• Cornerstones of Self-Confidence

    StressWe all need self-confidence. It can give us the courage to face difficult situations which those of us who lack self-confidence are often unable to do. One of the most frequent reasons people give for approaching Birmingham Counselling Services is that their low self-esteem is making their lives painful and difficult.

    The question, of course, is how do you build up your self-esteem? At work, it helps if you can first define your tasks and priorities with reasonable accuracy. Then you need to ask yourself how you can accomplish these tasks, ideally in order of priority, (And it also helps to bear in mind that your priorities might not be exactly the same as other people’s. Can you compromise?) A good technique to start with is to break down your tasks into smaller goals. This makes the main task less daunting – it is not a great mountain to be climbed, it has become a number of smaller hills which can be tackled in stages. You then need to make sure you congratulate yourself every time you successfully complete a stage. Who knows, you might start to notice that you are making progress, that you are able to reach the goal which at first seemed unachievable. When you get there, take time to acknowledge what you have done and allow yourself to take the credit for it. Enjoy it.

    What is the familiar view of yourself that you recognise?  If your self-image is poor and you constantly run yourself down, you will undermine your chances of succeeding in life/work/relationships.  What you believe about yourself can be easily damaged if you blame yourself alone for any serious setback in your life, such as a business failure, the loss of a job, a relationship breakdown.  Others will have had some involvement too.  So stop beating yourself up, reinforcing your negative self-assessment.  Don’t live in the past – you cannot change it, whatever you do.  What you can do is to resolve not to make the same mistakes again, to learn from what has gone wrong and to do better next time.  And try not to assume that the next challenge which comes along will inevitably result in failure.  It need not, and there are such things as self-fulfilling prophecies.

    Those who are close to you can play an important role in building or undermining your self-confidence. If they are constantly critical or negative they will have a negative impact on you.  If you can, try to distance yourself from these people and remind yourself that you don’t have to believe everything they say. Spend time with friends, family and colleagues who have a more optimistic outlook and who see you more positively. Their company is likely to be supportive and to boost your self-image.

    Something else that matters is how you respond to events in your life. Remind yourself that you are unique and have your own special place in the world. When you encounter a situation which feels potentially overwhelming try not to react swiftly and immediately, either by diving in or by running away. Stop, take a breath, and try to see the monster more clearly. The chances are that your initial impression has exaggerated the size and power of whatever you are facing, (the shadow is frequently larger and more terrifying than the reality which casts it). Remember that you can break things down into component parts, smaller and more manageable than the whole. Do that, and start on one of the parts.  This can help you to develop positive attitudes, beliefs and values, qualities that will contribute towards building the self-confidence you need.

    The downside of all this positive thinking and action is the possibility of becoming over-confident, and not listening to what others say. You need not allow this to happen (and it is unlikely). Listen to the criticism you receive – it will not all be negative. Identify the constructive points and take them on board, and try not to dwell on the unrelentingly negative – filter them out. You can always ask the critic what s/he would have done or said in the same circumstances and learn from their response. If there isn’t one, you can ignore the original criticism. It’s all too easy for someone to pick holes in another’s speech or actions without having anything positive to contribute themselves. Remember that nothing and no-one is 100% good or bad, including the critic and you yourself.

    At the same time, keep on monitoring your internal dialogue. Does that negative voice still whisper comments which undermine you? Tell yourself that you can take up any reasonable challenge, and that you need not be frightened to have a go at some of the others – after all, they will break down into component parts too. This will help to silence the negative voice, with its sabotaging attitudes and beliefs, and support your positive, if fragile, self-image.

    In fact, the image you have of yourself needs regular monitoring and care. It cannot be left to take care of itself. Your self-confidence, happiness and success depend on regular practice. You need to guard against selling yourself short. Try not to underestimate yourself and do your best to prevent recurring feelings of inferiority from creeping in. This doesn’t mean that you never acknowledge your mistakes, of course; it does mean that you allow yourself to recognise your successes and achievements and strengths and good qualities too.  Write down how you would like to see yourself five or ten years from now. Remember that getting to that place will not be one giant step, it will be many small steps taken in manageable stages.

    Make a list of your strengths, the things you do well and the compliments you receive. Write down a few of the things about yourself which you think need improvement and which you can work on. The first list will be longer than the second. Yes it will!  Think of yourself as a self-confident person and try to act with confidence even if you don’t feel that way. Other people frequently take us at our own estimation – you can invite positive feedback.

    It is relatively easy to write down all this advice. It is more difficult to follow it, however good our intentions. There are skilled and qualified counsellors at Birmingham Counselling Services who can help and support you if you feel you need external assessment and affirmation while you are on this journey. You can contact us via our website: www.BirminghamCounsellingServices.co.uk or by telephone on 0121 314 9903.

    Do it today – you’re worth it!

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