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Confidence-building exercises for people with a visible difference

Living with a visible difference can affect our confidence levels. Here are three confidence-building exercises to help you feel more self-assured.

From time to time, living with a visible difference or disfigurement can make us feel less confident. When we lack confidence, we often stop doing the things we enjoy.

Simple confidence-building exercises can be a great way to feel more self-assured, so you can do the things you enjoy.

On this page, we have brought together three confidence-building exercises for you to try. They’re not meant to be used just once or in isolation – and not everything works for everyone. We suggest that you try out different techniques and see what works for you.

Meet Karen…

Before we move on to our confidence-building exercises, let’s look at a case study which shows how working on our confidence can help improve our lives:

Karen loves spending time with her friends. But she found herself worrying more and more about her appearance due to her scars. This made Karen feel less confident – and because she felt less confident, she started shying away from going out and seeing her friends. Instead, she spent more time at home on her own, thinking about things that she was finding difficult.

Karen decided she needed to break the cycle, and even though she wasn’t feeling very confident, she knew she needed to see her friends. She started off small, meeting two close friends in a local coffee shop. This made her feel good and afterwards, she realised that it wasn’t as difficult as she thought it might be. Over time, she started to build up more contact, spending less time overthinking things and more time enjoying herself.

It was hard – some days getting out of the house felt more of a struggle than others. But eventually Karen built herself back up and started to think about other positive things she could do with her time, like starting to exercise and joining a choir.

Now let’s explore our confidence-building exercises:

A woman smiles as she speaks with a colleague on their tea break

Counselling and support

If living with a visible difference is impacting your confidence levels, you may find our one-to-one counselling and support sessions helpful. Our trained practitioners offer confidential social, emotional and psychological support tailored to your needs.

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SMILE tool

Alison, who has a visible difference, developed a method to help her cope with challenging situations when she was a teenager. In the first of our confidence-building exercises, Alison shares her technique with us:

  • S = Speak – For me, it’s the most important way to let my personality override my disfigurement (have a look at our guide on improving your conversation skills).
  • M = Mix – Take up a new hobby, go out, meet people – it’s hard but worth it.
  • I = Ignore – Forget about celebrity culture, which promotes the idea that if you’re not beautiful you live a wretched life – it’s just not true. Magazines have always been full of these supposedly “beautiful” people.
  • L = Live – There are many occasions when I could just have closed the door and never gone out again but it would not have been a life. Having a life, however hard initially, is really worth it in the long run. It has taught me so many valuable skills in handling other people and my disfigurement.
  • E = Eye contact – I always maintain eye contact with whoever I am speaking to. It helps me to be more assertive, to show that I’m comfortable with my appearance and also to show that I’m listening to the other person.

And above all, do SMILE – it has broken down many barriers for me!

The feel-good tool

The second of our confidence-building exercises is intended to help you motivate yourself to do the things you enjoy. For each step, we recommend writing notes on a pad, on your phone or in a journal:

Step #1: What have you stopped doing?

First, think about things you might have stopped doing (if you haven’t stopped doing anything, great – move on to the next section!).

Step #2: What do I enjoy?

Now, think about things that you enjoy and which make you feel more confident. This might be having a coffee with a friend, going for a walk, doing a hobby or going to the gym. You could even start with smaller things like listening to music or reading.

Step #3: What would I like to try?

Try adding in some things you would like to try, like a new hobby or somewhere you have been meaning to go for ages.

Step #4: Make a plan

Finally, try making a plan to help you get started on doing some of the things above. Using a journal, a diary or an online calendar, write down your typical weekly routine.

You might notice that it’s full of things that you have to do (e.g. going to work, household chores, childcare, appointments) but not much of what you enjoy doing.

Expand the amount of time spent on things you enjoy doing by scheduling this into your diary. You could start with an hour of reading or meditation in the afternoon or evening. Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once – you can schedule in different things for different weeks and go from there.

It’s good to carve out time for yourself and accept that this is OK – it is an important part of your confidence and happiness, and will encourage you to spend more time doing the things you enjoy.

Motto tool

The last of our confidence-building exercises for people living with a visible difference involves creating your own personal “motto” – a short, positive phrase you can say to yourself.

It might seem a bit strange or silly at first – and you might not believe it straight away – but some people find that a motto is a quick and easy way of reassuring themselves.

It’s important to find words you believe about yourself, but let’s give it a go with an example. Try saying to yourself, “I am strong”.

How does this feel? Does it hold meaning for you?

The idea behind a motto is that we tend to be our own harshest critics and are often not used to hearing our inner voices saying something positive about us. But once we get used to hearing some positivity, we may start to believe it. This is called “positive self-talk”. Don’t expect it to happen overnight, but a little practice each day will get you into the habit of doing this.

Choosing a motto

To help you choose your own motto, try some of these for size. You may find it useful to have different mottos for different situations.

  • I can do this.
  • There’s more to me than just how I look.
  • My friends think I am funny / talented / clever / great / fun.
  • I am unique and great just as I am.
  • I am strong.
  • I am proud of myself and who I am.
  • I’m OK and will show others I’m OK.
  • I’m happy to be me.

If you are struggling, try discussing this with someone close to you and maybe even ask them to suggest some mottos you can use.

Try using a motto in this example. Imagine you are at the supermarket. You notice the person behind you staring and start to feel anxious and embarrassed. Pick a motto that might help you, like “It is OK, I am OK”, “I do not need to be embarrassed” or “I am a good person”. Try this out next time you find yourself in a real-life situation.

We hope these confidence-building exercises help you get more enjoyment out of day-to-day life. If you’ve found them useful, why not try some of our other tools for people living with a visible difference below?

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Positive-thinking techniques

We explore the value of positive-thinking and look at how it works – and introduce two techniques you can try out to see if they work for you.


An online self-guided tool to help adults with a visible difference learn new skills and gain more confidence in their appearance. (External site)