Standing up and singing in front of the nation is one of the ultimate tests of self-confidence. The X-Factor competition not only judges singing ability but it also offers its contestants up for judgement in the eyes of the general public. Unknown wannabe singers go from a few hundred Twitter followers to 50 thousand overnight. Everyone has an opinion on who's hot or not, who is gay, who is cool, and sadly, who just hasn't got it.
This year though the naturally talented aren't necessarily breezing it. Take Stevie Richie for instance, a good guy, OK singer but he oozes self-belief as he shimmies across the stage, pitch imperfect. Simon likes him. And the public like him because he clearly likes himself. Then, at the other end of the spectrum are the capable singers Paul Akister and Lola Saunders. They sing like angels but they struggle with their performances each week. Something is clearly holding them back. Last week, Lola underwent a makeover to boost her morale but although she looked stunning, she still faltered during her performance. Changing her hair and her outfit wasn't enough to build the resilience she needs. I know it because I've been there. Many have. It's about feeling that you're not good enough at a deep level.
There is nothing more crippling than thinking you're 'less than', 'worse than', 'not enough'. I used to focus at excelling in school, to gain recognition, but instead of being happy with eight out of 10 I'd stress about the two points I'd got wrong. I hated my appearance and literally refused to have any photos taken of me as a teen because I thought I was a freak. All these insecurities got in the way of doing what I truly wanted in life. I chose a career path that I thought was expected of me, but later on I was forced by life on to the right path. I became an artist, a writer and my first books are called The Ugly Little Girl - about a little girl who lacks self-belief and is teased by day, but discovers a magical night school for misfit kids like her.
In the X Factor, Lola Saunders and the others are on the brink of making their dreams happen. The difference between winning and losing is not just the faith of the public, it's having the faith in themselves. But gaining self-esteem is not an easy process. It is easier to give in to one's insecurities and throw in the towel. Talking therapies offer help for many and also applying positive psychology techniques in your daily life. These techniques focus on getting you to recognise who you are, what makes you special and be proud of it. There are some quick fix things Lola, Paul or indeed, anyone could do to get them on the right path:
-Three great things. It takes 21 days to change habits and perceptions. So from now they need to end their day on a positive, celebrating three brilliant things that have happened. From making someone laugh, to hitting that high note.
-Avoid the negative voice when looking in the mirror. We have a habit of running ourselves down in our heads. Bad skin, fat arms, messy hair - equals no one will ever like me. We wouldn't dare to talk to people we love in the same way we talk to ourselves. Instead focus on the bits you like rather than those that you don't.
-Know your talents. Everyone is unique and has their own particular gifts and skills. Get to know them, love them, describe them. Don't look to compare them with others, praise them for being different.
These are just a few tips and there are many more that can turn you from a doubter into a believer. Sadly low self-esteem is one of the biggest threats to people's well-being in this competitive world. There is so much to beat ourselves up with these days - super skinny (airbrushed) models, six pack celebs (often on diet pills) and ads that tell you need to be blonder, slimmer, sexier.
So Lola, get out there this Saturday, be you, say no to the ridiculous dancers or 'me-too' makeovers. Express yourselves your way.
For when you're comfortable in your own skin, when you love who you are, you will shine brighter than any star.