By Louise Jensen
We are born with confidence, the inner knowing that we can, that we are enough. A baby believes it can learn to crawl, a toddler believes it can learn to walk. We all believe we can until we are told we can’t, we shouldn’t, it’s not a good idea. It’s only then we start to question ourselves and the self-judgement starts. Nobody analyses the way they look until they encounter spiteful comments from others or unfavourably compare themselves to others.
Our belief system, the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us is formed during our formative years. Being told we are wrong, bad, can’t, will never be etc. is something many of us, subconsciously, carry into adulthood. Even if we come from a loving, supportive family it can be a throwaway comment that stays with us.
It is only recently I have linked my self-conscious nature and inability to speak publicly with a statement made to me by a teacher when I was 7. Wanting to appear in a school play she told me “Louise, you are so softly-spoken no-one will want to listen to you when you speak”. My brain registered “no-one wants to listen to you speak”, and consequently I have, until recently, spent the vast majority of my life hiding in corners, trying to make myself invisible.
So what can we do to raise our self-image? Thankfully lots.
Firstly, if you have any negative memories like I had above look at them again with fresh eyes? Looking back as an adult I think now that the teacher was trying to be helpful, wanting me to project to enable both me, and the play, to be of a high standard. This knowing came as a huge relief to feel I was not being personally criticised, that there was, in fact, a loving intent behind her comment
Secondly, think of yourself in a more positive, loving way.
When was the last time you paid a friend a compliment? When was the last time you paid yourself a compliment? Exactly. While it can feel a totally alien concept to be kind towards ourselves initially, the more we practice this, the more we believe it to be true. I am beautiful and perfect. You are too.
Thirdly, tell that negative voice in your head to shut the hell up. I used to feel trapped in a spiral of self-criticism so I started to write down the nasty taunts my inner voice came out with. Seeing in black and white how unrealistically I compared myself to others was somewhere between laughable and completely shocking (I am fat and have no purpose. Really??) You know what, analysing my incredibly long list point by point I couldn’t believe I wasted so much energy in a negative way and consciously made a change.
Fourthly, stop waiting. Confidence won’t magically appear when you lose weight, change jobs or alter relationships. Write a list right now of 10 things you are happy with and carry it with you. Refer to it often and add to it when you can. Gratitude leads to love, and when we are experiencing self-love it is impossible to be self-critical.
Fifthly, meditate like mad. How many times do you criticise yourself and unfavourably compare yourself to others? Many of our fears are ones the mind creates, if we could refrain from thinking too much imagine how truly liberating that would be. It can take a while to find a type of meditation that works for you so don't write it off if you have tried one already and it didn't work for you.
Lastly that ole self-belief. Cliched but true. If you don't believe in yourself how can you expect anyone else to? Don't let anyone tell you that you can't because you can. Think positive things often enough and they will automatically become your way of thinking. You will naturally be experiencing confidence before you know it - how awesome would that be?