Best dress? Tick. Favourite bag? Yep. Self-confidence? Um… We all have days when we doubt ourselves and feel so unattractive and useless that we just want to hide. Truth is, though, these insecurities are usually all in our minds. ‘They’re only a perception, not the reality,’ says life coach Fiona Harrold, author of The 10-Minute Life Coach (Angus & Robertson). ‘We get into the habit of talking ourselves down, but you can choose to talk yourself up instead. Taking control of those negative thoughts chattering away in our heads is the key to maximising our self-confidence.’ To help you ditch the doubt, we’ve identified five confidence-shaking situations, and with our expert help, you can banish those insecurities for good.
PRE-WORK PANIC ATTACK?
The alarm went off 20 minutes ago, but you’re still in bed. You’re facing a very important day at work and your nerves are getting the better of you. Hmm, maybe you should call in sick. ‘Everybody’s fear, particularly at work, is that they’re just not good enough,’ Harrold says. ‘We doubt our abilities and are afraid someone will realise we’re frauds.’
Confidence Booster: Write down three successes you’ve had at work – however big or small – that made you feel good about your abilities. ‘Say to yourself, "l know I can do this," and acknowledge these previous successes,’ Harrold suggests. ‘Boost your self-confidence by telling yourself you’re good enough and that today is going to be successful.’ Next, do something practical to tackle your anxiety.
‘Taking 10 minutes to have a bath in the morning, rather than a shower, will relax your body and calm your mind,’ says psychotherapist Gael Lindenfield, author of Self Esteem Bible (Dymocks). ‘Close your eyes and visualise a tranquil scene.’ Remind yourself of the rewards, too. ‘Getting through this day could be the route to promotion, so keeping the bigger picture in mind can help motivate you.’
Stamp Out Self-Doubt:
When you have an important meeting or a presentation, imagine your shoes are glued to the floor. Sounds silly, but it will keep you focused and stop any nervous fidgeting.
BODY IMAGE BLUES?
You’ve hit the shops but nothing looks right. The more clothes you try on, the worse you feel, until finally your body confidence has evaporated. ‘We’re incredibly vulnerable in this situation, because our body image is something we feel sensitive about,’ Lindenfield says. ‘We’re bombarded with so many messages about beauty that we feel we don’t measure up.’
Confidence Booster: ‘When you’re having a body-confidence crisis, get out of the changing room fast,’ advises Lindenfield. ‘Think of compliments people have paid you in the past and use the positive feeling those memories evoke to start thinking about your best attributes, instead of fixating on the negative.’
Life coach Pam Richardson, author of The Life Coach (Angus & Robertson), adds, ‘When we’re critical of our own appearance, we focus on what we think are our flaws. But would you say the negative things you tell yourself to your best friend? Start being your own best friend and be kinder to yourself.’
Stamp Out Self-Doubt: Stand in front of the mirror and say, ‘I like and accept myself exactly as I am.’ Repeat this affirmation while looking yourself in the eye.
He’s gorgeous, he’s sexy and he’s asked you out to dinner. You should be ecstatic, but you’re so convinced he’s out of your league that you’re 10 seconds away from cancelling.
Confidence Booster: ‘It helps if you nail what your fear is,’ says Harrold. ‘Are you worried he’ll think you’re not attractive or interesting enough? Remind yourself how fabulous you are and that he’s lucky to be going on a date with you. Focusing on your special qualities raises your self-esteem and, if you’re feeling good about yourself, that’ll come across to him,’ says Harrold.
Next, take him off that pedestal. ‘Don’t think he’s Mr Perfect and that you have to impress him. He asked you out because he wants to get to know you, so have the courage to be yourself.’ Deflect any self-conscious feelings you have by putting the spotlight on him.
‘Ask him questions about what he enjoys doing,’ says Lindenfield. ‘The better you are at listening, the more attractive you’re going to be to him.’
Stamp Out Self-Doubt: Smile. It’s the last thing you want to do when you’re tense, but if you try to appear like someone who’s relaxed and confident, the way you’re feeling on the inside will soon catch up.
FREAKING OUT ABOUT MEETING HIS PARENTS?
When your new boyfriend said he wanted you to meet his parents, you were thrilled. But now the day’s nearly here and you feel intimidated. Will they hate you? Love you? ‘You’re nervous because you want to make a good first impression and don’t want to let your boyfriend down,’ says Richardson. ‘One day, these people could be your in-laws.’ There’s lots at stake here.
Confidence Booster: Write down three great relationships you have with older people, perhaps within your own family, or with a neighbour or a colleague. ‘Allay your fears by recognising that you have the ability to get on with people of all generations,’ Harrold says. Ask his parents questions to show you’re genuinely interested in them.
‘What most parents hope for is somebody who loves their child as much as they do,’ Richardson says. ‘So making it clear how much you think of their son will automatically make them warm to you.’ This isn’t about impressing them with how smart or accomplished you are; impress them with your genuine sincerity and warmth instead.
Stamp Out Self-Doubt: Giving his parents a gift – even just a bottle of wine – makes you look thoughtful and gives you something to discuss during those first awkward moments.
You’ve seen an ad for your dream job, but there’s a voice in your head saying you haven’t got a hope in hell of getting it. ‘When you’re scared, it can seem safer not to even try,’ says Harrold.
Confidence Booster: Overcome your fear by confronting it head on. Ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ In this case, it would be not getting the job. Then ask yourself, ‘What’s the best thing that could happen?’ You could surprise yourself by actually landing the job. And then there’s so many positive things that come with a new job – you’ll acquire a new set of skills, you’ll meet new people, you’ll have an updated resumé – and you may even learn more about yourself. You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain.
Stamp Out Self-Doubt: Visualise your best career achievement to date. Hold that moment in your mind to regain that incredible feeling of success. If you’ve done it before, you can do it again.