I think most of us will ask ourselves about confidence like this at some point in our lives. I know I have and I’ve certainly worked with lots of people who limit themselves by thinking that they’re not OK which means they lack confidence.
They may say things like, “there’s something wrong with me” or “if I had more confidence then I could do a better interview and get another job” or “I know what I want to say, but the words just don't come out right”.
Some of us may feel a bit shy and get over it but there are others who find this lack of confidence incredibly life-limiting. Some people can’t get jobs for months on end or feel they can’t do things at work they’d like to.
Sometimes we might sit in a meeting kicking ourselves because we didn’t have the confidence to say what we wanted.
Some people avoid going out at all because they dread what other people think of them. I suppose these days with social media it can be even worse. It can seem like everyone else is having more fun.
I meet a lot of people who suffer with a lack of confidence. Some don't look me in the eye as they are talking. Others give me great long lists of their faults, why they could never do this or that. It’s heartbreaking as I never agree with their own damning version of themselves.
What I also know is that appearances are deceptive about other people’s confidence.
This was brought home to me at a monthly women’s networking event. There are usually twenty of us sitting around a table. At the start, each of us stands up to introduce ourselves in under 60 seconds.
Maybe you’re sweating already at the thought of that! Oh the pressure not just to perform but to shine in a room full of women who all look amazing and run great businesses. I love hearing what other women say about themselves and what they do and admire how confident they seem.
Speaking to them afterwards, it’s like there was another person in the room with me as they tell me a completely different version of what was going on inside them. It’s as though they have no confidence at all. Most will say things like, “God that was awful, I was SO nervous” or “I was shaking like a leaf”.
So what is going on? How could these women look confident and act confident but not FEEL confident? We’re certainly not born lacking confidence. After all, babies don’t lack confidence to cry loudly and get their needs met, do they?
The truth is that we learn our confidence, our sense of OK-ness, from our experience and more than anything from the reactions we get from other people. Usually we have total confidence in ourselves when nobody’s around. It’s only when we factor in what we think other people are going to think that we start to lose our self-confidence.
Our early learning has a huge influence on what we think about ourselves. Our parents unwittingly and sometimes deliberately shape what we think about ourselves. I remember a family member saying to me fairly regularly, “You’re not fit to be let loose”. They didn’t mean anything bad by that I’m sure, I was the apple of this particular relative's eye. But I remembered that recently and thought what a terrible message to give a small child!
I’ve worked with many people who have been scarred by early school experiences. These are often the first significant time we’re aware that other people don’t think as highly of us as our parents do. Those times when you’re trying your best in the classroom and the teacher points out your shortcoming – even worse if other kids in the room then laugh.
Often we’re basing what we think of ourselves on a story we’ve taken from someone else back in time, Usually there are other possible interpretations we could have taken from that experience. Maybe the teacher was tired that day and said something out of turn. Or maybe your work was fine and other kids were just being mean for some reason about them and not about you.
Maybe your parents were under incredible pressure at that time and they may have snapped at you without thinking and said something cutting. Worst of all there are people who have been deliberately abused and who start to believe that they are at fault rather than the perpetrator.
Our mind lays down all sorts of unhelpful stories as memories and they surface out of our conscious control as feelings when our brain recognises a familiar pattern linked to that old memory but in the present. Like when you have to stand up to speak in a meeting. For many people, this links with memories of awful embarrassments when we fluffed reading out loud in school. So our sense of self lies tucked away in multiple learnings over time. Your conscious may WANT improvement and you’ll psyche yourself up to be confident but it’s your old learnings that are the obstacle. They come out in feelings and those feelings are there to keep us safe. To spare us from those old hurts.
So, if it’s a story that you’ve interpreted in a certain way to mean you’re this or that then that story can be changed with the help of Cognitive Hypnotherapy and Coaching.
I help clients learn about new stories they can be using to build confidence and weave this into my hypnotherapy suggestions. Usually this means helping you to reframe a past experience as well as building tools to be more confident in the present. I've worked with many people like this to free them from lacking confidence in all sorts of settings, particularly with interviews, public speaking and giving presentations as well as for social anxiety.
If you'd like to learn what might help you with the pain of lacking confidence, I'm here to help.