What story do you tell yourself?
You are lazy. Your nose is too big. Your eyes are too small. Are you stupid? You need to lose some weight. You are so average. You will never be successful. Do your thoughts about yourself sound something like this?
The Crucial Role of Self-Esteem
As a Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist, I have gained invaluable insights into the intricate web of human emotions. Through my experience, I have come to a profound realisation: low self-esteem serves as the catalyst for a whole range of issues such anger, jealousy, social anxiety, fear of public speaking and the constant need for approval. Yet, this concept remains shrouded in misconceptions. People often make generalisations about confidence and those who display it, inadvertently harming and isolating those that grapple with it, even more.
Can confident looking people really have social anxiety?
A client once came to me completely mortified after a large company event. She was interesting and articulate and well presented and had recently started working in the strategy department of a well-known firm. She was still settling in when a company-wide event was announced. Despite all her protestations about being terrible at public speaking, she was wheedled into compèring it. As expected, despite weeks of rehearsing, she completely froze after introducing herself and when she pushed herself to speak, sounds came out of her mouth, but they didn’t mean much. She stammered and stuttered and tried to find her composure as seconds felt like hours and she desperately waited for the event to end. She had made a complete fool of herself in front of all her colleagues and there was no way to undo it now! What the organisers had not realised or believed was that this lady suffered from social anxiety and she was extremely shy when she was in front of a large audience. She was able to connect really well with people one on one but she went into fight or flight when she had to present to a large number of people. This is a very common example that I see on an everyday basis where people are put into a certain box because of their appearance or way of speaking, where they struggle even more.
Self-esteem is not unidimensional
Confidence is not a black and white, have or don’t have it trait. People can be very confident in one aspect of their life and not in another and this often throws other people off. Men who feel strong and validated at work can often feel a different way at home or in the bedroom. Cheeky, back-chatting teens more interested in their phones and friends than their family can often struggle with understanding their self-worth. This leads to poor or lower than expected performance in school or sports. Both adults and children often don’t put in the effort into things because they don’t believe in their ability to succeed.
Change the story in your head
So what can we do about these aspects of our life where we feel under-confident? Can we change that voice in our head? Yes we can. We are not the sum total of all the negative comments that have ever been made about us or ones we have perceived. Each one of us has a unique set of qualities and achievements that we can choose to focus on. It seems odd in the beginning but you start getting used to it. I always tell clients that it’s better to feel awkward thinking about the nice things about yourself than feeling miserable about your no-good self. No one else can change this story in your head. Only you can.