How to Build Self Confidence Through Activity

Does ballet increase self confidence?

I have set up my browser with google/ig and get regular alerts on web sites that feature self esteem and self confidence. Looking at my links to self confidence, there have been three recent articles that suggest doing certain activities can boost self confidence. I highlight the comments from the karate and ballet instructors, plus the psychologist who looked at magic tricks.

Karate Helps Self Confidence

This article is about Dubai Karate Center. According their karate instructor Sensei Renjith:-

“Karate is more than a self-defense technique. It makes one confident to face any situation in life. Many parents who have sent their children to me for training have admitted that there has been a radical transformation in the behavior of their children after learning karate…

anyone who familiarizes himself or herself with the sport, can actually develop virtues like patience, discipline and respect towards others.”

All over the world people take up martial arts – and in particular send their children to learn. Two of my daughters did karate for several years, I did it for a few years, having also tried Aikido, in my early twenties.

The argument that learning karate will make you “confident to face any situation in life” is not dissimilar to that behind undertaking fear inducing activities like tackling a Ropeworks course. My view, in that post on taking risks, was it can be counter productive – especially if you hate the activity or find it distressing.

Ballet Teacher Uses Dance to Instill Self Confidence

Conforming to the sexual stereotypes of the time, whilst my brother did judo my sister had ballet lessons. In South Daytona, USA, a ballet school has been operating for twenty years. Trying to instill grace and poise into young girls (it still appears a predominantly female activity), the instructor, Nobuko Walls, says that

“her goal isn’t to see one of her students dance on the stage with a world-famous ballet company. She’s more interested in establishing the right foundation in life for all of her students, by instilling discipline and self-confidence.”

There are hints towards the end of the article that only a small percentage of her students have the necessary qualities to excel at ballet – and one assumes get the benefit of improved self confidence. I have very limited knowledge of ballet, but assume it looks difficult to master. Anyone able to comment on this?

Harry Potter-Style Lessons Boost Children’s Confidence

Does magic improve self confidence?

Learning magic tricks is a new one on me. This article – the best of the three by far – reports on an experiment that compared the results between a group of children who learned magic tricks over a two week period (and then performed them to others), and the control group where self confidence was boosted by stories, role play and discussion. Using a questionnaire those running the experiment were able to show that teaching magic was more effective at boosting self confidence and social skills. The reasons behind this success were given as:-

In carry out the tricks successfully, the children had to practice repeatedly – which developed their self-discipline and concentration. They had to learn how to present the tricks to a class, boosting their confidence. And they also had to think carefully about how their audience would see their performance – and avoid giving the tricks away. That encouraged empathy and social skills.

You may have noticed that apart from self confidence, the word that features in all three quotes is discipline. Perhaps what helps instil self confidence through the different activities is having to apply self discipline? That those studying karate don’t gain self confidence through being able to defend themselves, but through self discipline?

The magic quote above suggested that the self confidence comes through performing the tricks to others. Ballet and karate can also involve performing skills learnt to other people.

I certainly didn’t gain self confidence through my experiences with martial arts. I was never very good and didn’t really enjoy the experiences. Reflecting on activities I have done over the years, I can recall positive experiences with swimming, running and photography. What I think is the linking factor is simply being good at something – and others recognizing that you are.

I believe self discipline and will power are very important – but linked more with levels of self esteem rather than self confidence. Being able to demonstrate that you are good at something is central to high self confidence. The activities featured can also work in lowering self confidence – if you give up because you cannot master them or if you experience failure performing in front of others.

Self confidence is about your confidence in your abilities. What I liked about the use of magic tricks is the way a task was broken down and the right level of complexity was used to teach the children a skill over a short period of time. My concern about activities like karate and ballet is they require considerable dedicated practice to get to a level where you are proficient enough to feel confident.

Activity in Occupational Therapy

Whilst I have written frequently about “thinking skills”, in my day job I am mainly using activity as a treatment medium. The old joke about Occupational Therapists in psychiatry (in the UK anyway) is that we use basket weaving as a treatment medium. My criticism of an activity like basket weaving or (say) woodwork to build confidence and concentration is that its difficult! Its also very easy to make a mistake that cannot be rectified – that is also quite visible when the work is finished.

In my work today we tend to use activities like pottery. Working with clay is therapeutic for sensory reasons, but its also possible to get very good results in a short period of time without having to be highly skilled. Making something that is pleasing and leads to a satisfying finished product is an essential part using activity to improve confidence. And, as in the other examples – using activity can backfire if the person is unable to perform at a level necessary to “be good”.

photos by arquera and tiny white lights on Flickr

Activity is important October 7, 2008 at 12:43 pm

Be active and a whole new world will open up for you. Action creates solution.
Creative confidence and self-esteem building activities can help you to feel better and live your life on a way you deserve it.

Activity is importants last blog post..ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS – TONS OF FUN TO BUILD SELF-ESTEEM

Jim Littlefield October 13, 2008 at 7:49 pm

I believe activity improves self-esteem in both children and adults. Not only does it help keep us in good physical shape it also helps to clear our minds by focusing on physical task. For me it’s swimming and both our daughters enjoy ballet. As adults we often give such activities up due to the business of life. We would all be better off we committed to ourselves to regular activity.


David October 13, 2008 at 8:12 pm

As adults we often sit around watching our children doing an activity, but not do so ourselves. I’d hate to think how many hours my wife and I have spent watching our three do trampolining, karate, gymnastics, swimming….

Grace November 3, 2008 at 2:26 am

Just a great summary and some new ways of building self-confidence that I hadn’t thought of, either! Way to go! G.

Graces last blog post..The 1st annual Greenie Granola Awards for Conspicuous Consumption

Jason From Boost Your Confidence May 28, 2010 at 12:37 am

Great Site & Info!! Did you know that you have the capacity to achieve anything you put your mind into? But without confidence, you would not be able to go on and implement what you have in mind. People need other people. The cooperation of others is vital to the success of any individual. Without confidence however, you won’t be able to interact properly; and worse, you might even be losing great opportunities, such as not getting the promotion due to lack of social skills or not joining a competition for fear of embarrassment. Not having enough confidence can ruin relationships and can block your path to success in life!

Corinne Edwards June 17, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Hi David –

I stumbled this one before but – what can they do to me? Did it again.

Our older posts are worth repeating. Many did not get the attention they deserved at the time.

I have offered a couple too.

I enjoyed this one – again.

David June 17, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Thanks for the double stumble! Its been interesting for me reflecting on some of the posts I have written, and wondering how to make better use of posts like this that disappear into the archives!

Andrew @ Blogging Guide June 17, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I always try new activities. I like to expand my own comfort zone and one way to do that is trying new things.

Current one is ballroom dancing. Great fun as well.


David June 17, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I’ve never tried ballroom dancing – or any form of dancing in recent years if I’m honest! Since I wrote this post I’ve started tennis, which I really enjoy.
I think most of us give things up, at all ages, when they cease to be fun. And my hazy recollection of martial arts is that the practising was never fun!

Joel June 17, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Interesting, I’ve often thought of various activities as more than the sum of their parts. I even think that about people going to University – half of the point it to learn how to live on your own (or at least without parents), budgeting, and responsibility. It’s not just about getting a degree in a particular subject. I can see how some other activities and sports can do that too.

David June 17, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for your comment. Its interesting that in the UK many University students study in their home towns to save on the cost of moving away. (We managed to get ours to leave!!). To life a rich and rewarding life its the experiences you have, rather than the goods you buy, that makes the impact.

Michelle Vandepas June 17, 2010 at 10:23 pm

I’ve taken up Karate with my 6 year old. I’m the only adult in a ‘family’ class of 20 children. talk about boosting my confidence! I just go do my thing, like any other student and stay focused on what I am doing. Love the karate too BTW! Thanks

David June 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Good luck with the karate – glad you’re enjoying it. Interesting why we take to some sports or activities but not others. As I said in my comment on the magic tricks, the way we are taught and our confidence have a huge bearing.

Lance Nelson June 18, 2010 at 5:56 am

I so agree with you. This week I have taken up jogging (on the beach) an it has been a marvelous stress reducer… and now leading to my interest in resuming mountainbiking and windsurfing this summer.

David June 18, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Thanks for the comment – sometimes sustaining an activity, maintaining motivation, can be difficult. “Life” can get in the way! Good luck with resuming your sports.

Beat Schindler June 18, 2010 at 7:09 am

I so agree. The common denominators in building self confidence are activity – karate, ballet, magic, and scores of others – and a positive mental attitude. Which comes first? Well, it’s the old chicken and egg question. [My personal favorite: the chicken was the egg’s idea for more eggs :-]. Reminds me of the much loved Og Mandino. In Scroll IX: “Never has there been a map, however carefully executed to detail and scale, which carried its owner over even one inch of ground … Action, alone, is the tinder which ignites … Action is the food and drink which will nourish my success.”

David June 18, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I like the quote; the trouble with some activities, like karate & ballet (IMO) is it can be harder to sustain the action if you don’t have a certain level of expertise and confidence. Thanks for the comment.

Bruce June 18, 2010 at 11:40 am

It appears that, in the hands of professionals, teaching movement skills of different types can boost the self confidence of some individuals. It seems to be different for everyone, but those that benefit from one activity seem to have a common denominator. It does not seem to bleed over into every situation. I am very confident in my skills in medicine. Every exam room can be full and I know what to do and how to manage. Put me in one room with the same people, but ask me to walk around and talk to them and my confidence vanishes. How to do that confidently is a mystery to me.

David June 18, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Confidence is a funny thing to try and nail down! If you perceived yourself as an expert at “small talk” and able to connect with everyone with ease, you might feel more confident. Its hard to get away from one of the fundamentals – actually being good at something and knowing it! Thanks for your comment.

Jen @ blog writing services June 18, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Great post – keeping occupied and strestching our limits are great ways of regaining conifidence and a sense of self. I love the magic tricks idea!


David June 18, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Yes, I’m very taken by the way the magic was taught and everyone was able to demonstrate a skill. Thanks for the compliment,

Debbie @ Happy Maker June 18, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I know what you are talking about. My 3 daughter took dancing. Ballet, jazz and tap. It help them have more self confidence and when they were in high school they were on the pom squad. Now they have my grand daughter in it.
If it is an activity they enjoy and have fun with that is great and it works to build self confidence.


David June 18, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I must wear my glasses more often – we don’t have such a thing as a “pom” squad and I totally misread the word!!!
Anyway, I’m glad the ballet worked out for your girls – I’m sure (as others has contributed) the quality of teaching determines whether it works and they stick at ballet long enough to benefit in such a way. Thanks for the comment.

Lisa June 19, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Interesting post! I have a very athletic son – plays lots of baseball, and he’s very good at it. I know his success on the baseball field makes him confident in all areas of his life. I think the key is to find some activity you really enjoy and that you can be successful at. Failing at an activity would not be a confidence booster!

David June 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm

You’ve hit the nail on the head. As I argued above, the danger with encouraging children towards karate & ballet is how difficult they are to become good at. Activity needs to be fun, but possible to feel we are succeeding at in some way. Thanks for your comment.

Benjamin June 22, 2010 at 2:08 am

Thank you, David.

I think any of these activities can boost confidence, but they don’t necessarily boost it (as near as I can tell).

I think Karate helped my confidence a little bit, but teaching Karate helped my confidence tremendously. Getting positive feedback on my teaching from my instructor helped even further… but I can also imagine someone teaching karate and taking a rough experience there as a serious blow to their confidence.

It’s almost like a catch 22…. a confident/positive attitude tends to build confidence regardless of the actual circumstances of life.

I suppose calmly expecting to build confidence in activities has been a big help for me in building confidence.

keep smiling,


David June 22, 2010 at 7:41 am

Yes, no activity by itself will build confidence; alot will depend on attitude. But I think activities, like in the magic example, can be taught in a way that gives someone confidence by being able to perform new things. Thanks for the comment.

Tyrone June 22, 2010 at 9:34 am

Hi David,

Thanks for the wonderful post! It’s great that you’ve stressed more on self-discipline over self-confidence because self-confidence without discipline in oneself could also ruin all your skills once rejection arises. Thus, it’s better to keep yourself disciplined with what you’re good at and then boost your confidence from there.



David July 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Thanks for your comments and compliments. Yes, self discipline is an important ingredient that often gets overlooked in self help writing – probably because its not something people relish!

Eat Smart Age Smart June 23, 2010 at 4:47 am

Activities gives us experience and it’s that experience that increases comfort and confidence!

The younger you can start, the better you are in life.

I think this is the kid of post all parents should read!


David July 5, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Thanks for your comment and lovely sentence that summarises the whole post!! But parents still need to be careful as to what activities their kids select (or they chose for them!)

Cheryl from aspiringfempreneur June 23, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Your post has me thinking of Abby Sunderland and her solo around the world voyage attempt. That girl has confidence! She is an accomplished sailor, with self-discipline and lots of practice under her belt.

If my parents had ever wanted me to be a sailor, I would have had an instant queasy feeling – I get terribly seasick. Each of us has to find our own way to the activities that please us and make us feel good when we accomplish them.

Sometimes, we have to experiment in order to find what we really love to do. We all make our own way to what truly pleases us 😀

David July 5, 2010 at 8:40 pm

I’ve lived on the coast all my life and did have a week learning to sail when I was at school, but hated it! By a strange coincidence I’ve just returned from holiday to Egypt where I had some lessons at windsurfing – basically sailing on a surf board. Because I was learning on a calm, current free, stretch of shallow, warm water (with a very patient teacher) I got the hang of it before we left. I feel confident enough to try again now I’m home. (with my daughters help who windsurfs quite well).
So, its never too late to experiment and find out what we love to do! Thanks for commenting.

Amy LeForge June 24, 2010 at 5:01 am

David, excellent article. I tend to think that giving my children as many skills as possible will grow their self-confidence. If they know that they’re capable of much, then perhaps they’ll be more sure of themselves in life.

David July 5, 2010 at 10:51 pm

I agree with how you’ve phrased things – giving your children as many skills as possible. I think that’s a key to confidence for all of us, having many skills and knowing we have them. Thanks for commenting

SenseiMattKlein July 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

Very good points made about how martial arts can build confidence. As a kids karate sensei, I have seen firsthand how young lives are changed through the study of martial arts. I have seen children so timid their moms have to literally drag them into the class transformed into the first kid to put his hand up to answer a question in front of the whole class.

I have also seen children who didn’t want to be there. Nobody benefits from this so I explain to the parent that you can’t force them, and that maybe when they are older they will be ready.

SenseiMattKlein September 5, 2010 at 6:57 am

Sorry, I meant to leave a link about my article on how martial arts builds children’s confidence. Please see below.

Joseph Condron November 18, 2010 at 2:25 am

Self-confidence is closely related to happiness.

As for the stereotyping of ballet, several people have made the mistake of taking on male ballet dancers to their detriment! Tough as nails doesn’t come close to describing them!

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