About to change school and lacking in confidence?

Lots of people suffer with the occasional crisis of confidence, but for some people, lacking confidence almost becomes ingrained in their personality. Self-confident people have a positive and realistic perception of themselves and their abilities, whereas people who lack self-confidence generally feel inferior to others and are doubtful of their self-worth. They tend to isolate themselves and over-conform because they mistrust their own judgment and abilities.

People who suffer from a lack of self-confidence often hamper their own progress in life by not attempting to try anything new. If the lack is severe, sufferers will not try to succeed in anything because they think they will fail if they do. They suffer severely from feelings of inferiority to others around them. Some people with confidence issues are secretly aware that they have potential ability, but refuse to acknowledge it, thereby avoiding the risk of failure.

Main signs and symptoms

There are many reasons why you may lack confidence, and it can be so demoralising to want to do something - but feel unable to because of how you feel.

If you have a deep seated, underlying lack of confidence in yourself and your abilities, your life is bound to be limited in some way, and this can lead to you having anxious or depressed feelings.

You may feel confident in some areas of your life, but less so in others. So, for example, you might be a confident runner, or a confident cook, yet you lack confidence when having to meet people, or talk on the phone to someone you don't know, or go into a room full of people. You might fear failing, or doubt yourself, and negative thoughts pop into your mind about your ability to do things, or to cope. You might worry that you’re not good enough - or that people will think badly of you.

Signs & Symptoms of Lack of Confidence

  • Avoiding doing certain things because you fear your ability to cope.
  • Covering your lack of confidence by pretending, to hide the way you really feel.
  • Withdrawing from other people in certain situations
  • Speaking quietly or mumbling
  • Speaking too loudly or shouting so that you ‘appear’ confident
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Comfort eating
  • Regularly thinking negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities.
  • Using alcohol or drugs to make you feel more confident

If you are experiencing significant anxiety, depression or stress then you might seek more professional support.

Where can I find further help and advice?

Talking treatments

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of counselling or therapy which aims to identify connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviour, and to help develop practical skills to manage them. This has been shown to be effective in helping people to manage and challenge negative opinions about themselves, and build a more positive set of core beliefs which will, over time, increase your self-esteem. (See Cognitive behaviour therapy.)

If your problems are based in early experiences you might find that other talking therapies such as psychotherapy or counselling can help you address these experiences more thoroughly. (See Talking treatments for more information.)

GPs are the first access point to health care on the NHS. They can provide an assessment and diagnosis, and help you access appropriate treatment. If your symptoms are mild then you might be referred to your local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Treatments) programme to access talking treatments. Unfortunately, waiting times for psychological treatment on the NHS are often very long.

If you feel that you don’t want to wait or that you would like more support than is being offered, you may choose to see a therapist privately. If you do see a private therapist then they should be aware of the guidelines for treatment issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and be appropriately qualified to offer you the support you need. See Talking treatments and the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Self-help groups and online help

Self-help groups, websites and online forums can also be a good option if you want to talk to people who have been through similar experiences. Mind Infoline or your local library can provide details of self-help support groups that might be relevant to you; for example if you are woman who has been in an abusive relationship they will have details of domestic violence support.

Online communities can also be a source of great support, but the anonymity of the internet can make this risky. It can be safer to use websites of national support organisations, such as the Mind Facebook page, or Anxiety UK’s forum. Sites like these can offer peer support but are monitored to make sure people are not abusive.

Self-esteem is recognised to play a huge role in your life, and if you are struggling to believe in yourself it will stop you living the life you want to. Remember, low-self esteem is based on opinions, not facts, and you have the power to change these opinions. There are some techniques and suggestions outlined in this booklet, but if they don’t appeal to you, then research further, seek support and try another approach. You can change things.

Useful contacts

Anxiety UK

tel: 08444 775 774
web: anxietyuk.org.uk

Support, help and information for those with anxiety disorders

Be Mindful

web: bemindful.co.uk

Website that explains the principles behind mindfulness, and gives details of local courses and therapists

British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP)

tel: 0161 705 4304
web: babcp.com

Can provide details of accredited therapists

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) 

tel: 01455 883 300 
web: itsgoodtotalk

For practitioners in your area

Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council

tel: 020 3178 2199
web: cnhc.org.uk

Maintains a register of complementary healthcare practitioners

Depression Alliance

tel: 0845 123 2320
web: depressionalliance.org

Information and support for anyone affected by depression

NHS Choices

web: nhs.uk/livewell  

Information on assertiveness, wellbeing, exercise, sleep and more. Site gives details of local support as well as online tips and tools

NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)

web: nice.org.uk

Guidelines on evidence-based treatments

The Keep Fit Association

tel: 01403 266000
web: keepfit.org.uk  

Website provides details of local exercise classes

For further information go to http://www.asknormen.co.uk/confidence-lacking-in/

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