while meeting other person like my director and even friends. I somehow feel them superior to me. I have very low self-esteem and confidence.

For every new oppurtunity or thing I want to try, I lack confidence and feel I am not good enough. I see my faults in everything.

Please give some advice.

Personally have been going through this myself, and recently. Some things which make me feel better:

* Finding my own independence to do things. I often tied my own activities to that of my partner. So many times I felt like I was WAITING for things, when I didn't need to be.

* Find your own hobbies which are outside of work related things. I am interested in kite surfing for example. I've never done it, but I've begun digging into it.

* People will say this often: Exercise. Don't quickly dismiss this. It's MENTALLY hard to motivate yourself, I get it. I HATE going. But, I ALWAYS feel better after having gone. There is something about tackling things you DON'T want to do, and getting satisfaction from having accomplished doing it. Plus, your whole body, including your brain, get distinct benefits which persist longer than the time you work out. So you work out 30 minutes, but you feel great for hours after, and your body physically benefits well beyond too.

* Find friends you can just hang out with. I moved to a new city and hardly know anybody. But I still take trips 1-2 hours away to see friends because I NEED that interaction. It breaks me out of my own world/thoughts.

> There is something about tackling things you DON'T want to do, and getting satisfaction from having accomplished doing it.

It's even better than that with regards to exercise. I've been forced to ski by my girlfriend. I've hated it for the first 5 days, I was terrified for my life, literally. I wrote a 10 page document on how not to die since my braking and turning weren't really reliable.

Yet, every evening, despite having some muscle fatigue. I felt more in touch with my body than ever. I was more flexible, more alert and quicker in my body movements. This made me feel happier.

I've also noticed the same thing with cycling vs. going with the metro to work (I'm in Amsterdam, no excuse to not cycle). I never think about cycling in terms of fun or not fun. But I noticed a marked difference in my mood while I arrived at work if I'd be going with the metro.

There's also neurological evidence for this: exercise makes us feel better.

So I want to extend your claim to: if you exercise in a reasonable fashion, you are biologically bound to feel better afterwards. It doesn't matter how you felt about it before or what your opinions of the exercise are.

One tip to get a bit easier into it: always do a warmup with an exercise that you don't hate. For me that'd be running.

Exercise, especially weight lifting and HIIT, raises testosterone levels naturally in the body which will have a definite impact on your confidence and self-esteem levels. Even further, add a good diet and try to lose fat, and you'll get the added benefit of having less of the testosterone convert to estrogen and more converting to DHT, which is the "feel good" androgen.

DHT accelerates male pattern baldness I believe? If you inherited genetic mpb genes and are susceptible to hairloss in crown area.

"I was terrified for my life"

I managed to give myself quite a scare in the Scottish mountains on Saturday - have felt distinctly more focused and calmer since then. I wonder if getting an occasional scare might not actually be a good thing....

I agree with the occasional scare gets you going. People are built to deal with that scare in an evolutionary sense. The change in brain chemistry to get you into flight or fight can really alter your perspective (where perspective is pretty much just brain chemistry + a little bit of experience).

I think fight club called it a "near life experience."

Other examples of changing perspective via brain chemistry recently talked about are magic mushrooms, which really do help lift depression, if only for a while before the brain has a chance to settle into its old patterns.

Exercise of course, also changes the chemistry, but I think it is in a less extreme (and more reproducible) way than a good scare (even if what scares you is some kind of hallucinated dragon).

I see a bike much more than a metro (passengers have almost no control) as a 'freedom-' (you can ride wherever you want) and an 'expression-of-my-will-' (when to ride and where to ride to) device.

It's not only the benefit of physical exercise which often makes riding a bike more enjoyable.

I used to drive to work/school my whole life, choosing to ride a bike also meant choosing to take a good chance of dying on the road. I then purchased a motorcycle, and I thought things would change, but it didn't. Even on a motorcycle, people would run me into ditches without looking and carry on their busy way without a notice or a bother. So I got a loud horn and loud pipes, and things improved a little.

I sold my vehicles and moved to a biking city, where my main method of transportation is biking. I've been here for less than two years, and I'm in the best shape of my life, mentally and physically.

Wonderful reminders of point by point what also makes me happy and unhappy. The partner dependency is a huge one for me, knowing how to say no and doing my own thing hurt who it may hurt. There’s a danger that overly dependent and insecure partners start severely limiting your world perspective and opportunities because they don’t want to engage socially or have the motivation to pursue their own hobbies. Don’t let that stop YOU!

I second this. I exercise almost daily, and it makes a difference.

I do a combination of low-impact HIIT (because I can watch TV while I do it :-) ) and push-ups + laying garhammers (because they make me look hawt - abs, pecs & arms.)

All the posts below ignored one huge thing. I'm going to provide a list of actions that transformed my life when I was 19 and solved the problems you mentioned. How? These habits increased my confidence, calmed my mind, and increased self-awareness. Habits & systems are everything. Number 1 is the MOST important and is paramount. None of the rest will work without it:

1. https://www.reddit.com/r/nofap. Don't dismiss. No harm in trying. Do 90 days and report back how you feel. Good website: https://www.antidopamine.com/

2. Meditate every morning for 20 minutes. Try headspace app.

3. Exercise everyday (eg. strength training, sprints, BJJ/Muay Thai, sports, yoga, etc.)

4. Clean up your diet. No garbage, processed food. Eat naturally. Lean meat, veggies, some fruit. No fast-food, no bullshit. Health body => Healthy mind.

5. Sleep on time and sleep enough.

6. Practice what you suck at. Every day. Practice practice practice. I want you to fail over and over again, get back up, and fight again. Warrior mentality.

7. Write in a journal everyday to track progress/create a plan/identify problems.

8. Quit all social media and anything else that gives your brain dopamine hits. Remove all addictions from your life. It's wasting precious time you could spend improving yourself.

EDIT: I thought of more..

9. Make sure you allocate time everyday where you disconnect from technology. This is a good time to practice social skills, exercise, read, write, cook, take a walk and think. Solitude is essential for health.

10. Google "Discipline Equals Freedom" and Jocko Podcast. He has great books and I suggest reading them.

Basically, remove bad habits & people, create/add good ones, practice what you suck at, and take care of your body & mind.

If you need help, comment below and we can figure out a way to talk privately.

Good list.

Having done a lot of professional tech mentorship, and fitness/nutrition coaching, I can also say that a lot of people who've asked me for help make it into 1-3 items of a similar list I have, and back off, and then.. typically, come back 6-9 months later and report that they have the same issues, feel the same way, and now feel kind of bad about themselves having failed to achieve/change more.

It's an axiom in coaching that you can't get people to do things, that you can only offer up suggestions/solutions and those who are ready will jump on it. I think this is pretty true. I also think that if you're on the bubble, and you want change but aren't quite sure if you'll really stick with it, making enough change can be a turning point. Something will click when you do enough, and that click can be the moment when you really want it, because you have seen a bit of change.

But, in short you have to be pretty ruthless for yourself to transform, and that usually also means disconnecting from some of your legacy commitments (friends, amount of social time, drinking, etc).

> in short you have to be pretty ruthless for yourself to transform

More about this:

- If you believe that “the most important is to be yourself”, stop. The reason you asked is because you’re ready to change not doing everything the same as before.

Then set the goals that you believe are achievable to you but find somebody that you can report about them. Once you achieve them, also confirm that they stick (that that wasn’t “once”). Etc.

But also: seek a help of a Cognitive Behaviour therapist. Evidence based. As scientific as it can be. Read other comments here about it, and search elsewhere.

I want to offer an alternative interpretation on the "be yourself" mantra, because I think there is some wisdom there. You first have to "know thyself", which is difficult, because I don't think introspection is natural to our monkey-brains. Our minds, with all of the peculiar characteristics that have emerged over human history, make it difficult to evaluate ourselves accurately, in the same artists have a hard time judging the quality of their work, even if it is phenomenal. After that, you actually have to strive to be yourself, and you'll likely face resistance. You've got to be creative when dealing with that, and I think the tips posted help in that regard.

I've been toying with the idea that you must attempt to live according to your principles and values, else there is inevitably be unresolved psychological tension. I don't want to get into examples to prove my assertion right now but brainstorming could be done.

Of course, this doesn't tell you what principles and values are right or wrong. Is OP right to want to be more confident? I don't know, but he believes he should and thus, stress. CBT could help. What I am fairly sure of, is that these problems won't resolve themselves until beliefs and actions start to align. So... "be yourself"

Still: if you aren‘t willing to change, you won‘t. I know some who go from one to another place where they could, but they don‘t. They stay in they same story just shortly pretending then always claiming that the others are the problem.

And I know also some who think that “being themselves“ means keep doing everything exactly like before.

In my own personal experience, I had an occasion where, almost by accident, I felt the absence of all my limiting thoughts, for a short spell.

I get what is being suggested by "be yourself", but I also think people can have a lot of layers that need to be peeled back before that's even evident, and if you propel yourself forward through action and change, one's vantage point of what "being yourself" is may have a qualitatively different aspect to it when certain kinds of limiting behaviors/ beliefs/ habits are excised from one's life, because they're also excised from their mental identification map. Those connections may not be relevant.

I think I might've stretched what is traditionally meant by "be yourself" too far. The model I suggested was to take psychological pain as a hint that you are not living according to your principles. An explicit example of this would be addiction. You know it is not in your best interest to be doing a particular thing, but you do it anyways, thus psychological pain. You are not living in accordance to what you aspire to be, and I would call who you aspire to be "yourself", which would help resolve inner conflict.

Many layers are always being peeled back, because it's an inherently hard problem. I mean, how should I act/live and what is the purpose?! It's not clear, but my idea is that psychological pain (or lack of) can be a compass as to whether our answers are on the right track. Being willing to change and shedding the limiting beliefs you identify with is part of realizing and discovering one's self.

That being said, whether one's beliefs and principles are justified will always remain an open question. I don't doubt that it's possible to have terrible beliefs and realize one's self as a smug asshole. I don't think (hope?) most of us would be comfortable with that.

> my idea is that psychological pain (or lack of) can be a compass as to whether our answers are on the right track.

You obviously didn't have any serious contact with the people who have psychological problems:

Some actually have psychological pain almost constantly, unless they do something that distracts them from that, but even bigger pain if they try to change anything. That's the "loop" in which they live and from which they believe there's no escape (it's also one of excuses for developing addictions). And the escape can be: surviving the bigger initial pain coming from their attempt to change. That's why they need help, at best from good professionals, like CBT is supposed to be. Their everyday environment (including the people closest to them) is often also a problem typically contributing to them being “trapped” in the loop.

It's really a very hard topic. Even the whole big groups of people (i.e. those that identify themselves with political parties) in the whole nations often live in some big denials (1), exactly staying in the "loop" where they even support them to "be themselves" in the sense of not having introspection and courage to change themselves to the better. Which would mean that they should reevaluate their "values" and not stick to them.

It's that hard. And I'm intentionally addressing your claim "you must attempt to live according to your principles and values." I don't agree. You must be ready to constantly question "your principles and values." They aren't absolute truths, you've just acquired them from your environment and these very values can be destructive both to you and often to other people that depend on your actions.


1) And I can name you some really big denials constantly kept in both of the two most influential U.S. parties, for example.

I agree wholeheartedly, and hoped to get across everything you said. I took care to mention in the bottom of both of my posts that your beliefs can be wrong/misguided, and CBT could help with something related to self-esteem. I don't know if could stretch that into political beliefs. I also don't think principles and self is a static thing. I should've been more explicit about that.

I'm not really proposing a solution, just an observation that these things, who you aspire to be/principles vs. how you live your life, seem to be coupled with psychological problems.

I think we are pretty much on the same page honestly.

I would add that it is important to practice acceptance and self love. A lot of times lists like this give the sense or feeling that you can't slip or mess up. It's important to remember that you're human, you will make a mistake or slip up, and that it's ok. Practicing accepting those moments, being kind to yourself, getting back on track and continuing to make progress.

Remind yourself that you're not alone in this struggle and that any setback is just temporary and sometimes necessary so you can keep pushing.

I second this. But would like to add one note: if you can't do it all at once, that's ok! And also, do therapy.

I've started a similar journey 6 years ago, and have been doing some of those things here, some there, sometimes none of them at all, but always coming back to the good habits. Sleep, healthy lifestyle, healthy body and healthy mind. Some times it seemed like I was making huge progress, sometimes it felt like I was back to the hole again. But it was all progress!

And one last thing that has made all the difference in the past two years: therapy. I went to the doctor, said I had all those issues and started working on them. Been on at least three therapists in the past two years, still think I'm gonna seek another one soon, but the progress I've made through therapy has been invaluable.

I've tried meditation on multiple occasions, using Headspace and other apps, as well as without any outside input. I've consistently meditated for over a month at times, but after that month, I still _hated_ it. I'm not someone who usually has a hard time getting into the habit of something, but I've never been able to get into meditating, and I never noticed any positive effects.

Do you have any thoughts on my experiences?

What did you specifically hate about meditation?

It makes me insane to sit still doing nothing for that long, which I think is kind of the point -- that you have to sit with your thoughts. But I don't have any issues sitting with my thoughts, I just don't like having to do nothing, and since I didn't see any benefits after a month+, it felt really pointless.

So I guess the short answer is, a combination of restlessness and feeling like I wasn't getting anywhere.

That may be part of what you are missing with meditation. You want to have no thoughts and be in tune with your surroundings.

The technique taught to me was this.

1) Start with eyes closed and listen your surroundings. If there's a bird let it in, do not try to tune out sounds, but accept them lile a radio in the background.

2) Start at your feet and sense or feel them for about 10 seconds. Slowly move up your body, legs, arms, chest head. Sense every part of your body.. focus on it.

3) When you reach the top of your head Relax and focus on your surroundings... the wind, the feelings...

Should take about 20 minutes.

Well, that’s the point: You ‘expected’ your mind to be ‘calm’, and when your mind don’t do it what you want, you frustrated. Meditation shouldn’t be about ‘forcing’ your mind to be calm, but to let it calm, naturally. Like the muddy water in the glass, when you left it still enough, the silt will go the bottom, and the water’s clear.

What you might do instead, other than focus your mind in your body somewhere(or your breathe) is just ‘observe’ your mind as it is, like when you observe other people. Is your mind confusing?, can’t stop thinking?, fine, be whatever it want. Is your mind calm?, that’s fine, too, but don’t expect it to be calm forever, because it won’t, and that’s also fine. You don’t judge it, you don’t expect what you want to feels because you heard other people said that. You just observe it with non-judgemental, neutral feeling.

In fact, don’t even care about how long you’ve practice it, because that also raise the expectation ‘Why did my mind is not calm even after months+ of practice?’ and it’ll pressure you to force your mind to calm even more. Some day you feel good, some day you feel sleepy, some day you confusing, and that’s ok

— you just did it, everyday.

My mentor said that your mind is like growing a tree, you can’t force it to grow into giant tree instantly. You just water it, everyday. The change is not even noticeable, but after awhile when you look back, you’ll see how much the plant growth.

The peaceful feeling will come naturally when your mind is ready enough.

Good luck mate!

Good list. Would also add that when you are first learning something expect failure at it as it is part of the learning process. Get feedback from someone who has done what you are trying to learn and learn from feedback. Self confidence and self esteem are dependent functions. Get rid of distractions in life. Get rid of people who do not bring you joy. Help people. Be kind.

I support this.

Oh yeah, also, start small! Pick like 3 things and set small goals (e.g For 7 days, I will do this, this, and this). You build confidence through accomplishments. So set small goals, accomplish, and then set a slightly bigger goal and start again! This is a life long journey, you will fail, we all do, get back up, dust off, and fight.

gonna need an explanation on how no fap is related to self esteem doc.

Yeah, I can't understand the no fap cult. Having a strong sex drive and finding it overwhelming at times is just the way humans are made. Wanting to look at porn and nudity, those are pretty much the way humans have been forever. As an example, look at the life of ben franklin 250 years ago, who like a lot of our founding fathers had a very active 'secret' sex life [1], [2]. Almost everyone is like that, in that at times they feel like they are obsessed with sex. If you can't ever get out of bed and do anything but look at porn, that's a problem; but it's just who we are as human beings that we sometimes do a manual override.

All that other advice people give about exercise, doing just a little bit of stuff you want every day, getting therapy - I'm all for that. But cut yourself a break too, you are a human animal.

[1] https://www.biography.com/news/benjamin-franklin-ladies-man-...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advice_to_a_Friend_on_Choosing...

Just a word of caution. This has been discussed previously couple of times on HN.

There are some pseudo scientific stuff there but also some interesting points.

Take it with a grain of salt and make your own decision before jumping on any of these bandwagons

For reference:



Thanks for the insight, much appreciated!

What profession do you operate in?

I'm a Machine Learning Engineer for a healthcare startup in Toronto. Just finished my MSc in CS.

Forgive my Canadian Inquisition but is having fun considered a dopamine hit?

Thank you for sharing this.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is evidence based and has reasonably good effectiveness - about 60% of people going through it experience good recovery.


One good thing about it is that it only lasts about 12 to 16 weeks.

Find someone with qualifications, experience, and a registration. Check the pricing over 21 weeks (this is the maximum you'd possibly use, but you're likely to use fewer lessons.) Then book in. Don't be afraid to change therapist if the one you have is terrible.

The first session will talk about the CBT model, and ask you what you want to achieve, and talk about confidentiality and payment.

You'll need to be able to identify emotions and hot thoughts, but the therapy should help you with that.

EDIT: a lot of people are recommending exercise. It's important to exercise for your physical health. The evidence for benefits to mental health is somewhat weaker, and we've only recently started getting good quality evidence that it works. For you it may work, it may not, and it's probably not going to hurt to try unless the failure of exercise to lift your mood is going to feed into negative thinking.

Not OP, but I have been thinking of starting CBT since a couple of months. I have never done therapy before and I feel pretty intimidated to just go to a therapist. How do you know if the therapist is right for you? Also, do you have any experience with app based therapists where you talk over the phone?


It is anxiety proviking because it's a weird situation that we just don't get much experience of.

I've had two rounds of CBT in England. The first was called "low intensity" -- this was group work, and the sessions were ruin by two therapists but they changed about halfway through. It ran for 6 weeks. I didn't find that much use.

Later I had "high intensity" CBT, which was one to one and face to face with an experienced therapist.

Things I found useful: she listened to me; she correctly identified the things that I felt were a problem that I wanted to work on; she changed some of her wa of working to fit me. (I hate the phone, so she used email to contact me if needed, which doesn't sound like much but it can be really tricky to get NHS people to email patients).

I don't have experience with phone based therapy, but I do know it's used in the English NHS so there must be some evidence it works somewhere.

I really hope that you give it a go, and that it makes a difference!

Seeing your faults is not necessarily (in itself) a bad thing. That means it's that much easier to improve, until you can no longer see trivial faults of your own.

Try to answer honestly (to yourself) - why exactly do you care what others think, unless their opinion has immediate effects on you? But be blunt and honest to yourself, don't kid yourself.

Confidence is a scam. It's just a way certain people "act", and others label it "confidence". Sometimes you can label it with a different word - like a moron under the guise of the all-mighty "confidence", for example. Don't buy that much into it.

How many "confident" people "deserve" the mystics surrounding the confidence? How many original thoughts, works have they produced? In which field have they been top in the world? If they simply died tomorrow, who'd miss them truly? What is their objective value? What about their internal, moral values? Any substance at all?

Try to err on the side of logic, not emotions. Try to think objectively, as much as possible.

On the topic of "trying new things" - listen, nobody is good enough. People take chances all the time and we usually hear about the "winners". Think about "last man standing" kind of thing. Try, fail, improve, try again - that's what everyone does. No exceptions.

Practical advice: sleep 8+ per day, exercise daily, protect your mental well being (especially if you notice that it's going down) - don't expose your mind to insane things.

I believe being anti social and lacking confidence has been advantageous to me. When i was in college, i was hesitant to go out due to low self esteem and depression. So i would spend my time alone while others had a social life. But during times like semester examinations, i was able to study with no distraction. Today i have a CS degree from a top college and i work as a Quant. To outsiders my life seems perfect but i know its not. But i have come to accept the fact that you can't have everything. To gain some you have to lose some. When someone asks me you have good money why can't you find a girl, i think to myself i couldn't find a girl so i have good money. Might not be the case for everyone, but i have come to peace with my shortcomings and try to see the good in worst situations.

> ... being anti social ...

I prefer the term 'asocial'. Antisocial, in most contexts, means actively engaging in activities against society--like vandalism.

Your hard work now might pay off more socially later in life. Also social skills and lifestyle are not fixed in stone

For better or worse, if you take good care of yourself, are debt-free and have money, women will find you.

Do yourself a favor and don't marry the first one out of a sense of desperation, there's plenty to go around.

You are not a fixed point. You contain in yourself the ability to change and grow as much as you're willing to. It is not an either/or kind of situation, you may indeed have both.

A good deal of the advice in this thread is specialized to the sort of single males that make up the bulk of HN/Reddit/tech. As someone who is neither single nor male (I'm a trans woman,) I wanted to provide another viewpoint.

So this isn't specifically in response to the OP, but as someone who has been there, I hope a passing Googler finds it.

The people telling you to meditate or do cognitive-behavioral therapy are almost certainly right.

Neither of them ever really gave me perceptible results until recently. Here is why. If you exist for long enough inside of your own head, you can forget that it's possible to exist any other way. Some variants of CBT [1] call this "cognitive fusion."

If step one of CBT is "thoughts beget feelings, feelings beget thoughts" then step zero has to be "you are not your thoughts and you are not your feelings." This sounds obvious, but I had to have a dissociative episode to grasp it - if you're as deeply fused with your thoughts as I've been, it may not be something you can really grok by hearing it from another person.

So you do meditation or you do therapy, but you unthinkingly assume that the patterns of thought and feeling that you're trying to replace have always been there, and you can't even perceive them. So it doesn't work - the core of CBT is the practice of talking back to your thoughts, but it's really, really hard to do that if you don't (or can't) see the space between you and your thoughts.

I understand that many people have an easily-accessed self-concept separate from what's inside of their head. Tapping into mine is something I have to work at. I don't know if such theory-of-mind problems are something that coders (or trans women) experience at a higher rate than the general population, but anecdotally it seems to be common enough that this is worth dropping here.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acceptance_and_commitment_ther...

THIS! This was exactly my Main Problem for decades. For me, it took psychedelics to see past it. I could see meditation getting me there (I meditate now), but it would take a LOT of meditation.

SUPER grateful for this perspective. My partner and I are both struggling with some ways in which we have been unable to separate from those "it's always been this way so it's always this way" issues. Rather unrelated to the OP, but I found this helpful.

Thanks a lot. That is very helpful. Could you please provide more details and techniques if you do not mind.

I'm afraid I'm not a therapist, but here's what mine tells me.

My self-esteem/self-compassion problems are essentially caused by a few beliefs about myself and the world that are flatly wrong. I grew up "profoundly gifted" in a rural area, and as a result was basically socialized to believe that my entire identity and value as a person hinged on how intelligent I was perceived to be (belief #1). This resulted in my always being on high alert, even when it didn't outwardly look like it - I had to perform, had to show off, had to be right or close to it, all the time (belief #2). I couldn't _ever_ give myself a break or show myself basic self-compassion for fear that it would "go to my head" and make me an arrogant prick (belief #3).

More recently, the more I learned about the world and its atrocities, the more I felt like they were things that I couldn't look away from or stop thinking about, even to take care of myself, or I was functionally no different from an evil or amoral person (belief #4). But of course I was too busy having anxiety attacks every time I thought about it to actually _do_ anything about those things, so...

There's more where this came from, but I think you get the idea.

I've had to work on unlearning these beliefs through a lot of CBT and ACT (linked in my previous post). The basic practice is something you can do by yourself - there are plenty of personal workbooks for it, which will be turned up by a Google search for "cbt/act therapy workbook." See also [1], [2].

The specific problem I was having, outlined in my earlier post, is that I had become so attached to these beliefs that I believed them on a sub-thought level even as I fully intellectually understood that they were wrong and unhelpful. Thus, when they started to get to me I would _know_ that they were adversely affecting me, but when I reached out to people I just kept finding different "rationalizations"/ways to express the same thing. We usually ended up arguing in circles.

I think the aforementioned dissociative episode I had was induced by playing this game continuously with my partner and another very good friend of mine over a prolonged period, more than a therapy session would typically last. I don't really know what happened, but what I experienced is described pretty well in [3]. My brain stopped processing what I was seeing or relaying my thoughts to my body. It would've been scary had I been able to feel anything, but I came out of it more able to separate myself from my thoughts, which is key.

A mindfulness practice may also help you with doing the above. See [4].

To be able to move on, I also had to construct an identity that wasn't defined by these things, which I did/am doing by further exploring and asserting my gender. This is beyond the scope of this post, and anyway my experience in this area is probably not applicable to you unless you're trans.

I hope this helps.

[1] http://mefiwiki.com/wiki/ThereIsHelp#Books.2C_Articles_.26c.

[2] https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=russ%20har...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derealization

[4] https://proactive12steps.com/alternative/

That was insightful.Thanks!

Stop asking HN for advice. You are getting "exercise more" and other platitudes.

This is like asking your GP advice on software security and getting "install the antivirus thing"

Self-esteem and confidence are very complex aspects of psychology. Ask a professional.

The idea is to reach out to people who made change to their life by some means, one of which could be 'Asking a Professional'. Exercising & Meditation are really really underestimated.

I struggled with self-esteem and shyness in my 20's and therapy changed my life. Even if you have a supportive circle of friends, a good therapist can be a wonderful, transformative presence in your life. They can give you refreshingly honest perspectives (in both the positive and constructively critical senses) that you simply cannot get anywhere else. They can help you dig in and examine beliefs that are very difficult to unpack any other way. I'd highly recommend seeing one if you have the resources - just talking to someone once a week for a few months can change how you see the world.

The thing that may be driving how you feel is this:

* When you watch someone else do their job, or pull off some achievement, you only get to see their outward behaviour.

* When you perform a similar task you get to observe your behaviour, and also your inner state (thoughts, feelings, fears, etc...)

This is what makes it easy to assume everyone else is more competent, confident and sure of themselves than you.

The truth is that they may be experiencing similar emotions, fears and uncertainties that you are, but obviously they aren't displaying those emotions publicly.

This asymmetry underlies a famous 'law' of psychology, the so called 'fundamental attribution error'¹, which, if I may paraphrase from wikepedia, is the: "tendency to believe that what people do reflects who they are".

So when you watch someone else behave competently in their job say, you can easily jump to the conclusion that that competence is an enduring trait of that person, i.e.: that they are competent.

However when you observe yourself perform a similar behaviour, even if the outcome is just as good, the access you have to your inner state makes it easier for you to discount your success as merely a passing state, i.e.: you don't believe yourself to be competent, and maybe think that you just got lucky that time.

Basically, don't make the mistake of assuming you are the only one to feel like this, most people do from time to time. We tend to publicly share our successes and wins, and hide our fears and anxieties.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error

I dealt with many of these same situations by thinking it through. Often when I am in a new, challenging situation, I ask myself this: is there anyone dumber than I am who is succeeding in this situation?

The answer is invariably yes. That means that I can deal with it through sheer force of will and hard work. It helps knowing that.

For example, you say you are a good coder. That’s wonderful. It is something you can be proud of, and you should internalize it. Even if you can’t, I bet some of your peers who are not as good at programming as you are can do pretty well when they are talking. So that shows you it really is possible even for less competent people to excel in your situation.

As far as being uncomfortable when talking to people, what I do is practice all possible versions of the conversation before it takes place. I come up with objections that I think the people I am talking to might have, and I figure out how to answer them by simulating the situation in my mind in real time.

Given this approach, how do you avoid leaning into the Dunning-Kruger Effect? Or is the point that it's OK to sometimes as long as your expertise actually catches up?

I'd argue it's OK even if your expertise does not catch up. The world goes by without you or I being perfect. It's one thing to strive to be better, but what good does it do if you are paralyzed because you question yourself at every turn?

So true. My internal goal is to get to be better than 80% of people in my specialty. I don’t claim to be smarter than the top 5% or so. I just hold onto a work ethic, YT tutorials, and search engine skills. Most people don’t think too much about what they’re doing so you can scrape past the median just by doing that.

I would rather err on assessing my cognitive ability greater than it is than feeling worthless and underconfident.

I must reluctantly agree with you, as a guy who’s spent a lot of his life feeling worthless and underconfident.

I’m insanely self-critical. I had to look up the Dunning-Kruger effect and believe me, it’s about the last of the (many) problems I’m likely to encounter.

My point is simply that if I see people dumber than I am succeeding in something I’m trying, then I know there’s a path to success for me. Knowing that I can exchange work and time for success is my security blanket.

It's a hard way and I've been struggling with this, too. I had depressions and a burn out and felt like I wasn't worth anything.

Took me quite some time to realize that I'm really good at some things and that people value me for that. Those things are not always work-related, but we often define our value or our self esteem by success at work.

I'm sure you're really good at something, too and people value you for that. Find out what it is, and use that confidence to grow in other areas. Think like "I can make people laugh, so I can handle phone calls with customers". Yeah, that's oversimplified, but this worked for me.

To be honest: I'm still struggling, but every day I feel a bit better and more self-confident. It isn't much when viewed on a daily basis, but looking back it's drastically different (and better) than two years ago.

> but we often define our value or our self esteem by success at work.

That's amusing for me to hear. Because I'm very successful at work, but have self-esteem issues because I don't define my value/self-esteem by success at work. I'm pretty jealous of your ability to make people laugh. That's something I find really difficult.

One thing I've noticed is that different people value different things. I have some friends who really value humour, and being around (only) them too much can damage my self-esteem as I'm not able to provide one of the things that they really value. Whereas other friends of mine don't care so much about humour and value my time, care and attention, which is something that I'm much better at.

Find your people!

Dito!! I totally agree with this. I am good at alone task. I have low self-esteem while interacting socially or trying new things or feeling about my abilities about code (I am good but I do not feel that).

I find my faults and think very negatively and feel other persons superior to me. I am trying to change that but Its really very hard.

Defining value and self esteem based on our skills and abilities (either work-related or not) is one of the main causes of burnout.

Hm, maybe this got lost in translation, but I found that I'm more than my work. That helped me. Your mileage may vary on this.

I have been trying to read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. She discusses about how our self-worth is often tied to our abilities to do things.

It obviously is. I think it might be something about finding your place in the herd. Like "mammoth killer no. 1" or something like that. These days we might be used to think that our worth is only defined by our work. At least that was my problem.

Recently I just discovered something that made a big difference in improving my self esteem: a good posture. Just by being more mindful about my posture I have seen a big increase in confidence. This may help: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/common-posture-mistake...

For me it was exercise + getting outside and interacting with different people more + not tying all of my esteem to work + doing some sort of challenge every day (exercise when I would rather not, go out and socialize when I would rather not, clean something, learn something, talk about something, etc.). My self esteem has increased a lot, but I am still not there 100%.

Three suggestions and reason why mate:

1)Do exercise: It will increase chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and dopamine making you feel way better.

2)Eat more healthy: If you reduce saturated fats and increase protein will impact your dopamine levels.

3)Book "a guide to the good life": The chapter #1 is very slow but the rest of the book is pure gold and I found it here in HN, I strongly recommend it.

Work on self-compassion.

If you have self-compassion, you will be kind towards yourself and keep working towards your goals.

Eventually—you will develop self-esteem.

Working on self-esteem now won't help you because esteem is achieved with results—which are a product of work over time. And importantly—the results you aspire to are always a moving target because that means you are growing.

Wishing you loads of luck here!


Want to deep dive? Read this paper: Self-Compassion: An Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Toward Oneself



This is really the prime zone for a therapist.

Every successful tech executive I've met and gotten to know well has told me they see a therapist at least occasionally.

Your brain is your money maker. If you were totally dependent on your car for your living you wouldn't hesitate to take it to a mechanic, would you?

* Understand nobody can see into your head and the knowledge you posses inside

* Understand nothing can hurt you if you just align yourself with the karmic good and don't go into harm in others

* Understand you are the only one giving meaning to events and attaching emotions to them

* Find what caused you to believe you are not good in your past and understand those events. And let go. Your past doesn't influence you, it just brought you here

* Your perfectionism is what gives you the chance to improve, you know where your flaws are

* Meditate

* Check out hypnosis, for example Marisa Peer, to solve deeply rooted issues

* Try psychedelics

> * Check out hypnosis, for example Marisa Peer, to solve deeply rooted issues


On the other hand: read about stoicism. It might help.

I understand the hah and I was like that at first. Then I read the latest research, not believing it was a thing, but a lot of papers show it's a thing. Then I tried it. It actually works.

> Then I tried it.

I’m curious as to how you got started. I looked up Marisa Peer and she seems to have a bunch of resources (books, courses). Is there anything specific that you would suggest?

I got started by reading the gateway experience docs and research, then a friend pointed me to Marisa. I went and tried one of her free sessions - so just check out any of the free courses for the issue which bothers you, relax yourself and let her in - the "sleeping but awake" feeling is awesome .

If you're suspicious, check out this paper: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5635845/

As others have mentioned, exercise daily.

There's a psychological trick to a daily routine of self-discipline. Exercise is a good choice, since it brings all sorts of other benefits in health/fitness/appearance/mood. But a major component of its effect on self-esteem is just the success of sticking to your routine and maintaining self-discipline.

Stupid things like making your bed every morning, are a small success to start your day with. Exercise is similar but more arduous, and hence more rewarding to maintain.

Experiencing success regularly and overcoming adversity is how you build self-confidence.

Another option is to always be learning new things so you're always feeling like you've conquered something via acquiring new knowledge. Being able to look back at the you from a month ago and see how you're now able to do and understand things you couldn't in recent history does wonders for the ego.

The improvements to one's physical appearance regular exercise brings will also help your ego when you look in the mirror or notice members of the opposite sex regularly flirting with you or otherwise checking you out. This last one can be a source of stress if you're introverted and wish to be ignored, YMMV.

From my personal experience, I feel that I lacked objectivity in looking at my successes and failures. I felt that the failures overshadowed the successes. I realised that it helped to keep track of successes (minor and major) and failures too. Whenever I felt very low, I would look at the list. It helped me gain the confidence that I wasn't a failure :-). Try it and let us know. Godspeed!

From how you describe this, it sounds like a personality issue (rather than acute depression / anxiety), particularly in that your anxieties relate to your self-perception more so than your situational perception. The most prudent thing for you to do would be to get a therapist (specifically a psychotherapist, rather than a counsellor or psychiatrist, although the terminology may be different, depending on your location).

Rather than simply addressing your symptoms, I think one of the most important things is to understand what's shaped your personality this way. While I expect cognitive behavioural therapy (as others have suggested) would be beneficial to you, I think some amount of psychoanalysis would be very useful in helping you figure out why you have developed the emotional responses you describe.

In preparation, I would suggest thinking hard about any adverse experiences which may have contributed to your current patterns of thought. Quite often these are memories which do not initially seem abnormal to us, and may be patterns rather than isolated events.

First, see a therapist. People have varying reasons why they have low self-esteem, so what worked for other people might not work for you. Sometimes the only way we can help ourselves is to understand ourselves better.

Second, most people tend to value themselves in comparison to others. Who are some people you look up to, and why? Is it a fair metric? Maybe you wish you had those same qualities, but are they really the qualities that a person's worth should be defined by?

Third, as a kind of stop-gap measure, evaluate your physical health. Do you go outside often (ideally near trees/greenery), get enough sun? Are you physically fit? How's your diet? Are you getting enough sleep? These things cumulatively affect your mood and state of mind.

Fourth, investigate whether there are any parts of your life you would like to improve, and if so, make a basic plan and start it. As you go, revisit and modify the plan. This can include anything, like learning new languages, moving to a better neighborhood, building new relationships, getting different clothes, cooking new cuisines, etc. I found that as I tried to improve myself, it really just became learning about and experiencing more of the world, and this in turn made me feel more confident moving through the world.

Five: are you a perfectionist? We all have flaws, in every single aspect of our lives. They're always there, and you can never be rid of them all. Accept that you have flaws, and that everyone else does too, and that this is a natural part of life. If you want to change the flaws, make a plan, and start it. But either way, try to accept the flaw not as a bad thing, but as another beautiful part of a unique, individual whole. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabi-sabi

Spend time to master something. Genuine confidence comes from a sense of empowerment (not entitlement).

Not at all. That is false confidence! Tying confidence and self-esteem to abilities or possessions is called dependence.

It seems only natural to me that the exact opposite is true. What does "confidence" mean, in your view?

Assuming a dictionary definition, "the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something", such a feeling or belief rooted in absolutely nothing is just unrealistic. It's still a form of dependence, the only significant difference being that instead of depending on a demonstrable fact, you depend on an unrealistic fantasy. The latter easily breaks down with a simple reality check, unless deeply rooted in religious conviction. Self-confidence without ability is plain arrogance.

Even if you truly don't tie your self-confidence to your abilities, chances are that you judge others by different standards. I don't confide in others on the basis of their bare existence as persons, and I try hard to judge myself by the same standards that I judge others.

The more important concern is choosing which abilities you should hinge your self-confidence to, and learning to appreciate them and judge them fairly.

This. Plus if you get to be really good at something and extremely knowledgeable on a topic you can get to be able to claim nothing about your expertise level. (Dunning–Kruger effect, gone right).

The only downside is that people will pigeon hole you, so if you become expert at something people will keep you doing it rather than promote you to something you cannot do (according to them). This can be bad if you are a creative at heart and get pigeon holed as a techie.

So maybe master two things in unrelated areas. Get the tech string to your bow but add on another, e.g. knowledge of a period of history or a craft.

Kettlebells + running or rowing. You can watch stuff if you do kettlebells and rowing at home (Water Rower rocks). Exercise 5 days a week. It’s hard at first, but after a couple of weeks it’s easy.

I’ll back up the exercise point.

Also want to add that form is crucial with rowing. Don’t go all CrossFit and throw your back out. It makes me cringe watching that stuff. If you’re going to row (which is a great compound workout) then please look up videos on form or go to your local rowing club’s learn to row day.

I was lucky in that I grew up with a trained rowing coach as a mother, and both parents national champs in rowing, kayak, and canoe.

Can’t stress form enough.

Had the same issue, this book changed my life: The Charisma Myth.

Be warned though, the book has lots of exercises and if you really want to improve/change, then you need to do them and work hard at it. It will take a lot of effort and time. You can see the effects very quickly, but to really do things automatically without thinking about them, it might take years.

A lot of the stuff in the book is based on mindfulness. You basically first need to be very aware of your emotions, then get comfortable with them in any situation. Once you are comfortable with your emotions, dealing with everything else becomes a lot easier and fluid.

Also, this tedx talk has some great advice about seeing self-confidence as a skill you can develop through practice and positive reinforcement: https://youtu.be/w-HYZv6HzAs

In addition to the other advice I'll add this:

-Take an acting class. Or an improv class, if that's easier to find. But acting classes address anxiety more effectively I think.

-Read "Impro" by Keith Johnstone[0]

I've had social anxiety since adolescence and eventually learned how to pretend to be functional socially. It involved a lot of observing of others for whom this came naturally and forcing myself into social situations where I could practice. Eventually you find that the people you interact with can make all the difference between this being 'work' vs 'fun'. Then you seek out the latter as much as possible to form your social network.


Start looking at the people you speak with and listen to what they have to say.

This may sound silly, but you’re likely not doing it right now because you focus too much on what you think they think about you.

You need to switch that external focus into an internal one, where your thoughts are your own and not filled with trying to read minds. Because I’m guessing that you can’t read minds.

So look at people and judge them, with practice you’ll eventually start to forget worrying about what they may be thinking. Hell, you might even notice that you rarely judge people negatively, and if you don’t judge them negatively, then why would they do it to you?

Another good trick is to join a group that does public speaking followed by sessions where you review each other. By doing that you’ll learn that no one is as critical of you as you fear.

But you should see a therapist, it can take years to overcome social anxiety.

I have been making marked improvements in how I view myself and in how I talk with people. I wouldn't say I'm 100% there yet since I still relapse into less-healthy habits, like binge-watching tv or browsing HN or reddit instead of working on things which I find more personally meaningful. I think these habits are ways of self-medicating when my mind is psychologically weak.

Things that have really been helping me:

- Exercise! It's been said here before but I'm surprised by how it really is true. I don't consider myself athletic and for a couple of years my only form of exercise was walking from one end of campus to the other. When I started picking up running my heart would start pounding like mad within minutes of stepping onto the treadmill, which made me feel awful. But after a few weeks of this I started to feel better about myself and about how my body could keep up better, which improved my self-esteem a lot. There are peers who can run half-marathons but I'm happy that my body is able to do a 5K (at least for now!)

- Socializing: Making an effort to call up friends, and sending out invites and follow-ups to friends I normally hadn't spent much time with. I started making more friends /connecting with old ones in the last term of college. I consider myself to have moderate issues with anxiety and depression so this definitely wasn't easy at first. I realized that when I had more friends to talk to, I wouldn't have to rely on my closest friends in unhealthy, codependent ways. Prioritizing relationships over my work for the first time in my life has led me to doing better work overall, since my life is no longer caught up in a depressive hate-spiral as much.

- Exploring LGBT+ issues. This may be less applicable to you but at least some of my anxiety and depression stems from being in the LGBT+ community and not realizing it. Having a more honest outlook on myself, and coming out to my supportive (although not perfect) friends has been helpful.

Hope this helps you in your journey!

You are brilliant, you are also brilliantly misunderstood. What you are offering here is a partial statement in coding parlance. If you wish to DM me I would be delighted to speak to you more but let me help you through this based on what data you have inputted. You don't have low self confidence, you have low risk tolerance. The fact that you can code, and I presume code well, means you have skills. I would like to collaborate with you to work on something, anything of your choice, and make it work, I will push you to take risks as a stranger who will be your cheerleader. I am doing this because I too have been like you, and sometimes still am. I am not sure if this is allowed but try me at rudy@qangos.com with the subject line: I am ready to take a risk.

This is hard. I know; I struggle with it too.

Many people struggle with it. I imagine your director has struggled with it in his lifetime. I mention these things to point out that you are not alone in this.

For me, I fake it. I've practiced pretending people like to meet me and talk with me, and that they consider me a good friend and valuable colleague. This kind of pretense helps me see beyond my own fears. It helps me see myself reflected in their eyes: that they see me as plenty good enough.

You are plenty good enough too. Seriously. Try to look at yourself reflected in others' eyes so you can see that.

Good luck and strength with your struggle. It gets better!

I agree with the exercise. For me it was Aikido. The addition of someone telling me me that I was improving really helped me.

I have had bosses and potential employers who could see through my insecurity. That helped too.

Sometimes I think that's the problem with being a professional coder. It does require a lot of commitment up front to be considered great or a {insert buzzword here} coder. You tend to avoid other things like socializing or picking up new hobbies.

I'd say pick a group hobby that interests you and try pushing through the uncomfortableness of it being awkward in your mind.

When I was struggling with your very same issue I tried improv. It forces you to have to talk with other people. Another thing I did was Yoga, I think just being around other people makes you more confident around people. Group therapy also helps, hearing other's being vulnerable makes you realize other people struggle with this as well.

You build confidence by being competent someone once told me. You can't be competent in something you never practice. If you never go out to socialize, then you won't really be good at socializing will you?

Everyone has faults and I think today it's harder than ever to recognize that. You may feel worthless and under confident, but so might the other person you'd just never know it. Social media does us no favors in this regard and constantly broadcasts the highlights of people's lives rather than their own struggles. You get the impression that you may be completely alone in your thoughts, but you're not.

If you like running, I recommend getting into ultras. Atte first it seems unachievable, but it's pretty doable and not a lot of things in this world can boost your confidence as knowing that you just finished some 80k, 100m or 24h races. Also the ultra community is very supportive and not very competitive, at least not at the hobby level. For example it's bad manner to try to sprint at the finish line, unless you compete for the podium. (True for my country)

Perhaps the problems you're describing are symptoms of an underlying fear of vulnerability, something nearly everyone has at some level. Advice for confidence tends to go in the direction of "fake it till you make it," and "who gives a shit what other people think," and I think that can help you _portray_ confidence and even start to feel it.

But imagine if you started at the other end of the problem, and you were able to "put yourself out there," knowing you may well be wrong, knowing that your colleagues' criticism would hurt your feelings (rather than numbing yourself to it), and being able to do it anyway because rejection will hurt but won't kill you, and because you feel worthy and comfortable in your own skin.

Can't say I have all the answers as this is something I'm working on myself (with great reward so far), but it's worth expanding your search to include the vulnerability trail. [Brene Brown](https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability) is a good start.

I've struggled with self confidence my entire life. In an effort to change and grow I've read all the major self help books, developed a serious meditation habit, and even turned to potent psychedelics.

The only thing that I found that actually works, however, is internal family systems therapy. Because of IFS (and my therapist) I now know what it's like to be genuinely confident, rather than fighting or pretending to be.

I can share some tips and hope you pull yourself out of this

1. Mediate (seriously do this to better get hold of your thoughts)

2. Do small tasks that create positive feedback loop. Cleaning your room, feeding pets, etc etc

3. Quit social media

4. Make friends out of your department, or simply meet new people. Sometimes it's some unknown (unnoticed) thing in surroundings that causes these issues

5. Lastly (extended 2nd), volunteer!

Write down what you’ve achieved every day, and occasionally look over what you have accomplished.

Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done with myself over the last few years, but then I look at the size of the text file I produced that way and realise that I averaged over ten tasks per day last year.

Reminding yourself what you’ve done makes it easier to discuss what you’ve done.

If you can build the confidence - I’d recommend giving a talk about it at a local meetup group, something like a local devops / dev meetup group as long as the managers of the group think it’s appropriate for the audience.

You could go into what it makes hard for you, what situations you have experienced, what advice you’ve received (and if it worked or not if you tried it and how you did), then you could make the 2nd part of the talk taking questions from the audience.

It might make you feel uncomfortable and definitely vulnerable but in my experience if the audience is mostly respectful - I think they’ll naturally become empathetic or at least sympathetic and respond perhaps by opening up with some of their experiences and how they evolved from them.

Don’t get me wrong - I know this may well be very scary and if you have (mental) health issues I would suggest discussing it with your doctor first.

Many people talk about exercise. For me, it creates a lot of overhead. Five hours a week of exercise is many times more time in terms of thoughts and activities. Looking at it from a distance, it's more about distraction. While the exercise may help in terms of basic physiological levels, lifestyle, etc, I think that's the key factor.

One thing no one else has mentioned: age. You can gain different benefits with age, whether it's finding what's important, sources of confidence, or ways to avoid situations where you're uncomfortable. Using time to find ways to connect with different people is important for what may be the most healthy pathways. Taking a strategic approach with this in mind can help too. I don't like the morbid sounding "this too shall pass," so "it gets better" is a nice mantra for this.

> Using time to find ways to connect with different people is important for what may be the most healthy pathways.

Yes. I was going to recommend finding peers who give good feedback and befriending them. Then you can get a more impartial take on something if you are unsure about it.

And, similarly, find some people with less experience and skill and help them. Maybe coach a robotics competition for teens if you are especially junior. Write for and mentor junior professionals as you gain seniority. Helping people is rewarding in its own right, but it also provides some grounding about what skill level everyone else is at.

Confidence comes with competence. Talking to others gets easier the more you do it, so take some initiative to get out of your comfort zone. Breathe deeply and bear in mind that whatever you might deem "awkward" is usually blown out of proportion from your perspective. If others hang out with you, they like you fine. Your inner voice is much, much harsher.

Would do wonders to join a sport also.

I've been the awkward introverted socially anxious guy, from me teens through early 20s. Being a hermit won't do you any favors. In school, capitalize on opportunities to go out with others, do fun activities, etc.

The solution to better socializing is socializing. Let yourself make mistakes. They will quickly dwindle in occurrence.

One method to achieve more self-esteem: Do more things you are proud of and less of those that you are not proud of.

Second method: Invest effort into yourself.

But the "effort" has to be something that actually takes work, courage or frustration, and it must not be something immediately gratifying or distracting. The reasoning is that in experimental behavioral economy, the worth of something is determined by how much energy a subject or animal will exert to get it. You are the animal, the "something" is "your self worth" and then you have to find a way to expend energy towards your self. Your subconscious will over time learn from these examples that you value yourself.

Human beings are hierarchical animals. Those on the top are happier, calmer, and better adjusted. Thus, to be happy, you must have more self-esteem. It is really a snap-out-of-it kind of thing. Imagine you are on the top of that hierarchy and you are instantly tricking your brain into being happier, and from there you will act such that you will soon arrive at the top. I recommend finding videos of confident people you would like to become, and step into their shoes. Not being someone else, but by osmosis see the world through their eyes. Your self-esteem has nothing to do with your abilities or your achievement. Please do not confuse the two. Good luck.

Militaries solve this problem by having recruits repeatedly challenge themselves, doing tasks they think are beyond their capabilities, like repelling off a very high platform or surviving in a jungle for a week. You won't be doing this of course but the more stuff you try outside your comfort level the more confidence builds in your abilities. I would imagine same goes for programming, try to continually challenge yourself in your spare time with things that seem too difficult at your current level of understanding like going through open MIT courses, or join a jiu-jitsu class, hiking club, learn cooking, anything that is a challenge.

My friend, you are not alone. I suspect many programmers suffer from this problem.

My advice is to find some way to serve a local community. (I'm just finishing up coaching a youth soccer team.) Nothing makes you feel better than helping others.

Good luck!

When you fist do things you aren't gonna do them good most of the time. How did you get there with coding? You wrote a lot of code, you probably started with the basics, simple stuff that doesn't matter, and worked on refining it, making it something useful, etc.

That's life. Take opportunities to practice your socialization, lunch meetings, trade shows, conventions, shopping, etc. Talking to fellow humans is easier when talking about something trivial like games.

Start somewhere, find situations where there are no worries about the outcomes, build from there. Doesn't hurt to practice on your own either.


First of all many of us also feel like you in different situations so don't get stressed. I started doing 'toastmasters' a year back to improve my public speaking and in general thinking of my feet abilities and have been very transformational for me. If you would like as a non-profit I do mock-interviews for people to help them be ready for their interviews I can also try helping https://calendly.com/bbansal/mock-interview-practice?month=2...

I'm reading The Procrastination Equation right now, and it has the following (excellent, IMO) advice:

Find tasks of any sort at all that you can do. Do them, noting your success. Do this every day. Again, pay attention to successes. Recognize that you accomplish your goals, and expand on those goals.

For goals that take multiple days to accomplish, your first task is to plan by breaking the goal down into smaller tasks you can accomplish in a day. Appreciate completion of each of these, including the planning itself.

The book does a better job of pitching it & giving examples. The most relevant bit is in Chapter 8.

This book https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Peace-Resolving-Heart-Conflic... changed how i look at changing myself and personal development in general, it might help you see things differently.

If it does, I can recommend seeking out an Arbinger trained coach to help you dive deeper into the material.

(Ps. I am super biased being such a coach myself, i took the training to get more self esteem, it worked, and now i want to pass it on to others)

Using a throwaway here because I'm still a bit feeling a shamed although I shouldn't...

I've been there. I always had a feeling I had something wrong in me, that I lacked something that others had. Being able to be confidence. For me it ended up stemming from my ADHD, it caused me my inner monologue volume to be just too high, and negative thoughts to surface more.

I wish I could tell you there was one silver bullet, but there wasn't. People with natural confidence don't know to teach how they got there, because it's natural for them.

I had to learn it from scratch. And it was achieved via small steps. Small achievements, lot's of good old fashioned self assertions (reading positive affirmations about myself each morning, making a list of what good things I did today, making a list of written and achievable goals, being forgiving to myself)

For me also taking Ritalin at some point helped accelerate it as it helped me lower the volume of my inner monologue and thought loop.

Also knowing ADHD had something to do with it, helped me make peace with the fact I'm just a good person, I forgave my younger self for the mistakes I made, the embarrassing things I said, the things I wanted to say but didn't. It may sound lame in writing, but realizing I was a good boy after all, cracked something in me that made peace with myself.

English is not my native language so hope it made sense.

tl;dr I've been there, it's possible to build confidence, it takes lot's of small wins and being deliberate, forgiving to yourself, and also getting diagnosed to see if you can blame some neurologic situation vs yourself. this may be the counter intuitive thing, but for me it was the game changer. I finally really stopped thinking I was stupid. It was some neurological problem with my brain. that worked for me, YMMV.

CBT should be especially well suited https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19958920

I think it's a personality trait, not easy or even possible to overcome. But it gets better with time as you gain experience. For instance, talking with your supervisor may be hard now, but will certainly be easier in six months. And in two years, your supervisor may be the one asking you questions and seeking your expertise. And you're not alone in this. Some people may appear very confident, and as you get to know them better you realise they are struggling too.

As many others here, I have been (and in some ways still am) in the same situation myself.

My advice, find something else to do in your spare time. Many people recommend excersise. Remember, excersise doesn't have too be going to a gym, or going jogging. There are plenty of activities that will give you a good workout as a bonus. Personally, I like chopping wood.

Also, if you are able to, try to take a little longer lunch breaks and spend the extra time doing non-work related stuff. Outside if you can.

If you think that you are lucky to have good friends and helpful colleagues, maybe turn it around and think to yourself - they are lucky to have me!

Personally, I consider people who are humble or even low self-esteem as more interesting. Maybe it even correlates with intelligence? Idk, but the fact that you might feel like you lack confidence can actually make you look more interesting to people.

I know many people (including me) who try to minimize contact with with over-confident people when possible.

I've read a couple dozen self-help books over the last few years. This one changed my mindset more deeply than any other:


I went from being "socially awkward, and I feel awkward about it" to "socially awkward, but that's OK" largely because of this book.

Read "The Solution To Social Anxiety: Break Free From The Shyness That Holds You Back" [1]

Your thoughts ("I am not good enough") are exactly what the author describes in the book.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Solution-Social-Anxiety-Break-Shyness...

Trade you some of my confidence for your coding skills... :)

Advice hmm not sure as I’m naturally extroverted so I don’t know how to help but I feel for you. Nobody wants to feel unsure in such situations.

I wonder if self motivating mantras help, or does positive affirmations of a job well done help say from your boss or a coworker? What about mentoring someone might that help you build confidence?

Exercise: Hard cardio work 5/7 days a week, assuming you're biological sex is male, maybe a 400-600 calorie burn per day.

Lifting is good advice.

Try to stop caring as much. Books like 'the subtle art of not giving a fck' may help. If you find something start to bother you, remind yourself that ultimately it doesn't really matter and that while you'd like to succeed, you don't have* to, so take some of the pressure off yourself.

There are no easy answers. All the answers in this thread are worth trying though. Walks and runs and bike rides help. So does meditation. Social interaction with people you trust (or if you don’t trust anyone, with people you don’t know very well).

Listen to stuff from Dan Munro. Honest words, no BS.

You can start here: https://highexistence.com/dan-munro-honesty-podcast/

No matter how rich, powerful, famous, or intelligent, everybody poops. What I mean by that is we are all flawed humans at the end of the day.

People may be better in one way or another, but we all have equal value as human beings.

Too many comments already but one quick one:

Self-esteem and confidence are related, but not the same thing. Solving your problem may require deeper consideration of where precisely it is.

I had low self confidence and no longer do. I've studied psychology of mental health and am training to be a therapist, so I will be discussing things through this lens.

So while low self esteem is annoying to experience, it is important to understand that it has a function. You are not experiencing it due to chance, it is serving a purpose. You have to remove the need for it to exist and it will go.

Typically, the function of low self esteem is to protect you from the brain's idea of conflict - this was the case with me. It is important to note that the brain's idea of conflict does not fit with the the standard definition - while it includes obvious examples of conflict (e.g., getting angry with a friend who has done something out of order) it also includes situations which are more subtle. For the brain, conflict is breaking the expectations of others (or rather, your own idea of their expectations) - for example, let's say you've been learning the guitar and haven't ever played anything in front of your friends, breaking the flow of conversation with "guys, I've been learning guitar and I want to play you a song I've been working on" is a 'conflict' in the eyes of your brain; even though you aren't doing anything negative, you are disrupting everyone's expectations of that moment. Your brain knows it would be "safer" (less disruptive) for you if you didn't pause the conversation to play guitar. From here on I'll refer to 'the brain's idea of conflict' simply as 'conflict'.

Feeling low self esteem helps you avoid conflict. Let's look at how:

1) Conflict exists in relationships. Low self esteem makes relationships difficult and makes you feel insecure in them. This means they are harder to construct, harder to maintain and as the one's you have feel insecure, if a conflict were to emerge in them you would take the submissive path. "You don't DESERVE to have this relationship, so of course you should shut up and agree!"

2) Conflict exists when expectations are broken. Low self esteem means you don't want to try (and definitely don't want to share) your creative endeavours. Unless you are painting by numbers, creation is pretty much always disruptive - it adds something new and potentially uncomfortable to the world. Your brain knows this, so to keep you safe from conflict it would rather you feel shit about yourself and hide your creativity, than feel good, create and risk disruption.

So, how to break the cycle? You need to remove the fear of upsetting others - and this means practicing it. It means catching yourself avoiding this and making yourself do it again and again. Even if the experience does not go well your confidence will grow. The need to avoid conflict is learnt in infancy, where you really are dependent on other people loving you to survive - so your brain just needs to know that you will survive conflict, rather than it ending up with everyone too happy on the other side.

Broadly speaking, all anxieties are functional in this protective way, and all are resolvable through focused action. Though it was a bit unusual, during therapy developing a new way to interpret dreams which enabled me to know where to focus my action meant my progress improved rapidly. I wrote a paper on it which is available here: https://psyarxiv.com/k6trz

Happy conflicting :)

This is a very clear explanation. I immediately recognize this many aspects. Thanks for that!


Indeed. I recommend weight lifting. Especially free weight exercises like squats and dead lift that are training mostly the biggest muscles have a very positive impact on confidence because they increase testosterone levels measurably.

Cardio had zero impact though, at least for me.

as another benefit, it makes you tired so you'll sleep better. At least that's one of the major benefits I've noticed. I always had trouble sleeping (which impacts my work). But when I started doing weights and making myself physically exhausted, sleep came easier which meant better work etc :)

By 10:00 PM on squat and deadlift days, I couldn't stay awake if I wanted to. But I don't want to.

And try and exercise everyday.

It will make you feel better, look better, be more relaxed and you can always expand into social exercise activities.

Plus if you're working in IT you need to balance all of the sitting down.

As someone struggling with this too, it's seriously the key.

No matter how I eat/sleep/schedule.. nothing seems to bring everything together in my life as having an exercise routine. It shouldn't be the cherry on top, it needs to be the glue that holds together.

Or maybe a better analogy: treat it like brushing your teeth. Sure it can be a chore, and something that needs to be done.. but you can't NOT do it without significant long term consequence to your health.

Just the added feeling of focus and elevated mood after exercise makes it worth it to me, everything else is a bonus.

You need a mentor/coach. Find a good one.

Why does he need one, what will that do for him?

How should he find a good one?

Focus on doing your best and not on the outcome. Tell yourself you can handle any outcome. This will help your confidence.

It’s all in how you perceive it. You’re in control. You can dispense with misperception at will, like rounding the point.

I am writing this while being asocial in highschool and instead lurking on hacker news

My confidence is as great as my height.. short

Most of the advice here are ridiculous.

Become crazy competent (EXPERT) in an area. You will find your confidence.

try nofap challenge, it may help in increasing confidence - https://mrmindblowing.com has good articles about nofap

Do you have anyone in your life that lifts you up, is a cheerleader for you?

If possible - stop coding for some time and volunteer in non-related field

It really helps to make friends who can talk about their flaws. By being open about the things you’re working on, you make it acceptable to be imperfect and then you won’t be so nervous about someone finding something unlikable about you. They definitely will, but that doesn’t matter. You are a good person, who has the potential for a huge net positive impact on the world, if you harness your potential. Check out some of Jordan Peterson’s interviews on Joe Rogan, he has a lot of good stuff to say about how to get your life into a shape you’re happy with.

always choose the mentally hard option, when faced with two options, choose the harder one, your life will change.

Run. Lift. Meditate. Build stuff.

It is not easy.

While at university, I once went to the university shrink and said, look, I have no motivation, I can't get myself to go to the gym and exercise, I don't manage to get a good sleep rhythm, I eat crap, I don't study enough, I have no discipline.

The guy says, well, I know exactly what's wrong and what you need to do: you need to develop more discipline, study more, eat healthy, develop a regular sleep rhythm, go to the gym and exercise, and be more motivated.

No shit! Thanks Sherlock.

So, here my attempt to give slightly more useful advice. I read research concluding that behavioural change can come about through three means:

1. an epiphany (eg someone you know develops cancer, and you suddenly realise what's important) - rare.

2. a significant change in surroundings (eg you move to a different country) - rare.

3. baby steps, but sustained baby steps. Like an oil tanker - you change the direction by just a degree (and even that is hard), but over years you end up at a better place.

The latter is realistic. (Found the source: https://www.tinyhabits.com )

I'd try:

* be compassionate and benevolent towards yourself. Sure, you have flaws, but nobody is perfect. Do not compare yourself to others (particularly not to Instagram caricatures or Nobel laureates or Fields medalists or so). Depending on what motivates you, you could consider this effort (taking care of yourself and being good to yourself) as a duty, or as a challenge, or as a commandment, or an axiom, or a tool. (This does not mean that you should be egocentric and selfish, just the opposite: you have to be healthy and strong so you can better help others!)

* recognise that bias in self-perception is ok, and both overconfidence and "underconfidence" have advantages and disadvantages. Now, for you, it's the way it is, no need to beat yourself up for it, now let's work with what's there.

* read the book "Mindset" by Carol Dweck. (Someone recommended the Stoics ("A Guide to the Good Life"), but not sure how applicable that is here, though it is a great book. It emphasises the idea that you should not care so much about things, but about your response to them - the only thing you can change is yourself, your own behaviour.)

* set some small goals (just say hello to someone at a conference or ask someone a question in supermarket, wake up at 8am for a week, read 15 mins of documentation every day for something you want to learn, ... ), try your best, and don't beat yourself up if you don't manage one day - just get back on the horse. Just get back on the horse. Take a smaller horse if need be, and get back up.

* check out Martin Seligman and "Positive Psychology", "Authentic Happiness".

* maybe do consider going to a psychotherapist employing CBT.

* below is based on my own personal experience, and journey.

some of the comments I have read below are about “what to do” to increase confidence.

While these are super useful, they are most likely a bandaid, with a scar that never heals. I have come to learn this lesson myself.

There is the “generic” advice that you will find all over the blogospheres “exercise, meditate, take up a sport etc. ” I tried it all. It works up to an extent. But does not really help you generate true self confidence (IMHO).

What I am going to discuss below is not generic(I.e exercise). It is a process you could use that will answer some key questions and is fully customised to you.

Some warnings/tips first:

- This process is super difficult.

- Effectively you have to confront or re-live some of your most difficult memories

- You will initially feel like you aren’t making progress Stick with it

- do not do this if you believe you have serious psychological issues

- have someone you can talk to about this, a friend or confident who could help you make sense of it

- speak to your family(Brothers, sisters, parents ) as well. They could help you Clarify details and lend support .

-This Process has worked for me as mentioned above

- Also note this is a never ending journey. You will always discover ways to improve.

- It’s the first time I am actually writing it down. I use this process as more of a heuristic rather than an algorithm. Take what you need and modify as needed.

So the main question is, based on yours is:

how does one develop a sense of true-self confidence?

The process:

1. Start with a question, as you have.

2. Then reframe the question: ask Why am I.... x

I.e why am I not confident?

3. Start journaling, log and reflect on the times you feel like this. The “why am I...” questions to ask: who, what, where, when, how?

4. Pay attention to your thoughts at these times. Pay attention to your body and how your fee in it. Jot them down. Do this for a few weeks.

5. This is critical: Reflect on your history as far back as you can go. Note down major life incidents, good, bad, Conflicts etc. I prefer to do this visually creating a timeline. Then mapping events, what i thought at the time, who was involved etc. Similar to the questions in your journal.

6. Review your journals/notes and timeline. Look for a link between your history and your triggers/thoughts/feelings/fears

7. Speak to others involved in key incidents. What was going on, how did they see the situation? Is it similar to how you have seen it. What do they remember? Note these down. How did you feel?

8. The key question you want answers for when reviewing your timeline and journals is: What in my past is influencing my behaviour and actions today?

In other words review your timeline and then link to your notes, journal.

I am almost certain you will find it in this process.

If anyone has questions ping Me on email. If this is useful and you get value. Let me know once you have been through it.

I think I know exactly how you might feel. Until around 1 month ago I was struggling with the same kind of problems. I won't detail it here because I don't feel like exposing it publicly, but those problems included socializing. Over the years, I worked very hard to try to change and be a more interesting person. I am honestly very good at my job but otherwise my life was boring and sucked. I was a very shy and introvert person. I believed that was just how I was and how I was born, nothing I could change.

I spent tens of hours on Google, Reddit and Quora, desperately looking for the miraculous advice that might work for me. I tried every advice I could find on Internet, from exercice and meditation to NoFap. Some helped me feel a little better, but in the end I didn't feel happy and the problem was still here. And I regularly felt depressed and anxious. Some people talked to me about therapy and I saw many people writing obout it on Internet, but I never really thought about it. That was not for me, I didn't think my problem was bad enough. I sometimes thought about trying it but never actually took the decision.

One day, I experienced an unusually violent anxiety attack. That was the moment I admitted to myself that despite wanting to get better and working hard towards it, I was not getting better at all. I decided to ask help to a psychologist. And I sent one an email to him during this attack. Because I knew I wasn't going to do it later when I would feel better.

That was one month ago. Now keep in mind that what is below is my humble experience. It is probably different for everybody, and there are many kinds of therapy. Only an expert can determine which one is suited for someone.

I thought it was going to take a long, slow and painful time. But from the very first session I experienced dramatically and "miraculous" changes. The same day I walked for the first time of my life in a nightclub. Trying a new experience after this first session helped me realize many things and patterns of thinking I had. Honestly a bit of alcohol also helped me (I use to not drink at all, so even just one beer made me reasonably drunk). On the last weeks I experienced many new experiences, progressively achieving to break my own barriers. Last weekend, I went on two parties, Karaoke, went all-out in dancing like everyone else, and spend all the night here. Without drinking. Until one month ago, I never danced, sang or spent a full night outside.

There is also this guy. You know, the one that is always crazy in a group of people. The one that jokes, has always something fun to say or do. The one that leads the party. I always had a negative view of this kind of person (for whatever reason), but secretly jealoused them for being so extrovert. Last week, I wanted to follow this guy. I sang with him, followed him in whatever funny stuff he tried, and I actually did it without fear. And I never felt that great in my life before. I never felt so free of myself.

In my case I started a "cognitive psychotherapy" (I hope the translation is right - I am not a native English speaker). The way it works is that I talk to my therapist about my experiences and about my problems. The therapist does not gives me much counsels nor says what I have to do. When I talk, he just asks some very precise, simple and targeted questions like "why". The first thing that comes to my mind, even if it seems ridiculous or off topic is usually the most interesting one. And by doing that, I discover links between my behaviour and specific past experiences. Links that I wasn't aware of. For every topic we cover, I become conscious of decisions I made long ago and forgot (while still observing it). Most of the time it is from my childhood or teenagerhood, and either from difficult experiences or from the very strict education I received (by-the-way I never thought before that it could have been wrong). What is interesting is that I don't change during the therapy sessions. I actually change between them. Because every time I become aware of those links, I also become free of thinking again about it. I can decide if it was a good choice or not. I can decide to break the pattern or not.

I never felt so happy. I feel so free. It has only been one month. I still have a lot of things to discover about myself, a lot of chains to break. But now I found the path. And I'm definitely going to find where it leads.

Do something you can be really proud of.

I suffered the same lack of confidence you described. It took years, but I became really good at my job by learning a lot, so I got confident only in my job at first, to the point when I started arguing about technical decisions really heavily and started taking over a huge project.

This confidence is slowly transferring to other areas of my life. For example, talking to strangers was a huge burden for me too, but it's not a problem anymore because I can believe now that I'm as much human as they are with the same set of problems as they have.

Also meeting with assholes (who talk low about you or ignore you) can be a really big hit for your confidence, but try to mark them as such and don't take it personally.

A huge turning point was me when I read this article about what other people expect from me. It really opened my eyes and I could judge myself and my relationships with people more objectively: https://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-y...

Also, I very like Bill Murray's philosophy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3_j0BlbUy8

There are many forms of confidence. For instance, you are confident in your ability to program and so you program more efficiently than say.. someone like me, who is less confident in their programming abilities. So the question you should be asking yourself is: how did you become so confident at programming? I would be willing to bet that practice is the answer. The same is true for social confidence, you need practice. You need to fail so that you can learn. You need to push boundary's so that you can navigate them better in the future.

I would suggest you go join a bowling, golfing or pool league of some kind. Practice interacting with people in an environment where you can be comfortable making a fool of yourself knowing you don't have to come back the next day. I wouldn't suggest attempting to make a fool of yourself, but in the event you do (because you are pushing boundary's) you won't have to worry about it because you don't HAVE to go bowling again next week. So, my advice, practice practice practice.

Fuck more girls


What a weird comment. One, why does this only apply to heterosexual men? Second, if you're dealing with self-esteem issues getting laid isn't a walk in the park.

I would say it especially applies to heterosexual men by doesn’t need to specifically applied to them. It’s certainly one of the causes for low self esteem among men, especially developers.

I don't know that the world really needs more confident people.

The problem is that confidence is rarely correlated to competence. Smart people are often in self doubt because they know what they don't know.

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