• People with performance anxiety worry about their ability to perform a task, fearing failure and rejection

  • Hypnotherapist Maha Amin explores the link with low self-esteem and how hypnotherapy can re-programme negative thoughts

  • We have hypnotherapists available to support you here 

We all go through different types of anxiety about performance at some point in our lives. This can be anxiety about public speaking, exams, sports, music recitals, networking, etc. Anxiety causes the fight or flight reaction, which raises adrenaline in our bodies. The fight or flight reaction is a primitive one. If we see a car racing towards us, we need to run out of the way quickly for our safety (flight), or if we are faced with a lion, we have two choices: fight it, or run away from it (fight or flight). 

In the above cases, a high level of anxiety is appropriate, as it propels us into action to protect ourselves. In our daily lives, we do not need such high levels of anxiety, because we are not normally in danger. However, we do need some amount of anxiety and adrenaline to give us the impetus to perform well. So, what we need is to reduce high levels of anxiety and utilise small amounts of anxiety correctly to be able to perform with clarity and confidence.

Sometimes, there can be other factors that cause high levels of anxiety towards performance. Have you ever woken up feeling that you cannot be bothered to get out of bed? When you get up, you are slow, you don’t really want to start the day. It all seems boring – or the prospect of spending the day at the office seems daunting. You feel that you will not achieve anything worthwhile, so why bother? Is it difficult to remember times where you were successful? Do you feel that circumstances are against you and that other people are luckier than you? Do you feel that you had dreams for yourself, but you cannot achieve them because you’re not good enough? 

Understandably, these feelings can lead to anxiety and they might hold us back from positive actions, like applying for jobs, taking exams, driving, speaking in public, etc. The lack of belief in oneself becomes a barrier to achieving and performing to the best of our abilities. This often stems from low self-esteem.

Where does low self-esteem come from?

Low self-esteem originates from experiences that happen while we are young, probably in childhood. If you are told that your efforts are not good enough or that you are not clever enough, a quitter, disorganised, etc., over time, your subconscious believes these messages, which become buried within it. With time, you become convinced that this is what you are. 

This creates a barrier between you and what you want to achieve. You might even start to avoid situations that might show that you are lacking in some way. This is a type of self-defence mechanism developed by your subconscious over the years, to help you cope. However, this, in fact, is unhelpful. 

What has been fed to the subconscious over years becomes difficult to shift. Your subconscious has been programmed to think negatively. This is where hypnotherapy can help by changing the negative thoughts into positive ones.


How can hypnotherapy help with performance anxiety and low self-esteem? 

When we are anxious about public speaking at an event, giving a presentation at work, doing a music recital or performing in a play, we tend to overthink and overanalyse, which hinders us from performing well, so we might start to stumble over our words or even freeze completely. 

Under hypnosis, the brain is taught to stop overanalysing and to harness the anxiety in a positive way, by making us focus on what we are about to embark on and empowering our creativity. The hypnotherapist trains the subconscious to be helpful to us and to remind us of our strengths and abilities, allowing us to feel confident and consequently, perform much better and in a calmer manner.

If you are fed positive messages from a young age, you develop high self-esteem. You believe in yourself and your abilities. This is what happens in hypnotherapy. The brain is given positive messages repeatedly. When you are in a trance, the hypnotherapist talks to the subconscious to re-programme it by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. The hypnotherapist will take you on a journey where you see yourself in a new light. You will no longer see yourself as stupid, disorganised, unable. These images will be erased and instead, you will see yourself as intelligent, capable, organised. 

Over the sessions, these positive images are reinforced through visualisation and suggestions by the hypnotherapist. The more you imagine yourself in the new positive light, the more your subconscious believes it. The subconscious is trained to think in a new positive way that is helpful to you.

As your start to accept yourself and see yourself in a new way, you become more confident. You believe in yourself and behave accordingly. This projects itself on your life, you will start noticing heightened concentration, focus and creativity. Your performance improves and consequently, your belief in yourself continues to increase, which again, enhances your performance further.

Maha Amin is a verified welldoing.org hypnotherapist in South Woodford and online

Further reading

How can I stop my voice from shaking?

3 simple steps to confidence in public speaking

What are the signs of low self-esteem?

5 tips to relax on perfectionism and raise self-esteem

Exploring the healing power of your own voice