How to say 「自信が無い」in English

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This lesson is about Confidence and the phrase “I don’t have confidence.”

Confidence is a usual human trait, like patience, humor, intelligence, and so on.
Confidence is something you have all the time, like you have intelligence, or a sense of humor. Yes, it’s true that everyone has a different level of confidence. Some people have a lot of confidence, some have less. Just like intelligence. But we all have confidence.

The phrase 「自信が無い」is usually translated into English as “I don’t have confidence.” However, I think this is not the correct translation. That’s because in a Japanese conversation, 「自信が無い」is usually used to talk about one situation, like this:

Sorry for my poor Japanese skills there, but I think you can understand. In English, that would translate to:

“Tomorrow, I have a meeting with an important customer, but I don’t have confidence.”

And this is not natural in English. That’s because the phrase “I don’t have confidence” in English doesn’t refer to one specific situation, it refers to “all the time.” “I don’t have confidence” talks about your personality, not your feeling about one event!

When you want to talk about only one situation, like an important meeting, going skydiving, like giving a speech, it doesn’t sound natural to say, I don’t have confidence. English speakers don’t use those words to describe that one situation. Here are some alternate expressions that you can use:

  • I have an exam tomorrow, but I don’t know if I can pull it off.
  • My friend invited me to give a speech at his company, but I’m nervous about that.
  • I want to ask her for a date, but I don’t have the guts to do that.


  1. “Pull it off” means “do it well” or “do it successfully.”
  2. “Guts,” in this situation, means “courage.”

I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, or would like my help to make your English sound more natural, feel free to send me a message here.