Confidence is a strange, ephemeral concept. We all want more of it or worry about not having enough of it – but what is it, exactly?

NLP has a range of techniques to help us find out, and to boost what we find.

How to regain self confidence

The simplest of these is anchoring, a core NLP practice to summon up resourceful states. It’s based on

our simple mammalian ability to link stimuli and responses – the ability Pavlov found in his dogs.

Think of a time when you felt confident and were successful (it doesn’t have to be a significant time; often memories associated with simple pleasures and small achievements work the best).

Then, once you are really in contact with that memory, touch one of your knuckles. Do this a few times, and your brain should have associated the touch with the memory: test it by touching the knuckle and seeing where your mind takes you.

The touch is now an ‘anchor’ for the good feeling, and can be used to give yourself a boost when your confidence ebbs.

NLP and anchoring

NLP has developed a range of techniques that build on anchoring to make such a boost extra-effective. The Circle of Excellence adds a spatial stimulus to the physical one outlined above. Anchors can be ‘chained’ to take you step-by-step (though actually with great speed) from a very negative state to a positive one.

Challenging beliefs

Useful as they are, the above are superficial fixes, relieving symptoms not underlying causes. Many people believe they are not confident, without any real justification. One of the things I like most about NLP is its robust way of challenging such beliefs – a refreshing change from the ‘Tell me all about it’ school of therapy which allows such beliefs too much power.

Often a generalized ‘lack of confidence’ can grow from a very specific belief about lack of ability in a small area. For example, one of my NLP students said she lacked confidence. Looking deeper, we found that she had a strong belief, ‘you are not competent with numbers’.

An NLP process helped her reveal an incident when she was young and an elderly uncle had told her that ‘women are not good with numbers.’ By questioning the original, specific belief (and showing she was perfectly good with numbers), she was able to bring back confidence both to her work with figures and to many other areas of her life.

What had happened here was that a negative feeling had made its way from being a matter of competence (this is what I can or can’t do) to being a much deeper matter of identity (this is who I am).

If we don’t function well in a situation, we think there is something inherently wrong with us, instead of realizing that we simply need to master a new skill. Fortunately, this can work both ways: acquiring skills can make us feel better about ourselves at the deep, identity level.

Modelling confidence

Confidence can also be modelled. Modelling in NLP is many-faceted. Notice the gestures of the confident person you seek to model and try some out and see what feelings come up in you.

Look at their language patterns, which I suspect will be free from references to ‘people’ out there who think you ‘should’ do certain things, and will probably be clear and unambiguous. Find out what they believe, about themselves and about the world.

A confident person I modelled told me of his intense belief in fairness: everyone had an equal right to an opinion and for that opinion to be expressed and to be discussed in an adult way. So when he went to a meeting with someone ‘important’, he felt no stress. Right was on his side.

Self-confidence? It’s no secret

Many self-help books seek to let us into the secret of self-confidence. NLP shows, perhaps, that there is no secret, just some skills and mind sets that can easily be learnt.

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