A Short Exercise in Self-Belief (and banishing self-doubt)

Most people at some time are plagued by self-doubt. Many people struggle to accept compliments and praise. A key factor is practice. Certainly, in Britain there’s a saying that self-praise is no praise at all. I’d like to counter that with the adage that ‘charity begins at home’ and offer a short exercise in self-belief.

Book: Unlock Your Confidence by Dr Gary WoodThe feedback I’ve had from a number of people in my workshops is that they find the self-compliment exercise from my book (Unlock Your Confidence) is particularly hard to do. All I ask that you look in the mirror, look yourself in the eye pay yourself a compliment. I consider this to be a litmus test of confidence and esteem. And true, it also transgresses the social more of never having anything nice to say about yourself.

What kind of a rule is that? It’s certainly not a basis for greater self-assurance or self-efficacy – the sense that we are effective agents in the world.

Instead, try this:

  • Recently, I’ve adapted this idea and ask people to set a stopwatch for just 60 seconds.
  • Close your eyes and compliment yourself against the clock. See how many compliments and things to praise yourself about that you can cram in to 60 seconds. It does matter if you repeat yourself, just keep going for the full minute.
  • When you’ve mastered that, try it for two minutes and work your way up to three minutes.
  • Now try 60 seconds in front of a mirror with eyes open.

As with any skill, you get better as your practice, so build it into part of your daily routine. Before you get out of bed each morning, close your eyes and praise yourself for 60 seconds. Use the technique before challenging tasks too.

This technique helps to balance out the cultural bias towards negative self-talk. In my confidence building workshops people describe themselves as feeling ‘lighter’, ‘more energized’ and ‘more optimistic’. Of course I’ve tried it out myself, and indeed there is a shift in my energy and posture. So try it yourself (for a month) and let me know how you get on. What impact does it have on self-doubt, self-belief and self-efficacy?

Combine this with my Getting the Gratitude Attitude Exercise ( with Free PDF Diary Sheet)

Links:

If you found this post useful:

__________

About the author

Picture: Dr Gary Wood author of Unlock Your ConfidenceDr Gary Wood is a social psychologist and life coach. He is based in Birmingham and Edinburgh where he runs his own training and coaching practice and research consultancy. He is author of Unlock Your Confidence which is based on his confidence-building workshops. Contact Gary to see how his solution focused (life) coaching approach would benefit you or your organization.

Advertisements

Why There’s No Such Thing as “Too Much Confidence” or “Over-Confidence”

We often hear the phrase ‘over-confidence‘ (or ‘too much confidence’). There is no such thing!  If it seems too much or ‘over the top’ then it’s not confidence. It might be arrogance, aggression, over-compensation, blind faith or even delusions. Most importantly, it may indicate lower self-esteem. These over-the-top displays of bluff, bluster and bravado are nothing but a smoke-screen.

‘Fake it ’til you make it’ confidence is based on stress

Outer displays of ‘over-confidence’ are part of the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ approach, whereby you behave confidently until you actually believe it and until it becomes ‘part of you’. So they begin as a way to counter a lack of self-belief. Yes it’s good to take action and indeed confidence does need a leap of faith, however, real confidence, true self-assurance starts within. At its root, confidence is about feeling comfortable in your own skin. If it seems ‘too much’ it’s about covering up for discomfort. Inner confidence is cool and level-headed. ‘Over-confidence’ is hot-headed. That’s because psyched-up displays are more likely to stem from the classic stress responses of fight or flight. most notably, the fight response!

Building confidence is like building rapport

In face-to-face interactions people tend to model and match each other as they build rapport. So they may begin using similar words and gestures as the other person. This happens spontaneously. This is why, embarrassingly, you may find yourself starting to speak in a similar regional accent to the other person. A similar thing happens with confidence. When we are around truly confident people, it rubs off. Confidence is positively contagious. You begin to relax and this brings out ‘the best in you’ and you pass this on to others. The thing about body language is that if we focus on relaxing we don’t have to worry about faking it. The body language takes care of itself. If everyone is a little too ‘in your face’ and intent on ‘faking it’ then the encounter is based on lies and that can be stressful. If you are stressed, then it’s not confidence.

The difference between assertiveness and aggression

We prize assertiveness but it is often confused with aggression. The concepts are often used interchangeably but are very different things. In an assertive state we can stand our ground and make our point and still accept that another person doesn’t necessarily have to accept our view. We can be assertive and still be quite calm. On the other hand, aggression is all about making sure another person accepts our point of view. Aggression is all about force. It’s all about the fight. So if a person dominates a space and leaves no room for other opinions or for others to contribute that’s not confidence. It’s aggression or maybe even outright bullying.

Relaxation is the basis of elite performance

Book Cover: Unlock Your Confidence by Dr Gary WoodIn my workshops, first  I focus on relaxation. In a relaxed state we are able to access a broader range of emotional responses, skills and abilities. Professional athletes adopt a similar strategy. they begin by learning to take control of their own stress response. This doesn’t mean that they perform in a ‘semi-comatose’ state. They learn plenty of techniques to psych themselves up too. The point is that the cornerstone of elite performance is relaxation. This is what we build upon. So in my workshops, I invite people to take risks and have fun. I’m aways the first in the workshop to risk looking foolish. Usually by the mid-morning break, everyone in the group is chatting as though they are good friends. At least one person comments on that when I ask for feedback. They are surprised at how quickly the group forms. And for my part, I never cease to be amazed at how quickly people will grow and take risks if you provide the necessary conditions. Many of them have attended workshops and training courses where they have managed to get through the whole day without learning anyone’s name. That never happens in my workshops.

Fear and respect are not the same

We all learn more efficiently when we are relaxed and amongst a group of like-minded people, not when we are stressed in a group of (hostile) strangers. This is the basis of my confidence-karma approach, that is, we build confidence in ourselves as we pass it on to others. We begin by relaxing ourselves and then focusing on putting others at ease.  The most frequent challenge I get to this approach is from managers who question whether they will get respect if they ‘try to be everyone’s friend’. Nowhere in my book or workshop do I suggest we should try to be everyone’s friend. Being a boss and focusing on putting people at ease do not have to be mutually exclusive. It’s common amongst managers to confuse fear and respect. Respect is earned and fear can be overcome. You will get a lot of respect from being a person who empowers others.

No such thing as ‘too much confidence’ with the Confidence-Karma approach

So that’s why according to my approach, there is no such thing as over-confidence or too much confidence. Confidence people bring out the best in others, they don’t scare them into submission.

If you liked this post, please use the ‘like’ and buttons below and pass on the message to others or check out Gary’s other posts about confidence

Links:

An “Alpha Male’s” Right to Reply

Sometimes a comment on a post cannot be allowed to nestle in the nether regions of a blog but deserves due prominence. So, when a certain Mr John Doe, fronted up and called me a wimp, I knew I had to be man enough to let his voice be heard. . . or at least be read! So, Mr John Doe, self-proclaimed alpha male. . . this is for you fella!

Who's yer daddy?

Who’s yer daddy?

The post that so offended Mr Doe, was The Great ‘Typical Alpha Male’ Delusion in which I criticized lazy journalists spouting the usual meaningless  psychobabble. The journalist described President Obama, during his visit to Britain, as ‘the typical alpha male, laid back and relaxed’.  I pointed out that if we look to the animal kingdom, where we have ‘borrowed’ the term ‘alpha male’, we find that they are anything but laid-back and relaxed! Now admittedly I went on to denigrate anyone who describes himself as an alpha male, as ‘a thoroughly unpleasant bloke who doesn’t have enough friends to tell him that his people skills stink’. I also added that they are usually ‘dickheads or bullies or both’. Now okay, I may have gone a bit far, but is that any reason to call me a wimp? It really hurt my feelings!

It distresses me to print the full assault but I’m powerless to resist the sheer force of this self-proclaimed alpha male’s argument. Here goes and while you read it, I’ll be lying down in a darkened room with a wet flannel over my eyes:

John Doe replies:

Hello,
As an alpha male who leads people and shags beautiful women, let me assure you we are quite relaxed (and confident)…your take on obama demonstrates an incredible lack of understanding which must result in extraordinary jealousy of people like myself
Good day…wimp!

I know it’s shocking, so please feel free to report it for mature content but  let’s do a little,  point-by-point analysis anyway:

  1. Would an alpha male (by Mr Doe’s definition) have bothered to post a comment?
  2. Would an alpha make have bothered to set up a ‘john doe’ email address and post under the name ‘John Doe’, unless of course that is his real name? Surely, John Buck or John Stag would be more appropriate?
  3. Would an alpha male be scouring blogs for references to alpha males?
  4. ‘Leading people’ is not necessarily a positive thing. It’s how you lead them and where you lead them that counts.  The Pied Piper led people too, or was that rats, I forget?
  5. Does ‘shagging beautiful women’ prove alpha male status? Well alpha males in the animal kingdom aren’t too fussy. They will even mount other males. So if you are a true alpha male, is there something you want to tell us, Mr Doe?
  6. The phrase ‘shagging beautiful women’ surely is exactly the kind of chauvinism that proves the point that men who call themselves self-proclaimed alpha males aren’t the nicest of chaps, as I pointed out in my previous post.
  7. So by stating ‘we are relaxed’,  Mr Doe has either decided to speak for all of the other self-proclaimed alpha males on the planet, which seems a tad forward of him, surely they can speak for themselves or perhaps Mr Doe thinks he is more than one person.
  8. Would a confident and relaxed person bother to reply in an aggressive manner? Confident people put others at ease. I don’t see any evidence here that Mr Doe has the ability to do this, unless of course, he is confusing confidence with aggression (i.e. over-compensating, usually for low self-esteem).
  9. He complains about my take on Barack Obama, but at least I  bothered to use a capital letter for his name. Ah! That’ll be typing with one hand then! Or if you’re too “butch” to hit the caps lock, well that is a worry.
  10. I described President Obama as having the ‘best of our human qualities of compassion, understanding, leadership and the ability to listen to other viewpoints without seeking to crush them’. How does this demonstrate a lack of understanding? I didn’t criticise Mr Obama, I simply stated that, thankfully,  he is nothing like ‘self-proclaimed alpha males’ or ‘alpha males from the animal kingdom’.
  11. Apparently this lack of understanding leads to ‘extraordinary jealousy‘.  Well this demonstrates a lack of understanding because I think Mr Doe actually means ‘envy‘ not jealousy. To date, I have not met a self-proclaimed alpha male who provokes envy in me (or jealousy). Like everyone else, I view them with pity and contempt.
  12. Uses the phrase ‘people like myself’, shouldn’t that be ‘people like me’?
  13. Mr Doe then uses what I assume is the standard, but hardly relaxed or confident,  alpha male complimentary close of  ‘Good day. . . wimp!’. Yes, that show’s true leadership. . . let’s all follow John Doe! No! Not even on Twitter.
  14. Finally, why the ellipsis (…)? What’s missing Mr Doe? Possibly the words ” I am really a self-deluded, cowardly”. Just a suggestion.

Following on from this brief discourse analysis, although Mr Doe may not be representative of the population of men with ‘self-proclaimed’ alpha male status, I do thank him for providing such a wonderfully rich datum which I suggest  provides tentative support for my original assertions. People who boldly proclaim to be ‘alpha males’ are really nothing of the sort.

P.s. Quite what this says about me that I bothered to dignify his comment with a response, I don’t know.

Read the post: The Great ‘Typical Alpha Male’ Delusion