How To Build Up Your Self-Confidence

Dr Vernon Coleman

Advice about how to cope with stress and about how to deal with anxiety is frequently rather vague and simplistic. Too often doctors and others will merely tell a patient suffering from a stress related disorder that she or he must spend some time relaxing. That isn't a lot of help, of course. Most people assume that they are relaxing when they are slumped in front of the television set - but they aren't. Just sitting down and trying (usually in vain) to ignore the day's problems won't help at all. If you are going to deal effectively with stress and cope efficiently with anxiety you have to do a little more than that. You have to learn how to use the power of your own mind constructively.

Don't forget that it is your mind's ability to exaggerate problems and to see the worst possible outcome that helped to create your feelings of anxiety. It is your mind which makes you susceptible to stress and pressure and, if you know how to use it properly, your mind that can also defend you against stress and immunise you against the unpleasant consequences of anxiety. Your imagination can make you ill - but it can make you well again too; it can make you weak but it can also make you strong.

All this may sound daunting and rather impossible. It isn't. It really is very simple.

To start with one of the best ways to help yourself reduce your exposure to unnecessary and harmful stresses is to build up your own self-confidence. The more you can build up your confidence the less susceptible you will be to guilt, to destructive feelings of inadequacy and to excessive self-criticism. You will also be stronger when you are confronted by people who want you to do things that you don't really want to do. All these things will help you deal extremely effectively with stress.

Try sitting down with a piece of paper and a pencil and writing down all the good things you can think of to say about yourself. Imagine that you are preparing an advertising campaign for yourself. Throw modesty out of the window and try to promote all your virtues and good points. Imagine that you are trying to sell yourself to the world - though in reality, of course, all you are trying to do is to sell yourself to yourself.

Try to think of all the good words which describe you; honest, generous, thoughtful, hard working, punctual, careful, considerate, moral, kind, ambitious, creative. Write down every good word that you think you can honestly apply to yourself. And don't be falsely modest - no one except you need ever see this list.

Make a list of all your assets too. I don't mean a crude list of the money you have and the things you own - though by all means do that if it will help you feel better - but a list of all the intangibles in your life; your partner, your children, your integrity, your friends, your interests, your knowledge, your accomplishments and your memories - particularly your memories. Those are the real valuables in your life.

If you lack self-confidence you will probably often worry about disastrous things happening to you; you may become almost irretrievably pessimistic. But you can defuse this particular fear by always asking yourself: 'What is the worst thing that can happen in this situation?' You will frequently be surprised to find that the 'worst' really isn't all that bad. And once you know the worst you can make plans accordingly.

Seven ways to build up your self-confidence

In order to build up your self-confidence you must replace negative, damaging feelings of failure, incompetence and unworthiness with positive feelings of success. Here are some practical ways in which you can boost your self-confidence.

1. Write an advertisement extolling your virtues and listing all your good points. You can't think of any? Then look down this list and pick out the words which you honestly feel apply to you:

* honest
* truthful
* romantic
* honourable
* punctilious
* scrupulous
* attentive
* faithful
* decent
* moral
* conscientious
* respectable
* law-abiding
* chivalrous
* unselfish
* impeccable
* obedient
* benevolent
* kind
* careful
* creative
* ambitious
* hard-working
* brave
* witty
* wise
* intelligent
* polite
* punctual
* thoughtful
* fastidious
* agreeable
* welcoming
* skilful

2. What is your worst fault?

What is it that people accuse you of most frequently?

(If you really don't know your worst fault try to decide what you dislike most in other people - that is probably your worst fault!)

Now try to turn your fault around and look at it from the other side. No personality is two dimensional and on the reverse of every bad quality there is usually at least one good quality.

If you are obsessive you are also likely to be observant, watchful and meticulous.

If you are impatient you are also likely to be creative, energetic and full of energy.

If you are pessimistic you are also likely to be cautious, sensible and reliable.

If you are irresponsible you are also likely to be fun, and exciting to be with.

If you are impractical you are also likely to be artistic, sensitive and imaginative.

If you are vain you are also likely to be fastidious and conscientious.

If you are intolerant you are also likely to be honourable, truthful and law abiding.

If you are unromantic you are also likely to be practical, sensible and down-to-earth.

If you are prudish you are also likely to be faithful and virtuous.

If you are ruthless you are also likely to be ambitious, and hard working.

If you are shy you are also likely to be sensitive, thoughtful and imaginative.

If you are sensitive you are also likely to be polite, thoughtful, generous and unselfish.

3. If you are always worrying about your mistakes and if you for ever seem to be apologising just remember that everyone makes mistakes occasionally. No one can possibly be right all the time. There is nothing wrong in saying 'I was wrong. I am sorry'. If you accept challenges, take risks and live your life to the full then sometimes you will fail. Occasionally, your judgements will be faulty. You, and those who have supported you, will lose face. But although making a mistake is a weakness admitting that you have made a mistake is a sign of strength and courage. Remember that apologising for your mistakes is a sign of maturity and learning from your mistakes is a sign of true wisdom. People who never make mistakes never take chances and people who never take chances have a life full of missed opportunities.

4. Don't be afraid to say 'I don't know'. However guilty you may feel at not knowing something remember that admitting that you don't know is a sign of strength. No one can possibly know everything. The powerful, the wise and the great are always prepared to admit that there are boundaries to their knowledge. Only the weak, the uncertain and the stupid are silly and conceited enough to pretend that they know everything.

5. Learn to be more selfish. People who have low self-esteem and who suffer a lot from guilt tend to be selfless - and tend to spend much of their lives worrying about and thinking about other people. If you are a guilt sufferer you probably need to spend more time thinking about what YOU want.

6. If you ever feel that your life is a failure and you wish that you had more to be proud of make a list of all the things in your life that are really important to you: partner, friends, health, children, integrity, interests, accomplishments, knowledge and memories. You will probably be surprised to find how many things there are that you can be proud about!

7. When you are worried about the future ask yourself what is the worst that can happen. You will probably be surprised to find that the 'worst' may not be as bad as you thought it was going to be. The 'bottom line' isn't often as daunting as you think it will be.

There is more on this subject in Vernon Coleman's book How To Relax And Overcome Stress - available from the shop on this site and from all good bookshops everywhere.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2007