There are lots of reasons why women might lose their confidence. Research has shown that once-feisty girls often falter as they go through adolescence with its rush of the hormone oestrogen causing havoc in their lives. According to a depressing Hewlett-Packard report women only apply for jobs in which they fulfil 100 per cent of the criteria; men are happy to wing it on 60 percent. Whether or not they have children, women can be de-stabilised by the uncertainty surrounding that question, and then after having children, they often feel lacking in self-worth. Then comes the difficult period of the menopause …
As Tammy Wynette sang “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman.”
Clinical psychologist and EMDR practitioner Deborah Golend’s Brain Confident workshops are designed to help small groups of women feel better about themselves. They gather in her homey North London kitchen, in groups of no more than six, and Golend uses a mix of psychology, neuroscience, meditation, nutrition, and wellbeing to supply the participants with a toolbox for building confidence or repairing it if it’s started to crumble.
Golend is aware of the many and varied reasons why women sometimes struggle with doubts and confidence crises. “I want women to have a better understanding, so that they will stop blaming themselves for their lack of confidence. So many women have nagging thoughts and insecurities: why is this happening to me, no-one else feels like this. But the truth is it’s quite common and there’s a lot you can do to help yourself.”
1. Choose your thoughts carefully
Many women have an early experience that Golend describes as their “crusher” e.g. “I can’t make mistakes and still be successful”. She says neuroplasticity means they can make new neural pathways if they practice less self-critical thinking. Examples include changing self-statements to the past, so “I am disorganised” becomes “I used to be disorganised” or keeping a file of compliments rather than focusing on failures or doubts.
2. Visuyalise the way you would like to be
Neurons in the brain interpret imagery as real-life action. When we visualise an act it tells our neurons to “perform” the movement. In this way, we can prime our body to act in the way we had imagined. So if you have something coming up that you expect to find challenging, imagine yourself doing it perfectly first, including all the details, such as what you are wearing, the room, the sounds, and so on. Run your “movie” six times; your brain will recognise it and the state of confidence will be more accessible to you when you need it.
3. Learn how to calm your body
Breathing practice is an important part of Golend’s workshop. In between exercises that challenge the feelings of vulnerability and weakness, she encourages women to breathe deeply, with the out-breath being longer than the in-breath. It calms the nervous system and anchors your brain to the present moment.
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