You should work on each of those factors. In my opinion, self-perception is the most important factor. You may have an impressive track record, others may praise you, but if you downplay those factors in your head, your confidence will suffer nonetheless.
Your past experience and opinions of others are only as good as you allow them to be in your mind. It’s because what really counts are not the facts, but your interpretation of facts.
One man may fail and say to himself: “Ouch! I failed. That hurt, but what I can learn from that experience?”
Another man thinks after failure: “I failed! I’m a worthless piece of s**t! I suck! I’ll never succeed!”
It was the exact same experience, but guess whose confidence took the bigger blow?
In order to become aware of your self-perception, you need to become aware of your self-talk. As in the examples above, it’s what you say to yourself that plays the crucial role in building/crushing your self-confidence. A few habits I found extremely helpful in detecting your self-talk:
You often have very little idea how toxic your self-talk is before you capture it on paper. What seems natural when going through your head, seems like the worst social scum’s wallowing on paper.
Take my word: no matter what you write about — your feelings, plans, past experiences or events in your life — if it only regards your internal world to some degree, an awareness about your self-talk will automatically enhance.
Close your eyes, breathe deeply and try to focus only on the air going through your nostrils, in and out.
Your brain cannot stand a blank state. It will bombard you with random thoughts. You will engage in internal dialog. You will catch yourself on that and return to breathing. The thoughts will be back in a sec.
This simple exercise provides enormous awareness about your thinking not only during the exercise but also hours later. Practice meditation regularly, and your self-awareness will sharpen, that’s for sure.
Try to not utter a word for an hour or a whole day. Shut up. Communicate with grunts and gestures. The effort of stopping your blurts will quickly make you more aware of the words that are forcing their way from your mind to your mouth.
Perception of Others
Feedback from other humans can be as overarching to your confidence as events and your deeds.
Especially if someone who you admire and respect praises you, it can have a significantly positive impact on your confidence.
If you repeatedly hear the same praise and words of appreciation from many different people, you start believing them even if your self-talk sucks.
I’m naturally inclined to dismiss other people’s praises. “They don’t know me and my situation; they are just being nice” and so on. But when I heard hundreds of times from different people, most of them total strangers, that my writing is good and impactful, I started to believe that I’m a decent writer and can affect the lives of others with my words.
We are social animals. We pay utmost importance to opinions of others.
However, improving other people’s opinions about you is in your reach as well. A couple of useful habits in that regard:
1. Make Eye Contact and Smile.
This is an uber-hack. I was a withdrawn introvert. In fact, I still am. But I trained myself to smile whenever I see someone in the vicinity. And people smile back at me! They notice and recognize me.
This is such a small thing that can make such a huge difference in your social perception.
2. Shut Up.
I mean, listen much more than you talk. People love to talk. People love to talk about themselves. People love to feel you are concerned about them.
So, shut up and constrain yourself from sharing your perspective and your stories without invitation to do so. You will make an impression of a caring and sympathetic person.