Building Self-Confidence in Practice

In-I-T-I-A-te change!

When you apply the I-T-I-A Formula – Self-awareness +Intention +Thinking +Imagination +Action – to confidence building, the shift in consciousness is not necessarily dramatic, more like a gradual awakening. Over time, you cast off your negative conditioning and adopt more empowering beliefs. Then feelings and actions change too.

It’s like climbing a ladder; don’t try too much at once, take it one rung at a time. Small steps are important. Every day, stretch yourself a little further; have a go at something which you would previously have found too daunting, like striking up a conversation with a stranger, asserting yourself, or giving a talk to a local group.

Each time you succeed, you gain encouragement, your attitude changes, and before long it will get easier and you’ll feel better than ever before.

One of the secrets of confidence building is to act ‘as if’ you’re growing in confidence, and ‘as if’ you are the person you want to be. This is what William Shakespeare meant when he wrote, ‘Assume a virtue if you have it not’.

Project an air of quiet confidence, even if you don’t feel it. For instance, if you feel shy in the company of people you don’t know, shake hands firmly, look them in the eye, speak with a confident tone of voice, and smile. It may feel like a big effort at first, but even if you have butterflies in your stomach, act as if you’re confident and you will feel more confident. Eventually the uncomfortable feelings fade.

Many outwardly confident people had to work at it, knowing that if you act confidently and look as if you know what you’re doing, then sooner or later you will feel that way.

If it feels uncomfortable to begin with, remember that it’s only your programming and conditioning trying to keep you to old habits.

It’s important to keep in mind what you’re striving for – reinventing yourself as a calm and  confident person with high self-esteem and a healthy and secure self-image.

Mental rehearsal

Creative imagery is a great ally when building confidence. Mentally rehearse any impending challenge, creating the perfect result in your mind every time to impress this on your subconscious. ‘See’, ‘hear’ and ‘feel’ yourself as a confident and successful person.

Here’s a useful four-stage routine for building confidence. Let’s say you have some goal in mind, such as making a sale, attracting a member of the opposite sex, passing an exam or attending a job interview:

  1. ‘Visualise’ yourself as a confident person and imagine what it would feel like to be loaded with confidence.
  1. Next,’ visualise’ yourself behaving confidently, for instance delivering the talk with assurance, interacting with others confidently and handling difficult questions with ease.
  1. ‘Visualise’ yourself having accomplished your objective.
  1. Finally, ‘visualise’ others’ response to your success, e.g. applauding, congratulating you etc.

Remember also to use the modelling, and anchoring techniques to the full.

Celebrate your progress!

Every time you take a step forward, reward yourself. Buy yourself a small treat, take a weekend break, go on a course – something that will give you a further taste of pleasure and success.

If on the other hand things don’t work out as you planned, don’t chastise yourself. Reflect on what you can learn from it and put the episode down to experience.

Focus on the positives

Every moment, think of all the good qualities you have. Don’t get caught up in what others think of you – or, more correctly, what you imagine others may think of you (because we can never know for sure what another person is thinking). Otherwise you’ll only attract people who demand you to keep them happy.

Instead, keep yourself happy! Be the kind of person you want to be and you’ll attract others who are the same. Remember, like attracts like. The rest follows automatically.

Be patient

If you really believed in yourself, how would you feel? Then isn’t it worth spending a little time each day working on yourself, building your self-belief? Of course it is. With a good self-image, confidence, a clear purpose and a realistic action plan almost anything is possible.

But you’ll have to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and, if your confidence is currently low, neither is self-belief. So start now, wherever you are at, and never, never give up. It’s open to everyone!

©David Lawrence Preston, 25.8.2018

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Respect yourself!

Apt door

If you could have done it better, you would have.

If you could have known better, you would have.

You learn by doing it right and you learn by getting it wrong.

Missed opportunities will come round again, only next time you’ll be ready for them.

Just because you once saw something as bad for you once doesn’t mean it would be bad for you again.

Just because something was good for you once doesn’t mean it would be good for you again.

You learn by doing. Learning by doing is how you progress.

David Lawrence Preston, 21.9.2017

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Give up approval-seeking behaviour

It’s perfectly natural to want to be liked and accepted, but it becomes a problem if you constantly edit yourself to win others’ approval.

Approval-seeking behaviour has some short-term benefits (e.g. it can help avoid arguments), but has long-term consequences. You are unlikely to feel good about yourself if you continually pander to others.

Concern yourself less with other people’s opinions. Others don’t necessarily see things your way or know what’s best for you. Make your own decisions and honour your own values. Others’ expectations are not your concern. You didn’t create them, and you don’t own them. If they don’t like what you do, that’s their problem, not yours.

You are unique. Strangely, many of us are obsessed with trying to acceptable to our fellow human beings find acceptable. Value your uniqueness! When you live your own truth, the sense of freedom is invigorating.

You may feel uncomfortable when you first put this into practice. The cause of your discomfort is your emotional programming. So persevere. Before long the uncomfortable feelings fade away.


©David Lawrence Preston, 18.1.2017

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How to be more assertive

Even if you’ve never considered yourself a particularly assertive person, mastering a few basic techniques can help you to develop this essential skill. Start with small steps and stretch yourself a little more each day as your confidence grows.

The basic rules are:

  1.  Choose your outcomes. Decide what you want after consider the consequences.
  2.  Adopt assertive non-verbals.
  3.  Be specific.
  4.  If appropriate, describe the behaviour you find upsetting.
  5.  Say how this affects you.
  6.  Say what you would like to happen next.
  7.  Be willing to compromise. Assertive people recognise that others have legitimate rights and needs, and try to accommodate them if acceptable to both.
  8.  Integrity: A reputation for untruthfulness is a major handicap in all relationships.
  9.  Mental rehearsal: If you find certain situations difficult, mentally rehearse them in advance.

Assertive non-verbals

No less than 93% of what you communicate to another person is by your voice quality and tone and body language/non-verbals. If your body language and tone of voice don’t match your words, others will think you’re bluffing.

An assertive tone of voice

You can usually tell another person’s mood without hearing their words. An aggressive person, for instance, often speaks loudly and stares straight at you, finger pointing. A passive person normally speaks with their hand near the mouth and the voice tailing off at the end of each sentence accompanied by a nervous smile.

  Associated with: Non-verbals







Bullying, intimidating; ‘me, me, me’; violent, angry, dominant, hostile, threatening.



Clenched fists; pushy; eyes dilated; voice loud or sharp; strong gestures and movements; loss of control over speech.







Vulnerable; giving in to peer pressure; helplessness, playing role of victim, dis-empowered.


Shifty eyes, no eye contact; hunched shoulders; defeated voice tone; being ‘lost for words’.











Up front; honest, open; wanting to understand both the situation and the people; self-control; decision-maker, making informed choices.




Eyes and gaze steady but not overpowering; speech calm, clear and under control; standing firm and movements calculated.




Assertive people talk unhurriedly, with a steady, clear tone, and breathe slowly as they speak.

  • Get into the habit of talking more slowly and deliberately and taking more time to respond. If you speak too fast or gabble, your words lack authority.
  • Take in a breath before you’re ready to speak. This helps you to feel more in control, more self-composed. Take longer pauses to recharge physically and mentally, and check your listeners’ response.
  • Use silence to your advantage. It can be devastating if you make your point, then stay quiet.
  • Stay calm and relaxed while the other person considers his or her response.

Use personal space

We use body language is to stake out territories. The more space you take up, the more important you appear. On the other hand, moving too close is unsettling and can deliberately aggravate.

So get close – but not too close!

Eye contact

Eye contact is important. Shifty, wandering eyes denote lack of confidence or untrustworthiness; but a hard stare is intimidating.

Give relaxed eye contact – not too long, not to short.


Hand movements express a great deal. Impatient, forceful, threatening gestures are intimidating. Fidgeting, scratching and constantly touching your hair and face indicate tension.

  • Develop a firm handshake – it denotes strength and integrity.
  • Use your hands for emphasis.
  • Keep hand movements smooth and flowing.


Posture is significant. An upright stance makes you look more important, even if you’re not especially tall. It makes you look younger and slimmer too.

  • Carry yourself as if you are worth taking notice of.
  • Stand tall, neck and shoulders relaxed, arms loose at your side. Think of yourself as being pulled up by an invisible string attached to the top of your head.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Avoid crossing your legs and folding your arms. This indicates a defensive attitude.

How to speak assertively

Be specific

Don’t beat about the bush. Make your point clearly and with conviction. Say what you genuinely  feel, calmly and politely. Don’t say anything you don’t really mean.

Use phrases like:

  • I want to….
  • I want you to….
  • I don’t want to….
  • I don’t want you to…..
  • I have a different opinion. I think….’

If you find this difficult, you may have to confront your fears. Why are you afraid to speak your mind? What’s the worst that could happen? Is it anything more than the other person disagreeing with you?

Use ‘I’ statements

Assertive people use words and phrases which take ownership of what they are expressing:

  • I want
  • I think
  • I feel
  • I intend

They say ‘I choose‘ or ‘I have decided’ rather than ‘I must‘ or ‘I have to…’ (The latter imply indecision and/or weakness).

Use cooperative words and phrases

For example:

  • Let’s…
  • Let’s see if we can agree.
  • How can we resolve this?
  • This is my contribution. What’s yours?

Refer to the behaviour you find upsetting

Attacking a person’s character is aggressive – it gets their back up and makes them unlikely to want to cooperate with you. If you feel the need to criticise, restrict your remarks to their behaviour. Say how it affects you. Ask them to stop. Keep asking until they do. It’s always better (and less stressful) to deal with a problem now than say nothing and allow it to get worse.

Say what you would like to happen next

Assertiveness is goal-directed. Bear in mind the outcome you want and what you would like to happen before you speak.

For example, if someone is gossiping about your friend, say to them: ‘I don’t like it when you talk about my friend like that. It doesn’t reflect well on you and makes me feel very unhappy. Please stop it.’

Here’s an effective form of words when you want to ask someone to change their behaviour:

When you…

I feel….

and if it continues/if you don’t stop….

I want you to….

If you are ignored, simply repeat your point and, if necessary, keep repeating it. Change the words if you wish but not the message, and avoid being sidetracked.

Ask for feedback

This is a useful tactic when you are unsure whether you are getting your point across. Ask, ‘Am I being clear?’ ‘Do you agree?’ ‘What do you want to do?’ and so on.

Asking for feedback corrects misconceptions and encourages others to be clear and direct in their feedback to you.


Obviously, you won’t always get your own way, but at least you’ve made your mark, and you will be taken more seriously in future. And if you find you have to go along with actions you don’t freely endorse and it doesn’t work out, at least you can point out that didn’t do it willingly.

©David Lawrence Preston, 21.6.2016

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Finding purpose and meaning in your life

There is ultimately only one route to success that brings true happiness: find a purpose that excites you and pursue it, using your talents and potential to the full.

In her book, ‘The Fourth Instinct’, Arianna Huffington writes:

‘Give a gibbon a mate, a peaceful stretch of jungle and plenty of figs to munch on, and he will most likely live in contentment for the rest of his days. Give a man or woman an environment correspondingly idyllic – say, a successful career, adorable children and all the comforts civilisation has to offer – and we feel dissatisfied, restless and vaguely aware that there is something very important missing from our lives.’

Similarly, Dr Carl Gustav Jung, the influential psychotherapist, wrote, ‘About a third of my cases are not suffering from any clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and aimlessness of their lives.’

Fully functioning individuals have found something that brings purpose and meaning, which inspires them and gives direction to their lives.

You came into the world to accomplish something worthy of you – not small or insignificant – and make a contribution to life on this planet. If you’re not yet aware of your life purpose or ‘mission’ it’s not because you don’t have one. It’s because it’s lying dormant somewhere within your consciousness, waiting to be discovered. So find out what you came here to do. And do it!

This is not an intellectual process; you can’t usually analyse it or think it through logically – you need to get in touch with your intuitive inner self.

Be clear on your true values

Before you can really know what your purpose is, you must have a solid sense of what is really important to you – your values. Your life goals must be in complete harmony with your values.

George Gershwin once approached Maurice Ravel, creator of the famous ‘Bolero’, for instruction in orchestral scoring. After several lessons, Ravel was exasperated. His student hadn’t even grasped the basics. ‘If I were you,’ he advised, ‘I would be happier to be a first rate Gershwin, rather than a second rate Ravel.’

The same applies to you. Be a first-rate you, not a second-rate someone else!  Honour your talents and live your values. You may think you do already – but are you clear on what your values actually are?

Our values are often shaped haphazardly. As children, we initially adopt our parents’ values, then, as we grow, we modify them. The following  method will help you decide which values are most important you.

Take a pen and notepad and write down:

1. What do you stand for? What would you defend with your life if necessary?

2. What do you enjoy? What really turns you on? What turns you off altogether?

3. If you could only improve one area of your life, what would it be?

4. What for you would make the world a better place? A worse place? And what, if anything, are you prepared to do about it?

Now take this opportunity to think about your values by ticking one box per row in the table below:



How important to you is/are your:








Quite important


Not very important


Totally unimportant


 Health and physical appearance?
 Having lots of money?
 An enjoyable career?
 A good social life?
 Family life?
 Leisure activities and hobbies?
 Personal development?
 Spiritual growth?
 Acknowledgement by others?
 Your environment?


Now – do you feel you’ve been paying too little attention to some of your most cherished values? Have you, for instance, been giving your children too little time, or ignoring your health, or worrying too much about what other people think or having fun. If changes are required, make a note of them. It’s time to do something about it!


©David Lawrence Preston, 27.5.2016

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Strengthening Self-Belief and Overcoming Doubt

Whenever we set out on a new course of personal growth it is only natural to wonder whether we will succeed.

Sadly, many people are beset with self-doubting thoughts which feed on themselves. They have to be firmly dealt with.

There are no quick fixes and no easy solutions. We must continue to discipline our thoughts, focus our minds on our goals and challenge unhelpful beliefs. The more we think success and visualise a positive future, the stronger our motivation, the more focussed our actions, and the quicker it gets results.

To strengthen your belief in yourself:

  1. Reflect on your successes. Whenever you succeed or do better than you expected, reflect on it. Keep an up to date list of goals you’ve achieved and read it frequently. Every positive step brings an increase in confidence.
  1. Keep an action plan, and make your short term goals challenging but within reach. You’re your written goals to yourself every day.
  1. If any thoughts of doubt enter your mind, stop them immediately. Never dwell on anything that you don’t want to be true!
  1. Write out a list of affirmations that support the beliefs you have chosen and use them daily, morning and evening.
  1. Learn from others. Associate with people who support your philosophy. Find good role models. Read self-development books, listen to education and motivational audio materials, attend talks, workshops and lectures given by inspiring people.

Now you have the awareness and the basic tools to make what you desire of yourself and your life, all you need is determination, patience and persistence.

©David Lawrence Preston, 26.5.2016

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Told ‘No’ 100,000 times by the age of 12

Our country is suffering from an epidemic. Every day most of us come into contact with sufferers. You may even suffer from it yourself. And yet it often goes unrecognised. The condition? Acute low self-esteem and a chronic lack of self-confidence.

Yes, low self-esteem is endemic in society and it wreaks more havoc than cancer, AIDS and heart disease put together. It is behind most crime, eating disorders, drug taking, relationship and family problems. It affects our happiness and industrial performance and is largely responsible for underachievement at school. It is at the root of most stress and illness, but unfortunately is not a physical condition. If it were, the government would declare it a national emergency and get together with the pharmaceutical companies, setting aside massive funds and organising a national publicity campaign.

We all want to be happy, healthy, successful and enjoy peace of mind, but the chances of realising any of these are remote unless you feel good about yourself. Yet many people don’t particularly like themselves and feel they’re not capable of very much. Without good self-esteem, all they can hope for is a life of quiet desperation.

What’s brought about this malaise? The answer generally lies in childhood experiences. Few parents understand the importance of communicating with their children in an uplifting and encouraging way. Some don’t even understand the importance of communicating with them at all, preferring to talk into a mobile phone while walking down the street!

Many don’t appreciate that judicious praise is one of the prime means of raising a psychologically healthy child. They take it as their duty to belittle their children, pointing out their every fault and every mistake they make, often in a disparaging, insulting or even abusive way. The problem is exacerbated for some by a religious tradition that emphasises the need for redemption and frowns on positive self-regard.

As a result, by the time they start school, these unfortunate infants are already questioning their self-worth and doubting their own abilities. The average child has already been subjected to no less than 100,000 negative injunctions by the age of 12 – ‘Don’t’, ‘You can’t’, ‘Put it down’ and so on.

Once learned these negative thinking patterns remain firmly entrenched unless firm and persistent steps are taken to eliminate them for good.

In my years of full-time education and attending business training course I don’t recall a single session on self-esteem. Personal development courses focussed on team activities and inter-personal skills, with confidence as a by-product. How misguided! You wouldn’t teach someone to play a musical instrument by hoping they find the right notes by chance. Similarly, only conscious and deliberate steps can improve confidence once the need has been detected.

The exciting thing is, no matter what your background or current level of self-esteem, you can always improve. Everyone can learn how to change their thinking and feel better about themselves. Courses in self-esteem should be part of the national curriculum taught in all schools and made available for parents and teachers. What’s the point of knowing your 12 times table if you feel rotten and worthless about yourself?

If this were given priority, we could transform the prospects of our young people from the grass-roots up within a generation. Now isn’t that exciting?

©David Lawrence Preston, 28.3.2016

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Give up approval seeking behaviour

Approval-seeking behaviour means being a people-pleaser. It implies being too concerned with what others think at the expense of your own feelings and beliefs. In extreme cases psychologists recognise this as a deep-seated neurosis because you are in effect allowing others to make your mind up for you and dictate your actions.

Of course, it’s good to be liked and appreciated, and it’s good to help others and show compassion, but there’s only one person whose approval you really need (as opposed to want) and that’s you.

Ask yourself – and be honest – which, if any, of these are typical of you?

  • Constantly craving recognition?
  • Comparing yourself unfavourably with others?
  • Being over-generous to get others to like you?
  • Seeking out others who are shy or have low self-esteem?
  • Feeling like a victim most of the time?
  • Frequently making excuses to avoid social contact?
  • Staying in the background, for instance, by avoiding fashionable clothes?
  • Staying quiet even when you have something to say?

If you have ticked any of these items, you have work to do! And I can help – that’s what most of my blogs are designed to do!

Self-approval is at the heart of solid self-esteem, and is essential for a happy, healthy and successful life.

Other people’s expectations are not your concern; you didn’t create them and you don’t own them. Let them follow their paths while you follow yours. If they don’t like it, that’s their problem, not yours. You always have the choice of how to respond to others’ expectations – use it wisely!


©David Lawrence Preston, 17.3.2016

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