Confidence- The key to a happy life?
Some have called this the key to leading a happy life, but what is confidence? How can we develop it? And what can we do to maintain it?
Confidence is a quality that is best described by looking at what happens when it is lacking. A basic lack of confidence can be a real problem for so many people, and when I talk to people about it, it is amazing just how many people report they are lacking in it. This can manifest itself in many different ways. Many people lack confidence in a social setting, where they are too shy to talk to new people, or they cannot not pluck up the courage to talk to a member of the opposite sex. This can lead them to feel lonely or isolated. Other people suffer from a lack of confidence because they have been put down so many times that they now believe that they are inferior in some way. This can mean that they can’t stand up for themselves at work or in personal relationships, and make their needs and views heard or understood. New mothers can struggle looking after their babies because they have been told they are ‘not doing it right’, by the media, older relatives, or other well meaning sources. This can really shatter their confidence and lead to all sorts of problems which are caused by stress, during what is already a stressful time.
Confidence can also be much more than that however. Some people who may appear to be very confident and capable in a social context may feel that they lack the confidence to take on new ventures, or possibly return to work after a period off because they do not feel that they can or will succeed. Others might not push themselves forward to the next step of their development for exactly the same reason. Perhaps they are scared of success, perhaps they do not feel that they deserve success, perhaps they do not know how they would cope with success.
The most important thing about confidence is that it impacts on almost every area of our life, whether we acknowledge it or not. It was put forward by an eminent hypnotherapist called Hartland that the root of nearly every problem is a lack of confidence. Initially that might seem a bold comment, but if you think about it deeply, it makes sense. If you had supreme confidence in your own abilities, you would be able to tackle any problem that you might have, be it social anxiety, or weight control, public speaking, or stopping smoking. Hartland found that no matter what problem his clients presented with, that simply by helping them strengthen their egos, most of the conditions they presented with improved.
In my opinion, the key to achieving confidence is self acceptance. If we aspire to be someone we aren’t, then we are setting ourselves up for failure, and that is not great for building confidence. That is not to say that you cannot improve yourself, but acknowledging your personality, and make up is important. If like me you have a real weakness for sweet things, and from time to time indulge yourself in them, then there is no point in beating yourself up about it. That is your nature, and you like sweet things! You might be angry if your dog chases after next door’s cat, but all in all you understand that many dogs like to chase after cats, it is in their nature, and they have not ‘failed’ because they gave in to their nature. You would probably just give them a bit of a telling off and still love them as much as ever. But do we do that with ourselves?
Think back to when you were at school and to the type of teacher that you liked and worked well for. Frequently it was the type who was nice to you, praised you and encouraged you, and made you feel that you were doing well. In other words, it was a teacher who built up your confidence. All the time we tend to have an internal dialogue going on in our heads, and in a way it is a bit like having a teacher telling us what we should be doing, and telling us off when we do something wrong. Just as we did not respond to the teacher who scolded us, and put us down, we are unlikely to respond well to our own internal dialogue if it is constantly reprimanding us, and passing on negative messages.
So what can we do to change this? How can we find self acceptance, and reconcile ourselves to what we truly are? How can we change our thought patterns to be more positive? As you can imagine there are many paths, both spiritual and practical. There are many self-help books to be found on the subject, and most of them offer something to most people. I can particularly recommend ‘Feel the Fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers, or ‘Heal your life’ by Louise Hay, but there are many, many more around that you could find useful.
Therapy, especially cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is also very effective, because it works on changing ideas and beliefs (cognitions) that we hold about ourselves and instilling new helpful and positive ideas and beliefs in their place. Hypnotherapy is also incredibly effective, and works really well in conjunction with CBT. A good hypnotherapist can teach you how to do self hypnosis to help you achieve changes in your belief structures and your life. CBT is the treatment of choice in the NHS, and your doctor may refer you to a CBT therapist, or alternatively you can find a private therapist or hypnotherapist who offers CBT.
Other therapies can be very helpful too. As a cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist and Reiki practitioner, my initial reaction to someone who had come for confidence issues would be to treat them with hypnotherapy, but I would also consider Reiki for certain clients, as some clients tend to find that they see their issues more clearly after Reiki, and this can help them to identify some of their thinking errors which might be sapping their confidence.
Once you have done the work to build your confidence, you need to keep working on it. You need to be good to yourself and take care of yourself and develop a deep sense of self respect and self love. Be gentle with yourself, and think about how you would treat a child if they stepped out of line, when you think you have done something you shouldn’t. We are all little children deep inside, and after all if we can’t love ourselves, who can we love?
By Carolyn Potter
Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master
phone 07774 890064