Helping clients to build self esteem and confidence is something I do a lot of, probably because it's an area in our lives that most of us feel we could do with improving on.
So below are a few tips and exercises I use on myself and with my clients and because we all respond differently you might find some will resonate better than others. Just give one or two a try and start to get an idea of what works best for you. Like learning anything new, some will need a bit of practice before you get to see results.
Most importantly remember we all have a choice in nearly every situation, even if it appears we don't. It might be a choice that takes a big leap of faith and gets you out of your comfort zone...but once you have done it it's likely to be easier and less scary the next time.
So in no particular order:
1) Use your imagination
Go back and find a time from your past when you felt the way you want to feel now and vividly re-live it as if you were back there again. Remembering the feeling from that past event is the most important part so it can be something very different in context and still be really helpful to your current situation. Close your eyes give yourself a quiet space and allow your mind to go back to the earlier time. Be as specific as possible and try and remember all of the details and use all your senses; what you were doing, how it felt, what else you can see was going on that confirms the positive experience, what you can hear and what other people might have said to you during and after that experience. Most of all focus on how great it felt to you and then, if you can, focus on whereabouts in your body you have the good feeling.
If you practice this enough you will soon have a great resource to call upon almost instantly! Alternatively if you don't have a good example from your past just imagine that you have already done what you want to be doing, in a way that was really successful for you and use that as an example for the exercise.
2) Monitor that inner critic
Quite often we will blow our feelings, thoughts and actions out of all proportion by letting our negative chatter take over. Instead start to be aware of your inner critic, just noticing it first of all. Once you get better at noticing that happening you can start to monitor your inner critic and check to make sure what it's saying really is accurate! This is different than trying to control it which is rarely helpful.
So look at your inner critic from an external, unemotional perspective like a lawyer in court asking lots of detailed questions to make sure it has it's facts right. Be alert to any vagueness or generality such as 'this always happens to me' or ' I'm terrible at this'. Instead look for exceptions so for instance when does this not happen to me and what is different about those times or check to see when there are times when you weren't terrible at it even if you still could have been better. The key is to look for and find evidence that proves your inner critic wrong even if it's just slightly wrong. This is a really powerful way of releasing and lessening those unwanted negative thoughts.
3) Redefine failure
The way you view failure often determines how you will think, feel and act afterwards. It's easy to have a negative view of failure, typically because we are taught to deal with it this way as children.
When you look at highly successful people and how they deal with failure they are more likely to want to get feedback from failure and actively seek the learning from it, rather than dwell on how terrible it was. They will also not take it too personally or seriously, recognising that life goes on. They are also good at putting it into perspective, allowing them to pick themselves back up reasonably quickly.
The most successful people of all accept and welcome failure because they recognise that they need to fail, sometimes many times, before they succeed.
4) What's the worst that can happen?
This might seem a negative way to build confidence and self esteem, yet by doing this you are dispelling any creative unrealistic ideas of failure your mind might have come up with and by developing a plan of action should it happen, you then feel more in control. For a specific situation ask yourself all the possibilities of what realistically might go wrong, work through each one in your head and then develop a plan for how you would manage each scenario, in a rational unemotional way. There will always be a number of options available if you plan before hand. By doing this you will then feel more in control going into a situation knowing that you have anticipated and planned for any eventuality.
5) Focus on the bigger picture
Quite often when we feel a lack of self worth or low confidence in our own ability to be good at something or feel like we are not successful or strong, our minds will focus just on those negative areas. Instead look at the bigger picture of your life and find areas that you can improve on that are easier to do so and make sure you are doing things in your life that you enjoy and can lose yourself in. This will then have a knock on effect on improving your lack of self esteem in other areas.
You might also want to check out how you are doing as far as some of our essential emotional needs. They are all key to us living a fulfilling life. Some will be more important than others to you and it can be helpful to see which ones are not being met as much as you would like;
The need to give and receive attention
The need to look after your body.
The need for meaning, purpose and goals.
The need for a connection to something greater than ourselves
The need for creativity and stimulation
The need for intimacy and connection to others.
The need for a sense of control
The need for a sense of status and recognition from others.
The need for a sense of safety and security
Of course for some people there is a more historic reason for low self esteem tied to events or experiences in the past which can create more complex issues, which is where therapy is more appropriate.
Article written by Lawrence Michaels - Hove
I'm a qualified Solution Focussed Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner, specialising in anxiety related concerns. I have been practising since 2008 and have also worked extensively with clients who have eating, weight and body image concerns in addition to a large number of other life issues. I hold a current... [read more]