"I know people will just hate me." "I make mistakes in everything that I do." "I can't believe that has happened."
Where are these statements from? No, not the Lions rugby team — they’re all examples of negative thoughts from the Life Coaching Studio website, which holds the view that people can increase their confidence if they know what triggers negative thoughts and emotions.
For example, if Bob’s boss walks by and ignores him, does Bob start thinking that he’s not important or not worthy? Not necessarily; Bob should realise his boss might just be having a bad day.
“Controlling your inner voice and what you say to yourself either makes or breaks your self-esteem and confidence.”
The site breaks down the negative thoughts (or distortions) into 13 categories, which include assuming, overgeneralising and blaming other people and events.
With assuming for example, people assume the worst “without knowing the full picture”, as in the case of the boss ignoring the worker.
People who overgeneralise might say things like: "I always end up on the losing side" or “I make mistakes in everything that I do", even if those things are not always true.
Blaming other people and events means you’re not accepting responsibility when things don’t work for you: "If only my parents had been more ambitious I'd have had more success by now" or "He makes me feel so bad".
If you feel something is unfair or unjust, accept that it is, the site says. "Then accept that the impact it has on you is your responsibility! Don't make excuses…”
A BBC article also advises against negative thoughts.
“If you keep telling yourself that you're no good at something, you'll start to believe it. Next time you bombard yourself with criticism, ask yourself whether you'd talk to your friends like that… start recognising and appreciating the things you are good at.”
According to the site, confidence isn’t something you either have or you don’t have. Most people learn confidence as they go through life.
The article has several tips, beginning with faking it.
“If you can pretend that you feel confident when you don't (perhaps by acting like you've already got what you want) and keep on doing so, your fake confidence will soon turn into real confidence. It only takes a few repetitions of an activity for it to become a habit.”
It also advises thinking about three things that gave you “a surge of positive emotions”. It could be a compliment paid to you or a time when you did really well at something. It will make you feel good and therefore more confident.
Mills is a Dunedin writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org