• Dr Mark Atkinson

The secret to natural confidence

Are you overly self-conscious or shy? Are you concerned with what others think about you to the extent that it stops you from being yourself? Do you struggle to be at peace with who you are? Most people in my experience answer yes to at least one of those questions. Lack of natural confidence really is quite common. What’s more many so-called confident people, aren’t naturally confident, they are just good at projecting what I call ‘artificial’ confidence. They aren’t the same.

Natural confidence is what effortlessly flows out of us when we are relaxed, present and authentic, being our self. It is the consequence of loving and accepting our Self just as we are. Artificial confidence in contrast is effortful. It comes from trying to be someone who we are not. When you are in the presence of someone who is trying to be confident you will notice two things. One – they are not present in the here and now, they are usually caught up in a stream of thoughts and emotions. Two – they are tense, they are not comfortable in their own skin. Natural confidence and artificial confidence are therefore poles apart. That said – they do each have their place. If I’m going to a job interview its important I project confidence.  If I’m painfully shy and in a room full of people, then knowing how to shift my state of mind to one that is confident will come in handy! I therefore regard developing ‘artificial’ confidence as an essential life skill (for this I recommend Paul McKenna’s book Instant Confidence). Developing natural confidence takes time, energy and a fair amount of ‘inner’ emotional and psychological work, so I suggest you do this work in parallel with learning some more instant ways to experience confidence. Eventually you can drop the ‘artificial’ confidence techniques. Here are some tips to get you started

Be here now. Underpinning natural confidence is present moment awareness a state of being awake, alert and in alignment with the each moment as it is. What pulls us out of the moment? Well there are many things including getting caught up in our heads stories and body’s emotions, but stress is what pulls most of us out of the moment. So next time you are stressed try 4-7 breathing. Breathe into the count of 4 and out to the count of 7. Repeat a couple of times and notice how much calmer (and present) you are. Here is a tip to help you disengage your thoughts and emotions: next time you shower, brush your teeth, go for a walk or eat, rather than going into your head to think, just gently notice what you can see around you without labeling what you see – just notice. Breathe gently. After a couple of seconds rotate around your senses - smell, hearing, taste and touch - just notice your experience. This is called mindfulness practice

Learn to welcome and work with your emotions. Next time you feel uncomfortable, notice where those emotions feel strongest in your body and say to them silently ‘I’m really pleased you are here.’ Allow yourself to feel whatever you are feeling with the same care and sensitivity that you would extend to a small baby or child. Do this for at least 90 seconds. 9 out of 10 times the emotion will release and you will feel so much better

Tame the Inner Critic. All of us have a part of us whose job is to judge ourselves and others, whilst its part of the human condition, it’s also a significant contributor to shame, stress and low self-esteem. Next time you notice yourself giving yourself a hard-time, notice the stressful thought. For example ‘I’m not going to be able to cope with this.’ Now say the thought out loud (if by yourself) or silently (if with others), but say it very slowly, with a couple of seconds gap between each word. Repeat twice and notice how this thought from your inner critic has lost its power. You can use this technique with any stressful thought

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© 2020 by Dr. Mark Atkinson.