7 Mental Hacks to Be More Confident in Yourself

On my first day at the FBI Academy, I didn’t feel like a superhero. In fact it wasn’t until after four grueling months of being placed in dangerous and awkward situations that I built the self-confidence necessary for my career. Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

There were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

Related: 8 Ways to Be a More Confident Person

On the first day, I was filled with doubt. I had never shot a gun, made an arrest or investigated a foreign spy—these challenges pushed me outside my comfort zone. I felt like I was at the mercy of the unknown, not knowing how I would land on my feet. But I held onto my dream of becoming an agent and plodded forward.

I’d venture to guess entrepreneurs, leaders and business owners might share some of the same fears I faced at the FBI Academy: How can I pull this off? But in my 24 years in the FBI, the only four-letter word I didn’t hear was “can’t.

Confidence is the cornerstone of leadership. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? Here are seven ways FBI agents learn to boost their confidence—mental hacks you can use to be more confident in yourself, too:

1. Push through self-limiting beliefs.

As children we think we can conquer the world, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, our enthusiasm and natural inclinations to dream big are squashed. Parents and teachers start imposing their own beliefs—about what we can and can’t do in life—upon us.

If the instructors at the FBI Academy were not pushing us past our self-limiting beliefs, they weren’t doing their job.

How to make it work for you:

Find your limits by exposing yourself to different situations and pushing through the uncomfortable. Once you have confidence in yourself, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

2. Never confuse memory with facts.

Our memory does not store information exactly as it’s presented to us. Instead we extract the gist of the experience and store it in ways that makes the most sense to us. That’s why different people witnessing the same event often have different versions.

Your brain has a built-in confirmation bias. That means it stores information that is consistent with your own beliefs, values and self-image. This selective memory system helps keep the brain from getting overloaded with too much information.

So recognize that your memory does not always provide you with accurate information. For example if you have low self-esteem, your brain tends to store information that confirms your lack of confidence. That will be all you remember about a specific event.

How to make it work for you:

Revisit the facts of a memory loaded with self-limiting beliefs and try to gain a more accurate perspective on the event. Talk with others that might have a different perspective.

3. Talk to yourself.

This might seem crazy, but it works. Talking to yourself can make you smarter, improve your memory, help you focus and even increase athletic performance. The documentary The Human Brain claims we say between 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves per minute. The Navy SEALS and Special Forces use the power of positive self-talk as a way of getting through tough times.

For example by instructing recruits to be mentally tough and speak positively to themselves, they can learn how to override fears resulting from the limbic brain system, a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.

How to make it work for you:

Be positive, because the way you talk to yourself influences your neurobiological response to it. When you say, I know what to do here or see things as a challenge rather than a problem, you’ve turned your response into a positive one.

Related: 4 Ways to Be More Positive

4. Think positive to overcome your negativity bias.

Since the early days, humans learned to get lunch or be lunch. Our natural negativity bias has kept us safe from danger for thousands of years. But not every new or different thing is a threat to our survival. This negativity bias can chisel away at our confidence because we’re hardwired to pay attention to all that we’ve done wrong.

FBI agents are taught to hunt the good stuff. It can be hard at times because positive information is like Teflon and easily falls away. But negative information, like Velcro, sticks.

How to make it work for you:

  1. Come up with five positive thoughts to counter every one negative thought.
  2. Let every positive thought sit for 20 seconds before moving to the next positive thought.
  3. Acknowledge both good and bad emotions.
  4. Do not try to suppress negative ones.
  5. Label the emotions for what they truly are and move on. Do not enter into inner dialogue about the negative emotion because then it becomes more powerful.

5. Raise your curiosity levels.

Curiosity is an important trait for FBI agents working investigations and anyone who wants to be confident and successful.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable and our minds and hearts grow larger every day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

How to make it work for you:

Ask questions and be curious because:

  • It makes your mind active instead of passive.
  • It encourages you to be more observant of new ideas.
  • It opens up new worlds and possibilities.
  • It creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction.

6. Overcome self-doubt.

If you lack self-confidence, you will always feel like you’re at the mercy of other people. When you assume a victim mentality, you are no longer resilient to life’s inevitable obstacles and roadblocks.

FBI agents go where they are needed, not to where they feel most comfortable. I was assigned investigations I had no idea how to solve. But my thinking was this: Drop me into the middle of any squad or any situation, anywhere, anytime. I will not be scared because I am confident I will succeed wherever I am.

How to make it work for you:

No one but you is stopping you from achieving what you want to accomplish. It’s time to identify the areas in which you doubt yourself and remove those barriers.

7. Face your fears.

When we feel in control, we’re not afraid. When we have a level of comfort with something, it’s not scary. When we don’t feel in control, we don’t think clearly because our emotional brain is in the driver’s seat and takes over. This is why fear often seems random and irrational—our emotions are in control.

To increase safety, FBI agents are taught to move closer to the threat. It does no good to avoid, deny or ignore the fear.

How to make it work for you:

Harvard Medical School professor Ronald Siegel recommends this in his book, The Mindfulness Solution:

Think about your worst fear. Spend time with it. Now make your fear worse by getting closer to it. Imagine the worst that could happen. Now focus on your breathing. Feel your body relax. See, you didn’t die, did you? You’re on your way to conquering your fear.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anybody else to? Start today.

Related: Your Thoughts Create Your Beliefs

Photo by kimushka_kimmytravels/Twenty20

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LaRae Quy is former FBI counterintelligence and undercover agent and founder of the Mental Toughness Center. She writes for audiences who are hungry, scrappy and ambitious in the pursuit of their goals—and drawing upon her own experiences as an FBI agent, she shows them how grit trumps talent by combining hard-nosed neuroscience with social psychology.


  1. teresa on August 2, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    can i ever speak in public?

    • Jay on August 2, 2018 at 4:20 pm

      To be confident, you have to understand why you have low confidence in the first place. In a nutshell, it’s basically an accumulation of negative life experiences. (For many people it actually starts way back in childhood.)

      The reason I’m saying this is because it’s not something that can change overnight. You have to learn how to rewire your brain and how you see yourself. It’s really worth checking out Sean Cooper’s guide on this stuff, it’s brilliant. Here’s a link to his guide: https://www.confidencehacks.info

      You CAN speak in public, you just need to get over the mental barrier. Hope this helps!

      • Sensai on August 3, 2018 at 3:33 pm

        Thank you, I needed this.

        Anyone else have good and bad days? Like sometimes for whatever reason I feel pretty confident, and then other days its like the self esteem is sucked out of me.

        • Chiara on July 1, 2019 at 7:41 pm

          Yes, I do have good and bad days too. Though let\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’s focus on the good days!

        • Chiara on July 1, 2019 at 7:43 pm

          Yes, I do have food and bad days too. Though let’s focus on the good days!

        • Stranger on November 18, 2019 at 8:25 pm

          Yes, I feel very uncomfortable many times, very unsure, so coward, And hate to face problems, I always prefer. To run away, as far and fast as possible, I’m not confident at all, many times I see that people trust me much more than what I do to myself, I feel less than everyone else, stupid and dumb, not pretty enough, not healthy or in shape enough, I don’t even know what the hell I was born, I. Wish I was confident, but I don’t think that could ever happen, so hope my Bf will have patient if not, he will leave me, and I will die alone, well who cares, that’s life.

    • Nelly on April 22, 2019 at 10:20 am

      Hi, hope this is not too late. Yes you can. I used to suffer from the fear of speaking in front of large audiences…..well mostly presenting my assignments to my lecturer and fellow classmates. Couple of times i forgot my lines that i had so painstakingly prepared, looked at the lecturer and classmates blank for a good few seconds, with sweaty palms and face. As a result, no one wanted me in their groups. I came across an article on the internet about the fear of speaking. The tip was, don’t think of it as public speaking but think of it as you are communicating to a group of people of what you know. We communicate to people every day. We don’t prepare a speech to communicate with our parents, friends or siblings. We just do, we talk. So maybe the next time when you have to speak in the public, don’t prepare a speech, just an outline of what you need to say and let your personality come out and say it. Also it will be good if you can keep telling yourself that you are just going to communicate and not doing a public speech. That way what you have say comes from a genuine place. I did that. Graduated as one of the best speakers in the class. Almost everyone wanted me to be in their groups. if i wasn’t then they were worried because they knew i would deliver a killer intro and conclusion to get us that higher distinction. Best of luck.

    • jerymia on November 21, 2019 at 11:41 am

      Nooooo to be comfident you have to go and do bold sh*t and when people stare at you you got to start talking like you are doing a sales pitch. You wont be perfect but over time you pick it up. Also learn from other comfedent people.

  2. Brigitte Evans on August 10, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    We should all be confident all the time, and nobody has the right to put us down. Great article! I also think if we could do something to make us feel better, we should. I hade some non-invasive procedures on my face it the best cosmetic surgery in Perth https://medisculpt.com.au/ And I did not regret it cause it looks natural and helped me with feeling better about myself.

  3. Nur Atina (@AtinaNur) on April 30, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    I always have problem talking with other people. I always quiet, shy and afraid of people. I don’t know why. I don’t know if this is a genetic come from my parents or myself. I can talk too much and loud in front others but it takes time. Maybe a year or half a year. The moment when I feel like I have to talk loud, I always think ”until when will you become like this? will you stay like this forever? don’t you want to change yourself to something better?”. Everytime I meet new people, I will always shy,quiet and afraid of them. I hope I can change myself to a better person and become talkative forever.

  4. atousa on May 30, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    How inspiring…wanna read it over and over.
    thanks larae!:)

  5. MahalkosiRafaela on June 23, 2019 at 4:23 am


  6. MahalkosiRafaela on June 23, 2019 at 4:26 am


  7. Paras on July 6, 2019 at 4:08 am

    Amazing post and very helpful as well to all. I would like to follow these tips in my daily lifestyle and would also like to share it with my friends too as this is helpful to them as well. Keep sharing such posts.

  8. Akbar Hussain on September 20, 2019 at 3:20 pm

    I really feel very good after reading this beautiful and supportive article especially for those who has lower confidence level and also very thankful to the writer who has written such an amazing article the most interesting thing I come to know through this article is hundred percent natural and applicable to everyone in their daily life so great job you doing keep it up its a big gift for all those people who want to change their life and wants to achieve their goals.. 👏👏👏👏👌👍💯😎

  9. Michelle on September 26, 2019 at 3:17 am

    I struggle so much with things like interviews/ driving lessons and appointments I wish I can just speak and let everything out because if I don’t I won’t get anywhere I feel like I’m very insecure within my self the only time I’m confident is when I drink alcohol Haha

  10. Ellie Elles on December 2, 2019 at 4:34 am

    What You have written is brilliant on so many levels! You are inspiring professional in Your field!

    • TheMan on December 2, 2019 at 4:48 pm

      Great observation!

  11. TheMan on December 2, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    The talk on being curious is powerful. Its stimulating and energy boosting. It’s time to get serious.

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