Growing up, I repeatedly heard I was “the mistake of the family,” the unplanned youngest of five children. As a result, I have always felt inferior, not good enough. Even though I have excelled in my career, I struggle with feeling good about myself. This is what Lisa Phillips calls negative programming: the beliefs we hold that can also determine what we think we are capable or incapable of doing.
“I suffer from a lack of confidence,” Phillips writes in her book, The Confidence Coach, and it is refreshing to read that she struggles in this way, too. It wasn’t until her thirties, she writes, that she began to take small steps to turn around the feelings of frustration and anger and stop allowing others to walk all over her. She did this, as she puts it, by building up her “confidence muscle.” She writes that our confidence does not come from other people — and that other people aren’t the ones who shatter it, either. Instead, confidence is something we must work at internally for it to grow.
Her book couldn’t have come at a better time. When I first opened it, I had been struggling with getting my private practice off the ground. My confidence was waning, and I was even thinking of shutting the door to my business. After reading Phillips, I am now implementing her techniques and exercises to reclaim my personal power. I am using new mindsets to reaffirm that I am strong enough to succeed.
Indeed, Phillips gives us hope that we change our negative programming. The first step to gaining self-confidence, she writes, is to build a strong foundation by replacing negative self-talk with soothing and kind words. Many of us get nervous when we start something new or are faced with something uncomfortable. But rather than berate ourselves or let our negativity talk us out of trying it, we must acknowledge our fear and use kind, gentle words to move forward.
To do so, though, we have to see how flawed our negative beliefs are. People with low confidence attach a negative meaning to personal experiences, like when they think someone doesn’t like or approve of them. They assume the worst, but without having any factual evidence. Phillips talks about personal power, and that we have choices in our lives in how we treat people and how we want to be treated. Instead of taking responsibility for our lives, we often keep ourselves stuck by blaming others for how our lives turned out or for how we feel. In essence, we are giving away our power when we allow other people’s opinions, our own fears, or negative feelings block us from moving forward.
Phillips recommends that we write down, every day, two things we like about ourselves, either simple traits or habits or things that we have done well. She suggests that after doing this for two months, we will see a change change.
She also highlights how visualizing something can help retrain our brains in a positive way.
The book contains case examples as well as sample mindset statements that Phillips has used with clients. It is all about reinventing our inner dialogue, feeling more empowered, giving ourselves permission to release negative self-talk and fears, and removing obstacles that hold us back from making small changes.
Phillips writes with warmth. And she provides easy-to-use activities and tips, making her book a helpful read for those of us who need a boost.
The Confidence Coach: Take Control of Your Life and Wellbeing
Exisle Publishing, September 2015
Paperback, 192 pages