Treating Low Self Confidence and Low Self Esteem as ‘Self Prejudice’

‘Having a downer on yourself’ means that you put a negative spin on your appearance, abilities and competencies in various situations. It’s essentially a form or prejudice directed towards your self which colours how you view the world, including self-confidence,  and what you do in the world.

Why self prejudice?

What is auto-prejudice?

Reviewing my notes after a session with one coaching client, I saw that I had scribbled ‘prejudice’ in the margin. However it wasn’t in the way that we usually understand the word.  It wasn’t negative attitudes towards a target group. Instead, I noticed a pattern of the deeply ingrained negative attitudes that the client directly towards herself. For this I coined the term auto-prejudice. This is a form of ongoing negative auto-biography, a story that we tell yourself and others about yourself. It frames your life.

Prejudice literally means ‘to pre-judge’, and as with all forms of prejudice , auto-prejudice forms a perceptual filter by which we process all information about ourselves. So the stuff that affirms the negative view is readily accepted while anything that contradicts the negative is either ignored, discounted or explained away. Defining negative attitudes to the self as auto-prejudice opened up a whole body of research that I could bring into my (life) coaching practice. One of the things I’m particularly pleased about in my book Unlock Your Confidence is that I was able to draw on training programmes that address discrimination. The only difference is the target of discrimination is your self.

The Social Psychology of Coaching

My earliest research in social psychology had been in attitudes, stereotypes and the way we view the world. In particular I explored the impact of The Authoritarian Personality by Theodore Adorno and colleagues. The main factor I explored was the concept of Intolerance of Ambiguity (researched by Adorno’s colleague Else Frenkel-Brunswik). To put it simply, some people have a stronger need for certainty and black-and-white thinking than others. For some people it causes distress when things don’t fit into discrete categories. Sometimes this distressed is reduced by denying the grey areas to create cleaner boundaries.

The tendency to make cognitive distortions is a key feature of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT). These are basically logical errors in the interpretation of what life presents us with. Sometimes people select only the evidence they consider relevant, that is consistent with the negative attitude. Sometimes they go beyond the evidence to reach conclusions that are not supported under closer scrutiny. Part of CBT treatment involves a logical disputing by checking the evidence to gain a sense of balance and challenge distorted views of the self and the world.

It’s part of our psychological make-up to think in stereotypes. We can’t process every single bit of information that comes our way. Instead we operate on cognitive economy. Stereotypes create a framework to reduce cognitive overload. The problem is that often they contain false assumptions. Often a stereotype operates a filter that leads us to accept things that confirm the stereotype and reject or modify things that refute it. This is particularly pertinent to self-esteem. Many people are also burdened by a strong cultural mantra that ‘self praise is no praise at all’. So what we have is a strong tendency to evaluate ourselves in a negative way.

What do attitudes and confidence have in common?

Many people declare that they would take more chances in life if only they had the confidence. The implication is confidence precedes action. To a certain degree this is true. The study of attitudes reveals a link between thoughts, feelings and actions. The literal meaning of attitude is ‘fit and ready for action’. So, life-affirming feelings and thoughts are more likely to lead to life-affirming actions. Part of being confident is having the courage to take action. However it’s a circular model. Taking actions can change attitudes (thoughts and feelings). Taking action can build confidence. This is at the heart of the ‘fake it ’til you make it model of confidence. My approach is to take a three-pronged approach to work on thoughts, feelings and actions to build confidence.

My job as a coach to help clients reassess the stereotypes they hold about themselves. This is achieved by a logical, rational approach to help you to reassess the data they use to form and maintain your negative attitudes. Auto-prejudice will sift the evidence to find things to maintain the negative view and convince you that ‘if you don’t try then you can’t fail‘. Auto-prejudice focuses on the problem so that the problem just gets bigger and bigger. Coaching provides the antidote by exploring solutions.

Solution Focused Coaching

In a typical coaching session I will spend 20% of the time with you exploring the problem and 80% of the time exploring solutions. When I was undergoing my coaching training during a coaching session my coach I got locked into describing a problem in the finest of detail. After a while my coach asked quite bluntly ‘where are we going with all this?’ At least that is how I heard it. However, it gave me the jolt I needed to switch to solution thinking. It’s clear the coaching works better if the coach and the client work together. There is little point if the client’s aim is to convince the coach that ‘life is crap and all action is futile’. My own softer version of the intervention is ‘I’ve got a really clear idea of the problem and what you want to move away from. What’s less clear is what you want to move towards? Perhaps we could spend some time on that?’ A simpler intervention is ‘So what do you want instead?’ For me coaching is about helping people engage with a different view of themselves in the world. It is also the main aim of this blog and my books.

Putting pen to paper and putting things into practice

Book Cover: Unlock Your Confidence by Dr Gary WoodUnlock Your Confidence is my attempt to bring together my academic background with my coaching and teaching practice. It’s my personal and professional journey in confidence building. I often say that it took me longer to live it than it did to write it. It’s also a very collaborative affair. I love the idea that the reader continues to write where the author left off. I’m aware that some people like to adopt a more analytical approach and so I have included material that I wouldn’t necessarily bring into a coaching session such as defense mechanisms and elements of Transactional Analysis.  The aim is take things a bit further than the average self-help book. So what I’ve attempted to do is to distill the essence of theories and concepts to generate new insights that will inspire you to action. In this way, the book maintains the 80:20 rule. It’s still mostly concerned with tackling auto-prejudice and entertaining solutions rather than incubating problems. What is explicit throughout the book is the use of solution-focused language. The aim is that by repetition you will learn and embrace an alternative way of viewing the world and your place in it.  As you challenge your own self-limiting attitudes there is always a knock on effect. So the book also provides a blue-print for passing on these insights to others. It’s what I call Confidence Karma. You gain confidence by building it in others.

A key theme in the book and in my coaching approach is ‘Little by little, a little becomes a lot’. So if you have enjoyed reading this blog post please share it with friends and colleagues on your social networks. 

Follow on post: Adapting Prejudice Reduction Plans from Social Psychology to Build Confidence

Links:

Survive New Year’s Resolutions and Thrive with Goals – A Survival Kit.

The start of a new year is brimming with significance inspiring us to commit to life changes (new you) but often fizzles out after a few weeks, sometimes days. All too often the enthusiasm is short-lived. Life changing goals shouldn’t be a once a year thing, they should be something to which we are committed and work at all year round. If you really want to see an end result, a future desired outcome, then you are going to need more than good intention. Life doesn’t just happen once a year, so why should goals? As a personal development coach (life coach) I draw on my research in social psychology. A large part of coaching is about attitude change. So, here are some of my blog posts to help change your attitude to new year’s resolutions and put your focus on personal development goals, with well formed action plans:

  1. Saying ‘No’ to New Year’s Resolutions & ‘Yes’ to Positive Lasting Change
  2. Is New Year’s Day the Best Time to Make Life Changing Resolutions?
  3. Ten Good Reasons to Make a Life Change. . . Apart From “It’s the 1st of January” 
  4. Look Before You Leap – They That Hesitate Are Lost! Be Bold but be Scientific
  5. Life, Fun, Gratitude and Regret… a call to action
  6. One’s reach should exceed one’s grasp

  7. End of the World or Second Chance?
  8. Kung Hei Fat Choi – Reviewing, Refining & Renewing Your New Year’s Resolutions

  9. Psychological Hardiness, the Confidence to Embrace Change and Coaching

  10. What Does “Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out to meet it.” Mean?

Links

Coaching with Gary Wood

Life Coaching Directory: Dr Gary Wood

10 Tips for How to Thrive Not Just Survive at Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a celebration and a season of good will to all but often turns into a nightmare as expectations and the pressure of managing relationships mount. Many of us have an extensive to do list but rarely does ‘go easy on yourself’ make it on to the list. So what can we do, to take the pressure off and enjoy Christmas rather than just endure it. Here are my tips:

  1. Get some perspective – it’s only one day. Unrealistic expectations and trying to cram in too much on will spoil any day. So, focus on what is really important to you at Christmas and don’t get too sidetracked by the trappings and the trimmings. In my job as a ‘life coach’, I work with clients to assess their values. It’s a great strategy for dealing with Christmas. Think about the meaning rather than the gloss. Sometimes less is more. The Pareto Principle states that 20% of our efforts yield 80% of the results. Think about the 20% that will make it a special time. ‘Less is more’ applies at Christmas more than any other time. You could also follow the Quentin Crisp principle ‘Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses; drag them down to your level’.
  2. Take a lead from children – no matter how expensive the toys, the kids will end up playing with the box. You’re not really buying designer label clothes for children. If they are scared to get things dirty and can’t play, then it’s all about you.  Very young children enjoy the simpler pleasures in life. Follow their lead.
  3. Practise gratitude (and don’t criticise) – be thankful for what you do have rather than obsessing over what you don’t have. The list of things that make a ‘perfect’ Christmas seem endless but as you strip away the trappings you will be surprised that they are actually surprisingly few. Again, a very good way to approach life in general. If someone does something nice for you then say thank you. Don’t let the first thing to come out of your mouth be a criticism. Don’t be a food critic or an anything else critic. Before you open your mouth, ask if your ‘pearls of wisdom’ will add to the festive cheer. Ask if your ‘constructive criticism’ will make the recipient feel valued or deflated. If things are not perfect then focus on the gesture. So if your first thought is to moan about the sprouts, let it be followed quickly by the thought that you may just get to wear them!  In other words, don’t be a @£$£!!
  4. Count to Ten  – this is a useful strategy of dealing with ‘difficult’ family and friends. They may have different expectations. So if Uncle Percy complains about the sprouts, just count to ten before you react.You may think to yourself  ‘Yes, but they are better than the sprouts you’ll be getting when we put you in a home’. Cruel, but helpful if it helps to let the comment wash over you. Some people are just awkward, just accept it and let it wash over you.
  5. Breathe –  when we are stressed our breathing tends to be more shallow. So if anything starts to ‘get to you’ at Christmas, then take yourself away from the stressor and take a few long, slow deep breaths. This will help to interrupt the stress cycle.
  6. Go for a walk – Sitting in a confined space with lots of family and friends can be stressful, especially if you’re the one doing everything.  So wrap up warm and go for a walk. A bit of fresh air and a change of scenery can work wonders. The same applies for any working day during the year. Research has shown that a walk in nature can help to boost feelings of self-esteem and well-being.
  7. Give and take – it’s a tad simplistic to say that the whole world is divided into givers and takers, but Christmas tends to exaggerate everyday life patterns. So if you are a giver and feel you have to run around after everyone, take a deep breath and sit down and give other people the opportunity to give something to you. If someone offers to make you a cup of tea or do the washing up then have the good grace to let them. You’re not a bad host if a guest wants to get out the rubber gloves and the dish mop. Conversely, if you tend to take, take, take at Christmas, don’t just sit in the corner like a blancmange, get off your backside and offer to do something for someone else. A small gesture can be more valuable than a gift of underwear,  gloves, socks and deodorant! So let the takers give a little more and the givers take a little more.
  8. Gluttony and guilt – some people feel guilty over the sheer volume of food consumed over Christmas. Firstly it’s important to recognise that it’s the only feast in the UK calendar. All cultures have times of feasting. However, also don’t overdo it. Sometimes we fall into the trap of buying ‘Christmas’ foods that get wasted, such as boxes of dates. If you like dates, go ahead and buy them. If not, then don’t buy them on the off-chance that great Aunt Brenda might fancy one. If she likes them that much, she’ll bring her bloody own! Christmas food can be notoriously rich and fatty which can lead to acid indigestion. We have this idea that hedonism was all over indulgence. Hedonism was really about pleasure and that meant everything in moderation. Having a hangover or heartburn is not pleasurable. Hedonists didn’t get them because they didn’t over indulge. Again, sometimes less is more. Balance out the rich foods with fresh fruit and vegetables. You don’t have to cram everything into one day, so pace yourself. Also, make sure you stay hydrated and drink water. Being dehydrated can make you irritable and distort judgement and perceptions.
  9. Lonely this Christmas – many people spend Christmas alone which for some becomes unbearable. It’s important to remember that a lot of this has to do with attitude and perception. First ask yourself what you’d normally do on this day of the week, because it really is just one day.Book Cover: Unlock Your Confidence by Dr Gary Wood I know of people who just treat Christmas day as a break from routine and have actually spent the day de-cluttering your home. Catch up on your reading, get your foreign language CDs out, anything that you don’t normally have time to do. Be kind to yourself a have a few treats lined up. Just have a ‘you’ pamper day, free from people. It could be your own personal one day retreat. It’s all about thinking outside of the box. It could also be a personal development day, so you could spend the day setting your goals for the coming year. Alternatively, you could check out opportunities for volunteering at a homeless shelter for instance. Giving something to others can be give a real boost in self esteem and confidence. Christmas is also only one day and everything is pretty much back to normal the next day, so keep it in perspective.
  10. Look forward – if you have had a bereavement during that year, take a moment to celebrate the life of that person. However take it further and take time to reflect on what you will do with your life to honour that person and that relationship. Focus on what inspiration that person gave you that you can use to take your life forward. At Christmas I always think about my Nan and Granddad who gave me the happiest moments in childhood. I learned from both of them the importance of compassion and giving something to others. From my granddad, I gained the love of reading and learning. My PhD and three books have been dedicated to them. It’s tangible proof that their lives had a profound effect on me. Undoubtedly, the first Christmas after the death of a loved one is the most difficult, so put a moment aside to think about how you take your life forward from the influence and inspiration they brought.

So these are my top ten tips for thriving not just surviving Christmas. I wish you all the best for the coming year and invite you to check out my posts on goal setting and new year’s resolutions.

Book Cover: Unlock Your Confidence by Dr Gary Wood(In conversation with Caroline Martin, BBC WM, 19/12/2012)

Give someone the gift of confidence this Christmas/New Year with Gary’s book Unlock Your Confidence.

Buy: Amazon UK  /  Buy: Amazon USA

Links:

Life, Fun, Gratitude and Regret… a call to action

Sometimes life gets us down. We get stuck in a routine, become overwhelmed by circumstances or paralyzed  by fear. We claim not to know what we want except we know that we don’t want more of ‘this’. Knowing that you do not want more of the same is a start. Describing what we want to move away from is the first step in describing what we want to move towards. It also helps to take stock of what we already have. It’s often described in self-help speak as acquiring the attitude of gratitude. Simply be focusing on what we are thankful for (however small), helps to retune our perceptions to potential positive opportunities. It’s become a key strategy in my confidence building approach (See Unlock Your Confidence).

I saw ‘International Fun Smuggler’ Mrs Barbara Nice’s show at Edinburgh Fringe. Mrs Nice takes great delight in celebrating the small things in life (and it’s difficult to come away from her shows feeling anything but uplifted). In the show she also touched on the regrets in life. These provide clues to what we might do to escape ‘more of the same’. Bronnie Ware, palliative nurse recorded the top five regrets of dying patients and at first glance seemed all rather un-sensational. However they provide a recipe for living without regret. Here are our biggest regrets:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Consider how you allow the expectation of others to limit your choices and perpetuate more of the same. Consider what small thing you could do today that brings you a tiny bit closer to your idea of your true self. It could be starting a new hobby or attending an evening class. Start with a small thing to build your confidence and create momentum. Do it today.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Consider how you can create a little balance in your life. What do you do to relax? What small things can you let go to make time for yourself? When I run confidence building workshops I ask about the moments when people have more confidence invariably they report times when they are relaxing and having fun. In Don’t Wait For Your Ship to Come In…Swim Out to Meet It, I wrote that a melody consists not just of the notes, but also of the rests in between the notes. Taking time out can improve efficiency at work and can have a knock on effect in other areas of your life. What will you do today to create some moments of fun or relaxation?

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Often bottled up feelings can lead to resentment and bitterness and sometimes people turn those feelings in on themselves. Many people spend years in work meetings saying nothing until one day they speak up. At that time it didn’t matter if anyone else agreed, it was just enough for them to ‘say my piece’. Like anything else, if you have little practice at expressing your feelings (saying your piece) then start small, with something almost inconsequential, as long as it’s a first step. Expressing our feelings will engage others in feedback. Sometimes they will agree and sometimes they won’t. Either way the act of speaking up and dealing with the feedback is a way of building self-esteem. Of course, it can be positive expressions of feelings such as gratitude to another person.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Sometimes we take friendships for granted and let other aspects of our lives get in the way. The same applies to family members. We just assume that they will always be there. They become part of our ‘psychological furniture’ rather than real people. There have never been so many ways to communicate as there are today. A group text message to all of your contacts is not staying in touch. It’s going through the motions. When looking back over our lives we realize that all the things in life that, at the time, mattered more than people, don’t. Forget Facebook (for a while) and focus on facial expressions and vocal inflections with real people, off line. So who can you reconnect with, voice to voice, face to face?

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Getting the ‘gratitude attitude’ helps to create a foundation for happiness as does making time to have fun. It’s interesting that the regret here is ‘let myself’. This implies that the opportunities were there but not seized. A key way of finding more happiness to set goals that stretch in areas of life that interest us. In his classic book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Chick-sent-me-high) offers a simple message. To be happier we just need to spend more time ‘in flow’. These are the moments when we become so totally engrossed in what we are doing that we lose all sense of time. We set goals to improve our personal best and develop skills, engaging blissfully in the present moment. So what would that be for you? What start can you make today?

Book Cover: Unlock Your Confidence by Dr Gary WoodNothing here requires massive life changes. All that it takes is small affirmative steps. In my coaching practice, the emphasis is on creating small, shifts in perception and action. It has always amazed that clients do far more between coaching sessions that we agreed or that either of us expected. It’s not bungee jumping or fire walking that transform lives, but small steps of persistent action in the desired direction.

What will you do today, to build happiness and regret-proof your life?

Links:

Dealing With Overwhelm – Step by Step

At times in our lives were are faced with a heap of tasks that seems insurmountable. It’s one big amorphous blob of potential misery with not enough hours in the day to tackle it. Invariably this seemingly unmanageable blob of perceived misery is usually made up of smaller blobs of stuff that are reasonably manageable that we’d prefer not to do. Overwhelm is a form of cognitive overload. There’s just too much information to take in. We simply can’t process the enormity of the task and so we don’t bother. We just sit there and look at it. We become transfixed by it. We can’t possibly start anything else with the blob staring us in the face. And so, the blog gets bigger. We protest that we don’t have enough time to do everything and at the same time we don’t do anything at all.

The cognitive overload (overwhelm) distorts our perception of time. The problem is that we don’t have objective data to counter our subjective response. Here’s an idea, from my coaching practice, to help break the viscous circle. The aim is to find accurate timings for tasks and instil confidence that your abilities to complete tasks.

  1. Break the big blob up into smaller tasks. It’s not going to make them any more appealing but it each one will seem more manageable.
  2. Pick one task, preferably a smallish one that you think you may be able to accomplish relatively quickly.
  3. Do the task and time yourself.
  4. Make note of the timing in a note pad, that you will keep. This becomes the objective evidence that you can look at when you feel overwhelmed.
  5. Repeat the process with other sub-tasks.

What you will find is that the smaller tasks are often completed much quicker than you’d expected. You will also have objective data to call upon next time you are faced with the task.

As a psychology lecturer, it has not been unusual for me to be faced with a pile of more than 100 or 200 student essays to mark (grade). I simply split them up into batches of five, and then tackle those. I put the big pile out of sight and just focus on five at a time. I make a note of how long it takes me to do each batch of five. What usually surprises me is that the essays don’t usually take as long to mark as I first expected. You can apply the same principle to mundane things such as the ironing. Look at the labels in the clothes and create three piles based on the dots on the label. Three dots need a hot iron. Tackle those first, switch the iron setting down to two dots then have a little break to allow the iron to cool. Then tackle the two dots and final the one dot clothes. Make sure you make a note of the timings. Ideally do it a few times until you get your average timings.

What this “break-it-up and time-it approach” does is it creates smaller more manageable tasks and it provided objective data.

I now know that after an elaborate dinner party where I’ve used used just about every utensil in the place, it only takes about half an hour to wash them. When I first look at the pile it looks as though it’s going to take a three times that. Now that I have the data, my perceptions have changed and my feeling of overwhelm has reduced. Conduct your own personal experiments to see how it works for you.

Based on material from: Book: Don’t Wait For Your Ship To Come In. . . Swim Out to Meet It

Related posts:  

I’m not anti-self-help. . I’m anti ‘yo-yo self-help’. Saying ‘Yes’ to Action Plans & Goals!

Judging from the flurry of activity on my blog posts about New Year’s resolutions, I’m guessing ‘nerves are becoming frayed’ and ‘will power’s on the wane’. However it’s no time to give up. . . it’s time to take stock, recoup and move forward. Stumbling on your new year’s resolutions is not about ‘failure’, it’s about feedback. And when I write ‘Say ‘No’ to New Year’s Resolutions’, I’m not anti-personal development’. Far from it. I’m just anti ‘yo-yo self help’. There’s a big difference. Making positive changes in our lives is not about random ‘getting caught up in the moment’ vague wishful thinking. Real life changes require real planning. Your will power is not the problem; your planning is, that’s all. You can fix that. Creating a compelling action plan gives you an opportunity to develop confidence in your strengths and skills.

So if you find your resolve weakening, don’t take this as an indication that you should give up on your goals. Instead, take this opportunity to use this feedback to adjust your action plan. If what you are doing is not working for you, make the necessary adjustments and try again. Don’t wait until next year or next month or any other symbolic date. Use the feedback while it’s ‘hot’ and take action, now!

The following links will help:

Links:

See my other personal development posts.

See my other posts on goal-setting.

Book: Don’t Wait For Your Ship To Come In. . . Swim Out To Meet It!

Other personal development books at: PsyStore.

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

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:

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