How to be confident in 12 steps – part 2

Credits to Moyan_Brenn for the wonderful photo found on Flickr

Credits to Moyan_Brenn for the wonderful photo found on Flickr

Step 5:

Do physical exercise.

No ‘How To’ about confidence would be complete without somewhere

mentioning the positive effects of exercising… Exercise helps oxygenate the brain

and other organs, it produces endorphins (natural feel-good drugs), helps you

look better, gives you the feeling of having achieved something, gives you a good

reason to shower… The benefits are endless. And yes, having showered today is a

good reason to feel confident.

Step 6:

Take small challenges, celebrate small victories.

Having a big goal for the year is great, but confidence comes from the small

challenges you give yourself each day, or, even better, several times a day.

Finishing that task by that time; waiting to eat that chocolate until you have done

this task, or until that time; getting out of the house today – there are challenges

you can give yourself all day. If your expectations are at the right level, you can

then go on to celebrate having achieved those small goals. (If they are not, adjust

them.) The celebration is just as important (if not more), as it gives your body

the message (at a physical level – there are chemical changes that support this)

that you can do something. Remember, confidence is the memory of past

successes. So if you have successes several times a day, you are building up your

reserve of past successes. It also helps your filter (the one that gives you all the

evidence to “prove” you are a failure – or a success!) to get more information in

the direction of “I am successful! I can achieve things!” rather than that of “I suck.

I cannot achieve anything.” which often happens if our goals are too high and our

achievement rate too low.

Step 7:

Say ‘No’.

By accepting to say “No!” to the things you actually don’t want to do, you can

concentrate more on things you really want to do. We all have 24 hours a day. If

you spend 4 hours doing stuff you don’t want to, just to please someone else,

that’s 4 hours not spent making your own life (and that of those around you)

greater. Saying no is healthy. It helps avoid stress, depression, burnout and

murder. Just to be clear, saying no is not a lame, “I would really prefer not to

have to do that.” kind of excuse-making cop out. It is a clear, “No, I can’t take that

task on. I wouldn’t do it to the best of my ability and I prefer to concentrate on

what I am doing.” And for those of you who fear saying ‘no’ to someone,

remember that that fear is based on your perception of risk. Your perceived risk

of them doing something, saying something that hurts you is what is stopping

you. The key to learning this step is to reduce that risk, either by taking steps to

ensure what you fear does not happen, or by accepting the possible (i.e. may

never happen) consequences before you take the risk.

Step 8:

Ask for help.

Smouldering away in your corner, complaining and gossiping about how unfair

life is does not make you confident. If you are having difficulty with a task, ask for

help. Not everyone is good at everything. So know what you can and can’t do and

get help on those things you cannot do. People with low confidence are afraid to

look stupid. Asking for help does not make you look stupid. Want proof? Ask

yourself what you thought about the last person who asked you for help. If the

person is honest about their inability to do something and accepts that this is

something they have not spent time learning, how can that be stupid? With that

thought in mind, go ask someone for help with what you are struggling to do!

And if you need help with developing confidence in yourself or your teenager, I

am but a call or email away! Alternatively, you can connect with me on Facebook,

Linkedin or Twitter or comment below. And of course, subscribe! Because it will

enable you to get what I publish, when I publish it, without having to keep remembering to check!


How To Be Confident in 12 steps – Part 1

Credits to Moyan_Brenn for the wonderful photo found on Flickr

Credits to Moyan_Brenn for the wonderful photo found on Flickr

Step 1:

Be happy.

Happiness, like confidence, is a choice. So choose to be happy. By waking up in

the morning and choosing to be happy, you will improve your outlook on life and

therefore your willingness to take ‘risks’. That is the definition of confidence.

(And by the way, risk is subjective. What one person may think of as crazy

stupid, another will think of as a walk in the park.)

Step 2:

Speak clearly.

Ummm… Errr… Aaah… These are not the words of a confident person. Speak

with conviction, speak with clarity (both of speech and of thought), speak with


Step 3:

Fall in love with silence.

In order to achieve clarity of thought (see step 2), it is absolutely acceptable to

pause after someone else has spoken while you think of your reply. It is in fact

much better to think of your reply after they have spoken, than during. Not only

is it more polite, but it also allows you to actually listen to what they are saying.

Confidence is about reducing perceived risk and knowledge is the perfect tool to

do this. Knowledge can be accrued by listening to others. So stop talking and

start listening (in silence – especially in your mind).

Step 4:

Accept the opinion of others.

Once you have learned to listen to the person talking with you, learn to accept

their point of view. Developing confidence is about reducing risk, so once you do

not perceive any risk in the other person having a different viewpoint than

yours, the risk is gone and you can be confident. Everyone has different

experiences, different upbringings, different beliefs, so everyone thinks

differently about things. Once you fully grasp that fact, you understand that

knowledge gives confidence and that learning from others is knowledge, but

trying to impose your point of view, belief or way of thinking on someone

reflects a lack of confidence.

More next week, but in the meantime, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn,

like my Facebook page, or comment below!


Why Life Is So Difficult For People With Low Self-Esteem

Speaking a language (and another), playing a piece of music on an instrument, standing up to a bully, talking to someone you find attractive, standing on stage in front of a lot of people, feeling empathy, jumping off a roof into a pool, playing a video game, being curious… All these things and many others are skills or character traits we have or don’t have. Some are learned, others are innate, but feeling bad because you cannot do something that your best friend can is energy badly spent.

Every single person has both confidence and fear; certain things they can do and others they cannot; things they have spent time learning and other things they haven’t spent time learning. The things we talk about, show off, put up on Facebook, advertise to the world, are the ones we can do – the ones we are proud of. Others think highly of us because we can do this ‘amazing’ thing (especially if they cannot do it themselves). They make up the base of our abilities and way of being, no matter whether we believe they are amazing or not. One thing you must never forget is that even if you don’t believe it, there are things you are good at.

The path towards losing self-esteem and confidence is developing an imbalance in how much attention we pay to the things we can and cannot do. As the Indian saying goes, there are two wolves fighting inside us: one bad and one good. The wolf that wins the fight is the one we feed. If we concentrate on how much better other people are than us, how much more they have than us, how much more they are than us, we lose self-confidence. If we concentrate on how much more we have than them, how much more we are than them, we become arrogant. Confidence lies in knowing your worth and accepting the difference in others.

The secret to this, is understanding that there are four subdivisions in terms of what we know and don’t know:


A is what we know we know, like I know I can move my arm, speak English, walk, jump…

B is what we know we don’t know, like I know I don’t know how to speak Arabic, dive off a high cliff and survive, how to program a computer…

C is what we don’t know we know, like when I try something and I can do it, much to my surprise. These are hard to find, because as soon as I realise that I know it, it becomes an A.

D is what I don’t know I don’t know. Hard to give an example of this, because as soon as I realize that I don’t know it, it becomes a B… These include unconscious decisions that we make on a daily basis that rule our lives without us realising it.

It is easy to concentrate on what we know we don’t know. But concentrating on what we know we don’t know leads to low self-esteem, especially when we compare ourselves to others.

On the other hand, if we concentrate on what we know that we know, then we can easily become arrogant.

The trick is to be aware of all four areas and accept the size of the relative areas.

When I work with shy teenagers, I show them how to look into themselves so they categorise all their skills and knowledge into those 4 areas, then decide on what they want to spend their time doing. Which skills do they want to learn? What do they want to move from one area into another?

For some people, speaking in public is outside their comfort zone. It belongs in the area B: They know they don’t know how to do it. They don’t like it, they don’t enjoy it. They could start wishing they could be like their friend Elsa, who DOES like it and is really good at it. But that leads to dwindling confidence. Instead, I show people how to chose what they want to do and develop the confidence to do it.

My personal barrier is not speaking in public. Mine is organising a seminar for a bunch of teenagers and their parents as an introduction to my 4-week course on overcoming the B.S. (Big Shyness). Despite having all the tools at my disposal, I am still coming up against personal blocks: fears, procrastination, inner demons – everything in me seems to be pushing away actually doing anything to organise this course and I don’t know why. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to convince myself to do what it takes. Don’t judge your teenagers (or yourself) by what you see or hear. Learn to balance the things you concentrate on and if you have shy teenagers in your life, ask the right questions, then sit back and listen to them and they will let you know what their fears are. No matter how hard you want to, you cannot make anyone do something. They have to choose it themselves. And confidence is a choice.


Surviving the classroom warzone

Photo courtesy of KT King

Photo courtesy of KT King via Flickr

Under the eastern windows are the cool kids: not very clever, but cool. Under the western windows are the clever kids: not very cool, but clever. Like every day, the cool kids are bombarding the good kids with everything they’ve got and the good kids are fighting back with everything they’ve got. Ammunition of every kind is flying back and forth in the classroom and out.

I’m 9 and stuck in the trenches in the middle, with a tiny white flag, taking hits from both sides and desperately (but not very effectively) trying to survive this new school: number 10 of the 13 I would attend in 3 different continents by the time I turned 12.

Then someone gives me an olive branch. Another boy who, like me, is holding a white flag and is stuck in the middle of a bloody battle between the eastern block and the western front.

We talk, become friends and form our own coalition of two against the world; a very weak alliance in the current warzone of the classroom, but one that gives me hope – the single thing that keeps me going (and one I would lose as soon as I changed schools again).

Fast track a few years and I am now 17, sitting in the 2nd violin section of a summer camp orchestra making a flautist smile – not very helpful when one is trying to control one’s breath. During the break we talk and laugh together, along with the group of other friends I have. Not only do I now have several friends, but I no longer care about being labeled “weird”, “strange” or “different”.

So how did I go from being alone against the world to being part of a group of friends, able to smile at girls I didn’t know? Confidence. That big word that means so much and yet so little. But understanding what confidence is, how much it means and how easy it is to develop, allowed me to survive those years in the warzone of the classroom and break out of my shell of solitude and shyness.

There are many ways to develop confidence, but here I would like to describe what I call the Teddy BEAR process. It goes like this: our Thoughts influence our Beliefs, which influence our Emotions, which influence our Actions, which influence our Results. So to change the results, we need to change our thoughts and beliefs. Here is a quick example in action: I think, “I don’t answer quickly enough.” That leads to the belief, “I am stupid because I don’t answer quickly”. That leads to an emotion of fear at being asked questions, starting a conversation, or speaking to a girl. That leads to the action of avoiding any situation in which I might be asked something: interviews, approaching people etc. That leads to the result of me being a shy, reserved person who doesn’t step outside my comfort zone.

So what can you do about this? How can you break out?

Here is my RID method to doing so:

1) Recognise that there is a problem. The first sentence people say when they join AA is, “Hi, my name is… And I am an alcoholic.” Why is that? Because the first to overcoming a problem is recognising there is a problem. Most shy people know they are shy, so this step is usually not so hard.

2) Identify what the faulty thinking is. What are the thoughts and beliefs that are causing the shyness? Eg: Is it a belief that they are stupid? This is probably the hardest step and often needs to be done with a trusted someone who is willing to ask the necessary questions to delve deeper. It will also require the person to accept to do some soul searching to find the answers.

3) Deal with the problem. Once the faulty thinking has been identified, change it. Change the thoughts; change the beliefs to more useful ones. It is difficult to give examples, as there are many ways to deal with the large number of beliefs that lead to people becoming shy.

Now practice the new thoughts; road-test them. Put yourself into situations where you would normally have been shy and, with those new glasses; investigate whether things are still like they were. Just remember that this is a new You, one who has nothing to do with the You before you went through the process. So be prepared for something to be different.
With enough practice, this method can become second nature and you can beat shyness.

For further resources that didn’t fit into this article, go to


The criticism that kills

This morning, I woke up feeling really low because last night I got negative feedback. “You’re trying too hard” was what they said. “You’re taking more than your share”. If I was a salesman, that would be more than my share of the clients. If I was a on a team, that might be more than my share of the boss’ attention.

On any other day, I would have been fine. I would shrug it off, ensure I give more of my time and keep going about my day, balancing how much I take with how much I give. But today, I have a build up of negative self talk; a build up of problems that individually would be easy to overcome, but together bring me to my knees. The speech I am supposed to be writing for my gig in a mere month’s time, the lawn that is getting too long while the mower gets fixed, the daughter that wants a daddy to play with her, the bills that want me to get paid so I can pay them – the build up of things that need my attention and my utter lack of ability to deal with them all has accumulated to the point where I just can’t cope any more. Then comes the criticism. Like twisting your ankle while you try and crawl home, battered, bruised and sore, after losing a fight, it appears much bigger than it actually is.

The thing is, as a speaker you are selling yourself. So when someone tells you they don’t like the speech you gave, or that your website could be improved, or that you are taking more than your share, the step to thinking they are criticising you, not your product, is very small and very easy to make.

It would appear that I am not alone in this situation. Apparently there are other people out there somewhere who also sometimes feel low. People who also get negative feedback and let their positivity be overridden by that feedback. My good friend Tom O’Neil tells me that having times when you are feeling low, rejected, as though the world doesn’t like you is normal, to be expected, happens all the time to everyone he knows. Even though he is an international speaker, top selling international author and regular contributor to the NZ Herald (among other publications), he insits he has been through phases like that in the past. (Surely not! I think. Someone as successful and proactive as Tom can surely never have doubted himself!).

The big question is what do you do when that feeling hits? Do you let it get you down to the point you fall out of being proactive to just being reactive, hoping to therefore stay under the radar of those people (the ones with your best interest at heart, of course) who say you take more than your share? Is the answer really to listen to them and stop taking? How do you react when you are in the ditch and feel like every passing car is throwing rubbish out their window, using you as target practice? (Just a passing thought: Is it that you take too much? Or is it that they are actually afraid to ask and resent you for having the confidence to simply go out and get what you really want?)

Here is the advice Tom gave me; advice that got me back into the driver’s seat of my car. Advice that I would like to put out there for those of you who have experienced feeling like I did this morning and would like to avoid doing so again:

Experiencing fear, being criticised, having problems, feeling low and depressed is like driving really fast over a small hill on a country road. There comes that moment where the car lifts slightly, your stomach lurches up into your throat and you feel like you are weightless. It is both a thrilling and scary feeling. In that moment, there are two ways you could go:

  • You could listen to the fear, let go of the steering wheel to hudle into a corner, lose control of the car, miss the corner just behind the jump, go off the road and have a nasty accident
  • Or you can choose to grip the steering wheel even tighter, remember why you are driving on this road (i.e. what your ultimate goal is), concentrate and correct your direction as necessary, so you make the corner, stay in control and continue driving towards your destination, with increased experience and a story to tell.

Tom reminded me that fear and experiencing problems is not the problem. Letting those problems rule your life and take over your rational thinking is the problem. Not getting back on the horse and continuing to ride like the devil is the problem. Allowing others to dictate how you feel is the problem.

Why are you in the position you are in? What is your goal? Where do you want to be in 1, 3, 5 years time? By concentrating on the goal, you realise that in 5 years time, the problems you experience today won’t really have any importance. If anything, they will only have made you stronger, given you things to talk about, enable you to tell the new recruits that they are not alone in feeling this way. You realise that a positive person would say that these problems are actually just glitches – really useful glitches – they are actually the things that make the journey worth taking. They make the stories.

And think about it: how many of you would have read this post if the content of this post was, “Today was a completely normal day. Things went exactly as planned. No surprises.”

These ‘problems’ are the spice of life. Enjoy them, embrace them and learn from them. Just make sure you have your seatbelt on. My seatbelt is called Tom O’Neil. Thank you Tom.*

Who is your seatbelt?

*Please check out his website:


Self- (confidence, awareness, respect, preservation…)

“Last year, selfie was named International Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries, so how about self- as Word of the Age? That’s not self on its own, but self- the prefix, as in self-portrait, self-parody, self-referential and maybe a little self-obsessed. It expresses the zeitgeist. It runs like a red thread through the words that are written, spoken and read everywhere, by everyone from self-made pop culture icons and self-appointed bloggers to the self-satisfied guardians of high culture.

Trends from Havas

“Creating a positive self-image is now recognized as a vital task for everyone, boosted by good measures of self-confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline, self-respect and self-regard. Getting those right sets off a self-reinforcing process, especially for energetic self-starters. On the other hand, people who are prone to self-doubt or self-pity might want to try a little self-compassion and self-acceptance as part of a self-directed self-improvement program. Self-conscious or self-critical people might find this all a little too self-absorbed, whereas others could find it positively self-aware.”

In continual disagreement with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and in continual agreement with the quote above (from the Havas Worldwide white paper on the top 10 trends of 2015), I see self-confidence, self-esteem, self-discipline, self-respect and self-regard as vital qualities in today’s world. OK, maybe I am biased, but I still think that the Law of Attraction has got it sorted and that whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

So what are YOU doing to self-improve? How are YOU growing your confidence? Here’s 3 ways for people with little confidence in a particular area:

1) Decide, for no better reason than you have decided, that you will be more confident today.
Just deciding to be confident gives you confidence. Confident people don’t look for reasons to be confident, they just decide they are confident. The reason why you choose to wear that particular T-shirt, pair of trousers, skirt or hat is just as valid as the reason you choose to feel confident. It is all in the mind.

2) Reduce the tension.
Fear creates tension and tension is not helpful in overcoming lack of confidence. So with that new-found confidence (from deciding to be confident today), let go of the nervousness. Take a deep breath and let the tension go. Do it several times, until the tension has gone. Now you are ready to:

3) Take a (calculated) risk.
Confidence is the memory of past successes. If you want to build your past successes, you have to take risks. When you realise that those risks paid off (that you didn’t die), you can count it as a success and add it to the bank of past successes on which to build your confidence.

So now you can go out and conquer the world. Failing that, at least conquer your fear of talking to a stranger. Or that girl/boy you have the hots for. Or your lack of self-confidence!