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ARTICLES ON THIS PAGE (6)
*The Main Reason Some People Lose Their Confidence
*How Your Habits Rob You of Confidence
*Imagination and Fear: The most powerful combination in life!
*Are you trapped in your past and can't get out?
*Is a Lack of Appreciation Damaging Your Confidence?
*How Weak Principles Can Rob You of Confidence and Direction








The Main Reason Some People Lose Their Confidence

 

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Confidence is lost through a natural need to belong, but feeling unwanted, excluded and undervalued.

A sense of belonging dictates our level of confidence. Try as we might, we cannot function without others as we are social beings. From the moment we are born and bond with our parents, we begin the social cycle of inclusion: in family, relatives, schools, friends, relationships, associations and work. There is no escaping others because they validate our existence and reinforce our culture and identity. Others act as mirrors which reflect our presence. When this reflection is confusing, or does not match with our own self perception, it leads to isolation or an identity crisis.

Other people's attention, recognition, praise, affection and love are lifelines to our endeavours, reinforcing who we are and giving us the purpose to continue with our lives. When others we care about reject us, we are likely to reject ourselves too, internalise the hate and spew it back on the family and community in the form of deviant, selfish behaviour. Most juvenile and adult problems are caused by a deep sense of not belonging to anyone or anything. Such people are most likely to have experienced rejection of some sort in childhood or in a relationship which leaves them with a sense of isolation, probably a desire to be destructive and a feeling of not having anyone on their side who really cares about them or their future.

For example, this bright, but sensitive, young 14-year-old girl was always being called nasty, hurtful names because of her surname. She had a terribly low opinion of herself and didn't see herself advancing far, despite her abilities. Having being picked on constantly, she felt 'unloved' and 'lonely' and wanted to leave school as soon as she could. She saw the greatest event in her life as 'getting married to a nice guy who loves me as I am'.

Lack of Affirmation
Her peers' cruel behaviour did not affirm who she was so she had begun to reject herself too, rating herself very low in esteem and refusing to acknowledge that her surname had little to do with her looks or talent, or that she could still be anything she wanted. As the social mirror did not reflect her self-perception, she was very hurt and began to reject her schoolwork, precipitating her steady decline. This girl's negative feelings came as no surprise but they are disturbing. At this age, the friendship of her peers and being considered 'one of the gang' are very important in her development. If she is continually teased and rejected it makes it difficult for her to appreciate herself and her potential or to recognise herself as someone worthy of respect and love, especially at this important transitional phase when she is moving from childhood to adulthood.



In fact, one of our worst emotions come from a sense of total rejection by those whom we care about most, hence the traumatic effect of any broken relationship which is not mutual. The sense of not belonging is very obvious when a relationship breaks. The loss of a partner is an immediate loss of self-esteem. We suddenly cease to be attractive in our own eyes, not caring about anything for a while. We become non-persons whose value has dramatically fallen. Yet we would still be very desirable to an awful lot of other people. At these times, it is pointless telling someone to 'snap out of it' or that 'things will get better'. Their sense of exclusion and lack of belonging mean that they cannot see what well meaning advisers can! They have to go through a painful period of denial, anger, acknowledgement, acquiescence and finally full acceptance of their situation before they can begin to come to terms with the loss and rebuild their self-esteem.

Some people never reach this final stage of acceptance and remain bitter and vengeful for years. They cling to the past because the memories and sense of rejection are so painful they are often difficult to relinquish. The present means little to them because the past remains unresolved. By hanging on to the pain, as hurtful as it might be, they still have a 'cause', a status and a 'good reason' to do nothing to change their situation. However, along the way they lose their sense of purpose in relentless negativity, they loss their confidence and self worth and they create an emotional void which gradually affects their capacity to develop truly positive relationships or trust in others.

Anxious and Isolated
A sense of not belonging, especially with those who matter to us, destroys our confidence utterly because it is the reactions of others which moulds, confirms and maintains our self-image. Who we are and where we belong are dictated by our cultural history, individual background and significant others around us and when they cease to care, so do we, which has the biggest effect on our personal value. If our loved ones do not share our perspectives, hopes or aspirations, we become more anxious, isolated and unproductive. We cannot achieve our potential because our ambition disappears too.

A sense of belonging to someone or something is therefore our greatest need. We identify a niche for ourselves, according to the roles of those around us, and take on that persona. That is why two people cannot occupy exactly the same position in any family, friendship or work unit because a sense of belonging depends on individual uniqueness. There would be problems of social and personal identity. Our own confidence is controlled by this feeling of belonging because most of our actions are geared to align with, or to disrupt, our environment, depending on our sense of security. If it is strong because we feel wanted, there are fewer hang ups, as we feel less threatened by others. If it is weak, we are plagued by insecurity and find it really hard to be positive. When we feel isolated, insecure or rejected, our self-esteem takes a nosedive.




How Your Habits Rob You of Confidence

 

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We know that the three pillars of personal confidence are our sense of achievement, belonging and self-esteem. If we do not feel we belong, or have achieved enough, our self-esteem tends to suffer.

When it comes to achievement, in particular, there are numerous ways to lose confidence and many of them relate to the limits we unwittingly put on ourselves particularly relating to routine habits, and not knowing what we want. Each new day we consciously put artificial barriers on what we can achieve; we tell ourselves we cannot do a particular act, and then we don't. Our confidence sinks, we feel even worse and our low self-esteem ensures that we really can't achieve, just as we said we wouldn't.

1. Unconsciously Limiting Achievement
To limit our achievements before we've even begun is to damn ourself to the worst. Our actions are controlled by our thought processes. If we are in a car driving to an unfamiliar destination, we mentally talk ourselves into getting there while remaining alert to avoid wrong turns or accidents. We are likely to have a route map in our mind, or a mental picture of the destination, and to follow it to the end. We might get slightly lost along the way, but, having the basic idea of where we are going, we can either retrace our steps and get back on track, or stick to the wrong turning with the hope that it will join with the right route in the end. Either way, we will only have a temporary loss of orientation and discomfort because we know our destination and can always ask for help. Not so for our lives and careers.

We tend to head off in no direction at all, have no idea of where we are going or what our main objective is and actually expect to get out the other side feeling completely fulfilled or in the dream job of our choice. Yet this short-sighted approach is like asking a blind person to find his/her own way in totally unfamiliar territory. One guaranteed to reduce their sense of competence.



2.Not Knowing What You Want
To get where you want to go in your own life, and ensure a high self-esteem you have to know what you want and at least the direction you should take which will lead to it. Otherwise you will not achieve your desires. You also have to be flexible with your habits. Nothing happens by accident. Your present knowledge and actions are dictated entirely by your general education and social background: and this includes everything you learnt from your parents, family, people you met and everything you did. All those aspects would have influenced YOU as the individual and moulded your current perceptions and character. They would have formed your identity - the person you are, and the things you do. If you are still in confusion about that, it suggests a conflict between what you aspire to be and your actual background.

For example, if you are used to seeing people stealing to survive, you will come to see that kind of action as the only acceptable way to live because everybody you know does it. This belief would not change unless you are shown a different way or you begin to mix with people who survive by other means. But old habits die hard and it would take a lot of convincing, or to be socially excluded, before you eventually change. That is the main reason why some people never recover from a traumatic or unhappy childhood, particularly if others reinforce their negative experience in later life. They get into a pattern of behaviour, which includes certain key habits, and that drives their present while they are stuck in the past. Needless to say habits are the third thing which hampers achievement and lowers esteem.

3. The Power of Habits
If you want to know what future you are likely to have just look at your habits NOW and the kind of thoughts you dwell on. Negative, inflexible, habits which are dictated by fear produce negative results which keep us feeling low and inadequate. Most important, they limit achievement dramatically through constantly reinforcing inappropriate behaviour. Positive, flexible habits which respond to change give flexible, and often unexpected, results which we can use to our advantage.

What are your current habits? Do they indicate what you want and where you are going? Or do they tell more about where you are coming from and where you are stuck at this moment?

Nothing will change without you changing those habits and your ways of dealing with your world. Neither will you feel better about yourself or achieve any more than you're doing without you establishing who you really are and where you're heading.


Imagination and Fear: The most powerful combination in life!

 

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Here is a very simple exercise for you: Try exercising your free will and doing something as forcefully as you can that your imagination doesn't want you to do? You would find it very difficult. No matter how much you might want to do it, or how determined you are, if your imagination is uncomfortable with it, you will become fearful and your will power will lose out.

Without realising it, our imagination is the most powerful force within us, far more powerful than anything in reality. It is responsible for three main things:

1. Providing a vision of our future and fulfilling the aspirations we have. In other words, this is the most powerful force behind the creation of our world and everything we have ever desired. We think it, we imagine it, visualise it in our mind's eye and, hey presto!, our will power brings it into being. Someone once said to be careful what we imagine because if we can visualise it, no matter how outlandish and evil, we can bring it to life. It is only a matter of time before we work out the way to do it.

For example, in the 1940s when scientists in America were telling politicians that they would be sending an exploration trip to the moon at some point in the future, seeking the funds to get the project started, the disbelievers (especially politicians), who were both scared and excited by the idea, were not hard to find. Many felt it would never happen in their lifetime and thought it was a non-starter.

Some thought it would be flying in the face of God's intentions, or even playing God Himself, especially with the sky being regarded as God's domain, while the very limited and fearful imagination of others could not even visualise the possibility, let alone see its potential. Most people said it was not possible and feared even the thought of it. Twenty years later it became a reality when Neil Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. The strong imagination of the scientists and creative believers won over the very limited imagination of the politicians and public, hands down!

2. Reliving our past and storing our memories. Thanks to our imagination, we can savour the positive experiences we have had and relive them over and over again in all their glory inside our heads. The imagination not only stores those memories, good and bad, but also embellishes them for our benefit. We can imagine whatever we want in the privacy of our own heads, adding or subtracting as we wish, which is why many people say, for example, that the real sex organs of our bodies have less to do with genitals and far more to do with the grey matter between our ears that powers our imagination! Without imagination to relive our existence we would have no concept of what we had already done, especially when our physical reality relates only to that very moment of which we are conscious. Everything else is either the past or the future.


3. Acting as a coping mechanism to help us to deal with our fears. Our imagination helps us to face our fears by imagining both the best and worst of any situation and gradually coming to terms with it, or dealing with it more agreeably. We can never escape our thoughts. Yet, it is by playing out scenarios in our heads which threaten or give us discomfort, seeing them visually, and even exaggerating their effects (especially when we are fearful), that we are gradually able to make sense of such situations and to disarm their power over us. Our imagination helps us to provide solutions to challenging problems, to imagine the kind of ideal situations we seek and to act upon them. This function of protecting you can also inhibit what you achieve in your life because it will instll fear through gross exaggeration of the negative consequences of your actions rather than propel you towards the winner's post.

In the realm of creativity your imagination has no equal. It actually allows you to see everything from the end, exactly as you desire it. You can have the completely finished product just as you want, which makes the act of materialising it that much easier and more exciting. If you are feeling frustrated with your life, feeling fearful and disinclined, it could be because, on one hand, you are not using your imagination much, refusing to see the dream you want inside your head and to slowly nurture its development.

Or you could be using your imagination in the wrong way by exaggerating your fears and the future consequences of your desires. In essence, you are afraid to use your imagination in its most creative way; afraid to dream or let your desires have full rein. As the quality of your world works mainly from what you imagine, and if all you imagine is fear, which dogs your every move, then all your life will manifest is fear in all its forms which will inevitably limit your achievements. Allow your imagination free roaming today and you might even surprise yourself. Your imagination is the invisible link to your destiny. The main question is: How will you use that link and what kind of destiny can you see in your mind?




Are you trapped in your past and can't get out?

 

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Someone once said, "The past is for reference, not for residence", and it is framed over my bed where I see it first thing each morning and last thing at night. Stemming from that, I make sure that I go back to the past just to celebrate, not to deliberate or commiserate, because there is nothing happening back there. The past is ONLY inside our heads, nowhere else, so we are the ONLY ones with the power to live in it or get rid of it. Let's repeat that again in case you missed it first time: YOU are the only one with the power to get rid of the past or to hang about in it. No one else.

If we are clogged up with the cobwebs of the past we cannot improve on them and make the present richer. The past often looks better when we lack confidence and are low in self-esteem because it allows us to ignore the moving times and be blind to what we do not wish to see. We hang on to a specific event, person or thing even though they are long gone, either for blame, or as a crutch for our fears or to prevent us taking action. It kills our confidence because we are not prepared for the real world. This pre-occupation with the past also allows everything in our small world to take precedence while we become ignorant and cynical of the world of others.

A classic situation is the youth vs older folk syndrome. To some older people today's youth appear much worse than they used to be. They seem more ill-mannered, less respectful, badly behaved, more grasping and more self-centred. Yet very few teenagers I have met conform to that ready stereotype. The art of dealing with anyone is to acknowledge, recognise and treat them courteously, even if we don't respect or agree with them. By doing those three things first before we pre-judge or criticise, we are more likely to affect others in a positive way. Moreover, if we don't, we won't be accorded that in return either. Most misunderstandings between generations arise because older people try to impose their old inappropriate values and standards on the young instead of combining a little from each generation to form a new basis for mutual tolerance and respect.

It is pointless expecting the young to behave as we did when their world is vastly different from ours and they are a product of that world. It's the only world they know. They cannot live in ours. Moreover, self-confidence does not come at another person's expense. It comes from a deep personal belief in what the individual can do at any given time. The old days look better only because we cannot cope with the new. Yet to truly accept change in our lives, personal conviction has to be accompanied by prompt, positive results. If these are not forthcoming, and we cannot see immediate benefits (especially when our situation appears to have changed for the worse), we feel overwhelmed by the change and tend to reject the new, turning to old familiar ways for comfort.

Once overwhelmed, we often do not accept that we each have a part to play in improving the quality of our own lives. We are prone to look to the politicians, the council, the manager, the shop owners, partners or colleagues – in fact, anyone who can reduce the onus of responsibility from our shoulders. We are hesitant of how to react to our new high-tech world because the rules have changed beyond recognition, the goalposts have moved and we are left with the ball of progress while feeling inept, clumsy and bewildered, and without a clue where to put it. We then cling tightly to the past we remember by sterilising it of its faults and exaggerating its goodness. A squeaky clean environment emerges where we were always happy, always secure and completely contented in a community with very little crime and everything in its place. We often forget that some of the worst atrocities and abuses to women and children were committed back then.



Exaggerating the Past
Alternatively, some people may try to perpetuate the notion that the past was much worse than it was. They isolate only the ghastly bits, exaggerate the bad times and pretend that nothing good existed then nor contributed to their present position. Yet, even if their past were really awful, the fact that they survived it would have made them far better beings and infinitely more resilient. They would still have much for which they should be grateful. The truth is that most times we are unhappy with the present because we are vainly trying to use the outmoded ideas of dead men to dictate the lives of the living in a completely different era. In effect, using an old mindset to grapple with new issues. We do need to use dead men's contributions and theories for guidance, because it is more difficult to start from scratch. But each age builds on the one before it, not use the past to dictate the future.

The only way to regain our confidence and deal effectively with uncertainties is to:

a. Acknowledge the age we are living in;

b. Keep abreast of its innovations;

c. Update the skills we need to acclimatise; d. Identify what we personally can do to influence our situation and make our impact;

e. Encourage, and learn from, the young - and go for it!

By sharing some of what other generations value, our own lives can be enriched, while we preserve what is dear to us. By being cynical and distrustful of the world around us we alienate ourselves, we lose confidence and esteem and make our environment more frightening. We also deny ourselves the real pleasure we can get by harnessing the rich source of new thoughts, ideas and innovations, which can be easily mixed with the old to make our lives more enlightening, fulfilling and enjoyable.

Whether to do with relationships, family issues or our quality of life, we kill our confidence if we dwell negatively on the past by constantly dredging up painful memories or bottling up hurtful feelings. We really have to let go. Nothing positive is ever achieved by being trapped in the past because, while wekeep going over old things in our minds, the present does not really exist and we cannot plan for the future either. We would be too busy worrying and fretting about what has happened and what we cannot change instead of what we could do to improve things for the better. Hence why people who dwell on past things seldom achieve what they desire.

To surround ourselves with nothing but past hurtful things teaches us nothing new. However, it is guaranteed to kill our motivation, it makes us very unattractive to others and keeps us stuck in an ongoing rut. And, of course, the only difference between languishing in a rut of fear and being in a grave is six feet!


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Is a Lack of Appreciation Damaging Your Confidence?

 

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How do you feel today? Happy? Zippy? Valued? Neglected? Unappreciated? Depressed? Terrible?

However you feel, good or bad, chances are that you are that way because of the reactions of others towards you. If we are treated in an affirming and reinforcing way, we are likely to feel good about ourselves and if we feel down it is likely because we have not been valued or appreciated either. Praise and encouragement are essential ingredients in our lives, yet the majority of people are denied them because we are inclined to praise if our confidence is high and to be critical if our confidence is low. But praise and affirmation are important if we are to increase self-assurance and build self esteem.

To begin with, encouragement is crucial when we are young to help us to develop positive attitudes to life, to instil the fact that we are responsible for our own fate and to nurture the belief that anything is possible, especially if we are determined. However, many parents, who have been denied praise themselves, also deny it to their youngsters, often feeling embarrassed to tell their children how much they love them and how wonderful they are. Not getting this necessary feedback, and possibly being criticised most of the time, many youngsters grow up with the mistaken belief that their parents do not care about them too much. This robs them of the confidence and self-esteem to become positive, achieving adults.

In many relationships the cycle continues. Wives and husbands (or partners/lovers) who have been denied praise for their honest efforts withhold it from their spouses too. There is often grudging acknowledgement of each person's domestic or professional role but no real praise or appreciation for the personal contributions of each partner. Eventually, resentment at a lack of appreciation kills praise all round and helps negativity to thrive.

Work is even worse. Many people toiling away in organisations as small important cogs in big machines seldom get any praise or encouragement for their part in keeping that venture going. They are seen as 'just doing their jobs' and should really get on with it. Yet it takes very little commitment to complete a job in the manner expected. It takes much more to believe in what that organisation is doing and commit one's self to its ethos, ideals and objectives. In fact, it's actually a lack of praise and obvious appreciation which keeps employees from performing to their utmost.

Personal Value to Others
If you are working on a packaging line daily and no one ever comes and tells you how well you are packing the items, or fulfilling the orders, you will eventually see what you are doing as just a means to an end instead of something in which you could take greater pride and joy. If there were to be regular checks on how well you pack, or your opinions canvassed on how the packaging could be improved, you would have a greater stake in the efficiency and service of that organisation. Your self esteem and commitment would gradually increase because your value to the company would be linked with its fortunes, not just superficially as an aid to the profits, but as an essential part of its future.

Those who are not used to praise might pretend it does not matter, but when we are singled out for any particular honour it is likely to be the greatest moment of our lives. No matter how embarrassed we are, or how we try to dismiss it, that moment will be one of the first to be recalled; the one we make special note of; the one we share with family and friends and the one we look back on and savour with a great deal of pride and joy.

Ask anyone who has met Royalty, Presidents or won an award, especially those Oscar winners, and they will tell you there is nothing like that moment of affirmation and reinforcement. It is a moment to cherish, a true acknowledgement of being 'special'. To deny praise for a job well done ignores our special input, kills commitment, erodes confidence ad breeds apathy. There are too many managers who concentrate on the task to be done and not on the staff doing it. Yet if staff are left to concentrate on the job and the managers on their workforce – praising, helping, encouraging ad appreciating, then the three big Cs - commitment, contribution and competence -€“ would dramatically increase.

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How Weak Principles Can Rob You of Confidence and Direction

 

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Arlene was 19 and did not drink. She hated it but she also wanted to be part of a group who enjoyed their drinks and were frequently out pub-crawling. Often she would decline to go out because she preferred to talk or dance, instead of 'worshipping the bottle', as she saw it. But as she was often left on her own, she felt uneasy about it. Then came Danny, a heavy drinker and a popular new member of the group. She hated when he was drunk but he made her feel great when he wasn't. Wanting to be with him, she accepted an invitation to join them drinking but felt awful afterwards.

By the next week she had recovered enough to do it again, after much guilt feelings about going against her principles. She also blamed Danny for plying her with too much drink the second time and for being 'silly'. Danny thought she was being rather immature and this made her feel even more sheepish and guilty. It did nothing for her appeal either, neither did it boost her confidence. Having abandoned her own strong principles regarding drinking, this limited her actions and forced her to go along with the crowd, even though she hardly enjoyed it and felt it was wrong. Yet it didn't make her any more acceptable to the group or bring her any closer to the man she cared about, because Danny went off with someone else 'who didn't have such hang-ups' about drinking.

Having weak and inconsistent values or principles can be deadly because it relates to our basic psyche – what we actually believe and use to guide our actions. If we believe in doing something a certain way and have convinced ourself that it is the right way to act, then to change it purely to please someone else is asking for trouble. We would have changed on the outside, but as we still have that original value lurking around, there will be immediate conflict between accommodating the new behaviour and justifying it against what we feel is right.



The Urgent Need to Belong
Arlene did not have to drink alcohol but it meant a great deal to her to be one of the pack, which explains why we often go against our principles, for approval. That sense of belonging again! We want to belong so much, whether to a church group, drama group, society, a select clique like Phi Beta Kappa, or to share another's friendship, we would sometimes do anything. No matter what, it is at these times that personal beliefs come under scrutiny and make us feel uncomfortable; especially if they do not conform to the beliefs and actions of the important ones around us and those whom we are trying to impress.

When we go along with the crowd for the sake of it, our behaviour becomes superficial and we cease to take responsibility for our actions. We then break the promises we make to ourselves and go along with something inherently wrong for the sake of it. But we then set up a cycle of self-guilt, remorse, unhappiness, loss of confidence, loss of esteem and more guilt. We cannot convince ourself we've done the right thing because, subconsciously, by our standards, we know we haven't. Like people of minority cultures who immediately abandon what they have practised and believed in for the 'better' looking majority culture. They tend to live in a kind of no man's land for ages before coming to terms with their identity because they had been too quick to abandon their own traditions without putting anything of substance in its place.

We really have to decide what is right for us and stick with it, regardless. There is no harm in compromising, but not for short term gain. Change should also mean sharing for mutual benefit, not just seeking the approval of others so that we have nothing left for us. Reluctantly going against our own values to please other people merely damages our confidence without giving us anything valuable in return.

When we deny our roots, culture, principles and beliefs for expediency - anything that has helped to mould our character or way of life -€“ without having anything equally worthwhile or convincing with which to replace it, we damage our credibility and esteem and leave ourselves open to rejection and ridicule. In effect, we become just a caricature of what we hope to be, while finding it difficult to convince others of our sincerity.