Confidence is the greatest gift under the sun. When your confidence is high you can conquer the world. You can take control of your life in every way: work goes swimmingly; relationships become more straightforward. The world simply feels like a friendlier place. Yet few of us have unlimited stores of self-confidence. We are far more likely to suffer self-doubt and self-criticism than revel in self-adoration. Why? Generally it goes back to childhood when we picked up all those negative messages from a host of concerned grown-ups both at home and at school. They told us it was a dangerous world out there; to be careful; to be prepared for the worst so we wouldn’t be too disappointed when it happened. No wonder we grew up doubting ourselves. But it’s never too late to learn new tricks to foster self-confidence. The following methods can help anyone feel happier and more at ease in life. Try them – you just might change your whole life.
THE POWER OF POSITIVE THOUGHT: “It’s a peculiar quirk of human nature to focus on failure,” says hypnotherapist Wendy Grant, author of Are You in Control (Element) who insists that the more we focus on our failures, the more likely we are to create them over and over again. The key is to boost your self-image. Focus on the things you do well and the things you have achieved, however small they might seem. Write a list of everything you have achieved in your life – from learning to ride a bike to having a child. It should be a pretty long list. Remember, above all, says Wendy, that you are an individual: “No one else can feel as you do; no one else has your sense of humour or your way of seeing things; no one else can even write your name exactly as you do.” So stop comparing yourself to other people and live your life.
OILS TO BOOST YOUR SELF-ESTEEM: Aromatherapy oils have powerful effects on your emotions as well as your physical body. Some are particularly good at helping you feel better about yourself, more confident and more in control. Aromatherapist Gabriel Mojay, author of Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit (Gaia) says, “One of the most effective aromatics for boosting self-confidence is rosemary oil…it warms and invigorates both the body and mind, uplifting the spirit and instilling inspiration.”
He also suggests laurel for low self-esteem; it’s great if you feel you’re not clever enough. For low morale, Gabriel suggests thyme: it helps overcome feelings of self-doubt and defeatism. If you feel overwhelmed by an oppressive environment (perhaps at work) check out pine and hyssop oils. If poor health has dented your confidence try tea tree. Use a few drops of your chosen oil in a carrier oil for massage or an uplifting bath. Alternatively put oils in a special burner and let the scent drift around you all day. If you need to use the oils more subtly, pop a few drops on a tissue and sniff it throughout the day.
FLOWER REMEDIES – SUBTLE HEALERS: Flower essences do not work on the physical body but on an energetic level, soothing emotions, invigorating and balancing our psyches. The Bach remedies are the great-grandfather of flower essences, emerging around sixty years ago. The classic Bach remedy for lack of self-confidence is Larch. However many other remedies can help including Gentian (for despondency and discouragement); Cerato (doubting your self-judgment); Pine (for guilt and self-blame); Centaury (if you are timid and subservient).
The Australian Bush Flower remedies are also worth investigating. Naturopath Ian White who developed the essences believes that the remedies can go right to the core of modern dilemmas such as lack of confidence and dislike of self. Five Corners is perhaps the supreme confidence-booster, a wonderful remedy for low self-esteem, particularly if you have a bad body image or dislike yourself: it teaches love and acceptance of self. Dog Rose is useful if you are shy, insecure and apprehensive with other people; Flame Tree for people who constantly feel rejected; Red Grevillea if you depend too much on other people and are over-sensitive to criticism. Sturt Desert Rose gives people the strength to be true to themselves and can ease guilt and low self-esteem. Sunshine Wattle is superb for those who feel stuck in the past and always expect the worst from the future.
VISUALISE SUCCESS: Use the power of your own mind to help you become a new, confident person. Ask yourself: “What would happen if I were confident?” Wendy Grant points out that you might have good reasons for staying the way you are – you might be afraid of losing friends, of being seen as bossy or self-opinionated. Now start to imagine how you would be if you were supremely confident. What would you do? What would you wear? What would you say? Where would you be? Imagine it in as much detail as you can. If you find it hard to see yourself like that at this point, Wendy Grant suggests you create a picture of someone you know who demonstrates the confidence you admire. “Imagine him or her doing something you would like to be able to do,” she suggests, “How do they approach it? What body posture do they use? What expression do you see on their face? How do you think they are feeling at that moment? Now imagine that you could slip inside their skin and experience doing that thing the way they do. How does it feel? After a while step outside, and with that new knowledge see yourself approaching the same task, challenge or goal. You can do it!”
THE MIRACLE OF MASSAGE: We actively need to be touched. Research has found that massage can actually reduce depression and increase feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. And it feels great too. There’s no excuse for not having massage – if you can’t afford to see a professional, go to workshops or buy a video and learn the basic techniques yourself. Get your partner or a friend to learn too and then swap massages. There are any number of techniques – from the gentle strokes of aromatherapy massage (try the oils already mentioned) to the deep stretches of shiatsu. Massage isn’t just a pampering session – it helps you feel good about your body, can release tension and is the best stress-buster going. Professional bodyworkers also find that quite often old memories and the origins of self-doubt and lack of confidence can surface when they work on the body. So massage can have a strong psychological effect, releasing old traumas and resolving unfinished business. It doesn’t always happen – don’t automatically expect to relive your birth trauma at your next massage – but it’s quite possible.
SELF-HYPNOSIS – HARNESS YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS: Wendy Grant suggests the following self-hypnosis exercise to build confidence.
a) Make yourself comfortable and relax. Focus on something in front of you (a picture, lamp, mark on the wall) and begin counting backwards from 500 to yourself. Continue counting until your eyes feel tired and want to close. Let them go and stop counting. Check you are totally relaxed right through your body.
b) Choose something you would like to be able to do, if only you had the confidence. Make sure it is something you really want to happen.
c) Place it to one side for now and think instead of something you know you do really well – it might be baking cakes, gardening, ironing a shirt, cleaning the car. Imagine doing that task now and notice exactly how you are feeling as you do it…perhaps you are so relaxed you hardly have to think about it. Imagine completing the task and experience how good you feel when it’s done.
d) Now, taking your new goal, picture yourself doing it in the same way, easily, successfully. Use the same expression, the same easy, relaxed attitude, the same calm assurance. Picture it now….
e) Say quietly to yourself: “This is how I am going to …..[insert your goal]. I can do it. I am confident. I will succeed.” Take your time and enjoy the sense of achievement.
f) Count slowly backwards from five to one, open your eyes and come back to normal consciousness with a wonderful feeling of confidence in your own ability.
g) Repeat this exercise daily until you get the results you want. Remind yourself often of your own achievements and goals.
GET PHYSICAL: Feeling good in your body is one of the key steps to feeling confident. Few of us are perfect with the face of a model and a drop-dead gorgeous body but we can learn to love our physical selves nonetheless. If you don’t already exercise think about starting a regime: you could join a gym, sign up for exercise classes or simply start a walking or swimming programme. Start small and slowly build up – if you do half an hour of exercise three times a week you will see a world of difference within six weeks. If you hate regular exercise take up dancing, yoga, t’ai chi or a martial art. Martial arts in particular will give you an enormous sense of self-worth and a huge dose of confidence as you start to realise you can take care of yourself in any situation. You’ll be amazed how quickly you turn from super-wimp into wonderwoman.
USE AFFIRMATIONS TO ACHIEVE SUCCESS: Dr Herbert Benson, a leading doctor at Harvard University Medical School in the USA, has found that our thoughts produce actual physical reactions in the body. We are what we think. Many new age teachers like Louise Hay and Sondra Ray have been saying the same thing for years. They use affirmations to create new states of confidence and success. The process is really simple. Pick a statement that expresses what you want to achieve. It has to be totally positive and include your name. So, for instance, it might read “I Jane, now choose to be supremely confident.” Write out the phrase twenty times every day for at least ten days. Each time you write the phrase think about what you have written and scribble down your response, your gut reaction to the phrase. So you might find yourself writing. “What rubbish.” or “I’m hopeless when I meet new people.” As you keep going you may find you get fresh insights into why you aren’t confident or where your confidence has been battered in the past. Persist with the exercise and you should notice surprising results.
BECOME ASSERTIVE: “To succeed in life, to get things done, to prevent people walking all over us, it is sometimes necessary to be assertive,” says Wendy Grant. Becoming assertive, even in the tiniest ways, can really boost your self-esteem and hence your confidence. Wendy suggests that you start to become assertive in everyday situations. “Ask yourself, if you were in the position of the other person, would you want someone to tell you?” she says, “If you had sold inferior goods, would you rather the customer brought them back or lose that customer? If something you had said (or done) was causing anger or hurt, would you not want that person to tell you so that the situation could be resolved.” Start seeing being assertive as something really positive – for other people as well as for yourself.
FIND YOUR VOICE: When we’re nervous or shy our voices tend to shrink, to become high and squeaky. We stutter and stammer and lose our words. Finding your true voice and learning how to use it to its full potential has a subtle yet powerful effect: when you use your voice fully, you immediately sound more forceful and important. People start to treat you with more respect and that, in turn, boosts your sense of self-esteem. So spend some time with your voice. Voice trainers and sound therapists often give workshops but you can do a lot on your own. Start singing: join in with the radio or a favourite download. Find what pitch you feel happy with and really belt out the songs. As you continue you’ll find you start to breathe more fully and deeply – you have to or you won’t be able to sustain the notes. Use this natural, slow, deep breathing when you talk too. If you feel anxious or nervous practice humming – just sit quietly and let the hum resonate through your body. It’s very soothing. You can sing your affirmations too: try short daft ones like “I’m great, I’m great, I’m utterly utterly great.” Or “Listen to me, listen to me, I’ve got a right to be heard.” Belt them out as if you were on The Voice.
(c) Jane Alexander