We judge other people's self-confidence from a
mixture of personality characteristics, including self- assertiveness,
emotionality of response to difficult situations, level of self-esteem and so
A person's expectations about the outcome
of any situation, based on his own past experience, must contribute to his
estimation of his own level of self-confidence.
Thus, for example, a person who has failed to
achieve what he desires many times in the past will have many negative
expectations about his chance of success in the future - and will feel that he
We should also bear in mind that emotional
problems can reduce one's ability to make decisions: this may appear as a lack
of confidence in one's own judgment. We shall consider some ways in which a
person can increase his or self-confidence.
REDUCING SOCIAL ANXIETY, IMPROVING YOUR
SELF-IMAGE AND BOOSTING SELF-CONFIDENCE
1 CHANGING NEGATIVE BELIEFS AND PERCEPTIONS
Many people's thoughts, beliefs and perceptions
about themselves are, at least to some degree, inaccurate or distorted.
Yet even if you perceive yourself in a way that
is distorted by misconceptions and assumptions that are quite wrong, those
perceptions still have a major effect on how you think and behave in many
situations. So analyzing your basic beliefs and checking their relevance and
accuracy to your life can be a significant step towards a reduction of the
stress which produces emotional distress.
However, before you can analyze the beliefs
which you hold about yourself, it is necessary to identify them. How can this be
done? First of all, let us emphasize that we are not concerned here with major
life crises or changes, but with the smaller, unavoidable, repeated stresses of
life which act as a source of stress, worry and anxiety.
Two infallible indicators of stress are (1)
worried anticipation of future events that cannot be avoided, and (2) being
preoccupied with and ruminating about these events for a period of time after
they occur. So maybe you can identify and list the situations which, for you,
produce stress, anxiety, worry and perhaps depression.
Suppose that you have identified certain types
of situations which cause you to feel stressed. It is your perception of, and
reaction to, a situation which is the crucial factor in emotional disturbance.
And your reaction to a situation depends to a
large extent on the beliefs and assumptions which you hold about that situation
and about how it affects you. Those beliefs and assumptions can be brought into
conscious focus in two main ways:
1. By asking yourself questions about the
situation, for example: What is it about this situation that I find stressful?
Does the situation objectively justify my
Am I reacting this way from habit?
Is the whole situation stressful, or only part of it?
2. By identifying clues in the way you think
and speak to yourself and others about a situation, that is, identifying the
cause o your stress from your 'self-talk'.
Once you have identified the beliefs which make
any situation stressful, you can begin to change them. Suppose a man who feels
anxious and shy in social situations.
He realizes that his anxiety stems from the
belief that other people don't want to know him, or to have him in their circle
of friends, because he lacks some particular characteristic. Next, he decides to
replace this faulty belief with a more realistic and less stress-producing one.
Let us suppose that he decided on the
following: 'I can develop, whatever ability and skills may be necessary to
achieve the things I really desire. I have the potential to get on well with
others, even if I sense they do not like me, and I can accept this without
feeling rejected or less of a person. I can learn to love myself.'
The third step is for him to think about how
his new belief will alter his thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Here are some
examples of the sort of changes he might expect to achieve, set out in his own
1. To be more relaxed in the company of others;
no longer constantly comparing myself with them or criticizing my failure to
match up to what I see as their standards; to stop calling myself 'stupid' or
'foolish'; to accept my mistakes more easily.
2. Less introspection and self-analysis, and
more constructive action. Stop seeing references to myself in other people's
3. Be able to tackle specific problems more
easily and to take the initiative in calling up others; to greet friends in a
relaxed way and stop worrying about what I do or say.
4 To treat other people more as equals; to
enjoy social occasions for what they are, and to return invitations in a relaxed
Changing beliefs like this can be difficult. We
all hold many inaccurate beliefs, either because we have simply never questioned
them or because they have some personal value (for example, many of our
incorrect beliefs reinforce our self-images and thereby maintain our
Therefore you must question and think through
each of the beliefs which cause you to feel stressed or to react emotionally to
events around you. You will then be able to decide whether each belief is valid
- or whether it should be discarded and replaced with another, more reasonable,
Even so, such self-analysis and careful thought
are not enough. But each time you question one of your beliefs and replace it
with another, you should act in a way that will reinforce both the reality of,
and your acceptance of, your new attitude and belief.
True, a shy person may find it difficult to go
out and meet other people. But this is essential, for otherwise change cannot
become a reality.
You may find it helpful to remember that an
action is often more useful done badly than not done at all! (Do you believe
that you must do everything well? If so, why?) And of course experience will
improve your skill at any action.
It would be quite impossible to list every
belief which causes stress and emotional distress. Here are some of the major
categories of belief which contribute to stress and personal problems.
1. Believing that you cannot change the way you
act and feel. A surprising number of people fail to accept the responsibility of
self-change - no matter how unhappy they are. They present excuses for this
attitude such as: 'I've always been this way' and 'That's just how I am.' But
change is possible, using the techniques listed here and on this website......continues
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