Dancing on Hot Coals: What the **** has it got to do with confidence and self-esteem?

Walking on hot coals: Does this really build confidence?

Walking on hot coals: Does this really build confidence?

Popular notions of confidence-building tell us that ‘if we can walk on hot coals, we can do anything”. Indeed many people pay handsomely, in over-hyped personal development courses to do the ‘walk of fire’. The fact that the lack of toasted tootsies is more to do with principles of heat conduction than any personal transformation is neither here nor there. Apart from the deceit, the main problem is that people often tend to lack confidence in more mundane areas of their lives. I don’t know about you but there’s not much call for dancing on hot coals down my local high street. The same applies to any dare devil stunts that are supposed to effect an instant personal transformation: they have little currency in the real world, and can end up doing more harm than good.

Watching a well-known TV illusionist / hypnotist  coaching someone through daredevil stunts seemed to bring about a magical change. The shy man seemed to transform into a supremely confident individual, moving effortlessly in social situations that previously would have overwhelmed him. However, the end sequence was somewhat alarmingly. Assuming this was for real, it was set-up for the newly confident man to witness a bag-snatch. Instead of just standing by helplessly, he chased the bag-snatcher down an alley and started fighting over the bag. Now this seems amazing but was it just out-and-out recklessness?

The missing ingredient from the equation was self-esteem. The jiggery-pokery had not instilled confidence but recklessness without fear for personal safety. This indicates low self-worth. Essentially, the risk-taking gives a rush of adrenaline that masks feelings of worthlessness. This has been seen in sexual health campaigns that have focused on confidence at the expense of esteem. If you increase the confidence of people with low self esteem, they end up taking risks. Both confidence and esteem need to go hand-in-hand.

Self-esteem is an evaluation of our self-worth and we can start by monitoring this by listening to our own inner dialogue – the way we talk to ourselves. We tend to internalize the ‘put-downs’ of others and repeat them in an endless tape-loop. Building self-esteem is a relatively straightforward process but it takes more than ‘smoke and mirrors’: it takes time.

Any of us can benefit from a review of our ‘self-talk’ and re-scripting those habitual put-downs so that we open up our options rather than close them down. Here’s a little something to get the process started: