We judge other people's self-confidence from a mixture of personality characteristics, including self- assertiveness, emotionality of response to difficult situations, level of self-esteem and so on.

 A person's expectations about the outcome of any situation, based on his own past experience, must contribute to his estimation of his own level of self-confidence.

Thus, for example, a person who has failed to achieve what he desires many times in the past will have many negative expectations about his chance of success in the future - and will feel that he lacks self-confidence.

We should also bear in mind that emotional problems can reduce one's ability to make decisions: this may appear as a lack of confidence in one's own judgment. We shall consider some ways in which a person can increase his or self-confidence.



Many people's thoughts, beliefs and perceptions about themselves are, at least to some degree, inaccurate or distorted.

Yet even if you perceive yourself in a way that is distorted by misconceptions and assumptions that are quite wrong, those perceptions still have a major effect on how you think and behave in many situations. So analyzing your basic beliefs and checking their relevance and accuracy to your life can be a significant step towards a reduction of the stress which produces emotional distress.

However, before you can analyze the beliefs which you hold about yourself, it is necessary to identify them. How can this be done? First of all, let us emphasize that we are not concerned here with major life crises or changes, but with the smaller, unavoidable, repeated stresses of life which act as a source of stress, worry and anxiety.

Two infallible indicators of stress are (1) worried anticipation of future events that cannot be avoided, and (2) being preoccupied with and ruminating about these events for a period of time after they occur. So maybe you can identify and list the situations which, for you, produce stress, anxiety, worry and perhaps depression.

Suppose that you have identified certain types of situations which cause you to feel stressed. It is your perception of, and reaction to, a situation which is the crucial factor in emotional disturbance.

And your reaction to a situation depends to a large extent on the beliefs and assumptions which you hold about that situation and about how it affects you. Those beliefs and assumptions can be brought into conscious focus in two main ways:

1. By asking yourself questions about the situation, for example: What is it about this situation that I find stressful?

Does the situation objectively justify my emotional reaction?

Am I reacting this way from habit?

Is the whole situation stressful, or only part of it?

2. By identifying clues in the way you think and speak to yourself and others about a situation, that is, identifying the cause o your stress from your 'self-talk'.

Once you have identified the beliefs which make any situation stressful, you can begin to change them. Suppose a man who feels anxious and shy in social situations.

He realizes that his anxiety stems from the belief that other people don't want to know him, or to have him in their circle of friends, because he lacks some particular characteristic. Next, he decides to replace this faulty belief with a more realistic and less stress-producing one.

Let us suppose that he decided on the following: 'I can develop, whatever ability and skills may be necessary to achieve the things I really desire. I have the potential to get on well with others, even if I sense they do not like me, and I can accept this without feeling rejected or less of a person. I can learn to love myself.'

The third step is for him to think about how his new belief will alter his thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Here are some examples of the sort of changes he might expect to achieve, set out in his own words.

1. To be more relaxed in the company of others; no longer constantly comparing myself with them or criticizing my failure to match up to what I see as their standards; to stop calling myself 'stupid' or 'foolish'; to accept my mistakes more easily.

2. Less introspection and self-analysis, and more constructive action. Stop seeing references to myself in other people's actions.

3. Be able to tackle specific problems more easily and to take the initiative in calling up others; to greet friends in a relaxed way and stop worrying about what I do or say.

4 To treat other people more as equals; to enjoy social occasions for what they are, and to return invitations in a relaxed way.

Changing beliefs like this can be difficult. We all hold many inaccurate beliefs, either because we have simply never questioned them or because they have some personal value (for example, many of our incorrect beliefs reinforce our self-images and thereby maintain our self-esteem).

Therefore you must question and think through each of the beliefs which cause you to feel stressed or to react emotionally to events around you. You will then be able to decide whether each belief is valid - or whether it should be discarded and replaced with another, more reasonable, one.

Even so, such self-analysis and careful thought are not enough. But each time you question one of your beliefs and replace it with another, you should act in a way that will reinforce both the reality of, and your acceptance of, your new attitude and belief.

True, a shy person may find it difficult to go out and meet other people. But this is essential, for otherwise change cannot become a reality.

You may find it helpful to remember that an action is often more useful done badly than not done at all! (Do you believe that you must do everything well? If so, why?) And of course experience will improve your skill at any action.

It would be quite impossible to list every belief which causes stress and emotional distress. Here are some of the major categories of belief which contribute to stress and personal problems.

1. Believing that you cannot change the way you act and feel. A surprising number of people fail to accept the responsibility of self-change - no matter how unhappy they are. They present excuses for this attitude such as: 'I've always been this way' and 'That's just how I am.' But change is possible, using the techniques listed here and on this website......continues here......

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