by Adele Gregory, BA Psych, BACP Accr.

Before starting to work on confidence, I recommend freeing yourself from the pressure to "be a confident person." Confidence isn't so much a personality trait as how comfortable you feel in particular situations.

See for yourself. Take out a piece of paper and write down all the situations you can think of when you feel less confident than you'd like. Now consider everything else you do. Tidying up, watching TV, surfing the Internet....There are dozens of situations you do face confidently. Think, too, if there's been a time when a friend you admired for his/her confidence voiced a problem with a situation you have no trouble with yourself. Even the most outgoing person at the office can freeze up on a first date!

The second tip is to focus on what you do feel rather than what you don't. How do you feel in those situations on your list? Worried? Self-conscious? Embarrassed? You might find, as I do, that when people talk of confidence, what they really mean is the absence of anxiety or self-consciousness. The last tip is to look carefully at the situations on your list. What do they have in common? Type of place? Type or number of people (strangers, professionals, big parties)? Which are the worst? Which are the best ? What do you feel is expected of you?

Try to narrow things down as much as possible. Is is all bus journeys or just ones over three stops long? Test out your ideas by looking for specific conditions (e.g." when I'm tired") and exceptions (e.g. "I don't mind crowded places if I'm near an exit"). Now you can start to define the problem in your own terms by filling in the following blanks:

I feel (feeling) in (situation) when (conditions).


  • I feel self-conscious at parties when I don't know anyone.
  • I feel tense at meetings when a certain person is present.
  • I feel embarrassed around workmates who know I've been having problems.

This will give you specific areas to work on (which makes it easier to deal with) and lets you relax the rest of the time!


Adele Gregory has been in practice as a counselor and therapist since 1986 and divides her time between private clients, Employee Assistance counseling and community mental health projects.


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