Tag Archive | recovery

How to gain Confidence

I’m passionate about the topic of confidence and there are so many different aspects to it and so many different levels.

The first point to look at is around your focus. If you feel that you are lacking in confidence, my guess would be that your focus is on what you can’t do, where you failed, and how you feel that you’ve got things wrong. What would happen if you changed your focus? What would happen if you shifted your perspective from where it was into a new one, which you maybe have to your imagination with, but what if you focused in on what you have achieved, things that you have been successful in, and things that you have done? So for example, what if you started to think about all that you’ve achieved in your life from learning to talk, learning to walk, learning to pass an exam, swim, ride a bike, drive a car? The list I am sure is endless of all the things that you really have done. What would happen and how do you think you would feel if that was your focus on a daily basis?

The second aspect to look at is around your language. How are you actually talking to yourself both internally and externally because that’s a real key indicator of how you feel about yourself? If you want to grow your confidence then if you make a mistake and then you’re telling yourself what an idiot you are or how stupid you are.., then really is that going to inspire confidence in you to have another go or even have an attempt at something new? Look at how you’re speaking to yourself, language is so important. Start to use kind language, give yourself a break, and actually be nice to yourself.

Would you really speak to a best friend or a family member or even a child the way you speak to yourself currently? Yet you would probably want them to have confidence in themselves so because you want them to have confidence, you speak kindly to them.

How about if you turn that around and started speaking kindly to yourself? I know the difference that it’s made in my life and I’m sure that if you started to put that into practice you’ll gain even more confidence in yourself, which again is what you want to do, is it not?

My final thing for you to think about is rather than thinking about what’s gone wrong and thinking about the mistakes that you’ve made, think about the lessons that you’ve learnt. Every single day we’ll trip up, fall over, say the incorrect thing, and get something wrong. All of those things are there to help us learn so instead of focusing on getting it wrong and being a bad person, why not stop and at the end of the day ask yourself what have I learnt today? What have I have learnt today, and not only that, how can I use that information in the future? I know that when you learnt to walk as a child you would have fallen over at some point yet you didn’t sit there and stop. What you did is you decided to learn and use the information from falling over to get back up again and have another go, and you use that information to inform your next step. So at the end of every day, take a moment to think about how you can use the information from that day, those lessons, to help you in the future.

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How to overcome Social Anxiety

I have suffered from social anxiety for many years and I know how limiting and horrible it feels. So I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I overcame my social anxiety and how I can help other people that are suffering from it.

I have developed a few strategies that you can use to reduce your social anxiety. These are:

  1. Learning how to challenge your unhelpful thoughts and see things in a more realistic light.
  2. Reducing your tendency of focusing on yourself during social interactions.
  3. Removing the use o safety behaviors and gradually confronting your fears.

 Challenging unhelpful thoughts

The way that we think about things has an impact on our entire life. The root of a social anxiety are unhealthy beliefs which are just thoughts we have been thinking for too long. Many of these beliefs occur outside of our control, and can be negative and unhelpful. It is therefore important to remember that they are just thoughts, without any real basis, and are not necessarily facts. Even though we may believe a lot of our unhelpful thoughts when we are nervous, it is good to remember that they should be questioned as they are often based on wrong assumptions.

You might have unhelpful thoughts about all kinds of things. Here are some examples:

Before Social Situations

  • I’ll make a fool of myself
  • I’ll have nothing to say
  • I’ll go bright red / I’ll stammer

During Social Situations:

  • Everyone’s staring at me
  • I’m useless

After Social Situations

  • Everyone thought I was an idiot
  • I’d be better off not even bothering
  • I sounded like an idiot

About Yourself:

  • I’m weird
  • No-one likes me
  • I’m not very funny

First you need to be able to recognise an unhelpful thought. Then you can challenge it. Being aware of the common patterns that unhelpful thoughts follow can help you to recognise when you have them. Here are some of the common patterns that our unhelpful thoughts follow:

Predicting the Future:
When we are shy or socially anxious it is common for us to spend a lot of time thinking about the future and predicting what could go wrong, rather than just letting things be. In the end most of our predictions don’t happen and we have wasted time and energy being worried and upset about them. For example:

  • You worry that you will go red, stammer, and that everyone will dislike you.
  • You assume that you will be the centre of attention and everyone will stare at you.

These thoughts naturally make you anxious before you even arrive in a social situation.

Mind Reading:
This means that you make assumptions about others’ beliefs without having any real evidence to support them. For example:

  • He thinks I’m an idiot.
  • They think I look ugly.

Such ways of thinking can soon lower our mood and self-esteem.

Taking Things Personally:
When people are socially anxious or shy, they often take things to heart. For example:

  • You walk past a group who are laughing and assume the joke is at your expense.
Over Generalising:
Based on one isolated incident you assume that all others will follow a similar pattern in the future. For example:

  • Because you believe that one presentation went badly, you assume all others will follow the same pattern.
What If Statements:
Have you ever wondered “what if” something bad happens? For example:

  • What if nobody likes me?
  • What if I run out of things to say?

These thoughts also make you dread situations beforehand.

Focusing on the Negatives:
After a social gathering, you tend to focus on the parts of the evening that you believe didn’t go well. At the same time, you gloss over positive parts of the evening. For example:

  • You dwell on the one conversation which ran out of steam quickly, whilst forgetting the fact that you mingled well throughout the rest of the evening.
Labelling:
Do you label yourself with negative words? For example:

  • I’m boring.
  • I’m uninteresting.
  • I’m weird.
  • I’m unlovable.

These, often long held beliefs about yourself, ensure your confidence and self-esteem remains low.

Challenges to an unhelpful thought
Now you can challenge your unhelpful thoughts by asking these questions.
Is there any evidence that contradicts this thought?
I never run out of things to say to my friends, so why should this be different.
What would your friend say to you if they knew what you were thinking?
They would probably say – don’t be silly, you’re always good company.
How will you feel about this in 6 months time?
I probably won’t care. Even if it goes wrong I’ll have forgotten about it by then.
What are the costs and benefits of thinking in this way?
Costs: It’s making me nervous before I even go into the situation. It’s made me feel inadequate.
Benefits: I can’t really think of any.
Is there a another way of looking at this this situation?
Even if I don’t have anything to say, it’s not just up to me to keep conversations going. It’s everyone’s responsibility.

Reducing internal focus during social interactions

When we are socially anxious, we tend to spend a lot of time concentrating on our own bodily sensations during social interactions. This is because we fear that our anxiety is visible to others. For example, we may spend time trying to judge whether we are sweating, shaking, or blushing.

Although we do this in the hope being reassured that we are not visibly anxious, this strategy actually just makes things much worse. This is because we tend to overestimate how visible our anxiety is and this of course makes us feel even more self conscious. Also, by focusing on ourselves, we are prevented from fully concentrating on the conversations around us. This naturally makes it more difficult to join properly and we usually end up interacting less well than we could. This strengthens our beliefs that we are no good in such situations. The reality is that our anxiety is a lot less visible than we think. Often we have no idea if someone is anxious or not and it can help to remember this.

Similarly, when we feel socially anxious, we tend to spend time monitoring how well we are performing during social interactions. This too prevents us from paying proper attention to the conversations we are engaged in. For example, we may spend time trying to figure out if our voice sounds shaky, or go over and over the things we have said in our minds. Again, by doing so, we end up finding it hard to follow conversations which likely makes us perform worse. Given all of this, it is helpful to try to remove this tendency to focus on ourselves. Below you will find tips designed to help you during social interactions:

  • Try to spend less time focusing on your own physical symptoms in social situations.
  • Remember anxiety is much less visible than you imagine.
  • Even if you are visibly anxious, it does not necessarily mean that you will be thought badly of. Anxiety is something we all experience and it does not make you unusual.
  • Just because you feel anxious, it does not mean that you are performing poorly.
  • Remember – you are not the central focus of everyone’s attention. There are plenty of other things for people to think and talk about.
  • Really try to concentrate on the conversation you are involved in. Don’t think about how you appear or how well you are performing.
  • Don’t replay parts of the conversation in your mind, instead just focus on what is being said in the present moment.
  • We do not need to perform perfectly or brilliantly in every social interaction we have, no-one can achieve such high standards.
  • Don’t worry too much if there are silences. Everyone has a responsibility to keep conversations going. Besides, silences are ok and do not always need filled.
  • Just be yourself.’ Why bother when it is impossible for everyone to like us anyway.

Removing the use of avoidance and safety behaviors

When we are socially anxious, we tend to avoid social situations (parties, speaking in front of groups, going out). However if we keep avoiding the situations we fear, we never get the chance to prove to ourselves that we can cope in them and our confidence remains low. Similarly, whenever socially anxious people do enter the situations they fear, they tend to use safety behaviors (sticking besides a good friend at a party, staying silent when in a small group to avoid looking foolish…). Although these behaviors seem to help in the short term, they are actually unhelpful. This is because they stop people from learning that they could have coped fine without relying on such things. Therefore, like avoidance, safety behaviors stop us from learning that we can cope in such situations and our anxiety towards them continues.

Because of this, the best way to reduce our anxiety towards social situations is to gradually confront them, without relying on safety behaviors. Of course, confronting social situations can be horrifying, especially given that our anxiety levels often rise when we do it. If you repeatedly allow yourself to become involved in a short conversation, rather than avoid it, you can begin to prove that you can handle these scenarios much more effectively than you think and your confidence will soon rise.

My story

Today I’m going to tell you my story.

I was an extremely shy kid. I was afraid to express myself. I kept everything to myself. I showed a passive attitude towards everything. I had absolutely no friends. Everyone thought that something was wrong with me. Teachers told my mother to bring me to a therapist because I didn’t behave like other kids.

I don’t know why I behaved like this since such an early age. But I know it wasn’t natural to me. I wasn’t happy as a child. I lived in constant fear of rejection. I was afraid to talk to anyone because I thought I wasn’t worthy of their time. I thought I don’t deserve anything. The belief that something is wrong with me was so very present within my being even at the age of 3. And because I believed it so strongly, my outside reality couldn’t do anything else but to reflect to me my own feelings of rejection. Everyone was telling me I wasn’t alright. For me it was a confirmation that I was born unworthy and suffering is all that I deserved.

I have to ask myself how did I even started to think I was unworthy at the age of 3? How did I come to believe such a thing? I think it was based on how I interpreted things that were going on around me. When I was 2.5 years old, my brother was born. Suddenly all the attention turned to him. Until then I was used to get all of the attention. I used to talk a lot, I was a loud and cheerful. But when he was born, everyone seemed to care about him. I felt rejected. I felt like I have done something wrong. I started feeling unworthy. Now I know my parents still loved me, they just didn’t have time to care about me all the time. But when I was little I didn’t understand that and I interpreted it in my own way.

The belief of being unworthy grew even stronger when I was in elementary school. I still had no friend, all the kids made fun of me. Teachers didn’t like me because I was always quiet and I didn’t seem to be very smart. The worst year for me was in 4th grade. My family moved to a different city and I had to visit different school. Since day one all my classmates hated me and made fun of me. I was being bullied in school every day. Life became hell for me. When I came home from school I didn’t feel the support from my family. I never told them about anything that I was experiencing. It’s like I lived in a shell, I created my own world. In my mind I wasn’t worthy of anything and I believed that everything  that was happening to me I deserved completely.

After one year I left that school and went to gymnasium. Everyone was surprised that I passed the entrance exams including my family, because they thought I wasn’t especially smart. I thought that maybe I will find some friends in the new school. But unfortunately I wasn’t popular there at all. No one wanted to be my friend and kids were laughing at me. I was disappointed, but it only convinced me that I am less then the others.

I few years went by like this. Then I started exploring spirituality and I started reading motivational and self help literature. I learned that I am the creator of my own reality and that I’m unconditionally loved. Of course I didn’t understand it fully in just one day. You don’t go from the vibration of total powerlessness to total self acceptance so easily. Healing happens in layers. It took me years to integrate it into my life. That is when life started to get better for me. I was no longer in such a victim mentality so I attracted myself a few friends. We were all the outsiders in school and the weirdos but that is what brought us together. I created a blog 5 years ago where I started to write about my experiences and opinions. Thanks to internet a get to know many interesting people. For the first time in my life I felt like I belong somewhere and I’m not alone in this.

Since then my life is getting better and better. I can tell that I’m a completely different person. I’m much closer to my true self. I know I’m not quite there yet but I’m on a right track. And I enjoy this ride we call life. Now I know that all of my childhood experience was a part of the plan. I think that one of the primary intentions I had for this life before I even manifested in this physical body was to know my true worth. And how would I know what being worthy is if I didn’t experience the feeling of being unworthy? With my childhood I have created for myself the perfect contrast for everything I needed to learn. Now when I have gone through feelings of total powerlessness and victim mentality and healed myself, I can use my knowledge to help others find their true self and reach their highest potential. An there is nothing I would love to do more than this! 🙂