‘A man who doubts himself is like a man who enlists in the ranks of the enemy and bears arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by being the first to be convinced of it.' Alexandre Dumas
ONFIDENCE IS CRUCIAL TO A HAPPY AND FULFILLING LIFE. It influences your success at work, your family life, relationships and leisure activities. It affects your performance in everything you do. A belief in one's self is without doubt the greatest asset of all.
Even great wealth and fame can't compensate for a poor self-image.
People who lack confidence and self-belief always underachieve. They're less adventurous and less likely to get the most out of life. They're more prone to a variety of stress-related problems, including anxiety, eating disorders and mental health problems. Low self-esteem is the fundamental cause of most family break-ups, poor parenting and relationship problems. In addition, much crime is associated with drug abuse, unemployment, poverty and aimlessness, all of which are related to low self-esteem.
Does lack of confidence hold you back? If so, you've made a wise purchase. 365 Steps to Self Confidence has been carefully structured to help you become more confident. It takes you deep inside your mind and gives you tools and techniques which have worked for millions of people around the world. All you have to do is to work through and apply its lessons.
Time and energy devoted to building your confidence and self-esteem are nothing less than investments in your whole life. The exciting thing is, no matter what your history, background or current state of confidence, you - we all - can learn to be confident, because it’s never too late.
Most of the people I meet in my work perceive themselves as not capable of much. Some don't even particularly like themselves. I know how they feel. As a young man I felt the same, and it nearly destroyed me before I acquired the confidence to become a teacher, therapist and organiser of personal development and complementary therapy courses.
I've always thought that if low self-esteem were a physical condition such as cancer or AIDS, or a potentially life-threatening habit like smoking and alcohol and drug abuse, the government would declare a national emergency, pump in massive funds and organise a mass publicity campaign to combat it. Certainly some politicians and educationalists are beginning to pay lip service to it, and hopefully times are changing.
But in all my years of full-time education, at school, college and university, I can't recall a single session on self-esteem. Nor in a 20-year business career were any training resources devoted to it. No one seemed to recognise its importance. Perhaps everyone assumed that nothing could be done, or vaguely hoped that confidence would develop as a by-product of other activities.
I would like to see courses in confidence and self-esteem made compulsory in all schools and colleges. All teachers, student teachers and anyone who regularly comes into contact with young people should be fully trained in the subject, including parents and would-be parents.
If this were given priority, who knows what could be achieved? How many lives would be enriched? Our nation could be transformed from the grass roots up within a generation. Now wouldn't that be exciting?
I have written this book for everyone - young and old, men, women, students, educators, business people, administrators, parents, homemakers, sports enthusiasts, entertainers - yes, and you!
It has been carefully structured into 52 sections, covering the following areas:
♦ Deciding to be confident
♦ Thinking confidently
♦ Using your imagination to improve self-image
♦ Acting with confidence
♦ Confident communication.
Each section contains information, insights and words of inspiration, plus seven exercises, practical hints or points to ponder. That's one a day - not too taxing. is it?
I guarantee that if you read the material carefully and apply what you learn, you'll notice big changes taking place within two or three months, and a year from now you'll look back amazed at how much more confident you've become.
How to build confidence: an introduction to the life-changing formula that will transform your life.
How confident are you? Defining your starting point.
Sow the seeds of confidence and watch them grow: why you are the way you are and how you can become what you want to be.
Whose responsibility is your confidence? Why, yours, of course!
Getting motivated: setting goals which give you the impetus to change and to grow.
Determination: identifying the reasons to change, and reinforcing your commitment to be confident.
Thinking like a confident person: you start transforming your life by changing the way you think.
The Four Step Method: a cast iron way to become a positive thinker.
Affirmations: how to use them to build confidence and the difference they make.
Who you imagine yourself to be: self-image and the subconscious.
12. Getting the most from creative imagery: life-transforming techniques which change your self-image permanently. 58
13. The ‘As If' Principle: acting as if you're confident to become more confident. 62
14. Eat an elephant: the importance of taking it one step at a time. 66
15. Self-awareness - the past: examining how the past has affected you and what's been
holding you back. 70
16. Self-awareness - what are you like? Understanding yourself - the more self-aware
you are, the more control you have over your life. 74
17. Parenting and upbringing: how your conditioning and your relationship with your
parents as a child continue to affect you. 78
18. Control dramas: how you learned to get what you wanted from others, and how it
still governs your behaviour. 82
19. Taking care of your Inner Child: learning to accept the child you once were as an
important part of the adult you. 86
20. Forgive, forget and be free: how to forgive those who have hurt you, take charge
of your life and move on. 90
21. Let go of the past: how to get rid of unwanted baggage from the past so it no longer
affects you. 94
22. Self-acceptance: accepting yourself as you are, especially those things you cannot change. 98
23. Body image: love your body, warts and all! 102
24. Get in shape: a health and fitness guide to give you more energy and more confidence. 106
25. Calmness and confidence: deep relaxation and instant calmness for instant confidence. 110
26. Anchoring confidence: how to produce confident feelings any time you wish. 114
27. So far, so good: an opportunity to pause, take stock, reflect and review your progress to date. 118
28. Find a purpose: one that inspires and motivates you, and gives your life meaning and direction. 122
29. Goals revisited: consider what you wish to achieve in life, and get started right away. 126
30. The Thinker thinks and the Prover proves: how to draw on the power of the subconscious mind to build confidence. 130
31. Confident self-talk: changing negative, restrictive thinking patterns to thoughts of confidence and self-worth. 134
32. Beliefs: what they are, why they're important, how to change them and create self-belief. 138
33. Attitude: seven attitudes of confidence for you to make your own. 142
34. Self-love: self-worth, the key to happiness and fulfilling relationships. 146
35. Concentrating on what you do well: identifying your strengths: acquiring new
personal qualities. 150
36. Overcoming weaknesses: building on your strengths. The importance of
concentrating on what you do well, and cultivating patience and persistence. 154
37. Take a risk: how to get out of your comfort zone. 158
38. Just do it: sure-fire confidence building activities. Go on - have a go! 162
39. Confident body-language: adopt a confident posture and you feel more confident.
You project confidence too. 166
40. Conditions of worth:how others assess you. and how to deal with rejection. 170
41. Give up approval-seeking behaviour: there's only one person whose approval
you really need - guess who? 174
42. How to make a good impression: conversational skills that make others want to
talk to you, and allow you to be confident. 178
43. Be a good listener: good listening is one of the secrets of confident communication
and popularity. 182
44. Stand up for yourself: introduction to assertiveness. 186
45. How to be assertive: effective tools and techniques for standing your ground and getting your point across. 190
46. Saying no when you mean no: one of the hardest things to do when you lack confidence. 194
47. Compliments and criticism: how to handle criticism and give and receive compliments. 198
48. How to ask for what you want: and what to say when you don't get it. 202
49. Lighten up: stop taking yourself too seriously and have a laugh. 206
50. Emotional intelligence: understanding and managing your emotions; and relating to other people's in an appropriate manner. 210
51. Take an active interest in others: helping others does wonders for your own confidence. 214
52. Choose peace: becoming aware of your spiritual dimension and enjoying continual peace of mind. 218
The formula for building confidence, indeed for bringing about any personal change, has five elements.
First, develop self-awareness: know yourself, acknowledge that there are aspects of yourself that you wish to change, and understand what has stopped you feeling confident so far.
Then apply the ITIA Formula© (pronounced eye-tea-ah):
♦ Assert your intention to be confident, and make a commitment.
♦ Change your thinking. This includes changing restrictive attitudes and beliefs.
♦ Use your imagination. Imagine yourself as a confident person.
♦ Actas if you are already confident. The more you speak and behave confidently, the more confident you will become.
All four parts of the ITIA Formula© are essential, otherwise the change is unlikely to be permanent, or worse, nothing may change at all.
If this sounds a little
daunting, don't worry - this entire programme is designed around these five
elements - self-awareness, intention, thinking, imagination and acting ‘as if'.
You will be introduced to them in small, practical steps to make it as easy as
possible for you. All I ask is that you apply what you learn, stick with it and
be patient. Entrenched habits don't change overnight.
everything, it's just that there's nothing without it'
Decide right now to treat yourself with love and respect and accept only the best for yourself for the rest of your life.
Behind their public personae many well known people, including the most glamorous and esteemed, are desperately shy.
In a recent radio broadcast Terry O'Neill, the celebrity photographer whose pictures of the rich and famous have adorned glossy magazines all over the world, described the Paramount Studios' centenary celebrations in Hollywood. A hundred top movie stars were brought together, many of whom wanted to meet Elizabeth Taylor. O'Neill spotted her cowering in a corner, close to the door.
‘I thought, no one's going near her,' he said, ‘so, as I'd met her before, I asked if I could assist her. I pointed out that all those people were here to meet her. She said, “I'm so frightened, Terry. I've never seen so many stars in one room.” She was star struck - they all were! Then she asked me to introduce her to Robert de Niro. I didn't know him,but I took her over,and it was amazing. It was like seeing two stumbling children talking with each other.'
How confident are you? What is confidence anyway, and how does it relate to self-esteem and self-image?
Your self-image - the way you see yourself - is made up of three core feelings and beliefs:
♦ Self-worth: the value you place on yourself - how comfortable you are being you and the extent to which you feel worthy of happiness and success.
♦ Competence: your beliefs about your capacity to achieve, solve problems and think for yourself. This is what I mean by confidence.
♦ Belonging: whether you feel accepted and respected by others.
Your assessment of your self-worth and feelings of belonging make up your self-esteem.
Your aim is, of course, to make confidence such a natural part of yourself that you not only appear confident on the outside but also feel completely at ease with yourself inside. This is only achieved when all four elements of the lTIA Formula© are combined. Intention and thought have a direct impact on confidence, which is basically a set of beliefs about your talents and capabilities. But they have little effect on self-worth, which is primarily emotional in nature,and as we all know, intention and thought have little influence over the emotions.
This is where imagination and action come in. Your creative imagination has a direct effect on the emotions and,providing they are pursued in the right spirit,so do your actions.
Now, to return to my original
question, how's your self-worth? Do you believe you're competent to cope with
life and achieve? And do you feel accepted and respected by others?
‘If you deliberately
plan to be less than you are capable of being,
then I warn you that you will be unhappy for the rest of your life.
You'll be evading your own capabilities, your own possibilities.'
Professor Abraham Maslow
Not long ago I was invited to take part in a radio phone-in. As I was ushered into the studio the presenter looked up from the console, ran his eyes over me, then stood up and shook my hand. ‘Welcome', he smiled. ‘I must say, you don't look like the sort of slink-pot who writes books on confidence.'
I knew exactly what he meant. We've all seen those silky-smooth characters with designer suits, perfect hair and cosmetic teeth beaming at us from the glossy covers of self-help books and magazines.
I have great respect for the work of some of these people, but many of them come across, by their actions if not by their words, as having one main interest in life - making money, and lots of it. Some are like the character in the Monty Python sketch: ‘One moment I was living in a shoe box in the gutter, then I discovered the secret, and 12 months later I owned a chateau overlooking the sea, a fleet of stretch limousines and a private plane, a holiday home on a tropical island and an ocean-going yacht. I'd met and married the perfect woman and we're well on the way to having six perfect children.'
Whether or not you wish to emulate such people is, of course, a personal matter, as long as you don't delude yourself into thinking you will automatically find happiness and peace of mind merely by accumulating wealth. This is not what confidence is about. Confident people have no need to show off, or impose themselves on others. They may have high expectations of themselves, but they also know their self-worth is independent of their achievements and that they don't always have to be perfect....
and they don't have to be slink pots!
What you sow you reap is a time-honoured truism. If you plant an acorn in moist, fertile soil, it will grow into a mighty oak. It can't help it, it's genetically programmed that way.
Similarly, no matter what has gone before, if you plant the seeds of confidence in your consciousness through your intentions, thoughts, attitudes and beliefs, imaginings, actions and words, and keep them well nourished, confidence will grow,
You'll notice I said no matter what has gone before. Certainly you have been influenced by past events and circumstances, but they do not tell the whole story. The seeds - or causes - that have blossomed into the person you are include:
♦ Your genetic inheritance and biochemistry (hormones etc). Scientists tell us that these account for around 25-35% of your character.
♦ The environment in which you were raised, including people.
♦ Your unique way of trying to make sense of it all, both at the time and now.
Obviously you cannot change your genes, and you cannot change your biochemistry without resorting to drastic, potentially dangerous measures (drugs etc). But if greater confidence is your aim, there's no need. Because although your genetic inheritance is known to play a role in determining how outgoing you are, whether you are volatile or placid, and your predisposition for certain mental health problems (such as stress, depression, addictions and compulsive behaviours), no causal link has ever been found between genes and confidence.
Confidence (or lack of it) is learned, mostly in the first few years of childhood. It began to take shape when you were weak and vulnerable, after which it became self-reinforcing. And anything which has been learned can be reappraised and replaced with new, superior learning.
‘Yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision
But today well lived makes
Every yesterday a
dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope
Look well therefore to this day.'
Traditional Indian Poem
Now, if practical, go ahead and do what you imagined in Confidence Builder 20. Don't be put off by any uncomfortable feelings that arise.
You've just put the ITIA Formula© into practice for the very first time. How do you feel?
At 52 years of age George Stratford was sleeping rough on a park bench, jobless, penniless and feeling too old to make a new life. Then one morning he woke with a start, haunted by the thought, ‘What would my mother say if she could see this bum I've turned into?'
It made him think. He stopped feeling sorry for himself and became determined to sort himself out. He thought of the novel he had started several years earlier and never completed, and affirmed his intention to finish it and get it published.
His imagination wandered to his dream of becoming a novelist. How wonderful it would be to be a famous author!
Then he took action. He enrolled at a local college to study English, and the following year won a place on an advertising course after submitting the first two chapters of his novel. Then he spent the last of his savings on the train fare to London to take up a work experience placement at a top advertising agency, and despite sleeping rough at this time, was taken on by them on a permanent basis. Simultaneously he wrote a minimum of 1,000 words a day until his novel was finished.
The culmination of George's efforts was the launch of his novel, In The Long Run, at a star- studded reception in London. Set against the backdrop of the Comrades' Marathon in South Africa, one of the world's most arduous races, it explores the themes of confidence, courage and determination - qualities which the author demonstrates in abundance!
Only one person can build your confidence - guess who? That's right, you. If you don't do it, who will?
It will only happen if you make a firm commitment, set goals, plan a strategy and take action. All of this means accepting full responsibility for yourself - deciding to be confident and refusing to allow anyone to deflect you from your chosen course.
Accepting responsibility adds up to never,never blaming other people for:
♦ Your lack of confidence
♦ How others treat you
♦ Your thoughts, words and actions
♦ Failures, misfortunes and setbacks
♦ Or anything else.
Assume that everything that happens from now on is your own doing. Think
and behave accordingly. You'll find it's one of the most liberating things you
‘For any of us to be
truly free, we must first be willing
to be responsible for our lives.'
‘We have to learn to
be our own best friend because we fall
too easily into the trap of being our own worst enemies.'
You have the power to become confident, if you want to, and if you go about it the right way. Everyone has this power and it doesn't matter how lacking in confidence you are now.
You can change your way of thinking. You can use your imagination differently. You can alter your way of speaking. You can let go of destructive habits and change your behaviour. You can do all this now, from this moment on. Then over time your confidence will grow and you'll feel better and better about yourself with each passing day.
How do I know?
Firstly because I know hundreds of people personally who have become more confident, and I know of thousands more.
Secondly, they include the person with whom I spend the most time - myself. In my teens I had no confidence whatsoever. I couldn't even bring myself to say hello to people I didn't know. Then,in my mid-20s, I decided to do something about it. I started reading self-help books and attending courses and seminars. I worked on myself. I've since accomplished many things I could not have envisaged in those far off days, including speaking to large audiences. I have far exceeded my initial expectations. And I'm still improving.
I'm no different from you. If I can do it,so can you!
Every single step makes a difference, so start right away. Take responsibility. Sow the seeds of confidence and watch them grow. Millions have already done so and now it's your turn!
Building confidence takes time, patience and effort. You will have to take a few risks. At times you will feel anxious. How can you motivate yourself to put up with the discomfort and persevere?
We humans are motivated by:
♦ A want or need which induces tension. Only if these are unsatisfied can there be motivational power.
♦ Perceptions of ‘pleasure' and ‘pain'. We seek pleasure and are driven by a desire to avoid pain.
♦ Hopes and expectations that we can get what we want, and that everything will come right in the end.
The strongest motivation comes from a passionate desire for something pleasurable, coupled with the avoidance of pain.
The best way to motivate yourself is to set yourself some worthy goals, find plenty of reasons why you want to accomplish them, and keep in mind the consequences of failure - which is what you are about to do.
Goals are so important that I shall assume for the rest of this
programme that you have several on the go at all times. More about them in
‘To change one's
life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions. No excuses.'
Professor William James
One person who was motivated to change was Lynne. She had lived by other people's rules for most of her life, usually allowing others to make decisions on her behalf. Then one evening, after a heated row, her abusive and manipulative husband of 20 years stormed out in a rage, threatening to throw himself over a cliff. He expected her to beg him to return, as she had always done before. But unbeknown to him she had been quietly working on her confidence and this time she refused. At first he threatened, then he pleaded, but she held firm.
This was the beginning of a new phase in her life. Six months later, no longer facing the daily outbursts which she had previously endured, her home was a haven of calm. She had taken computing lessons, found a well paid job, enrolled for evening art classes, and was performing with a local group of singers. Even her son, no longer having to endure the tension, was happier and more settled at school.
‘Since I worked on my confidence,' Lynne said, ‘I feel as if I'm in control. It feels really good to do something for myself that I've always wanted to do. And I know if I don't I've only got myself to blame'.
Determination is perhaps the quality that underpins all success. No one gets very far without it. If you've lacked confidence for years it won't change overnight without determination on your part.
Every choice you make - including the choice to become more confident - is a result of weighing up the balance of ‘pleasure' and ‘pain'. When faced with a decision, you consciousIy or subconsciously weigh up the alternatives and their consequences. You ask yourself:
♦ What are the advantages of pursuing this course of action? If I go ahead, what will be the probable rewards? How much pleasure will it bring? Are there any disadvantages? How much ‘pain'?
♦ If I do not go ahead, how much ‘pain'will I avoid? And how much ‘pleasure' am I likely to forego?
For example, learning a new skill potentially brings many future benefits, but may involve shortterm sacrifices, especially the time and effort you put in. But as long as you keep in mind the advantages that will come your way, your determination remains strong. Anything is possible if you have enough reasons to change.
It only takes 30 days to lay the foundations for lasting change in your thinking, your behaviour and your life.
‘If you head towards
your goal with courage and determination,
all the powers of the universe will come to your aid.'
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In Confidence Builders 36-39 you have identified:
♦ The rewards of becoming confident.
♦ The advantages of staying as you are.
♦ The disadvantages of not changing.
♦ The disadvantages of becoming more confident.
Reflect on these. What have you learned?
Summarise the benefits of becoming more confident on a small card. Carry it with you and read them aloud every day for the next 30 days. Make them into a small poster and display it on your Wall of Confidence. The card and poster will reinforce your determination, especially when your quest for confidence takes you into uncharted waters.
Make this your motto:
‘From now on I intend to be confident. My confidence must change; I must change it; and l can.'
Say it out loud. As you recite it, smile knowingly to yourself. It will soon be firmly imprinted on your memory.
There's no better example of determination and persistence than author Dr Susan Jeffers.
Married at 18, by the age of 25 she felt trapped in a life of tedious domesticity. Believing she was meant to be doing something in addition to raising a family, she enrolled at university, gaining a B.A. and an M.A. six years later. By the mid-seventies she had become the Director of New York's Floating Hospital, an educational and medical facility for the disadvantaged. It was there she began her journey into self-discovery that eventually led to her writing her first million selling self-help book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.
Written in 1986, Feel The Fear... was mocked and rejected by most of the major publishers, who had no experience of this type of book. One told her, ‘Lady Di could be cycling nude down the street giving this book away and still nobody would read it.'
But she was determined to succeed. ‘If an idea is a pioneering one,'she observed, ‘it often seems foolish and flies in the face of established wisdom.' Now, thanks in no small part to her efforts, the self-help genre is a well-established and much appreciated section of the book trade.
Now it's time to take a close look at how you think.
As the greatest and wisest teachers have always taught, improving the quality of your thoughts improves your life almost immediately:
♦ The Bible quotes King Solomon: ‘As a man thinketh, so shall he be.'
♦ The Buddhist text,The Dhammapada, states: ‘We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world.'
♦ The Greek philosopher Socrates said, ‘To find yourself, think for yourself.'
When you think like a confident person, you automatically feel more confident and act more confidently. Positive thinkers are the happiest and most successful. Sometimes all it takes to change your life forever is a single thought!
Humans are not robots: you can intentionally choose how to think, and if you are serious about building your confidence you must start changing your thinking patterns without delay. The next few sections explain how.
‘Unless there be
correct thought, there cannot be any action,
and when there is correct thought, right action will follow.'
‘Thought can become a powerful
instrument of self-liberation
in the hands of one taught to use it properly.'
Dr Paul Brunton
Image consultant Marcia Grad spells out the importance of changing your thinking patterns with crystal clarity in her book, Charisma: How to Get that Special Magic.
‘As long as you keep thinking as you've been thinking, you'll keep feeling as you've been feeling, doing as you've been doing, and getting what you've been getting.'
Negative thinking can quickly spiral out of control and destroy your confidence if you allow it. This is where The Four Step Method - a simple technique for becoming aware of disempowering thoughts - comes in. It's quickly learned and easily applied and, with practice, soon becomes second nature.
The four steps are:
1. Be mindful.
2. Stop disempowering thoughts.
3. Replace them with empowering thoughts.
4. Keep going until it becomes automatic.
The Four Step Method is quite
simply the most effective single technique I know for building
self-confidence. If this programme teaches you nothing else, you will still
change your life permanently for the better.
‘Choose your own
thoughts. Don't let anyone else choose them for you.'
David Lawrence Preston
‘Learning to talk properly to the self is a
Spiritual endeavour. Thoughts from the past and
worries about the future do not create good
conversation. Instead, learn to talk to your
mind as if it were a child. Talk to it with love.
If you force a child
to sit down, he won't.
A good mother knows how to prompt her child
into doing what she wants. Be a good mother
to your mind; teach it good, positive thoughts
so that when you tell it to sit quietly, it will.'
The Inner Critic is that pernicious little voice inside your head that constantly carps, complains and condemns. It is the voice that sows doubt - ‘Yes... but.... supposing. You're rubbish at that you know you are. It will all go wrong,it always does!'
If you let thoughts such as these go unchallenged you give the Inner Critic the power to destroy your confidence and lower your self-esteem. You must learn to tell it to shut up, stop being silly and go away. Then change the thoughts to something positive.
This is the second of the Four
Steps, Thought Stopping. It can be used in any instant, and has
an immediate effect. This way you may not prevent negative thoughts entering
your mind, but you can render them powerless.
‘Don’t be afraid of your negative thoughts: just know them for what they
are - not the truth,
just negative thoughts. Give them no house room in your consciousness and they will dissolve
into what they are - false ideas, false concepts, with nothing to sustain them.’
Eileen Mulligan made a fortune in the beauty industry then a back injury left her disabled and bedridden just as a serious dispute broke out which threatened to cripple her business.
She says, ‘It looked like I had to have spinal surgery, and I wondered how I was going to survive the next six weeks. I realised I wasn't going to naturally wake up full of happy thoughts, but I did think if I could change the way I feel without changing my circumstances, just my thought processes, what could I do when I was back on my feet? So I concentrated on this. And I did it.'
It made all the difference. Eileen quit the business rather than continue the battle, and became a personal development coach. She has been so successful that her book, Life Coaching is a bestseller and her clients include a number of well-known politicians and celebrities. The turning point? A change in her way of thinking!
It's time to consider affirmations in more detail.
Affirmations are a form of self-suggestion - a kind of sound-byte you give to yourself. They work on a principle known to advertisers and spin doctors the world over - repetition. If you tell someone, including yourself, something often enough, sooner or later you will be believed. The more skilful the phrasing of the message and the more forcefully expressed, the better.
Affirmations help to:
♦ Emphasise your good points.
♦ Change weaknesses into strengths.
♦ Change attitudes.
♦ Focus on what you want for yourself.
Affirmations are extremely
effective in changing thinking patterns and programming the subconscious mind.
With practice they become a powerful weapon in your confidence-building
‘When we change our
attitude towards ourselves, everything else changes as well,
for our life is a reflection of the way we feel inside.'
Dr Mansukh Patel
Suggestions, especially if made by someone in authority, can have enormous impact.
For example, every doctor knows that pills and potions with no active ingredients (placebos) can bring relief as long as the patient believes they can.
I once had a client who was terrified of flying. He told me his fear had been alleviated for a while by pills prescribed by his doctor that made him sleepy during the flight, but over time the effects wore off. When he mentioned this the doctor said he wasn't altogether surprised since they contained no active ingredients. With this knowledge the symptoms returned worse than before.
Use this power for yourself. Give yourself suggestions - lots of them. Do it often, since repetition is the key to success. Constantly tell yourself that you value yourself, you are worthy of happiness, you can accomplish anything you want, and you are accepted and respected by others.
Who do you imagine yourself to be?
Our imagination will stretch to any scenario, but people lacking in confidence usually imagine themselves as failures. They do not realise that they cannot succeed at anything if they cannot imagine themselves doing so.
How you imagine yourself may bear no relation to the truth, but it is this, rather than the reality, which governs your feelings and behaviour. Changing what you imagine about yourself can bring about a profound growth in confidence. When you imagine yourself as a good, capable, confident person, it becomes easier to think and behave like one.
Imagination is one of the cornerstones of the 1TIA Formula©. To understand why it is so important we must consider the subconscious mind in more detail. The mind is often compared to an iceberg, with more than 90% floating below the surface. This hidden mass is the subconscious, a vast storehouse of thoughts, memories and ideas.
The subconscious is always listening, watching, soaking up your experiences like a sponge. It then acts as a kind of database to which you constantly refer for guidance and support. Once your subconscious has accepted the idea that you are confident it makes sure your thinking, feelings and behaviour are brought into line; it makes confidence your reality.
You can talk to your subconscious, but it responds even better to mental images and emotions. Use your wonderful imagination to build confidence, by feeling and imagining yourself as confident until it becomes a natural part of you.
‘To come from no
voice, no power, and to be able to achieve what I have
means that only my own personal vision holds me back.'
Commit yourself to spending a few minutes every day imagining yourself as you would like to be. This practice is called Creative Imagery. Either deliberately relax and calm your mind, or use those naturally occurring moments when you are relaxed. The longer and more vividly you can hold on to thoughts, feelings and mental images of yourself as a confident person when your mind is calm, the better.
Start by imagining something familiar, like an orange, a freshly baked loaf of bread, your house, a loved one, or a rose. Imagine the appearance, texture, taste and smell. Listen to a favourite piece of music, and imagine you can see the artist(s) performing it. Imagine the voice of a loved one.
Simple exercises such as these will bring about a rapid improvement in your creative imagery skills.
Creative imagery is often referred to as visualisation, which is slightly misleading because it is not strictly necessary to be able to make detailed pictures. All five senses, sight, touch/feel, sound, taste and smell - make an impact on the subconscious, especially when you're relaxed. So don't be put off if you can't actually ‘see' anything: feeling a desire coming true is more important than getting a clear picture.
Take what you used yesterday. Now try to visualise it with all five
senses. If you can't actually picture it, make more use of other senses.
‘When willpower conflicts with
imagination always prevails.'
Many top sportsmen and women use creative imagery and mental rehearsal as an integral part of their mental toughness training. They know that when positive images are impressed firmly on the subconscious they're more likely to perform at their best. They spend many hours ‘seeing' themselves hitting the perfect shot, throwing the javelin or discus further, crossing the winning line ahead of the competition, scoring goals and so on.
Pioneering the use of creative imagery in sport were professional golfers such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in the 1960s. At his peak Nicklaus said:
‘I never hit a shot
without having a sharp picture of it in
my head. Firstly, I see where I want the ball to finish.
Then I see it going there, its trajectory and landing.
The next scene shows me making
the swing that will turn
the previous images into reality.'
To reiterate, creative imagery is the process of consciously creating a mental image or impression as a means of influencing the all-important subconscious mind. This section will help you get the most out of these techniques.
Techniques for creative imagery are best used when the body is relaxed and the mind is calm (see Section 25). They are also effective whenever you feel naturally dreamy, such as first thing in the morning, last thing at night and when daydreaming, because the mind is in a natural state of heightened awareness at these times.
Fantasising is good for you - do it often. Fantasise about all the things you want out of life, places to visit, people you would like to meet, acquiring new skills and being the person you would like to be. Let your imagination run wild!
‘First I dream my painting. Then I paint my dream.'
Vicky came to see me several years ago. She had applied to take a motorcycle test, and although she was a competent car driver and felt confident she could ride a motorcycle perfectly well, she was terrified of the actual test. On previous occasions, she had gone to pieces on the day.
I taught her to enter a deeply relaxed state and visualise herself taking the test with total confidence. Vicky found it easy to make mental pictures and had no problem imagining herself looking over the handlebars, feeling the vibration through the seat of her pants, hearing the sound of the engine, smelling the oil and exhaust fumes. She also used autosuggestion: ‘I am calm, confident and in control.'
Then she visualised the examiner congratulating her on her success. She conjured up feelings of pride, happiness and excitement as he handed her the pass slip. Finally she visualised herself arriving home to an ecstatic welcome from her husband, who took her out for a celebration meal.
Vicky practised every day. Two weeks later I went on holiday. On my return I found a postcard on the mat. It said in gold lettering, ‘I was calm, I was confident, I was in control, and I passed! Can't believe how well it worked. Many thanks.'
When a young man enlists in the army he is made to conduct himself like a soldier from day one. The army knows that this way he will quickly feel like a soldier and become one.
Similarly, when you speak and act confidently - even if it's all a pretence - you feel more confident. Others assume you're confident and treat you accordingly, which reinforces your behaviour and makes you feel even more confident.
The opposite is also true. If you speak and act timidly, others assume you are timid and treat you as such, which reinforces your timidity.
The ‘As If' Principle is the fourth element of the ITIA Formula©. It simply states that when you act as if you are confident, no matter how uncomfortable you feel inside, you become confident. Your feelings soon adapt to the new behaviour and, if you persevere, confidence blooms.
‘Assume a virtue if you have it not.'
‘Be somebody. If you
have lost confidence in yourself, make believe
you are somebody else, somebody with brains, and act like him.'
Actor and heart-throb Roger Moore, best known for playing James Bond developed his famous persona precisely because he was lacking in confidence as a young man. He was so overweight and shy his father called him ‘a sack of shit tied up ugly in the middle'.
‘I was so unsure of myself, I would rather starve than go into a restaurant,' he says. ‘So I built a wall of defence and invented this character Roger Moore.'
Acting ‘as if' may be a little daunting at first, but remember, the anxiety is simply your subconscious trying to cling to old habits. Do it anyway, and it soon fades. Then the very same mechanism that once tried to stop you changing defends your new behaviour and will continue to do so until you try to make further changes.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you climb a ladder? One rung at a time. How do you build confidence? One step at a time.
When you take small steps, the anxiety you inevitably feel is more manageable. That's why it's important to have a go at things which you would previously have found scary on a regular basis. Do you find it hard to talk to people? Strike up a conversation with one new person every day! Do you keep quiet even when you have something to say? Speak up, say your piece! You gain encouragement and feel more confident every time you build on each small success.
Don't let uncomfortable feelings stop you, they come partly from your subconscious programming and partly from what you tell yourself about the situation. Stay calm, change the self-talk (using the Four Step Method), and persevere.
Remember, courage is not the absence of fear, but ignoring fear
and proceeding in spite of it.
EAT AN ELEPHANT
‘Try a thing you
haven't tried before three times: once to get over the fear, once to find out
how to do it, and a third time to find out if you like it or not.'
EAT AN ELEPHANT
You now have all the basic tools and techniques for building your confidence and self-esteem.
Keep practising them while you proceed to the next few sections. (We'll revisit some of them later in more detail.) Meanwhile, we move on to the essential area of self-awareness.
Knowing yourself is a cornerstone of all personal growth. It's hard to change anything, including yourself, without understanding how it is now. All I ask is that you undertake the exercises with truthfulness and sincerity.
You may try to hide certain aspects of yourself from others, but there's no point in hiding them from yourself if you want to make genuine progress.
Clarify your intention and set goals.
Train yourself to think more confidently.
Imagine yourself as confident.
Act as if you are confident.
Develop greater self-awareness.
Everything is a result of what's gone before. Your level of confidence is mainly the result of the way you responded to those who raised you and the environment in which you grew up. But it is not the whole story.
Genetics - nature - accounts for around 25-35% of your character. Your past experiences and your interpretation of them - nurture - the remainder. When you were born you didn't lack confidence - this came later, when you began to relate to other people and the world around you.
Confidence, or lack of it, is learned, mostly in the first few years of childhood. It developed when you were weak and mentally and emotionally vulnerable, then,as you grew up, it became self-reinforcing. So the better you understand what happened and how it affected you, the more effectively you can take charge of your present-day feelings and actions.
You may find that some of the exercises in the next few sections bring painful feelings to the surface, but don't be deterred. Be honest with yourself. You gain nothing by deliberately misleading or deceiving yourself.
‘Knowing others is intelligence.
Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength.
Mastering yourself is true power.'
‘One day I
finally realised I
no longer needed a personal
history - so I gave it up.
Confidence and self-esteem do not come in fixed amounts - they vary from place to place, moment to moment according to what you're doing and with whom. For example, some people are extremely confident at work but fail in their relationships; and many brilliant individuals can barely string two words together when away from the security of their offices or laboratories.
How about you?
Take a close look at yourself. Step back and observe. The more self-aware you are,the more control you have over your life.
Then,and only then,is lasting change possible.
‘Know yourself, know your enemy,
A hundred battles, a hundred victories.'
For one week jot down every negative reaction towards yourself in your notebook. Include all self-criticisms and put downs (spoken and unspoken), self-defeating and self-sabotaging behaviour, and so on. Write them down as soon as you can.
Look at what you've written. What can you learn from it?
Every day for one week spend 20 minutes in quiet contemplation, getting in touch with your inner self. Sit or lie comfortably, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus your attention on what's going on inside you: bodily sensations, thoughts, emotional feelings, mental images and daydreams. If possible vary these sessions by time of day - morning, midday, afternoon and evening to allow for the fact that moods and feelings fluctuate throughout the day.
Immediately after each session write down whatever comes to mind.
Write down these sentences and fill in the gaps:
‘I lack the
confidence to...,but now I know I can overcome my doubts.'
‘I get anxious when...,but now I know I can conquer my fears.'
Take each in turn and quickly write down the first six things that enter your head.
Think about your self-esteem/self-worth:
1. Do you often feel sorry for yourself?
2. Do you tend to blame yourself when things go wrong, even if circumstances are beyond your control?
3. Do you frequently criticise others?
4. Do you frequently criticise yourself?
5. Do you take good care of your health and fitness?
6. Do you believe you have to achieve great things before you can feel good about yourself?
7. Do you have a tendency to go to pieces when someone criticises you?
8. Do you go out of your way to seek approval from others?
9. Are you comfortable with the notion of a spiritual dimension to life?
10. Are you generally happy?
When you look in the mirror, are you proud to be the person you see?
If the answer is no, write down what you would have to do or become before you could be proud of who you are.
Your self-image began to take shape even before you left the cradle and was pretty well established by the time you reached the age of 8.
By then, on average, you had already received over 70,000 negative dictates: ‘Don't do that', ‘No you can't', ‘Who do you think you are?' ‘You'll never make anything of yourself,' and so on. Most of these were run of the mill reprimands to which adults attach little importance; but they affect a child deeply and the accumulated effect can be devastating. The truth is, children simply do not have the ability to distinguish between fair and unfair criticism, or make allowances if the adults in their lives have had a hard day.
When you pleased your parents, or other adult authority figures, they rewarded you: they gave you attention and approval. When you displeased them, they showed their disapproval by withdrawing attention or privileges or, in some cases, punishing you physically. The means by which a person moulds the behaviour of another using a combination of reward and punishment is termed conditioning. You experienced plenty of it as a child, much of it negative. Very few young people reach adulthood without having their confidence dented in some way.
Once you understand your conditioning you can unravel the knots, dispense with the ropes that tied you down and leave them behind forever.
‘Children begin by
loving their parents. After a time they judge them.
Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.'
Sir John Harvey Jones is the very model of a successful businessman. Now in his mid 70s, the former Chairman of ICI (once Britain's largest company) looks back on a brilliant career as a Royal Navy Officer, highly respected entrepreneur, and lately writer and broadcaster. Yet his early years were hardly auspicious and as a boy he didn't see his father for 20 years!
Born in India, he was sent away to boarding school at the age of 6. ‘I was bullied mercilessly,' he recalls. ‘The bullying was both physical and verbal, and always with numbers, never one-on- one. It resulted in my trying to slash my wrists in the toilet with a blunt penknife.'
‘Everybody knew I was dreadfully unhappy. I'd written to my parents and told them I was desperate, but I figure my father thought the boy's got to learn to be a man and stand up for himself.'
At 12, he left the school to go to Naval College, which he describes as ‘Pretty draconian. The discipline was horrendous.'
One of the best days of his life was seeing his old school bulldozed to the ground prior to redevelopment. Like many successful people who suffered abuse in childhood, it's not that he has forgotten what happened - the memories are crystal clear. It's that he simply decided not to let it hold him back.
In his best-selling book, The Celestine Prophecy James Redfield suggests that adults go about attracting the love, recognition, approval and support they need according to the kind of interactions they had with their parents as children. We learned how to attract attention from them, and continued to play these dramas over and over again, usually subconsciously, until they became habitual. Unless we become aware of them and make a conscious effort to change, they stay with us for life.
Redfield suggests that these control dramas come in four types. Most of us have a favoured style, and adopt others from time to time according to circumstances:
♦ Poor me
Understanding control dramas is
extremely helpful. Once you have decided into which group you, your
parents/guardians, siblings and anyone else who had a profound impact on your
childhood fit most comfortably, you can use these insights to develop greater understanding
of your childhood conditioning, and yourself as you are now.
‘No matter what kind
of journey we make of life,
where we started out will always be part of us. But only part.'
Sir Alex Ferguson
One of the most damaging patterns of negative conditioning arises when children are continually told or given the impression by intimidator or interrogator adults that they're no good, they'll never make anything of themselves. ‘You do that? Don't make me laugh!'
Children subjected to this kind of talk grow up with no confidence and often terrified of failure.
It's even worse if they are victims of conditional love - when it is made clear, explicitly or implicitly, that they will only be loved if they meet the adults' expectations: ‘Do this - or else!' This often produces an obsession with what other people think and winning their approval.
Worst of all is the double negative self-talk which torments an individual who, because of their conditioning, feels driven to perform but is too afraid to try: ‘I can't but I have to'is a common aloof or poor me pattern which probably accounts for most of the failure these unfortunates experience as adults.
The child you once were lives on inside you, influencing every thought, every emotion, every move. You're with each other every minute of the day.
Many people are in adult bodies but they still react like children, still attached to their parents, never having broken free from the attitudes and beliefs they acquired in their youth.
Your Inner Child is the part of your personality which:
♦ Is playful and spontaneous
♦ Likes having fun
♦ Is imaginative
♦ Loves the world of ‘let's pretend'
♦ Is sensitive
♦ Needs to be cared for and understood
♦ Likes to please, seeking love and approval in return.
Like a real child, an Inner Child starved of love, warmth and understanding is easily hurt, and may become depressed and withdrawn.
The Inner Child can be the source of much adult unhappiness if it is still harbouring anger,pain and guilt from earlier years. If this is true for you, you can never be truly confident and happy unless these feelings are resolved.
Learn to accept your Inner Child as an important and valuable part of you.
upbringing has been, as adults our self-esteem is in our own hands.'
Dr Nathaniel Branden
Celia believed she had been unloved as a child. Her father abandoned his wife and daughter soon after she was born, and her mother was always busy. She remembered feeling alone and pleading with her mother to play with her, but Mum always shooed her away. ‘I always felt it was my fault,' she said. ‘I must have been really boring.'
In therapy Celia entered the relaxed state and pictured herself as a child. She imagined the little girl she once was sat on her knee, being comforted. They chatted to each other; the little girl insisted that she was not boring, just lonely. She hated the way she was recollected by the adult Celia. She considered it very unfair. As she visualised herself enjoying a warm, lingering cuddle, tears welled up.
The following week Celia felt much better about her childhood and herself. ‘I now realise I was 0K,' she said. ‘If my mother didn't want to know, that was her fault, not mine.'
Like Celia you will only be able to accept your Inner Child as an important and valuable part of you when you stop judging him or her and treat her with compassion instead.
No matter how you feel about it, as an adult you are totally responsible for the way you respond to everything that happens. Thinking otherwise just keeps you stuck in a victim pattern. Confidence and inner peace will only be yours when you stop blaming and practise forgiveness.
Who is there to forgive? Anyone whom you have ever blamed for how your life has turned out including, of course, your parents or guardians. After all, they had parents too! They were products of their own conditioning. They too may have suffered from low self-esteem or been under stress, and if they hurt you it was probably because they didn't know any better.
Besides, forgiveness doesn't mean condoning what was done, only that you are willing to live with whatever happened. And whether the perpetrators deserve to be forgiven is irrelevant; they may be completely culpable.
But you don't do it for them. You do it for yourself.
You're only hurting yourself by hanging on to the bitterness and resentment you've been carrying around with you.
Forgiveness is not necessarily easy, but is absolutely essential if you are to grow in maturity, selfesteem and confidence. It's how you set yourself free.
‘If you haven't forgiven your parents,
Dr Wayne Dyer's first book, Your Erroneous Zones has sold over 35 million copies, and subsequent works, including Pulling Your Own Strings, Real Magic and The Sky's The Limit have inspired millions more. He speaks to packed auditoriums all over the world. Yet it was not always so. In his early 30s, he was far from successful, two stones overweight, trapped in an unhappy relationship and, by his own admission, a candidate for an early heart attack.
Dr Dyer points to one specific incident as the turning point in his life - an act of forgiveness. When he was a baby his father, a man with a reputation as wifebeater, alcoholic and petty criminal, walked out, never to make contact again. He died at a relatively young age. Dr Dyer had grown to detest him and frequently had nightmares about beating him up.
Then, in 1974, he found himself at his father's grave, angrily demanding an explanation. Suddenly, something came over him. The hurt and hatred melted away and he offered a prayer: ‘From this day on, I send you love.'Then he walked away.
Immediately, everything changed. Within two weeks, he wrote Your Erroneous Zones. He started exercising (now 60, he claims to have run at least eight miles every day since), terminated the painful relationship and forged a reputation that is second to none in his field.
Ask him about his past, he shrugs his shoulders. ‘It happened,' he says. ‘That's all.'
The past lives on only in your thoughts. It is dead, but you're not. You'll grow in confidence only if you are willing to let go of the past, learn from it, and move on.
No matter what has gone before, your future, and how you feel about it, will be a direct result of what you do from now on. It is being shaped right now, moment by moment, as the consequences of your desires, thoughts, dreams, actions and words begin to crystallise.
The past only continues to affect you if you allow it.
You may not be able to forget
what has gone before, but you can stop dwelling on it.
‘You can't have a
better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time.'
Charles F. Kettering
Master the reframing technique. Reframing is a way of changing how you feel about past events that still trouble you:
1. Relax your body. Still your thoughts.
2. Go back to an event which left its mark on you and get in touch with all the emotions you felt at the time.
3. Now reframe it. Run the scene through in your mind, but visualise a different outcome. ‘See' it happening as you would have liked, really ‘feel' it. With practise your mind will accept this as reality.
4. Over time you can work through as many ‘difficult' memories as you wish. Start with the least troublesome then, as you become more proficient at using the technique, tackle more serious issues.
The reframing technique sends a powerful message to your subconscious to record over old tapes with new, more positive, confidence building interpretations of events.
Resolve from now on to focus your attention on what you've achieved in life and intend to achieve, not what you have not achieved. Use the Four Step Method to veto inappropriate thoughts.
Add this affirmation to your repertoire:
‘I used to lack confidence, but
all that is changing now.
I am becoming more and more confident every day.'
Eric was 11 years old when the headmaster called him up to the front of the school and announced in front of everyone, ‘Here is a worthless, stupid boy who will never make anything of himself'. The incident had dogged him for years. When I met him, he was 47 years old.
Under hypnosis he recalled the original incident. Tears streamed down his face. He then re-enacted the scene, but this time told the head very forcefully, ‘Oh no I'm not! You're out of order. Apologise!' He imagined the headmaster on his knees in front of him, grovelling.
Now he smiles at the memory. ‘The stupid man', he says. ‘How dare he speak to me, or any other young person, like that?'
Self-acceptance means acknowledging that you are as you are and being comfortable with it. It doesn't necessarily mean liking every aspect of yourself.
Some attributes can't be changed, and you may as well accept them right now. Take your age. You can disguise it, lie about it, try to hide it, but you can't change it. Similarly, you can do little about your gender (without going to drastic lengths), your race, height, eye colour etc. You also have little chance of transforming the way the world works, society in general and other people. But you can find a way of making the best of yourself, by:
♦ becoming better informed
♦ acquiring new skills
♦ changing unwanted habits
♦ handling relationships and problems more effectively.
But bear in mind, self-acceptance does not mean giving up on yourself. If some disliked aspect of yourself is important and can be changed, do something about it. There's no point in feeling bad about something you can change, just as there's no point in feeling bad about something you can't!
‘Never grow old in
‘The moment you
accept yourself as you are, all burdens, all mountainous burdens, simply
disappear. Then life is a sheer joy, a festival of lights.'
At the age of 11 Evelyn Glennie was told that she would have to attend a special school for the deaf. It was a moment that changed her life. She became determined to go to the local secondary school attended by her brothers.
‘It didn't make sense that simply because a chart says you can't hear such and such, you therefore can't do certain things,' she said in a recent interview. With her parents' support she ignored the audiologist and went to the mainstream school anyway.
Now, despite being completely deaf since the age of 11, Evelyn is one of the world's top classical percussionists, feted all over the world, performing barefoot to help her feel vibrations from the other instruments. When asked how she copes with her hearing problem she replies that she doesn't ‘see' herself as deaf - just someone with a different kind of hearing. Her other senses are enhanced and her concentration heightened: she simply ‘listens' harder.
‘I never asked, “Why me?”', she says. ‘We've all got something that needs sorting. You meet people really handicapped who appear to be the happiest people in the world. That puts life in perspective.'
What do you think of your body? Do you like it? Do you wish it were different in some way? If so, it may surprise you to discover that you're in the great majority. Most of us don't particularly like our bodies and could produce a lengthy list of ‘faults' quite easily. Few people conform to the physical norms put across in the media.
People who can't accept their bodies are prone to desperately low self-esteem. They exhibit an above average degree of obsessive behaviours, eating disorders, self-hatred, sexual dysfunctions and many other problems. This is exacerbated by certain social and religious attitudes.
Rumbling tummies, bad breath, bowel movements and breaking wind are part of our biology. Why be ashamed? When we get older our faces become lined, boobs and bellies droop, muscles sag, men lose their hair and so on. It's bound to happen, so why worry about it?
We must learn to accept our bodies with good grace and a touch of humour, to accept some of our so-called defects, and work on those which can be changed.
If your confidence is affected by anything that can
be improved, do it! Otherwise there's no
point in feeling sorry for yourself.
‘If we are
embarrassed about our bodies, we should remember
that kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies.'
At a recent seminar the leader referred to the body as ‘the temple of the soul, a sacred dwelling place for the spirit.' A young man seated at the back of the hall raised his hand: ‘I've always thought of mine as a vehicle,' he said. ‘It carries me through life, then goes rusty and packs up. I certainly don't see it as a temple.' He went on to describe the health problems he had endured for years, which showed no sign of abating.
One of the other participants, an elderly lady who looked in radiant good health, spoke up. ‘If you think of your body as a rusty old car,' she said, ‘is it any wonder you're always ill?'
Getting in shape physically is a wonderful way of building your confidence and self-image. It's not easy to feel confident if you're overweight, and exhausted after climbing a flight of stairs.
Health and fitness are just like any other areas of life: get the causes right and the effects come right too. This means, for instance, sensible eating, good breathing and posture, regular exercise and plenty of laughter and relaxation.
The recipe for better health, maximum energy, minimum illness and an extended lifespan has a familiar ring to it:
♦ Choose fitness: make it your intention to be healthy.
♦ Think health and fitness.
♦ Imagine yourself in peak condition.
♦ Act ‘as if' you want to be as fit and healthy as possible.
Give your body what it needs, and it will return the favour!
‘A vigorous walk will
do more for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the
medicine and psychology in the world.'
Paul Dudley White
----------------------- ^68--------------------- Get fit. You gain a terrific feeling of confidence and wellbeing from knowing you look good and can cope physically with life's demands.
Take regular exercise. It builds stamina and fitness, increases your resistance to disease and promotes a more youthful appearance. It releases endorphins (the ‘happy hormones') into the bloodstream, bringing a feeling of general wellbeing. Commit yourself to taking at least 20 minutes' aerobic exercise every day. Choose something you enjoy - walking, cycling, swimming, dancing or whatever.
Make small adjustments to your lifestyle. Leave the car at home. Walk or cycle to work. Get off the bus a few stops earlier. Replace the electric lawn mower with a manual. Use the stairs instead of the lift. It's not hard to find convenient ways of being more active.
Spend a few moments daily bending and stretching to loosen the muscles and keep them supple. Buy an exercise video or audio tape, for example, of simple yoga exercises which are extremely beneficial and are not that time consuming.
Once you've started,don't stop. It's easier to get out of shape than into it. It only takes a couple of weeks of inactivity to fall back to where you started.
Calmness and confidence are very closely related, and they start with physical relaxation. When your body is relaxed, your mind is calmer and clearer, you are more in control of your emotions and better able to relate to others. Physical relaxation and mental calmness help you cope with stressful situations, release unrealistic fears and anxieties, and improve concentration and creativity.
To acquire these benefits for yourself, you must practise:
1. Entering a peaceful, deeply relaxed state so that you can recharge your batteries. Make the most of techniques such as autosuggestion, mental rehearsal, anchoring and reframing (see index).
2. Instant calmers. Learn to calm down instantly and stay calm, so that you can deal with awkward people and situations with ease.
Fortunately these skills are easily learned. Most of the early problems you may encounter will disappear if you practise daily, and you will soon be able to relax quickly and easily whenever you have the need.
And remember - the world won't fall apart if you take it easy for a while!
‘If you are committed
to your personal growth, you must have some
quiet time to yourself every day. Make it a priority.'
David Lawrence Preston
----------------------------------------------- ^69------------------------------------------------- Practise this simple method of relaxation every day without fail until it comes naturally. It's called The Five Deep Breaths Technique.
Take yourself to a quiet place where you will be undisturbed. Have a good stretch, then sit or lie down comfortably. Take a few deep breaths. Focus your gaze on a spot on the ceiling. When your eyes start to tire, let them close.
Now take a very deep breath. Say ‘one' and let it out slowly, relaxing the eye muscles, face and neck. Pause for a moment, then take an even deeper breath. Say ‘two' and let it out slowly, relaxing your shoulders, arms and hands. Pause and take a third deep breath. Say ‘three' and let it out slowly, relaxing all the muscles in your legs and feet. Now take a fourth deep breath. Say ‘four' and let it out slowly, relaxing all the muscles in your entire body.
Now take a fifth deep breath. Say ‘five' and let it out slowly, whispering the word ‘relax' under your breath. If you feel a little light-headed, or your arms and legs feel slightly heavy, good! Now, while you continue to go deeper into relaxation imagine you are in a quiet, peaceful place, such as a beach or garden, or in a special sanctuary or cosy country cottage. Put your thumb and fingers together and slowly whisper the following words several times:
‘One. Two. Three. Relax. Relax.'
If you practise every day, within a week or two you'll be able to relax
deeply whenever you wish. All you'll have to do is close your eyes, take a deep
breath, put your thumb and fingers together and quietly say, ‘One. Two. Three.
This method is called Differential Relaxation. Make yourself comfortable, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Each time you breathe in, tense a group of muscles as hard as you can for five seconds. As you exhale, say the word ‘relax' or ‘calm' under your breath and feel the tension flowing out, leaving the muscles heavy and relaxed. Notice the difference between tension and relaxation.
♦ Tense and relax the feet, curling your toes under as tightly as you can.
♦ Tense and relax the lower legs.
♦ Tense and relax the upper legs.
♦ Tighten the hips and buttocks.
♦ Tighten your stomach muscles.
♦ Arch your back and tighten the muscles.
♦ Tense and relax the hands, clenching your fists tightly.
♦ Tense and relax the forearms, pushing outward as if pressing against an invisible wall.
♦ Tense and relax the upper arms.
♦ Bend your elbows and tense your biceps.
♦ Shrug your shoulders up to your ears and relax them.
♦ Tense and relax the neck.
♦ Tense and relax the face,closing your eyes as tightly as you can, wrinkling the forehead and drawing the corners of your mouth back.
Now imagine your body as a rag doll, limp and floppy, your muscles soft
and loose, no tension. Slowly count down from ten to one on each out breath.
You may also find it helpful to imagine some simple scene, somewhere full of
peace and tranquillity, such as a place in the country, a garden, beach or
Anchoring is a way of drawing on past experiences in which you felt confident to help you cope better in the present. It's another powerful weapon in your confidence armoury.
An anchor is any stimulus that consistently triggers an emotion. To use an anchor you have to:
♦ Generate in yourself the particular set of feelings you wish to recreate.
♦ Programme your subconscious to associate those feelings with specific words and gestures.
♦ Use those words and gestures to trigger the desired feelings when required.
Sportsmen and women use anchors continually. For example, tennis players bounce the ball repeatedly before serving to calm themselves; most runners go through an elaborate routine to centre themselves, much of which is not strictly necessary to the actual performance; and the mighty All Black rugby team go through a series of rituals before each match to intimidate the opposition and fire themselves up.
You constantly anchor feelings in the nervous system whether you like it or not,so why not learn to use this to your advantage? Using anchors you can feel calm and confident, or energised and confident whenever you wish.
‘People tell me I'm
lucky, but I've noticed
Six years ago, Angela Dennett felt like a prisoner in her own home. Despite a debilitating back condition she was on full-time duty caring for her husband, who suffered from Altzheimer's disease. When he died, she found herself with time on her hands, looking for something to get her out of the house.
As a young woman she would have liked a career in academia. She had a passionate interest in Ancient Egypt, but lacked confidence and grew up thinking it was beyond her. She ended up in a mind numbing office job.
One day Angela picked up a leaflet about the University of the Third Age (U3A), which provided educational and social activities for the over 50s. One of the courses was Creating Confidence. With trepidation she enrolled and diligently applied what she learned. Soon after the Membership Secretary's job became vacant, and she put herself forward. A few months later, she was elected Chairman. ‘At first I was terrified,' she said. ‘It takes a lot of confidence to control committee meetings, but I soon learned.'
It was then that her interest in Egyptology came to the fore. ‘After my husband died, I was able to study it properly. I enrolled for a degree course with the Open University, then I took the plunge and started teaching - l wouldn't have had the confidence before. I gained a teaching certificate and am now a qualified adult education tutor.'
She regularly went to London to attend talks by the leading authorities. ‘One day I thought why should I have to travel all this way, so I started the Wessex Ancient Egypt Society. Now the experts come to us.'
Recently a dream came true when Angela was invited to visit Egypt. ‘I'd never flown before because I was too scared, but I wasn't going to let that stop me,I used the techniques I'd learned on the confidence course - positive thinking,relaxation,visualisation and small steps to conquer my phobia. I was fine.'
‘As I see it,I'm in the second half of my life now,and fast trying to make up for lost time.' And how!
We're just over half way now. What have you learned about confidence? More importantly, what have you learned about yourself? If you've understood what you've read so far and put it into practice, your confidence and self-esteem have already grown.
Take a pen and paper, and give yourself a mark out of ten, where ten means you feel you could achieve anything and zero that you feel useless at everything.
Now give yourself another mark out of ten, where ten means you feel worthy of good things and zero completely undeserving.
Now give yourself a mark out of ten for how well you relate to others.
Compare these marks with what you gave yourself six months ago (Confidence Builders 8,9 and 10). See what I mean about your confidence and self-esteem having grown?
After pausing to take stock we'll take a more in-depth look at the ITIA Formula©, introduce additional insights and techniques, then discuss skills that will help you to communicate confidently. Soon you'll be ready to take on the world and pursue whatever your heart desires.
yourself and joyfully being what you are, you fulfil your own abilities,
and your simple presence can make others happy.'
Look out for self-help groups, talks and courses on confidence in your area (eg adult education courses, university extra-mural departments, assertiveness training etc). Enrol for one of these at the next available opportunity.
If there's nothing suitable locally, write to me for details of the audiotape based home study course, the DLP Audio Programme.
How are you getting on with the tools and techniques you have learned?
♦ How much time do you allocate to building your confidence each day. How can you increase it? The more time and effort you invest, the more rapid your progress.
♦ How are you getting on with the ITIA Formula© and the Four Step Method? What benefits have you gained so far?
♦ What improvements have you made using affirmations?
♦ What affirmations are you currently using?
♦ How do you feel now about the incidents you reframed?
♦ How quickly and deeply do you relax when you use the Five Deep Breaths or Differential Relaxation techniques? Keep practising.
♦ How quickly can you calm yourself when you need to. Keep practising.
♦ How well do the triggers, ‘One. Two.Three. Relax. Relax.'and ‘Cool, calm and confident.' work for you?
♦ How effective is the clenched fist energiser ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!'?
♦ What other anchors have you installed for yourself?
♦ What more do you need to do?
------------------------------------------------ ^89------------------------------------------------- You've also gained many practical confidence-building suggestions:
♦ In Confidence Builder 21, I asked you to choose something that makes you nervous and do it. What did you choose? Did you actually do it? What happened? (If you didn't, do it now!)
♦ Look at your list of goals (Confidence Builders 31 and 93). What have you done about them? How far have you come? What more do you need to do?
♦ Give three examples of how you've used mental rehearsal to help you cope with difficult situations. What were the outcomes? What further use could you make of the technique? How could you do it better next time?
♦ Whom did you choose to model? How is it going? What have you gained?
♦ In Confidence Builder 91,you decided to become an expert in something? What did you choose? How much time and thought have you given it? What progress have you made? Keep working on it.
♦ How are you getting on with your chosen hobbies (Example 133)?
♦ How's your physical self-image improvement programme going? Are you sticking at it? What more do you need to do?
How would you feel if everything you were ever going to be, you are right now? If everything you are going to achieve, you have already achieved? Life would be pretty meaningless, wouldn't it?
There's nothing more important than finding a purpose that inspires and motivates you and gives your life meaning and direction. There's nothing more soul destroying than drifting through life with nothing to strive for, no ambitions, no goals. Aimlessness destroys confidence and self-esteem.
When you find what you love to do and put your heart and soul into it, everything changes. Life becomes fulfilling and exciting. If your purpose benefits others as well as yourself, everything, yes, everything falls perfectly into place. If your motives are sound, happiness and prosperity simply flow towards you; nothing can stop them.
If you're not aware of having a purpose, it's not because you don't have one; everyone has. It's because you've never looked for it. It's lying dormant somewhere in your consciousness, waiting to be revealed.
FIND A PURPOSE
‘We act as though
comfort and luxury are the chief requirements of life,
when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.'
Do you have an overall sense of purpose that benefits others as well as yourself? Something you love doing and can put your heart and soul into?
If so, write it down on a small card and keep it with you.
----------------------------------------------- @--------------------------------------------------- Think about your values. Clarifying your values is the starting point of finding your purpose. Values are simply what you believe to be important.
What is most important to you in life? What do you stand for? Where do your priorities lie? How important are, say, your health or family relationships compared with your career, or your social and leisure activities compared with your spiritual life?
----------------------------------------------- ^2--------------------------------------------------- If you're not sure of the answers to Confidence Builder 191, go inside and get in touch with your intuition, the part that knows. Relax your body, calm your mind and ask, ‘What is most important to me in life? Where do my priorities lie? What is my purpose for being here?'
Remain quiet for five or ten minutes. Listen patiently and attentively to your inner self. Answers may not come immediately, but they will if you're patient.
Which, if any, of your values are you having difficulty living up to at present? In what way(s)? What would you like to change?
FIND A PURPOSE
‘Cherish the freedom
to be yourself. Be guided by your inner voice and do what you believe in.
Sing, dance and embrace life to the full.'
George Gershwin, the famous jazz pianist, composer and songwriter, had ambitions as a classical musician, so he approached Maurice Ravel, composer of the famous Bolero, for instruction in orchestral scoring. After several lessons, Ravel was exasperated. His student appeared unable to grasp even the basics.
‘If I were you,' he advised his student, ‘I would be happier to be a first rate Gershwin than a second rate Ravel'.
Practical goals build confidence and put you more in control of your life. When you set yourself a goal, even if you've never thought about it before, you unleash powerful mental forces. You accomplish more, often much more. Even if all you did was write down a goal and file the piece of paper away in a drawer, your life would be different in some way.
Why do clear, realistic goals make such a difference?
1. They clarify your purpose.
2. They show you're serious about achieving.
3. They stimulate excitement, anticipation, energy and enthusiasm.
4. They help to keep your mind on what you want. Goals impress your desires on the subconscious, heighten your awareness and highlight opportunities you may previously have missed.
5. They prompt you to acquire new knowledge and skills.
6. You discover reservoirs of imagination and creativity you previously didn't realise you had.
You first came across goal setting in Section 5. Now you're going to take it further.
‘I believe you came
into the world to accomplish something,
and not something small or insignificant. That's not worthy of you.
You came here to make a major contribution to life on this planet.'
Work backwards from each goal in Confidence Builder 197, break it down into small steps,and establish a time scale for the completion of each step.
Keep your goals to yourself, unless you think another person can offer practical help and encouragement. There is only one exception: if your goal is to rid yourself of a bad habit, such as smoking, swearing or losing your temper, tell everyone. People won't be slow to remind you if you slip up!
Do something every day towards your goals, and don't forget to spend a few minutes each day visualising yourself succeeding. This is particularly effective last thing at night, because it gives the subconscious something to work on while you are sleep.
Don't let your self-worth depend on your achievements. People with high self-esteem don't feel they have to prove themselves by high attainment. They feel good about themselves even if they don't succeed at everything.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to achieve, but people who are driven by a need to achieve rarely find true happiness even when they do succeed. Have a go, but don't become obsessive. Do it because you enjoy it, learn from it and grow.
pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.'
Shoot for the moon!
When President Kennedy challenged America to put a man on the Moon within a decade and return him safely to Earth, learned eyebrows were raised because the technology needed did not exist at the time. However, the decision to set a firm goal spurred the scientific community into action. Inspired by their President's vision, scientists who had considered it impossible changed their mentality from, ‘It can't be done' to ‘How can we make this happen?'
Similarly, when you set yourself a goal it is not necessary to have all the know-how and resources at your disposal. All that is required is enthusiasm and persistence, then the essential ingredients somehow show up to make it possible. And just as the new technologies developed for the Moon shot affected other areas of our lives, working towards a worthwhile goal has many unforeseen benefits, not least an enormous growth in confidence.
Most thoughts come from the subconscious, that hive of mental activity that lies below the threshold of momentary awareness. You cannot prevent a thought floating up from the subconscious; this is beyond your conscious control.
However, you can always choose whether to accept, reject or ignore a thought whether to voice it or act on it. Any pattern of thought or action which is repeated often is impressed on the subconscious and becomes a habit. Likewise, when you withdraw your attention from an unwanted thought or habit, it eventually withers and dies.
You constantly refer to your subconscious store of thoughts and memories for information and guidance, which sets up a cycle in which what you repeatedly think about tends to intensify in your experience.
The conscious mind is the Thinker; the subconscious is the Prover. If, for example, you hold the thought ‘I'm not very clever', the subconscious looks for evidence that you are what you think you are. Consequently you steer clear of anything that requires intelligence, which ‘proves' you were right all along. Except, of course, you may be misleading yourself. You may actually be far clever than you think you are!
That's why it's so important to turn your thinking around, by deliberately and consciously planting confident thoughts in your mind. When you let go of disempowering, confidencedraining thoughts and start thinking of yourself as strong, capable, likable and deserving, the cycle is reversed.
‘Argue for your limitations, and they're yours.'
Listen carefully to your self-talk and become aware of censorious questions such as:
♦ ‘What did I do (or say) that for, idiot?'
♦ ‘What's the use?'
♦ ‘Why am I so stupid?'
♦ ‘Why does this always happen to me?'
♦ ‘Why does everyone hate me?'
Questions such as these are based on the supposition that you are an idiot, or you have screwed up (again). The Prover is not programmed to challenge the basis of a question; it responds as if it were true. For example. if you ask yourself ‘Why am I so stupid?'the Prover finds a multitude of reasons why you are stupid even though you're not. That's what it's designed to do.
Instead, cancel the question using Thought Stopping, and give your subconscious something positive to work on, eg:
♦ ‘What can I learn from this?'
♦ ‘What can I do now to feel more confident?'
♦ ‘How would a confident person handle this situation?'
♦ ‘How can I improve?'
When problems arise, focus your mind on finding solutions by asking yourself the right questions:
♦ ‘What can I do to solve this problem?'
♦ ‘How can I turn it to my advantage?'
♦ ‘What more do I need to know?'
These compel the Prover to work for
rather than against you.
Henry Ford famously remarked
‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're quite right.'
When you think like a confident person, you automatically feel more confident and act more confidently. Makes sense, doesn't it?
Confident self-talk includes any language that helps you feel better and cope more easily. Words and sentences that imply that you are helpless or incapable, or that things are worse than they actually are, feed the Prover with potentially damaging ammunition, which is why the negative thought patterns discussed in this section come with a health warning.
The following thoughts destroy confidence and damage self-esteem.
Simple linguistic changes such as those described in this section are often derided as superficial, but can make a huge difference to the way you handle yourself. And remember: you're not trying to pull the wool over your eyes, just adopt a more constructive, confident point of view.
‘If you keep on saying things
are going to be bad,
you have a good chance of being a prophet.'
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Among the most pernicious phrases to be aware of are those containing ‘should', ‘shouldn't' and their close relatives, ‘ought', ‘must', ‘got to', ‘have to', ‘mustn't,' ‘supposed to,' etc and their negations ‘oughtn't', ‘mustn't' and so on.
If you live your life by ‘shou1ds' and ‘shouldn'ts', you're probably not living in the real world. You have to deal with things as they are, not how you think they should be.
There are two types of ‘should'. The first refers to you, your achievements and your conduct. For instance:
♦ ‘I should be different from how I am.'
♦ ‘I should be better than I am.'
♦ ‘To be happy I must '
These infer that fixed rules
limit your options, or that someone else is making your choices for you. Change
them to ‘I want to...’, ‘I don't want to...’, ‘I choose/choose not to...’, or
‘I prefer/prefer not to.’
A belief is a collection of thoughts that we accept as true. Most of our beliefs have their origins in childhood conditioning and our cultural background: they were absorbed without any effort on our part. Others were acquired as we matured and learned to interpret the world for ourselves.
Your beliefs affect everything you do:
♦ Confident people believe they can be whatever they want to be and accomplish anything they choose. Even if their goals seem far off, they believe that everything is eventually attainable.
♦ Believing you cannot do something makes you incapable of doing it. But it is not your actual abilities that determine the outcome, but what you believe about them.
♦ Negative beliefs are like the automatic brakes fitted to certain vehicles. Just as you're about to break through old barriers, on come the brakes!
It's vital to let go of beliefs which destroy your confidence, and it's perfectly possible. Fortunately, no belief is permanently engraved on your brain. All beliefs are learned, and all learning can be re-evaluated and updated.
As soon as you adopt a new belief the Prover sets to work to validate the new belief. Suddenly all the incoming evidence supports your new way of thinking, and anything which contradicts it is rejected or ignored.
‘Men often become
what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something,
it makes me incapable of doing it. When I believe I can, I acquire
the ability to do it even if I didn't have it in the beginning.'
Every day relax and imagine the effect of your updated, positive beliefs on your life. ‘See', ‘hear' and ‘feel' yourself behaving differently as your confidence improves. Whenever you have an opportunity to put your new beliefs into practice, act as if they are definitely true.
According to the theory of aerodynamics, the bumble bee is totally unable to fly. Laboratory experiments prove this conclusively. The size, weight and shape of the bee's body in relation to the size of its wings makes flying impossible.
Moral: Lack of belief in our abilities and worrying about the outcome are the main impediments to success.
The bumble bee, being ignorant of the theory, flies anyway!
Attitudes and beliefs, while closely related, are not exactly the same. A belief is a thought or mental image we accept as true. An attitude is what you put out into the world through your words and actions.
For example, a belief such as ‘I'm not good enough' will manifest in your speech and behaviour. That's when it becomes an attitude. In addition, attitudes involve a degree of evaluation, in other words, what you feel about the belief.
A positive attitude shows in everything you do - how you walk, talk, what you say, how you say it,and the way others see you. It builds confidence and success in every area of your life. When you conquer attitudes of doubt and fear you effectively conquer feelings of failure. And the good news is, positive attitudes can be developed, using the Four Step Method and the ITIA Formula©.
This section spells out seven attitudes which are essential for confidence, self-esteem, happiness and peace of mind. Learn and apply them.
‘Nothing is good or
bad, but thinking makes it so.'
‘The longer I live, the more I realise the impact of attitude on life.
‘Attitude, to me, is more
important than facts. It is more important than the past, than
education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other
people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.
‘The remarkable thing is we have
a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace
for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a
certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one
string we have, and that is our attitude.
‘I am convinced that life is 10%
what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is
with you... we are in charge of our attitudes!'
I now release easily and effortlessly all my old negative attitudes and beliefs.
Some people think it's a sin to love yourself. They consider those who love themselves to be selfish, conceited and rather unpleasant. But they're mistaken. They confuse self-love with false pride and narcissism (being in love with yourself) which is quite a different matter. Vanity and arrogance are usually a form of bravado engaged in by people who love themselves too little and are trying to cover it up.
If you don't love yourself you'll have no sense of self-worth, and no feeling of acceptance or belonging.
Furthermore, your capacity for loving others is directly related to how much love you have for yourself. You can't share anything you don't have. How can you truly love another if you don't feel worthy of giving and receiving love? Impossible.
The belief that you need to be different from how you are in order to be
loved causes a great deal of misery. Unless you are happy within, you'll never
be truly satisfied with what you do. Loving yourself unconditionally is
the key to happiness. But you don't have to be perfect: the most loved person
in the world makes mistakes! You don't even have to do your best. You don't
have to prove anything. You're all right because you're all right, and lovable
exactly as you are.
‘It's a funny thing
if you refuse to accept anything less than the best,
you very often get it.'
W. Somerset Maugham
Dawn was an attractive woman in her mid-30s, depressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She was well qualified but out of work, had no friends and hardly ever went out. She was also desperate to evict her abusive ex-boyfriend, Nick, from her flat but he was refusing to leave. She described herself as ‘one of life's losers'. ‘I hate myself,' she said, ‘I'm such a failure.'
Naturally I taught her to use the ITIA Formula© and Four Step Method. We also talked about loving yourself. I suggested she used the affirmations suggested in Confidence Builder 237 every day.
Here's what she told me in a letter six months after she quit therapy. ‘I now have a job. It's not exactly what I want, but it is well paid and could lead to something more suitable. It's made me feel a lot better. Nick has moved out, and although I'm still seeking an intelligent, good-looking and caring man, I now know that I'm not prepared to settle for any old rubbish like before. I've joined a health club and made new friends, and I go out several times a week with my new flat mate (female) which must be increasing my chances of meeting someone nice. I'm even beginning to love myself.'
When you learn to love yourself change always takes place. Not always immediately - but it will.
To enjoy a better life you must focus on your potential, not your limitations, and concentrate on what you do well. You must make the most of your natural aptitudes and abilities.
Of course everyone has weaknesses, and it takes courage to admit to them. But it can be equally harrowing to accept that we have our strengths and acknowledge that we have talents and personal qualities that others don't have.
This section is about your strengths and making better use of them. You'll discover you have many on which to build.
The world is full of
unsuccessful people who have talent but lack confidence and tenacity, who feel
that no matter how good they are at something, someone else is bound to be
better. Don't be one of them.
‘It is all too
obvious that in the great majority of human beings,
the greater part of their possibilities, whether physical or spiritual,
intellectual or aesthetic, remains unrealised.'
Sir Julian Huxley
Shakespeare, who was no mean psychologist, wrote, ‘Assume a virtue if you have it not.' This is exactly what Benjamin Franklin, one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence, decided to do.
He made a list of 17 personal qualities and habits he wanted to acquire. He realised that it would be too much to attempt all 17 at once, so he worked on one a week. He spent a week practising each new habit, then moved on to the next and worked on that for a week.
When he felt he'd mastered a new habit he dropped it from the list and substituted a new one. After 17 weeks he went back to the top of his list, so by the end of the year he'd completed the entire cycle three times.
Benjamin Franklin had applied:
The As If Principle.
In Section 22 you made a list of personal ‘weaknesses'. Note that I've put the word in inverted commas, since some may not be weaknesses at all, just your perceptions.
Weaknesses come in three types:
♦ Important traits which can be worked on, perhaps even eliminated if you want to and are willing to put in a little time and effort. These include those which originate in conscious attitudes or beliefs, are the result of flawed conditioning, or are basically down to lack of resolve, such as lack of patience or persistence, or laziness.
♦ Those which make little difference to your life,or are relatively unimportant. For example, I have never learned to draw but it doesn't bother me because I have other priorities and little interest. It hardly affects my life at all.
♦ Those which are impossible to change. These must be accepted or circumvented. For example, a person prone to congenital depression can learn to live with it and still have a successful and relatively happy life.
It's important to know which of
your so-called weaknesses fall into each category. Then, like Benjamin
Franklin, you can develop an active, systematic programme which will lead to
‘I'm not saying it's
easy, but we can all be anything we want to be.'
‘Nothing great is
created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig.
If you say to me that you desire a fig, I shall answer, ‘that requires time.
Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.'
Two qualities that are essential for confidence building and a happy and fulfilling life are patience and persistence. Lasting change takes time, and when the going gets tough remember how much better you feel when you achieved something worthwhile by sticking at it.
So press on. Nothing can take the place of patience and persistence.
‘Thousands of people have talent.
I might as well congratulate you for having eyes in your head.
The one and only thing that counts is,do you have staying power?'
To build confidence you will occasionally have to push yourself to do things you don't feel like doing and put yourself on the line. Welcome every opportunity. Avoiding fresh challenges, difficult people and awkward situations is never gratifying in the long-term and just keeps you stuck as you are now.
Of course taking risks invites failure, but that's OK. You can't expect to sail through life without coming a cropper sometimes, it's a natural part of human experience. Babies learning to walk topple over many times. As adults we too will fall, recover our balance and get back on our feet again. Nobody gets everything right all the time.
Go on - take a risk (you know you want to)! If it feels uncomfortable it's only because you're not used to it. Change always feels uncomfortable at first, because your past conditioning tries to hold on to your old ways. Confident people don't always succeed, but they do always enjoy trying and they don't feel any less a person if they fail.
Be willing to confront your fears. Feel the fear, but
don't be affected by it. You don't have to do everything perfectly. Just being
yourself and having a go is enough.
TAKE A RISK
‘Whatever you can do,or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius,
magic and power in it. Begin it now.'
Relax and let your imagination run wild. Imagine you quit your job at the end of the month.
♦ What would happen next?
♦ What effect would it have on your life?
♦ What will you do?
♦ What would you like to do? Imagine it becoming reality.
Write down anything significant that comes to mind.
Spend a day doing exactly what you want to do. Don't compromise. Throughout the day ask, ‘What would I like to do right now?'and do it. Keep checking that you're doing exactly what you want.
Do something you enjoy, just for you, every day, something that inspires you and makes you feel good. If it involves taking a measured risk, so much the better!
------------------------------------------------ ®--------------------------------------------------- If your risk requires you to learn new skills, practise them thoroughly. If it involves doing something with others or in front of them, you'll soon discover that once you've mastered them in private you'll have plenty of confidence to display your skills in front of others.
‘The greatest success
is not in never failing,
but in rising every time you fall.'
TAKE A RISK
Sisters Valerie and Linda loved singing, but the thought of performing in public terrified them. Humming along to the radio was one thing, but standing up in front of an audience was a different matter. Then one day, encouraged by her daughter's music teacher, Valerie decided to have a go and before long Linda signed up too.
A few weeks later the teacher invited them to take part in a workshop run by a top singing instructor from London, concluding with a concert in front of the other participants plus an invited audience of family and friends.
As the dreaded moment of the performance drew near, they panicked. ‘I can't go through with this,' said Valerie to the instructor.
‘Neither can I,' added Linda.
‘Yes you can' he insisted, pointing. ‘You sit on those stools and do it. Now!'
Taken aback by his vehemence they sat down, took a deep breath and began. They sang beautifully and the audience applauded wildly.
‘It's amazing how much more confident we feel' they said afterwards. ‘Now we've done it once, we know we can do it, and it doesn't feel too bad...'
The following activities are terrific confidence boosters. Obviously some will appeal to you more than others. For instance, if you enjoy dancing and you're good at it you'll probably feel that taking dancing lessons is unnecessary. But if you hate dancing, lack confidence on the dance floor and find it difficult to express yourself physically, the very idea may traumatise you.
Why do most of us find it hard to put ourselves on the line? Usually because we're frightened of showing ourselves up. But with high self-esteem we don't worry about making fools of ourselves in front of others because we know instinctively that this is not a disaster.
So what if you don't succeed first time? The obstacles don't grow any bigger, but you do! With a positive self-image you can fail completely and still feel good about yourself.
♦ Because I'm OK I can make mistakes. I can fail and still feel good about myself.
♦ I am enthusiastic about life and filled with energy and purpose.
‘Failure is the
opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.'
Richard was thoroughly miserable. At 35 this successful entrepreneur was still single and lonely. ‘I work late most evenings,' he said, ‘because I dread going home. There's nothing to go home to.' He had never had a girlfriend, his only sexual contacts being with prostitutes, for which he felt dirty and ashamed.
He believed one of his main problems lay in his inability to join in the dancing at discos and nightclubs. He had been to many down the years, but try as he might was petrified of stepping onto the dance floor. He would stand at the bar watching people dancing and later leaving together, if he stayed that long. Usually he sloped off well before closing time.
Richard was introduced to the ITIA Formula©, encouraged to enrol for dancing lessons, and taught how to use anchoring. In stages he visualised himself arriving at the nightclub, chatting to people and buying drinks, using the ‘cool, calm and confident' trigger if he felt his anxiety levels rising. Then he visualised himself calmly stepping onto the dance floor and moving easily - nothing too flamboyant at first - then approaching an attractive woman and dancing with her.
Then he took the plunge. At first he was terrified, but within a few weeks he was able to do everything for which he had set out.
When you move confidently and carry your body confidently, you not only feel more confident but others assume that you are.
You may be surprised to learn that only 7% of the information you transmit to others is in the language you use. The remainder comes from:
♦ 38% How you speak - quality of voice, accent, voice projection, emphasis, expression, pace, volume, pitch etc.
♦ 55% Body language - posture, position, eye contact, facial expression, head and body movements, gestures, touch etc.
Whereas people often try to disguise their true feelings in their utterances, they communicate them freely through their non-verbals. When your body language tells a different story from your spoken words, guess which is believed? The answer is, your body language. It imparts eight times as much information.
Pay more attention to how you use your body. Poor movement and posture restricts breathing, tightens the muscles and brings about skeletal disorders.
One of the best ways of improving your posture is to practise the Alexander Technique, a wonderful method for detecting and releasing muscular tension. It involves moving with the back straight, gaze gently fixed straight ahead, shoulders back but relaxed, ears, shoulders, hips and ankles in line. This has the effect of lengthening and widening the spine giving the lungs a chance to work better. This is the epitome of a confident posture. Moreover, regular practitioners also find themselves mentally calmer and more confident than before.
‘No one has ever seen a cock crow with its head down.'
Eyes are very expressive.
♦ Lively, sparkling eyes are attractive. They say, ‘Talk to me, I'm approachable.'
♦ Looking away shows disinterest or deviousness.
♦ Looking down conveys submission.
Confident people make more frequent eye contact than people who are unsure of themselves, so develop a steady gaze. When you enter a room move around comfortably, smile and make gentle eye contact with everyone; not too much, not too little.
Your breathing is very important too. You can calm down instantly and become less tense and anxious by taking your attention to the breath, slowing and deepening it.
Practise calming the breath. Slow breaths and a steady gaze, combined with an anchor such as ‘Cool, calm and relaxed', can combat nervousness any time, wherever you are and whoever you're with.
------------------------------------------------------------------------ <232------------------------------------------------------------------------- Make better use of your personal space. Try to make yourself bigger. The more room you appear to occupy, the more confident and important you appear. But moving too close to others is unsettling, so don't get too near.
------------------------------------------------------------------------ ^33--------------------------------------------------------------------------- Try ‘steepling'. Join your fingertips to form what looks like a church steeple. This communicates authority and gives the impression you're sure of what you're saying.
Many years ago I was a trainee executive with a large company. As part of my induction I was sent on a presentation skills course. After three days of intensive coaching we all had to make a ten minute presentation, which was to be videotaped, to instructors and colleagues on a subject of our choice.
Well aware of the impression that a wavering voice and incongruent body language made, I practised a clear, steady tone, confident expression and smooth, flowing hand movements in front of a mirror. When the moment arrived, although feeling far from relaxed, I was sure I would look and sound confident. And so it seemed initially. When the video was played back, my face and upper body looked completely relaxed.
However, the camera operator had noticed something of which I was entirely unaware. He panned in on my feet. Unbeknown to me, but perfectly obvious to everyone else in the room, they were tapping away uncontrollably, with a vigour which would have made Fred Astaire proud!
The moral? If you are not fully confident, no matter how hard you try to disguise it your nonverbals will give you away one way or another.
The next few sections look at the link between confidence and self-esteem and your relationships. It's two-way:
♦ Your relationships with others, both past and present, help determine your confidence.
♦ As your confidence and self-esteem grow, your relationships improve.
People lacking in self-esteem often measure their worth in terms of other people's approval. Children and adults alike are under tremendous pressure to earn approval from others by conforming to attitudes and behaviours which are not necessarily of their choosing. This kind of approval is not freely given for who you are - it is conditional on what you do.
The most common conditions of worth relate to our:
♦ Physical appearance - including style of dress.
♦ Intelligence - and mode of speech.
♦ Accomplishments - sporting, artistic, academic etc.
♦ Money and possessions.
♦ Family background.
We all want to be liked by others, and are willing to conform to some extent to win that approval. But when we feel we must do what others want so they'll like us, and this becomes the main reason for our actions, we're in grave danger of giving away our personal power and betraying our deepest values.
Your aim, of course, is to evaluate yourself by your own criteria, knowing that you are not what others think of you, but much more. Now you are an adult the only person whose approval you really need is you.
‘No one can make you
feel inferior without your consent.'
Think back to your school days. Were you teased or criticised for any of the conditions of worth listed on the previous page? Can you can remember any specific incidents? How did you feel about them at the time?
How do you feel about them now?
If you could change six ways in which you believe others see you, what would they be?
Do any of your family members, colleagues or friends take pleasure in constantly criticising you and reminding you of your so-called faults? Ask them to stop. If this fails,try asking.
‘What are you trying to achieve by speaking to me like that?'
‘Are you trying to make me feel... (stupid, etc)? Well, you've failed.'
Write down the very worst thing
that can happen if you are rejected by someone. Remember that other people only
have the power to upset you if you let them.
I do my thing, and you do yours.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations. You are not in this world to live up to mine.
I am I, and you are you.
And if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped.
‘The challenge is to
be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.'
Poster spotted in a shop window
Approval-seeking behaviour implies going along with what you think others expect out of fear that they won't like you. It means being excessively concerned with what others think.
Obviously there is nothing wrong with wanting to be liked and accepted; it's a natural human desire. But it becomes a problem when you allow others' approval to dictate how you feel about yourself. Psychologists recognise this as a deep-seated neurosis.
Approval-seeking behaviour does have short-term benefits; it keeps others happy, gets them off your back. But it could be at the expense of your long-term self-esteem. You cannot find longterm happiness by constantly pandering to others. Besides, people soon tire of a ‘yes-man'.
There is only one person whose approval you really need, and that's you. Other people's expectations are not your concern. You didn't create them, and you don't own them. If others don't like what you do that's their problem, not yours.
When you stop doing things just because others expect it, the sense of freedom can be exhilarating. No longer do you have to pretend to be something you're not. You always have the choice of how to respond to others' expectations. Use it wisely!
‘We can secure other
people's approval if we do right and try hard,
but our own is worth a hundred of it.'
Which if any of these are typical of you?
♦ Constantly craving recognition from others.
♦ Comparing yourself unfavourably with others.
♦ Being daunted by someone else's success.
♦ Being over generous to try to get others to like you.
♦ Not applying for a promotion because you don't believe you're up to the job.
♦ A tendency to seek out others who are shy or have low self esteem.
♦ Feeling like a victim most of the time.
♦ Frequently making excuses to avoid social events, or simply not turning up.
♦ Crossing the road or hiding to avoid speaking to someone.
♦ Staying in the background, for instance by avoiding wearing bright clothes or staying quiet when you've got something to say.
If you've answered yes to any of the above, what does this say about
you? What changes do you intend to make?
Don't rebel for the sake of it either: you're still judging yourself by others' criteria and not necessarily being true to yourself. You must decide what you believe in and how you conduct yourself.
Patricia was a worrier, and the thing she worried about most was what others thought of her. One day her son's teacher asked the class to take some newspapers to school the following day. All she could find at first was last week's local free advertiser and a copy of a down-market tabloid known mainly for the page displaying pictures of topless women. Patricia went into a panic. She couldn't let him take either of those. What would the teacher think?
Eventually, after a lengthy and heated discussion with her husband, he popped round to the next door neighbour's and returned with a few spare copies of a quality broadsheet. Phew!
In the event the teacher didn't even look at the newspaper. She only wanted them for papier mache!
First impressions last. We make up our minds about other people very quickly. We form 90% of our opinions about others in the first four minutes, so it's vital you think about how you present yourself to others.
The next few sections are about communicating with others. Talking to other people can be a nightmare when you lack confidence, especially if you're meeting them for the first time. But even though we don't tend to think of it that way, conversation is a skill we can all learn, starting with a few basic techniques, then gradually developing our own style.
A sustained effort to improve
your listening, conversational skills and assertiveness will
enable you to reach new heights of confidence. Nothing brings confidence more
surely than knowing that you can talk to people easily; that you always have
something to say and know how to say it.
‘We often pardon
those who bore us, but never those whom we bore.'
Duc De La Rochefoucauld
If you're part of a group who are mocking or criticising others, or making cruel comparisons, don't get involved. Stay quiet and you'll experience a wonderful sense of freedom. Gossip is like a boomerang - it always returns to hurt you.
There was a buzz in the hall as the new graduates and their parents consulted the seating plan and made their way to the tables. The ceremony had gone well. Now they could relax and tuck into a sumptuous graduation dinner in these stately surroundings.
But not everyone. The morning had been something of a trial for Will, a shy, retiring man who nevertheless enjoyed company. He turned to the woman next to him, anxious to start a conversation. He smiled nervously, trying to think of something witty to say. ‘I've always thought it's important to keep two things open in life,'he blurted out, ‘your options and your bowels.'
There was an embarrassed silence around the table, followed by uneasy spluttering. The woman turned her back. Will's daughter blushed. And no further attempts at conversation ensued for the remainder of the lunch.
Two people-pleasing attitudes:
♦ A stranger is simply a friend I've only just met.
♦ I'll make everyone glad they met me.
The art of good communication can be summarised in four points:
♦ Be a good listener so you truly understand what others say to you. Good listening earns genuine respect and admiration, and is one of the secrets of popularity.
♦ Have something good to say. Boring people make boring conversation.
♦ Express yourself well. Use colourful, descriptive language. Make your conversation sound interesting.
♦ Appeal to the emotions. There's a wise saying:The head never hears until the heart has listened.
You'd be amazed how much more confident you feel when you're a good
listener. You find you can handle business and social situations confidently.
Become a good listener and you'll gain a reputation as a good conversationalist
without having to say very much at all.
‘The Chinese verb to
listen is composed of five characters
meaning ear, you, eyes, individual attention, heart.
The art of listening
involves all of our being.'
If you catch yourself interrupting stop immediately, apologise, and invite the other person to continue.
Don't give the impression that you're just waiting for a pause so that you can jump in. A conversation was once described as ‘two people waiting for the other to stop speaking so they can start talking.'
There is often a temptation to use listening time to rehearse your reply. If you have a tendency to do this, try the following. When the speaker stops talking, count to three before replying. Then you know they really have finished, and are not just pausing to take a breath.
Check that you've heard and understood accurately by giving feedback. Precis what you've heard. For example:
‘If I understand you correctly, you're saying...’
‘So you think...?'
The speaker will soon correct you if you've misunderstood.
Learn to read non-verbals. Remember, body language imparts eight times
as much information as words, and tone of voice five times as much. Where
verbals and non-verbals contradict each other, believe the non-verbals.
Good listening doesn't mean agreeing if you don't like what you're hearing. If you disagree you're perfectly at liberty to say so. You can accept another's views without sharing them, so be aware that it's all-right to agree to differ.
You don't have to be a sheep to be popular. People are instinctively drawn to someone who has strength of character and a mind of their own.
A client told me this story.
‘I was travelling home on a bus when an elderly man, stinking of alcohol, sat down beside me, a bit too close for my liking. My first instinct was to move to another seat, which is what I would normally have done, but the bus was crowded and I didn't want to appear rude. I felt extremely uncomfortable.
The man started talking to me. At first I listened. He seemed harmless enough, so I decided to ask some open-ended questions to see if I could keep the conversation going. I noticed he had several carrier bags with him, and asked him if he enjoyed shopping. He said he didn't particularly, but since his wife died several years ago he had no choice. I asked about his wife, and he told me how much he missed her. They had known each other at school, married young and been together for nearly half a century. He had got into the habit of having a few drinks with his friends on the way home from town to delay going back to an empty house. He seemed glad to have an opportunity to talk about his wife, and wished me a cheery goodbye when he reached his stop.
As he rose from his seat, he said he'd enjoyed our conversation, but I was aware I hadn't really said very much. I was glad I had listened to him. And I noticed my uncomfortable feelings had gone completely.'
Standing up for yourself - assertiveness - means expressing yourself clearly, staying true to your needs and values, while at the same time respecting the dignity of others.
Assertiveness is not to be confused with arrogance, rudeness and being unrealistic in your expectations of others. Confident, well-adjusted people have no need to brag, or be overbearing.
When you know how to stand up for yourself you deal with situations, including the most difficult, effectively. You are unlikely to be steamrollered into anything against your will.
Remember, you get treated the way you teach others to treat you. Assert yourself and you gain others' respect. Your relationships are more sincere, because everyone understands you perfectly.
‘Too often our behaviour is dictated by obligation to others; in the
process, we forget the primary obligation: to be ourselves.'
Think about times in the past when you have not stood up for yourself. How do you wish you'd handled them? How could you respond more assertively if something similar happened again?
Make a list of the benefits to you personally of becoming more assertive. Then make a list of the disadvantages of staying as you are.
In which areas of your life would you like to be more assertive: at work, at home, in social activities, etc? Do you allow yourself to be pushed around?
Just for today don't say anything that conflicts with your true feelings, wishes, needs and values. Be firm and polite at all times, but don't allow anyone to take advantage of you.
At the end of the day, reflect. How well did it go? Learn from it, then
do the same again tomorrow.
We get used to knowing a person in a certain way. As you become more confident there will be those who don't like the change; they may even feel threatened by it. And others may take a while to adjust.
But don't let this deter you. They're not thinking of you. They're projecting their lack of selfesteem on to you. The last thing you'll want is to be knocked back to where you were. And why should you be? Just be sensitive to their feelings until they've become used to the new you.
You may even have to be prepared to lose a few friends and seek out more supportive relationships. But this won't be a problem. True friends will be pleased to see the positive changes you're making.
Even if you've never considered yourself to be assertive, mastering a few basic techniques soon starts to reap untold rewards. Apply the ITIA Formula©:
♦ Decide to become more assertive.
♦ Think like an assertive person, and think of yourself as one.
♦ Imagine yourself behaving assertively and being treated accordingly.
Act assertively. Start by taking small steps. Keep going until the
uncomfortable feelings fade.
‘This above all: to
thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the
night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.'
Make your point clearly, with conviction, and don't waffle. Then shut
up. If you don't succeed straight away, say it again, and if necessary keep
repeating it. Change the wording if you wish, but not the message. Stay calm
and don't allow yourself to be sidetracked.
Truly assertive people use their skills responsibly. They know when to ‘chill out' and when to ‘come on strong'. And they never deliberately hurt others' feelings.
So whenever you're faced with a choice of demonstrating how right you are and simply being kind, ask yourself whether it really matters, and if it doesn't, choose kind!
If someone is rude to you, put a hurt expression on your face and say, ‘You know, I found that awfully rude!'
Assertive people find it easy to say no when they mean no. They don't worry about being seen in a bad light. They know that just because they've been asked doesn't mean they're under any obligation. Passive people, on the other hand, usually find it hard to refuse.
Say you're asked a favour. It's inconvenient. You'd like to say no.
♦ Passive behaviour: Saying, ‘yes' while thinking, ‘What a nuisance. Oh well!' or making a string of half-hearted excuses in a feeble attempt to avoid causing offence.
♦ Aggressive behaviour: A blunt response, probably while thinking, ‘Why the ... should I?'
♦ Assertive behaviour: A warm, friendly smile, while saying, ‘No, I'm sorry it's not convenient. I've made other arrangements'.
In the long run saying yes when
you don't mean it only makes things worse for yourself. It puts you at greater
risk of stress and lowers your confidence and self-respect.
‘If we want to feet
truly confident, we must break the habit of
trying to please all people, all of the time'
‘The important thing is not what
of me; it is what I think of them.'
People lacking in confidence are often tempted to duck and weave when others try to talk them round to their point of view.
♦ Paul loves expressing an opinion but feels anxious if anyone disagrees with him, so he hedges his bets as much as possible by making sure his ideas will be acceptable to the person to whom he's talking at any time.
♦ Bert was once sold a set of encyclopaedias at the door because he didn't want to upset the salesman.
♦ Jennifer has a wardrobe full of clothes she has never worn because she is too timid to resist the attentions of persuasive shop assistants.
♦ John, aged 49, spends Sunday afternoons at his mother's, despite his children's protestations, because she expects it and he is too timid to tell her that some weeks he would rather make other arrangements.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to go through life without ever being criticised? Perhaps, but this is not possible. Employers, spouses, children, parents, friends and colleagues will all criticise you from time to time. You probably can't stop them, but you can learn to handle it.
Your attitude to criticism is heavily influenced by your experiences as a child; critical parents tend to raise either critical or defensive children. Only those with very low opinions of themselves are easily hurt or embarrassed by criticism, but if you have confidence in yourself you aren't unduly worried by it. You realise that people who constantly criticise others usually feel bad about themselves, and are projecting their low self-esteem onto others.
The inability to accept a compliment is another sign of low self-esteem. People lacking in confidence often regard compliments with suspicion, wondering why the other person is being so nice and if there's an ulterior motive. Get comfortable with compliments. They make both the giver and receiver feel good and build the self-esteem of all concerned.
‘What you think of me is none of my business.'
I overheard this clumsy attempt to give and receive a compliment at a recent talk on confidence. The presenter had asked the audience to compliment the person next to them. A middle-aged man turned to the young woman to his right.
‘You're friendly,' he said, ‘you remind me of my daughter.'
She blushed. ‘But your daughter might not be very nice,' she replied. He turned away, speechless.
Many people find it difficult to ask for what they want or to complain about poor service even when they are fully justified. They think it's impolite. They don't like upsetting people, or worry they might be met with hostility. They prefer to ‘put up and shut up'. Why? There are two main root causes:
♦ Low self-esteem; feeling unworthy of getting what they want.
♦ Not knowing how to ask or complain effectively.
Confident people aren't afraid
to complain. They're happy to ask for help when they need it. They find out what
they're entitled to,and refuse to settle for any less. They know it's
better to ask and run the risk of being turned down than to bottle up their
grievances and lose out for sure.
‘The greatest danger
for most of us is not that our aim is too high
and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.'
Be gracious. When you've got what you want, say ‘thank you' to everyone concerned.
Many years ago, before I was as confident as I am now, our camper van broke down in Germany. The insurers arranged for us to be towed to a local garage. We were told we could camp on the spare ground behind the garage while repairs were carried out and use the forecourt facilities during trading hours.
My wife, three young children and I stayed there for three days and nights, with no running water and no toilets from 6pm to 8am, no privacy, and constant noise from the busy road.
By the fourth day we were very fed up. Repairs hadn't even started because they couldn't get spare parts, so we telephoned the insurance company in England. ‘This is intolerable,' we said. ‘At this rate we could be here for days. What can we do?'
‘Your policy entitles you to bed and breakfast in a three star hotel until your van is repaired,' the young woman on the ‘phone informed us. ‘Do you want us to arrange it for you? We'll fix it up right away.'
Astonished, we asked why no one had told us this before. ‘You didn't ask!' she replied.
Would you believe it! We'd spent three days and nights living on a mud patch when we could have been staying in a comfortable hotel! All because we had been reluctant to ask about our entitlement.
People who lack confidence often take themselves very seriously. They take offence easily and quickly get defensive. They rise to the bait when someone pokes fun at them (and they do make easy targets). You can easily spot such people - they're usually on their own!
It's impossible to laugh and feel anxious at the same time, and the less anxious, the more confident you feel. So lighten up. Make a determined effort to see the funny side of life. Seek out people who have a good sense of humour, and have one or two funny stories up your sleeve.
When you laugh and make others laugh, it does wonders for your self-esteem.
‘Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.'
Make confidence-building fun. Every time you smash through a barrier or overcome a new hurdle, reward yourself. Do something you enjoy, that encourages you, that makes you want to carry on growing.
‘Whoever makes you
laugh helps you live.'
Michael was one of the most intense young men I have ever met. Still living with his parents at 28,he had no social life and had never had a girlfriend. ‘Why would any girl want to talk to me?' he asked me.
Within two minutes of meeting him the reason was obvious. He had no apparent sense of humour. The only TV programmes he watched were documentaries, and he couldn't name a single comedian who made him laugh. When he met people he was so eager to show off his immense knowledge that they soon switched off. He thought that sharing his problems would make women sympathetic, but it merely drove them away. Then he would take offence at their ‘rudeness' and go into a sulk.
Michael was in therapy for several months, during which he learned, among other things, to use the ITIA Formula©, find a purpose and cultivate some social skills. But the biggest breakthrough came when he realised his serious demeanour put people off. He immediately resolved to lighten up and the change over the following weeks was remarkable.
A few months after he concluded therapy a postcard arrived from Egypt. He had quit his job and set off on a world tour with his new girlfriend. The following year he sent cards from India, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and South and North America.
I have no idea where he is now or what he's doing, but I imagine it's a lot of fun!
Emotional intelligence is central for high self-esteem, confidence and assertiveness. It has two aspects, which are equally important:
♦ Self-awareness: an understanding of, and ability to manage your emotions.
♦ The ability to sense what others feel and respond appropriately. People who have this communicate more effectively, make friends more easily and inspire loyalty and confidence.
Human beings are more inclined to act emotionally than logically. When you relate to others on an emotional level, and realise that they're unlikely to think, feel and react like you - you get on better with everybody. Be sensitive to others' feelings, accept and empathise with them. Then you'll be more confident in all your personal interactions.
‘Grant me the serenity to accept
the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
And the wisdom to know the difference,'
Reflect on what you learned about emotions from the adults in your life when you were a child. Take this sentence and fill in the gaps:
‘Because of what happened when...,
I am likely to start feeling... when... Perhaps that's why...’
For example ‘Because Mum and Dad were always arguing when I was a child, I am likely to start feeling nervous when people raise their voices. Perhaps that's why I prefer to avoid confrontation.'
Own your emotions: they all originate inside you. They are your response to what you perceive and believe about what happens around you. People frequently make statements like, ‘My husband annoyed me', ‘You're winding me up'or ‘You're p****g me off,' but there's no real validity to any of them. Others can trigger emotional responses, but they can't make you feel anything. You and you alone create your emotions.
It would be more correct to say, ‘My husband's behaviour triggered a response of annoyance in me.'‘I am responding to your behaviour with a feeling of irritation.'
Accepting full responsibility
for your emotions is the basis of emotional intelligence.
There's an intimate connection between your breathing and emotional state. When you breathe slowly and deeply, anxiety and irritability melt away. Try it! Breathe slowly and deeply for two minutes. Then make your breathing rapid and shallow for two minutes. How do you feel?
Whenever you want to take charge of your emotions, take your awareness to your breathing. Take a long, slow breath and let out a loud extended sigh. Breathe slowly and evenly for a few minutes. You'll definitely feel calmer.
Don't try to suppress your emotions - in the long term, this intensifies them. Sooner or later you will have to face up to them.
Don't deliberately avoid situations which bring discomfort, for instance making excuses to stay away from a party because of shyness, or refusing to apply for a promotion for fear of the interview. Avoidance temporarily dulls the pain, but also eliminates any possibility of having emotions you would like - fun, friendship, adventure and so on. It's not much fun staying at home when you know your friends are out enjoying themselves, or watching others less able than yourself leapfrogging over you at work.
Face up to your emotions rather than run away from them, learn to handle them more appropriately, and their effect on you soon diminishes.
One of the great secrets of building confidence and self-esteem is to become less self-centred. Self-absorbed people rarely feel good about themselves.
♦ Take an active interest in others.
♦ When you focus your attention on others rather than yourself, you make them feel better and raise their self-esteem.
♦ And every time you contribute to raising another's self-esteem, you simultaneously raise your own to at least the same degree.
In the words of Og Mandino, ‘Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.'
‘When we seek to discover the
best in others,
we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.'
William Arthur Ward
Aim to do something to help raise the self-esteem of at least three other people every day. This doesn't require a great deal of time and effort, just a little thought. Simply giving someone your undivided attention makes them feel more valued and important.
Start with those closest to you - your family and friends. Three a day adds up to over 1,000 acts of kindness in the course of a year - a valuable contribution to others' happiness.
The golden rule which underpins all relationships is ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'Follow this,and you not only make others feel better about themselves, but you also find you make many friends.
Begin applying the golden rule by thinking about what you are about to say before you open your mouth. Ask yourself, ‘How would I feel if someone did or said this to me?'
Embrace every opportunity to offer a kind word or compliment. It costs nothing, yet brings so much benefit to both the recipient and giver:
♦ Say thank you often.
♦ Sincerely praise others' kindness, honesty, generosity, etc.
♦ Plant a suggestion in their minds that they can succeed.
♦ Avoid blame, ridicule, moralising and sarcasm.
♦ Only criticise where necessary, and do it constructively. Thoughtless criticism destroys self-confidence. We do the best we can most of the time and it hurts when our efforts are belittled.
Stop worrying about the impression you are making and focus on others instead. Most people are too preoccupied with themselves to take much notice of you. When you walk in a room, stop thinking, ‘Everyone's looking at me, I wonder what they think of me?'Instead think, ‘What an interesting group of people. I wonder what kind of lives they lead!'
Accept people as they are. Confident people are happy for others to be themselves. They don't try to control them - they don't need to. They allow them to think for themselves and make their own decisions. Trying to change others leads only to resistance and resentment on both sides. They're not going to change for you unless they want to,any more than you'd change for them.
Here's a powerful affirmation:
‘I gladly and willingly accept everybody exactly as they are.'
We feel better about ourselves when we concentrate on giving rather than receiving, and when we show consideration for others spreading love and happiness in every way we can. Whenever we give to others they feel valued, and it doesn't have to be much. Even a smile, a kind word and a few moments of our time are precious gifts.
Not only do we feel good about ourselves when we help others, but there's a knock-on effect. And we never know how far it will go. A few years ago I helped a young musician overcome stage fright. She couldn't afford the treatment so I waived my fee. At the time I was planning a new audio programme and it turned out that her father owned a recording studio. He was so grateful to me for helping his daughter that he offered the use of his studio at a very reasonable rate.
Get your mind off ‘What's in it for me?' and ask instead, ‘What can I do for you?'
Deep inside, at our very core, lies a natural centre of absolute stillness and peace which can bring a profound sense of wellbeing. This is the spiritual self - but how do we get in touch with it and experience it in our daily lives?
It starts by appreciating who and what we really are - that, in the words of Pierre de Chardin, ‘We are not human beings having spiritual experiences, but spiritual beings having human experiences.'
There's a story of a young philosophy student who goes to see his professor. ‘Please help me,' he pleads. ‘I've got a question that's eating me alive. I can't sleep through worrying about it. Tell me, do I exist?' The professor turns to him with a withering look and replies, ‘Who wants to know?'
With a little reflection, it soon becomes apparent that you are more than just a collection of bones held together by muscle and soft tissue, and more than a collection of thoughts and emotions. Something in you is aware not only of what you are thinking but also that you are thinking. This is it - the Spiritual Self.
When we realise that we are spiritual beings in human form, it's like waking from a dream. We can step back, see everything in its true perspective, deal with frustration, and find peace and understanding in an imperfect world.
You are now ready for the final breakthrough from which genuine confidence, self-esteem and peace of mind flow.
‘You are greater than you know, and all is well.'
‘ We can cope with
anything if we have the tools and can draw on our inner power. But there
is no sun without rain; no joy without spiritual awareness; and no growth without the
knowledge that help is always available and we can deal with life's difficulties.'
At the root of most anxiety is the wish that the world were different. Let go of this and you immediately feel more at peace. Stop judging. Display these words on your Wall of Confidence. Make them your prime motto:
Everything is exactly as it should be, and always works out for the best. I am at peace with myself and the world. Nothing and no one can destroy my peace.
Give up being dishonest. Confident people have no need to be untruthful, so always keep your word.
For the next 24 hours don't allow a single untruth to pass your lips. Then carry on for another 24 hours and so on. If you fail, just start again and never give up.
Live in the present moment and you are well on the way to lasting peace of mind.
Right now, probably all is well in your world, but the moment you allow your thoughts to wander to the past your inner peace is shattered until you bring it back to the present moment.
The only moment over which you have any control is now. Every moment, even the most ordinary is a precious gift. When you're clear on what's really important and focus on what you can do right now, the future has a habit of taking care of itself.
Imagine what it would be like if you were connected to a Universal Intelligence that works tirelessly for your benefit, offering you all the confidence you need. Imagine it guiding and supporting you, nourishing your mind and body and taking care of you.
Imagine you could
live securely in the knowledge that everything that happens is for your
If you've worked conscientiously through this book you have taken great strides forward in the last 12 months. You are more self-aware. You know how to set goals, think more confidently, imagine yourself as confident and behave more confidently. If you don't believe me, repeat the marks out of ten exercises (Confidence Builders 8,9 and 10) and compare these marks with what you gave yourself before.
Occasionally you may have felt yourself slipping back a little from time to time. This is perfectly normal; I call this the ‘ratchet effect' - two big steps forward, then one small step back. But if you hang on to your resolve, the overall trend is always upwards. Be patient, keep your eye on the ball, treat setbacks with equanimity and persevere.
I recently spent a fortnight at a holistic holiday centre in Greece where I met a determined young woman who was well on the road to greater confidence and self-esteem. As she reflected on her recent experiences,she uttered the words you will find below. When you become more confident and look back on your life, her sentiments will be yours too.
not going back into the
prison I created for myself'
in Skyros, Greece, June 2000