“With realisation of one’s own potential and self confidence in one’s ability one can build a better world”- Dalai Lama

The little voice in your head

At times when you don’t have much confidence, it is likely that you often hear a voice in your head telling you that ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘how ridiculous you look’, everybody’s going to think I’m boring/stupid/ugly, or whatever degrading self depreciating thought is the current fear.

I doubt if anybody feels totally confident all of the time. Confidence and self esteem fluctuate according to the situation we are in, perhaps how people react to us, or for no apparent reason.

Situations such as job interviews, a first date, or performing on stage can make us feel particularly self-conscious and anxious, as a result of this we may become self critical, as we imagine what people might be thinking of us.

Imagine, at 35 years, an aspiring actor walks onto a stage, suddenly he feels his legs turn to jelly, he becomes intensely conscious of every step trying to remember how to make his walk look ‘normal’ , perhaps no one in the audience notices, but he is amazed at how something which he’d been doing most of his life could suddenly become a challenge. Anxiety can lead us to talk faster or louder and to make more mistakes, to generally feel less aware and less in control. In these sort of potentially stressful situations, we can become trapped by our worries and anxiety, to the extent that we feel disconnected from ourselves and our body.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

-Marianne Williamson.

The Science

Studies with athletes have shown that there are certain special characteristics of the state of mind in which athletes can produce peak performance. These are: Relaxation, confidence, high energy, present-centred focus, extraordinary awareness, feeling in control and a feeling of detachment from any distractions are the most obvious ones. These are also all feelings which can be gained through mindfulness. Therefore we can assume that with the prolonged practise of mindfulness, an athlete will more easily be able to tap into this state of mind which produces peak performance.

Study of the effects of mindfulness on athlete’s performance

Studies atExeter and Southampton Universities showed that well conducted mindfulness interventions can improve self-esteem, emotional health and bring about greater calm, (amongst many other benefits.)

Study showing how mindfulness improves self-esteem in children

Being mindful can help

Mindfulness helps us to become calmer, to feel more connected with and in control of our bodies, because mindfulness starts with the body. Also, to feel more connected to what is going on around us, instead of being in a self conscious bubble. The Dalai Lama says that when he speaks publicly, he is not nervous or self conscious, because he practices being present in the moment for the people listening to him, his focus is on his audience instead of being on himself and worrying about what people might think about him.

Be aware of your breathing, watch your thoughts, let them come and go. If you get that little voice in your head telling you that you are no good, acknowledge these negative thoughts as fears,whilst being aware all the time, that there is the fear andhere I am witnessing it.

Remember that it is natural and human to have fears, it is how we react to them that makes the difference.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your permission”-Eleanor Roosevelt.

This technique helps to decrease the amount of mental chatter and negative mental chatter may prevent us from being so brave. Therefore if we reduce this we are more likely to be brave.

Gently reminding yourself that you are safe and that you are good enough, gives you a good chance of succeeding at your goal.

We can use mindfulness in stressful situations to establish confidence. So that whatever the outcome of the challenging situation, you can feel pleased and proud that you have created more focus and control, felt more relaxed and became more confident.

“With confidence, you have won before you have started”- Marcus Garvey.

Mindfulness, bravery and positive character traits