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How to Gain Self-Confidence When You've Continuously Been Put Down

09/09/2014 14:48 BST | Updated 08/11/2014 10:59 GMT

"I am really confident at work and am an expert in my field but outside of work I am the total opposite. What can I do about it?"

I recently got asked this question on one of my webinars by a woman who is a technical expert and very confident in her job but outside of work she struggles to have any self-confidence.

I see this situation frequently with the women that I work with. They are very confident in one area of their lives but lack confidence in others. Often this happens as a result of childhood experiences, where a person was constantly told that they would not amount to anything or that they were no good, or they were not shown any love and affection.

It can also be as a result of adult experiences such as relationships in which they are constantly put down.

The woman who asked this question at my webinar had spent years with a partner that continuously put her down, so much so that it had affected her self-belief. It's a common problem, particularly among women and it's important to tackle the underlying issues as much as possible.

Here are some suggestions on how to get started:

Be aware of your attributes

I asked the woman on my webinar how she became an expert at her job. Her response was that she went to university, she studied hard and she honed her skill. But she also told me that there is not a university of life.

We learn as we go along, adding to our understanding on the basis of our lived experience. But, if that experience is not a nurturing, caring, supportive experience, then the chances are that the lessons we learn are not going to bring out the best in us or empower us to be the best we can be.

I asked the woman on my webinar what she was good at outside of work. At first she hesitated, not being able to think of anything, then after a while she mentioned two significant things that involved people having confidence in her and her taking a lead.

She had never looked at her situation in this way and she started to realise that she is actually more confident than she realised.

If you're struggling to be confident outside your work environment (or visa versa) then try this exercise to help turn this around.

List three things you've done really well on a given day, no matter how small or significant they might've been. Do this each day for an entire month and you should soon see your focus shifting from your limitations onto the things that you are best at.

Keep a cool head and think positive

If someone says harsh words about you, remember, they are only words. You can choose how you react to them.

But that's easier said than done you might say, in the heat of the moment when you are faced with a difficult/fearful situation, all thoughts of reason can go out of the window.

This though doesn't have to be the case.

It could be that years of thinking and reacting this way have been ingrained in you, so much so that you now know no other way to respond. But if you can learn to recognise the feelings that are evoked as they arise, you can deal with the issues in the moment much more effectively.

You are more likely to notice the physiological affects before you recognise the thought behind it.

If you feel anxious, your heart beats faster, your palms may start sweating and/or you may have a tight feeling in your throat, stomach, or other parts of your body. You are more likely to notice the change or sensation in your body as being one that you don't like or makes you feel uncomfortable.

When this happens, stop and reflect on what is going on for you and what your thoughts are.

  • What is it that you are thinking?
  • Write down your thoughts and look at the negative connotations within them.
  • Now change that thought to something that is more rational and more helpful to your situation.

For example, a client of mine who is a single mum with a chronic medical condition was going on holiday but had been so focused on making sure she packed everything her kids needed that she forgot to pack her own medication. When describing what happened she would tell people that she was stupid. This fed in to her low opinion of herself.

If you are constantly telling yourself you are stupid, how do you think you will end up feeling? Yes, you will start thinking and feeling that you are stupid and eventually start believing that you are stupid.

After I pointed all this out, rather than calling herself stupid my client was able to reframe her thoughts towards a sense of herself as being a loving, caring mother who always puts her kids first, so much so that she forgot about what she needs.

Do you see the shift in those two phrases and the impact of how it could make you feel?

To help you focus on this, try carrying a small notebook with you to catch your thoughts and change them to more helpful thoughts. The more you do it, the easier it will be for you to recognise when you are self-sabotaging.

Put things in to perspective

We often blow things out of proportion by focusing on the negative.

I remember when I held my first webinar, I received very positive feedback from everyone except one person. I focused on this one individual's feedback and could feel the physiological impact it was having on me. I felt my stress levels rise and told myself that it was a rubbish webinar.

I quickly realised what I was doing to myself and refocused my attention on all the other positive feedback I had received and I felt so much better.

We often focus on the negative things going on in our lives, magnifying them and blowing them out of proportion. Wherever possible, put your situation into perspective and look at your situation in a more rational way. Rather than over focusing on the things that you are not good at, think of all the things at which you excel.

Whoever it was who continuously put you down in the past probably had issues and insecurities of their own. It is likely that putting you down gave them a feeling of being in control. However, you don't have to let them rule your life in this way. Let go and move on. Free your mind to focus on developing yourself, learning about yourself and growing as a result.

If your lack of self-belief is so deep rooted that you constantly find that you are unable to move forward, you may want to consider therapy. For a list of approved therapists, visit the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Thank you for reading and if you've enjoyed this post please share it with others who might like it too.

To read more from Carol Stewart visit: www.aboundingsolutions.com.